What Does DJ Set Mean? (Explained!)

A DJ set usually refers to a DJ mixing pre recorded music in front of a crowd. When an event flyer has “DJ set” next to an artist’s name, it means the artist will be performing a DJ set instead of playing music live or as part of a band.

It’s certainly not easy to rock up and play a solid set. It takes lots of practice for a DJ to mix an incredible set in front of people. As a DJ, the best thing you can hear from someone after you’ve finished mixing for hours is “Great set!” This is the ultimate compliment. 

In this article, we will look at what a DJ set is, and the different types of DJ set you are likely to come across.

What Does It Mean When DJ Set Is Written Next To The Artists Name?

If “DJ set” is written next to a musician’s name on a flyer, it is to make the distinction that they will be performing a “DJ set” instead of the act they are more known for. They could be a solo artist or perhaps part of a larger band. 

A good example is Jamie xx, who plays solo DJ sets and is a member of the band The xx. 

Event promoters will often use this technique to get a top-name act on their bill for a fraction of the price. It would usually cost the promoter significantly more to book the same act to perform live than to perform a DJ set. It’s also much cheaper to have DJ gear set up rather than expensive musical equipment!

What Does DJ Set Mean

What Is A DJ Set?

Essentially, a DJ set refers to the time slot when a DJ will be playing. There are traditional sets, live Sets, and B2B sets, to name a few ways DJs utilize their time in the booth.

The best way to think about a set is in terms of general musical performances. When a band performs, they usually need to provide a setlist to the venue beforehand. 

A setlist lists all the songs a band or musical act will perform during their time slot. This is usually agreed upon before their act because they must rehearse and make sure all instrument changes and breaks are accounted for. 

A DJ set refers to a musical performance inside a club or other music venue. If you are new to the club scene, you may not know all of the party terminologies. When I started going out, I didn’t realize that there might be multiple club DJ acts in one night. 

DJ Lineup

All of the DJs performing in one night would be referred to as the “lineup.” 

If someone asked you what’s the lineup at our favorite club tonight? You might answer: Oh, DJ Tennis is playing a four-hour set, and Carlita is opening for him with a two-hour set. 

Set Time

What either plays during their set times is entirely up to them. That’s where they have a decent amount of creative license to either plan out precisely what they’d like to play or go with the flow a bit and see what the crowd responds best to. 

In a traditional DJ set, the DJ will play music and tracks in their library, whether a digital music library, a vinyl collection, or both. All of the music has been pre-recorded, and they are making selections during the set. 

Playing a traditional DJ set is not an easy task either. It requires musical skill, understanding which music will mix together nicely, and decision-making on the spot based on crowd reactions. 

What Is A Live DJ Set? 

When a set is explicitly labeled as a live set, the DJ/ music producer will be creating the music behind the DJ booth. If a DJ is playing live, there will be other instruments and the DJ equipment typically used for a standard set. 

Live sets are fantastic because they really showcase a DJ’s talents. They are creating music on the fly for you to enjoy. It is an incredible level of musical and mental strain to do live music production for hours. 

I mean, jeez, it’s straining enough for me to put a song on my Apple Music or Spotify queues! 

When I first went to a live show, I didn’t understand what was happening and the differences compared to a regular DJ set. You really need to get a peek at the equipment/ instruments they are using to understand how a live set is different. 

I recently saw KiNK play a live set, and it was incredible. He had a whole producer set up behind the booth with a drum machine and Synthesizers. He created music for four hours straight, which demands so much respect. 

What Is A Hybrid DJ Set?

A lot of professional DJs will play hybrid sets. This means that they have the standard DJ controller and mixer set up with some additional features. It could be an instrument like a guitar or a drum machine. 

Monolink, for example, will usually play hybrid sets where he mixes music that he’s already recorded with added musical instruments to make his sets unique every time. 

Top Techno DJs like Charlotte de Witte will often use a remixer or additional synths to add their own sounds on top of their track. 

This creates a fantastic freestyle, sound effect, and creative energy for their sets. 

What Is A B2B Set?

A B2B set refers to 2 DJs playing their set time together. An excellent example of this is Tale of Us. They are a DJ duo, so they always play together and switch between tracks. 

B2B sets are really cool when two artists have different styles but flow really nicely together. 

Oden & Fatzo are a fantastic DJ group that plays together. They will not only play B2B but also live on occasion. 

It’s amazing to see multiple people so in tune with their musical styles and energetically flowing together seamlessly LIVE. 

Planning A DJ Set?

A DJ will have a time slot for the event or party, which is their “set time.” They are in charge of mixing all of the music they choose to include in their set during that time. 

Some DJs pre-record their sets (this is not very cool). Some DJs like to determine what music they will play before the set but mix tracks on the spot. 

Other DJs prefer to choose a couple of tracks but mostly freestyle once they are already in front of the crowd. 

Some DJs take it the extra mile and perform a completely live performance set. 

Whatever the DJs preference for set style may be, it requires careful planning and practice. 

Is A Streamed Set Still A Set? 

Heck yes! During COVID, we got an opportunity to see DJs playing sets from their homes or different locations without a crowd. 

During the pandemic, I was a big fan of the YouTube Channel Cercle because they allowed me to bring a DJ set into my home through streaming technology. They had DJ’s play sets in stunning locations like mountain tops and deserts while recording them with video and audio. 

A DJ playing and mixing a “set” of songs or tracks in a row is a DJ set. Even if it is streamed, it’s still a set. 

Is One DJ Set Better Than The other?

No way. All DJ sets require so much skill, practice, and energy that it is impossible to say that one style is better than another. They all have their own intricacies and challenges associated with them. 

The way I go about it is, “I’m so blessed to be able to watch these people create a musical vibe that I get to witness and dance to in person.” I will appreciate it in any shape or form that it’s delivered in and respect them regardless of execution. 

To enjoy each set style is to understand the differences and relish each stylistic distinction being brought to the table. 

Hopefully, after this read, you will be able to spot the differences and offer an “Amazing set!” compliment to the next DJ you see perform, whether it is in person or not. 

Related questions

What Are DJ Record Pools And how To Use Them?

DJ record pools are online subscription-based groups that allow DJs to share music with each other in top file formats. You can go online and search for a record pool, subscribe, and receive access to the music circulated there. 

You will probably have access to promotional music and tracks as well. The audio file is usually listed as MP3 or WAV formats. 

​​What Type of Equipment Is Commonly Used in Live Sets?

DJs can use software or hardware components to make their sets live performances. Often, you will see them utilizing drum machines, synthesizers, and even DJ software like Ableton and Rekordbox to add live features to their set. 

Where Do You Usually Listen to Typical DJ Sets?

DJ sets can happen in so many different locations. Typically though, they take place in clubs, music venues, and warehouses, but they can be outdoors at festivals as well. 

You can watch/ listen to DJ sets on YouTube and even on the radio! A radio DJ will also have s st time on that radio show and play for a certain amount of time. Defected Records has a great radio DJ show. 

Does the Genre of Music Matter when Considering the Set Length?

Not particularly, most DJs will be able to mix in between genres to provide an enjoyable musical journey that doesn’t really affect the set length. 

Hip Hop songs and tracks tend to be shorter than some electronic music, which may indicate that a Hip Hop DJ mix will include more songs during their set. 

Are DJ Sets Pre Recorded?

Some DJs do pre-record their sets, but it’s not the standard. Usually, a DJ will pre-plan what tracks need to be played at a particular event and then mix while on stage. 

Pre-recording sets is not very cool and takes away from the experience of seeing a DJ perform. DJs sometimes get accused of pre-recording their sets and get labeled as “fake DJs.” 

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