A SMART SET-UP PLAN SAVES TIME, PROTECTS YOUR SPINE AND MAY EVEN BOOST YOUR BOTTOM LINE
Sometimes I amaze myself with how quickly I can set up and take down my DJ system and I don’t even have to run around looking like one of those people in a time-lapse video. I do work quickly, but it’s more about efficiency. Over 12 years of DJing has taught me a lot about how to efficiently set up and take down a DJ system.
Which I find particularly nice, since it means I don’t have to arrive at the venue hours in advance or be there after the event longer than I have to be. I’ve heard from several venues that they appreciate how quickly I can load out, since it means they don’t need to have someone stick around just to babysit me until I’m all packed up. So not only is it a benefit to me to be efficient, it can even help my business too.
For the first couple of months I was a mobile DJ, I hand-carried every single component into my events. How crazy was that! After a while, I upgraded to a $40 handcart I bought at a local office supply store. It converted to lie flat, so I could pack my equipment onto it and bring it in with a few trips. After using the less-than-adequate cart for a while, I upgraded to a Rock n Roller R12 cart. It was like night and day. It featured four pneumatic wheels, allowing me to navigate through just about any terrain. I love that the cart folds up very small so it can fit in my midsize SUV but expands out so that I can load-in for most weddings in just one trip! As a result, I love my cart and think it’s a huge time saver.
THE ART OF PACKING
My DJ vehicle is a small SUV that I’ve had for about 18 months. It seems that each time I get a new car it is smaller than the last one. Since it is my DJ vehicle, I am always cognizant of the fact that it needs to be able to handle all of my gear. Fortunately, like just about all advances in technology, my DJ system continually gets more compact over the years. With each car, the first few times I load and unload is trial and error to determine the best way to arrange it. Once I have my system down, then I stick to it. After a few times, I can practically load and unload it in my sleep. Part of my routine includes packing the cart, and car, to minimize moving equipment around just to fit everything. For example, at the end of the night my stands are at the top of my cart. I take them off and they go on the ground. Then every item I take off my cart from then on goes right into the car, I don’t have to put anything on the ground just to pick it up later to go in the car. Once everything is in, I pick up the stands and put them in last.
Having a clear plan for how you’ll pack and being efficient about it can be a big time saver.
I use a slant rack for my main DJ rack. The main purpose of it is to make my system look clean and neat, but itÕs also how I store and transport my main components. My rack features a wireless microphone, mixer with built-in sound card, CD player/media controller and power conditioner. It is self contained, all I do is connect my speakers and power to it and I’m ready to go. I don’t have to run power to any other racks or cases. About six years ago, I had an SKB case customized to have all the connections I would need on the outside of the case. So, I almost never had to open my case. I would just plug everything in on the outside. It made my setup time even faster, but I grew tired of seeing cords coming from the side of the case (even though I hide them pretty well). So, I recently had a custom rack panel made. It is a 1-space panel that is mounted on the bottom space of my rack. Now, everything plugs right into that panel. I have connections for four powered speakers, two microphones, power outlets and USB. It has made my setup just as fast, if not faster, than it was before. The best part is it has cleaned up the look of my system even further.
I have all my cords in one 72 qt black storage tote from the Container Store. It is a very heavy duty tub that easily fits all my cables, headphones, and microphones. I have ample cables including hundreds of feet of extension cord and several backups for each cable. I used to lug around an even bigger case with a ton of cords I never used. I did a spring cleanup a couple years ago and removed a bunch of cords, which not only lightened my load, but also sped up the setup process since I didn’t have as many cables to dig through.
I try to keep my cables organized; with the cords I use the least at the bottom of my container. I also velcro all my cords and also have them labeled with how long they are. I make sure to coil all my cords very neatly so they lay flat and look nice, which helps with saving me from unnecessary taping. I remember when I started DJing, I would sometimes transport my lights in the original boxes (I know, I know!). However, that too adds a lot of set-up time. So, be sure to put I don’t know of any DJs who say they got into the business because they love to set up and take down equipment. It is definitely one of my least favorite parts of the business, so that’s why I’m constantly looking for ways to be more efficient. Jim Weisz has been a DJ since 1999, primarily serving the wedding and school markets. Originally from Chicago, he relocated his thriving DJ business to Dallas in 2003. He used his company’s web presence to effectively to re-establish his client base within a just a few months. Jim is a seminar speaker and also writes for MobileBeat.com on web issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.
MORE TIPS AND TRICKS
I switched to powered speakers in 2011, and one of my concerns was the need to run power to the speakers. My powered speakers came with power cords that were only about 10 feet long. I knew that wouldn’t be long enough for most applications, so I bought some 25 foot cords. They plug right into my speakers and then I can run them to my rack for power or to a power outlet, whichever is closer. Most of the time, 25 feet is more than enough. So, instead of plugging one cord into my speaker and then an extension cord to get it power for a total or four cords, I only use one for each speaker, for a total of two cords. Just as it has saved me time using the 25 foot power cords for my speakers, I also try to use cords that are the length I need for the XLR connection to my speakers.
Same goes for using 15-foot power cords for my uplighting instead of the six-foot cords that came with them. Basically, I try to minimize running a power or sound cord to a component only to have to plug that into another cord. It cuts down significantly on the number of cords I have to coil and uncoil, which of course saves time.
Another way I have been able to shave some time off my setup was by getting a new computer with a larger hard drive.
Previously, I had an external USB hard drive I plugged into my computer. That meant plugging the hard drive into my computer and plugging the power in. My new laptop has a 750GB hard drive, so I no longer have the external hard drive. I also have a built in soundcard in my mixer, so I donÕt have to worry about an external soundcard either.
Using a lot of the techniques I’ve mentioned, I am usually able to set up in about 20 to 30 minutes. Again, that’s not with me running around at a frantic pace. It’s working at a good consistent pace and includes a good sound check. As you can see from the pictures, this also isn’t just plunking down a couple of speakers down next to a table. This is setting up the system for optimal performance. An often overlooked part of the process is staying consistent. There were a few times this year when I deviated from my routine for my takedown and I noticed it took me a good 10
to15 minutes longer. So, one of the best things you can do is develop a system that works for you and stick to it.
I don’t know of any DJs who say they got into the business because they love to set up and take down equipment. It is definitely one of my least favorite parts of the business, so that’s why I’m constantly looking for ways to be more efficient. I am also careful that I don’t make changes that will affect the sound or the performance.
What I do to optimize my set-up and take-down times should be completely transparent to my clients and their guests. If anything, hopefully it helps me give a better performance, since I’m saving time and energy before the gig. MB
Filed Under: Exclusive Online News and Content, Issue #140
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