Even if you’re not familiar with the term “Red Light Syndrome,” if you’re a DJ, you’ve most likely experienced it at some point or another. No, Red Light Syndrome or RLS does not refer to a fear of your speakers overheating or your sound levels going in the red, it refers to performing subpar once you hit the “record” button. You think to yourself, “I’ve performed live in front of plenty of people” or “I’ve practiced this a thousand times” yet once that red “record” light comes on, you choke.
Well, don’t worry you’re not the only one who’s experienced RLS, and we understand that it can be really frustrating to go through this over and over. So we’ve put together this informal guide to help you conquer this minor, albeit nerve-wracking, setback.
Always Record Your Sets.
Whether live or at home, recording your sets can help you identify what songs trip you up, or if there’s a particular pattern to your mistakes. When we are performing an event or a nightclub, we know that several factors are working in our favor—if they like the song selection, 95% of our job is done. But, even then you benefit from recording so you can either upload the show to Mixcloud or keep practicing so that over time you improve. This practice of self-reflecting and retrospectively revisiting your performance is key to your growth as a DJ.
And since nothing compares to performing at home (which already feels uncomfortable – even unnatural, to most) it’s even more important to your practice coming to terms with this feeling of being watched. But the good news is, Mixcloud has a simple solution for this process.
Practice Your Set by Streaming Unlisted
Mixcloud’s “Unlisted” feature keeps first-time live streamers in mind because it allows you to practice being recorded, but as it is unlisted there won’t be any viewers. With this tool, you can also check your levels and any other technical aspect of your performance, and build your confidence from there
You know how people say they hate hearing the sound of their own voices. Many DJs feel the same way about listening to last night’s performance without the energy of the crowd, conversations with those around you, and hypnotic lighting. Making a habit of hitting that record button every time you spin can definitely reduce “red light” anxiety.
Prepare Your Set
If you’ve always just relied on talent and instinct to mix your live sets, it can feel awkward to set cue points, but the songs are in order, and practice the set in advance. However, your live stream has the potential of being the Super Bowl of DJ performing so you should treat it accordingly. Before going live, make sure you understand the process of cueing your songs, and this can look different depending on the software you’re using, here’s a guide on how to cue songs in Serato and Traktor. Getting familiar with your cues will really help you improvise, get creative, and rearrange songs to your liking. If you wanted to play the drop first, and return to the build-up for some reason, cueing allows you to do that.
Finally, Think of it as Cross-Training
Each live stream you record, whether at home or at a party, is an opportunity to propel you forward as DJ. And it’s okay to falter, just don’t let it stop you from trying again, and again. Remember, you are not the only DJ that struggles with feeling that you’ve messed up somehow. Admittedly it’s uncomfortable to be watched for 2 hours straight and easy to fall back into your off-camera mannerisms. But stepping outside of that comfort zone will naturally shift your perspective on “red light” performances, and challenge you as a DJ. So if you weren’t nervous, you wouldn’t be pushing yourself. And what fun would that be?