Let’s Talk About Sets

by Mike Walter

Elite EntertainmentIn last month’s post I discussed the importance of having regular (monthly) meetings with your staff. And I know from talking to other business owners that “content” is a big concern. Will we have enough to talk about to meet that often?

One of the ways I alleviate that issue is I have some recurrent themes. Some meetings that we repeat every year or so. One of those I call: “Let’s Talk About Sets!” It’s a fun and interactive meeting that can be very educational to everyone on staff (even me.)

I Want to See Unique Sets

At the meeting, every DJ will be expected to get up and put a 3-5 song set together. I restrict some songs mainly because I don’t want to see the same pairings over and over. For example one of the pairings we use all the time is “It Takes Two” by Rob Base into “Jump Around” by House of Pain. So I don’t want to see a set like: “Yeah” into “It Takes Two” into “Jump Around.” It’s just not groundbreaking enough.

As the meeting begins, each of my DJs presents their sets by playing snippets of whatever songs are included (if they played the whole song it would go all night) They then explain the structure of the set, why they chose the songs they did and where in the night they’d play the set (start of the evening, middle or late.)

The structure of the set is something we emphasize greatly. I’m a firm believer that if you play the right four songs but in the wrong order, you decrease your chance of success. In our training, we teach our staff that sets should build in energy (not necessarily BPMs but often so) and also in length throughout the night. A good set starts with a hook song (something very catchy that will get people up) and then builds from there.

After everyone has presented, I usually give a few gift certificates away to the DJs who I thought presented the most clever or unique sets. You can have everyone vote if you’d like, I’m just more autocratic than that.

Can Sets Be Improved Upon?

Also, before the night is over, I ask if anyone can improve on a set they’ve heard at the meeting. This usually gets even more creative juice flowing and sometimes the sets we get later in the night are even cooler than what everyone came prepared with.

During the meeting we write down everyone’s sets and then afterwards we’ll type up the list and email it to everyone on staff. We encourage our DJs to carry as many written set ideas with them as possible. Not that we play the same sets over and over, just that sometimes at an event you get brain lock and it’s good to have some ideas to look over.

One of the things I always emphasize to the business owners I speak with is, never ask your staff to do something you aren’t willing to do too. So of course, with a meeting like this, I’ll present a set along with everyone else. And I always love it when some particularly brave DJ on staff offers to improve on one of my sets. That usually earns you a gift certificate right there!

What does your company do to keep sets fresh?

Mike Walter – “Quality Corner”

Mike Walter is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of DJ staff training and multi-system business development. He is also a writer for Disc Jockey News and Producer of the International DJ Expo’s “DJ of the Year” competition. Mike is the owner of NJ’s Elite Entertainment, selected by The Knot and Modern Bride magazine as one of the country’s top entertainment companies. Mike’s highly praised DVD set is available at TrainingYourNextGreatDJ.com. To contact him about his on-site training services or for general inquiries, email mike@eliteentertainment.com. View posts by Mike


  • Mike Walter is the proud owner of Elite Entertainment, a Multi-System DJ Company in New Jersey that has been selected by TheKnot.com and WeddingWire.com as a top Entertainment company in the country. For over 30 years, he has MCed events from weddings to fashion shows and beauty pageants and his public speaking experience and acumen have served him well as a presenter.

    He began to offer seminars in 1998, at first specifically to the DJ Industry, then he expanded to speaking to event groups and finally to any and all audiences. His seminars are known for their fast pace, mix of information and entertainment and deft use of Keynote. Having sat through enough tedious seminars in his life, Mike vows to never bore an audience. Whether he is offering life changing advice, motivational challenges or hard-core information on how to grow and expand your business, Mike promises he will deliver a quick, concise, and nugget-filled presentation every time he speaks.

    Mike has published three books, Running Your Multi-Op which is widely consider the most comprehensive book for anyone interested in expanding their DJ business, the self-help primer, Ten Things You Can Do to Have a Better Day and the music history compendium: On This Date in Music. He’s also released a number of education videos to help his fellow DJs and business owners. In 2014 he partnered with Joe Bunn to start the PhDJ Workshop and in 2017 the two began a weekly podcast called the PhDJ Podcast.

    For more information head to DJMikeWalter.com and OnThisDateInMusic.com

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