You may of noticed out there in the world of DJing there are quite a few successful DJ duos, but actually there are more DJs mixing music as solo artists.
How do DJ duos work?
DJ Duos work by having a solid foundation of a relationship. Duos not only DJ together but they travel, work and eat together when on tour, compatible personalities is essential. When DJing live, each DJ usually takes it in turns to mix 2 to 3 music tracks each and then swaps over.
I’ve been keen for a while to understand how a duo DJ pair can become successful, because let’s face it there are some super successful DJs out there such as Disclosure, Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Martinez Brothers, Brookes Brothers, Chase & Status, Adana Twins, Fred V & Grafix… the list goes on, so DJ duos must work!
Be Great Friends from the Beginning
Due to the potential endurance of travel, work and being away from family, being great friends is super important to be able to tackle anything life throws at you both.
Creatively you both need to get on as well because the mixing on the same DJ decks can take some patience and put your egos aside. This is especially important if you are used to DJing on your own.
A DJ duo simply would not work if you don’t get on well together.
Communication is key to any relationship, partnership and DJ duo. Letting things get in the way when you could have easily communicated to one another is key to being in a DJ duo.
Also being great friends can help with being on the same page about the creative direction you’re both going. Whether it be music track selection when DJing or picking creative direction for your DJ marketing. Being friends initially can help because you simply know each other better.
Bounce Ideas off Eachother
Two heads are better than one. Especially solving a problem, coming up with creative ideas and DJing together.
Everyone has their own unique experience in life and set of skills, so in actual fact having two people as part of a DJ duo can stand the test of time and deliver amazing music mixes and even music production too.
Also remember that you are a business too, so there may be times that you’ll to find solutions to a problem, which also two heads is better than one when solving problems.
For example it might be booking travel, working with a club manager, agreeing on a marketing strategy and even hiring a manager.
Keep eachother motivated when the times are tough. DJs that eventually become successful and become a well know brand of DJ, tend to get booked gigs that require travel a lot around the world. This can be tough at times.
For example Camelphat revealed in an interview that they both travelled from Croatia to LA in one day.
However the journey took them 6 flights and travel time frame was within 36 hours in total. Very enduring, especially before playing a DJ set.
The chaps from Camelphat did say in the interview that the travelling does get out weighed from the DJ performances that they play to thousands of people at festivals and clubs.
DJing as a Duo can really be beneficial at times like these as you can share the pain and be a shoulder to cry on. Of course all of these points are based on begin great friends from the beginning.
Back to Back Mixing
From a practical DJing point of view, DJ duos usually mix back to back, also know as B2B DJing.
Practically this means that both DJs use the turntables/CDJs and mixer to DJ in front of a crowd. Usually as a rule of thumb each DJ takes around 2 to 3 tracks each to mix and then they swap over again.
In some cases I’ve seen DJs do one for one, and sometimes each DJ play 4 to 5 tracks, there’s no rules but 3 does seem like the magic number.
Back to back DJ duos can work quite well as one of the duo is DJing the other can read the crowd a scope out what the vibe is. Really bringing a great vibe to party.
Back to back mixing needs to be on the same idea and level of sound from the start. By this I mean match the vibe of the party with the music you’re going to play as a DJ duo.
It’s good to agree upon the sound that you are both going to play at a particular venue from the off. No different to what you’d do when DJing on your own as a solo DJ.
Creative Variations of Back to Back Mixing
There are other ways in which duo DJs can perform in front of the masses, other than just back to back on a single pair of turntables and mixer.
Three other methods include:
- Linking together 4 CDJs and 2 mixers together to a master mixer
- Linking performance pads or sampler to the mixer
- Musician to play alongside DJ
Let’s explore each of these concepts in greater detail. It’s worth noting there are variations of these setups, so use these options as inspiration that you can build upon, e.g. more CDJs, mixers or beat pads.
Option 1 – Linking together 4 CDJs and 2 mixers together to a master mixer:
Allows DJs to have their own setup and DJ together still. Essentially both DJs are mixing back to back but they are able to mix independently of one another.
This method gives the DJs each a degree of greater control in the performance as opposed to passing the headphones and then mixing tracks.
With this method I’d imagine there needs to be a degree of communication throughout the mix or at least a lot of practice.
The performances though can definitely outweigh just the simple back to back mixing on one setup. You can get super creative with this type of DJing. Lots of scratching, acapellas mixed over other tracks, greater control of effects, looping and activating samples.
Even though this is an expensive setup in total, if you’re serious about being the best DJ duo in the world this setup could well work wonders for you both.
Option 2 – Linking performance pads or sampler to the mixer
This is a super creative method of performance because while one DJ is mixing the other DJ can play samples and effects from a separate performance pad.
Using a beat pad such as the Maschine by Native Instruments or even Launchpad compatible with Ableton Live can be used. You can play samples such as full on vocal acapellas or even snippet small samples. Either way using a performance pad can add some dynamic performance to your DJ set as a duo.
Option 3 – Musician to play alongside DJ (the Musician can DJ too)
Is another musical dimension to bring to a DJ Duo. Some DJs have the ability to play musical instruments. So when DJing back to back can become the norm, adding in some live musical elements can really make you stand out as a duo.
I’ve see some DJs look like they are just playing back to back, and then bam! one of the DJs starts playing Saxophone over a funky house track, it’s really impressive.
Another instrument I’ve seen is a percussionist playing small drums and also a full on drummer alongside the DJ.
You may have seen this sort of set up at a party or wedding which has become more popular recently.
In a live music capacity I’ve certainly seen Disclosure and also Chase & Status play live musical instruments along side their own music productions, which is slightly similar.
More than a Duo? A Trio!
There are DJs that play in bigger groups, Swedish House Mafia come to mind. Not only did they produce music but DJ together in a group but all jump on the decks together in front of the masses at massive clubs.
DJ groups like Swedish House Mafia have certainly been successful in their own right by bringing their own distinguishable sound to the scene. This is something that helps promoters work with and get people through the door of the clubs.
The added benefit to having three people in a DJ group in this situation is that you can all come up with great set lists to DJ with.
Practice Make Perfect
Practicing together as a DJ duo can pay dividends in the long run and influence your future success. Know each others strengths and weaknesses is really important when performance behind the turntables.
Some DJ duos are formed as duos prior to being “DJs”, and are more music producers / musicians at their core, for example Bondax are producers that DJ together.
It’s likely the guys in Bondax know each other really well but might have different skills behind the DJ decks, and by now I’m sure they’ve had plenty of time to practice now with all their success.
Being honest with one another about which skills you are lacking or are good at when DJing can help to direct practice sessions. Communication is key to drive quality of a DJ duo forward.
Play to Your Strengths, split the work load
Get to a point where there’s an equal split of work. A clear understanding of who has certain strengths is key.
Agree upon a direction in where you want to take your DJing duo brand and split out the tasks to achieve your success. If the work load is not equal it can cause some friction.
There are lots of different areas to cover when in comes to DJing for example graphic design, DJ branding, gig booking, marketing, promotion, social media, also even music production to create remixes and bootlegs of tracks.
Two of you together can mean that you get so much more work done in the same amount of time. Double down and get things done quick time!
Proof DJ Duos Work. Money talks!
It only really takes a small bit of research online to find out how well DJ duos can perform and be successful in their careers.
Checking out Forbes top high paid DJs list in 2019 shows that The Chainsmokers were paid the highest amount of money, knocking Calvin Harris off the top spot, sorry Calvin!
$46 million dollars is an impressive amount. Now if that doesn’t give you confidence about DJing in a duo I don’t know what will.
It’s key to point out here that the money that these successful DJ duo types gain residencies at highly acclaimed and highly monetised clubs. For example The Chainsmokers play at lavish hotel nightclubs in Las Vegas.
The other avenues of making the wedge, the dollar dollar bills, is through playing gigs outside of residencies too including festivals, other clubs and more.
I’ve mentioned a few times in this article that DJ duos seem to like music production and I think that rings true for a lot of DJ duos.
Point being, releasing successful singles and albums can help cross promote you as DJs, allowing you both to command a higher price per DJ set. Also record sales can help make you a lot of dosh too.