I just spent the last hour sitting in my living room programming lighting scenes into my DMX controller (see photo at left). Not for any specific upcoming event, but mostly as a way to further study DMX and explore the cool things my lights can do and how that might benefit clients. The one thing that wasn’t on my mind was how quickly and easily it takes me to set up and tear down those lights.
I’ve been thinking about this since a recent conversation I had with another DJ. I had my DJ rig set up for a party that he was a guest at and, of course we were talking about what DJs talk about – gear. He admired my set up but it was his next comment that kind of surprised me. I’m paraphrasing but he said something like “If I can’t tear down and be packed up in 20 minutes, I don’t bring it.” For this DJ, the time and ease of set up and tear-down seemed to be the main factor in what gear he has on gig. Not necessarily client feedback or venue demands.
I was also surprised because I don’t consider my rig as being too extensive or unusually big or anything. Like everybody else, I adapt to the event and the space I’m in. But I do have things like scrims for my table and speaker stands that are usually uplit with Colorstrips or Slim Pars. This stuff, along with my light rig can take longer to set up and tear down, I guess, than a boom box on a milk crate. But honestly, I’ve always been more concerned with the overall effect of my gear – both in meeting client objectives and on the dance floor – than how long it takes to set it up. Gear that either makes me look clean and professional, sound awesome or backs up my main gear to insure no unpleasant surprises, are just simply not optional – despite whatever time it may take to put it there.
Of course DJs should be as efficient and quick as possible loading and unloading. Indeed, many venues will hassle us if we take too long to get out of the joint. I also love smaller, lighter gear that can rock a room as well, if not better than big, old cumbersome stuff. That’s working smarter, not harder. Hell, I’d love to snap my fingers and have all that crap magically appear or disappear, especially after long hours on my feet. But if the main thing that determines the tools I use to create great events is my own convenience, there’s a problem.
Don’t let the time it takes to set up and tear down be the measure of your success. The DJ without any gigs has all the time in the world.