In case you were wondering, a DJ set should last depending on what you negotiated with the bar owner, birthday celebrant, wedding planner, and whoever hired you to DJ.
If you are not sure how long your set should take, you better have clear communication with the person hiring you beforehand.
Beginner DJs kind of struggle with filling the hours of their set because, first of all, as a beginner DJ, you don't really have much experience playing a live set before.
Secondly, you probably don't have enough songs in your music collection as well.
Third, you do not know how these things work.
As a beginner, you are probably excited to play your first set ever, but you are in dying need of helpful guidelines on how things work including the duration of a typical DJ set, whether you are getting paid or not.
If you are getting paid, it is easy to just name your price per hour or price for three hours.
However, it might not be too realistic to demand a certain budget at this point in your career, but don’t worry.
With enough practice and experience DJing for small events such as bdays, weddings, or gender reveal parties (If that is still a thing), you will work your way up to playing clubs on weekdays, to playing clubs on weekends, and finally, playing music festivals (fingers crossed).
Fortunately, if you feel this way, you came to the right place to find out.
In this article, I will explain how long a DJ set should be, and how many songs you need to prepare prior to the event you will be DJing.
How Many Songs Should I Prepare for a DJ Set?
The average duration of a song is about 3 minutes long.
To find out how long your set should be in terms of song count, just divide the number of minutes to 3, which is the average time per each song.
Sometimes DJs cut songs and transition to the next mid-song, so It is much safer to divide the number of minutes by 2 instead of 3.
For example, if your set is two hours, divide 120 minutes by 2, and you will get 60.
You will need to prepare around 50 to 60 songs to fill a two-hour set.
These are just averages, there could be more or less depending on how long the song will be playing, and if some drunk person requested for the same song twice.
For power mixing DJs that only use about two minutes of a song for their sets, it is safe to divide the number of minutes by two just to be sure.
Here is a quick computation of your set length depending on length and number of songs.
- 6-hour set: 180 songs
- 2-hour set: 60 songs
- 1-hour set- 30 songs
Remember just divide the number of minutes by how long you intend on playing each song, but the average time would be two to three minutes.
The Set Time Varies by Genre
The formula above is for power mixing DJs who play top-40 music and take only the best two minutes of a song before switching to the next track, which is why these types of DJs have more songs in a set.
However, you can still play the whole song for up to four minutes if you are pretty low on tracks in your collection.
It depends on the genre.
House and other club music genres often have no lyrics, which is why you can end it whenever you want to.
On the other hand, songs with lyrics cannot just be cut in the middle of a lyric, especially if the crowd is singing along.
I imagine they would be pissed.
A good rule of thumb is to cut the song between the bridge and the last chorus.
Here are the songs per hour computations for different genres to give you an Idea.
Trance Music: 12 songs per hour
The 80s' Music: around 10 songs per hour
Commercial House: 20 songs per hour
Dubstep: 40 songs per hour
Hip-Hop: 30 songs per hour
Techno: 12 songs per hour
Pop Music: around 30 songs per hour
How Long Should You Play a Particular Song?
Different DJs have different styles of playing music.
Some like to finish the song until they find a good opening to transition to the next track, while some but the song in half so that they can play more songs in the set.
In the modern club settings, it is expected even by the audience for DJs to not finish an entirety of a 4 to 5-minute song.
Again, cutting your song shorter is completely up to you, and of course, the crowd if you need to please them.
Is Planning Your Sets in Advance Frowned Upon?
It is not really frowned upon, but a lot of DJs have different opinions on the matter.
I think that whatever helps you mix music better, and whatever pleases the crowd should be okay.
If you plan on making a setlist and planning your set beforehand, make sure you leave a little room for improvising in case something goes wrong or someone from the crowd requests a particular song, you still need to be able to work spontaneously, which is a good skill for a DJ.
How Do You Prepare a Song List for Your Next Gig?
A good way to prepare for a set is to make separate folders on your laptop that will include the song list, as well as all the files you need to play.
As you gain more experience, you will learn how to mix any two songs even without preparation or a list to read.
How Much Should I Charge For My First Gig as a DJ?
It depends on what you see fit on your skills.
Some DJs were never paid to play their first gig.
However, nowadays, everything is fair and people get compensated for the time and skills they offer.
The payment should depend on your negotiation, but most clubs or bar DJs get paid at least $250 to $300 a night and more on weekends.
Conclusion: Organizing your Music Library
The key to an effective DJ set depends on the tracks you play and how you transition from one to another.
The best way to access your songs is by organizing your music library and making use of separate folders.
Organize the folders however you see fit and make sure you rehearse before any gig.
Knowing your tracklist inside out allows you to manipulate them in real-time even without rehearsing.
Now that you know how long a DJ set should be, I hope you can get your first ever gig soon!