Needle skips to network dips — DJing is all about “what ifs”

* Image credit to DJ Rasp, who stumbled across the worst possible “what if” a few years ago. 

This week saw Denon DJ make the significant announcement of streaming in its standalone Prime 4 and SC5000 Prime players. In amongst the woahs and OMGs social media comments were a few voices echoing a sentiment that’s been heard since the very first rumblings of the possibility of online music being played in preference to actual media.

“What if the wifi breaks?”

It’s a fair point, and definitely something to be concerned about. On my travels as the owner of an online media outlet, reporting from DJ shows has led to some interesting late night moments where the race to get killer content posted via hotel wifi before anyone else has been met with every kind of internet barrier imaginable, especially in another country too. 

Those days appear to be firmly in the past now, as even my iPhone with 4G can deliver fibre level speeds from just about anywhere. And if used as a hotspot, it can bail you out of a tight streaming corner too. Let’s put it this way — the global telecommunications infrastructure is in a much better place than it was a few years ago to support streaming. But don’t take it for granted.

It’s all about the what ifs

As professionals putting ourselves into unfamiliar territories, we’ve always had to deal with all manner of “what if” scenarios since the dawn of playing out.

  • What if something breaks?
  • What if I forget something important?
  • What if there aren’t enough plugs?
  • What if my laptop crashes?
  • What if the USB drive corrupts?
  • What if I can’t connect to the house sound system?
  • Insert any number of bound-to-happen scenarios right here

Our setups are complex and ever-growing chains of powered boxes and cables set up in often chaotic environments, thus the chances of things going decidedly Pete Tong has always been high, if not inevitable. Holding up wifi reliability as a barrier to using streaming is no different to the existing minefield that is DJing.

In DJ Swamp’s case, setting his turntables on fire is part of his act. But what would you do if this happened to you by accident? 

The important thing is how you plan and prepare for the possibility a multitude of things going pear-shaped. A bag of extra adaptors and cables? Spare headphones? Backup carts and needles? Duplicate USB drives? Backup and spare EVERYTHING? God knows I’ve somehow cobbled together insane chains of adaptors and gaffer tape to be able to plug into ancient and poorly maintained house systems. 

One more Plan B

As professional DJs, we must be prepared for the worst of scenarios, and now that includes poor internet too. So if you choose the streaming route for your future DJ life, make sure that just like every other part of your setup, you have a plan B. And the more gear you have, the more plan Bs you’re going to need too. 

So while some of you like me are suicidal lemmings early adopters of new tech, don’t assume that the local bar you’ve been asked to spin at is going to have stellar wired internet, or any internet at all for that matter. Do your due diligence before cutting the cord from your local music collection.

Benjamin Franklin stated it plain and clear:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

And it’s never been truer for DJs. You may have confidence in your own setup, but unknown venue variables are just waiting to throw a spanner in your carefully planned works. So if you plan to use streaming services, make damned sure the venue has solid internet so that your stream keeps streaming, and that your plan B is utterly bomb proof as well. Denon DJ can provide the means to play streamed music — the rest is on you.

Bottom line — don’t blame the technology going it inevitably goes wrong. Blame yourself for not being able to deal with it when it does.