Don’t Panic! (The Ultimate DJ Emergency Kit) by Stu Chisholm

January 13, 2009 by Stu Chisholm

I had just began to relax.Every DJ knows that moment; when you’re done setting up for an event and have changed into your tux and are now ready to dazzle the crowd with your skills and personality. The hard part is over. Little did I know the trial that was to come…

It was time to switch-on my main amp, a brand new, state-of-the-art unit that had performed flawlessly just hours before during another party. But tonight would be different: no sound. Another feeling came over me that many DJs also know: that panic that settles into your stomach like a boulder in quicksand. What now? Although I had never actually had to use it before, I did have one ray of hope that helped me keep my sanity: my emergency kit.

Tech Support in a Box

99% of the problems that a DJ will face are predictable ones. In this case, I had noticed ahead of time that my amps, along with several other pieces of gear, had fuses! So it made sense to pull each fuse, write down its amperage and voltage ratings and pick up a box at the local electronics store. In this case, a 33-cent fuse literally saved my show! Over the years, I’ve also found the following items invaluable:

• Batteries, especially if you depend on wireless mics or have devices that “remember” settings, etc.
• Spare bulbs for ALL lighting effects. Don’t forget spares for any Littlelites, Mag-Lites, rack lights, etc.
• Assorted connectors, including, of course the DJ-standard RCA to RCA and RCA to1/4″ configurations, along their various male to male / female to female permutations. Be sure to have spares of all the different cables and couplers you use. (Obviously…But also remember to replace that cable you used in an emerency with a fresh one for the emergency kit after the fact!)
• A good flashlight! You can’t fix what you can’t see.
• Ground adaptors to use three-prong plugs in two-prong outlets. (Unfortunately, a necessary evil in many locations.)
• Electrical tape
• A soldering iron, and only resin core solder for electronics. Practice your basic soldering skills beforehand!
• Other electrical supplies, such as assorted butt connectors, lugs and wire caps.
• Scotch and masking tape, plus markers. (If you thought I was going to tell you to carry a flask of Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker, sorry to disappoint!)
• Super glue.
• Hand tools: needle nose and standard pliers, dykes, assorted screwdrivers, wire stripper, etc.
• An isolator block to remove line hum in an XLR run (RAPCO Isoblox or similar).
• A digital multi-meter.
Tools You Can Use

The majority of problems have simple solutions and are, more often than not, caused by connectors and jacks simply wearing out or being damaged. Get good at quickly replacing any RCA, XLR, 1/4″ or Neutrik Speak-On / Power-Con connectors that are in your rig.

Even without electronics skills, a digital multi-meter can show the line voltage from an electrical outlet, check batteries and cables and perform many other useful functions. I originally packed mine thinking I’d never need it, but end up using it nearly every gig.

If you use Ultimate Support or similar types of speaker stands, it is always a good idea to keep some spare knobs and plastic parts around for them, “just in case.” While they may have a great warranty, if you drop a stand on pavement in the winter and crack the cold, plastic parts, spares suddenly become REALLY important. (It can get pretty darn cold here in Detroit!) It’s also easy to accidentally over-tighten knobs, strip-out bolts, etc., and they will also just plain wear out over time.

Beyond the Basics

Masking tape and markers often come in handy when you’re doing a show that differs from your norm, so you can I.D. which device is on which channel of your mixer. They’re also good for labeling breakers at the electrical panel.

Pack replacement screws, nuts and bolts for anything in your rig that uses them. Life on the road can loosen things up, pop screws and strip bolts. Note the type and size of those in your rig (lighting effects, road cases, tensor lamps and mic booms-everything!) and pack a few spares. I also carry a few self-tapping wood screws, for those unexpected moments, like the time a banquet hall table was about to collapse under the weight of an ice sculpture when a support came loose. A wood screw and two minutes can actually make you the hero of the day!


You may have individual needs for your specific circumstance, so take the time to think about each item in your show. Note anything your DJ gear or other equipment might use (fuses, bulbs, connectors, etc.) and keep a supply onhand. With a well-equipped emergency kit, you’re ready for almost anything that life on the road can dish out!

Until next time, safe spinnin’!

Stu Chisholm, a music collector since age seven, a mobile DJ since 1979, and sometime nightclub DJ in suburban Detroit, has also done radio, voice-over work, and has even spun at a roller rink. He attended the famous Specs Howard School of Broadcasting. At the February 2009 Mobile Beat DJ Show in Las Vegas (MBLV.09) Stu will make his debut as a seminar speaker, as he brings some of the info from his new book, The Complete DJ (ProDJ Publishing) to a live audience.

Stu Chisholm Stu Chisholm (52 Posts)

Stu Chisholm had been collecting music since he was about eight years old and began his DJ career in 1979. After much hard work, trial-and-error, and a stint at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, he studied the DJ arts with famous Michigan broadcaster, Bill Henning, at a local college. Stu interned at Detroit’s rock powerhouse, WRIF. To his radio and mobile work Stu later added club gigs at Detroit’s best venues, and voiceover work. He has shared his extensive DJ experience through his Mobile Beat columns, as a seminar speaker and through his book, “The Complete Disc Jockey: A Comprehensive Manual for the Professional DJ,” released in 2008.

Filed Under: 2009, Mobile DJ Performance Tips