The Importance of Backup, Backup, Backup!

By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”

When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of NASA. My parents would let me stay home from school on days when there was a “space shot.” They knew I’d be camped-out in front of the TV, learning every detail of every mission.

One thing that made a huge impression on me back then was the need for back-up systems. After all, if your spacecraft breaks down en route to the moon, you can’t exactly call AAA!

Naturally, I borrowed that approach when I started my DJ career. I bought two of everything (or four if two were needed). A back-up mixer; a back-up pair of speakers; back-up cables; back-up amps, not to mention a supply box full of spare bulbs for every lighting fixture and spare fuses for anything that had one.

I also knew that having back-up ON-SITE was essential, which is why I’m known for owning bigger commercial vehicles. Over the past 34 years, back-up has saved my bacon more than once! It’s also allowed me to help out another DJ in need on a couple of occasions.

A Tale of Loss and Redemption

Recently the unthinkable happened: I discovered a hole my back-up plan! One of the highest failure components of a modern DJ rig is the hard drive(s) that we carry our music on.

Knowing this, I’ve always packed two copies, figuring that it was unlikely that both could fail at the same time. I placed them both in a foam-lined SKB hard case, a very rugged, military-grade protective solution.

While setting up, the case had been placed on the edge of a stage. Naturally, someone walking where they shouldn’t be (read “unsupervised kids”) knocked the case off.

At first I wasn’t alarmed, since the case is so rugged, and the stage was only a few inches high. We proceeded with our set-up and sound check. Powering up the system, the consequences of the fall appeared: my system said, “No drive found.”

Despite the drive being on and apparently running, and all of the connections being checked, the system failed to recognize the drive. Out came the back-up!

As luck would have it, the newer back-up drive had been on the bottom of the case, so in essence, it experienced a slightly shorter fall. It fired-up on the first try and the show went on.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

If you’re like me, you use the Randy Bartlett method of taking notes during your gigs and then trying to improve on the things you see that are in need of attention.

When I got home, I realized that my wonderful case might protect my delicate hard drives fairly well, but putting both in the same case was the equivalent of putting one’s eggs in the same basket; it becomes one unit that could become lost or destroyed as one. So, I broke out my drives into two cases. This wasn’t difficult; technology has moved on and provided us with big drives that are even smaller than the traditional book-sized drives I had been using.

Now you can get a substantial drive (a terabyte or more) that will fit in a shirt pocket! These allow DJs to squirrel away s second and even a third copy of a library into already existing road cases.

Don’t Let This Happen to You

One more thing: keep at least one copy at home! I have what I call my “reference library,” which sits on my desktop. Imagine a worst-case scenario: a car crash. Everything is wiped-out in one horrible accident! What would you do?

Faced with the months – perhaps years – of having to re-rip a music library, not to mention the many special projects that I ripped MP3s from vinyl or tape that never existed as a CD, a safety copy stashed at the office or home is beyond wise.


  • Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

    He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

    Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

    To contact him, email You can grab Stu’s book at

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