The Pros and Cons of Planning a DJ Set

You’ve got a gig lined up and you want to make sure your set will be perfect, should you plan your set or shouldn’t you?

Setting the stage for a seamless and unforgettable night of music is a skill that every DJ strives to master. While some DJs prefer to go with the flow and let the energy of the crowd guide their choices, others meticulously plan every beat and transition. In this blog, we’ll explore the pros and cons of planning a DJ set, shedding light on the debate that continues to influence DJs around the globe.


  1. Structure and Flow: Planning a DJ set allows for the creation of a well-structured and cohesive musical journey. DJs can carefully curate a setlist that builds and releases energy, ensuring a seamless flow from one track to another. This frees the DJ up from having to think on the spot, or spend time finding the perfect next track, this in turn frees up more time for crowd interaction.
  2. Genre Consistency: By planning a set, less experienced DJs can maintain consistency in terms of genre and style. This helps establish a specific mood or theme for the event, catering to the preferences of the audience or the theme of the venue. It ensures a more targeted and intentional musical experience. Experienced DJs won’t find genre consistency an issue however and will be able to adapt on the fly.
  3. Preparation for Special Occasions: For events with specific themes or requirements, planning becomes essential. DJs can prepare for special occasions, such as weddings, corporate events, or holiday parties, by selecting appropriate tracks in advance. This allows for a tailored experience that aligns with the event’s atmosphere. – There is a caveat here though, as special occasion events such as weddings will nearly always require pivoting, where the ability to read the crowd is a crucial skill. So a planned set can help as a foundation to start with or dip into, but always be prepared to pivot!
  4. Technical Precision: Meticulous planning enables less experienced DJs to focus on technical aspects, such as beatmatching, mixing, and effects. This level of precision can elevate the overall quality of the performance, showcasing the DJ’s skill and expertise in seamlessly blending tracks. Again, for advanced DJs this is less of an issue.


  1. Lack of Spontaneity: One of the primary drawbacks of planning a DJ set is the potential loss of spontaneity. Events and crowds can be unpredictable, and relying too heavily on a predetermined setlist may hinder the DJ’s ability to adapt to the energy and vibe of the audience in real-time.
  2. Limited Flexibility: A pre-planned set may limit a DJ’s flexibility to cater to unexpected requests or changes in the mood of the crowd. Being too rigid with a setlist can lead to missed opportunities to connect with the audience and respond to their immediate reactions.
  3. Inability to Read the Crowd: Planning a set in advance may hinder a DJ’s ability to accurately read the crowd and adjust the music accordingly. A DJ’s intuition and ability to gauge the energy of the room can be crucial for creating an unforgettable experience, and too much reliance on a setlist may hinder this skill.
  4. Stale Performances: Over time, consistently using the same planned setlist may lead to stale and predictable performances. Audiences appreciate variety, and a DJ who sticks too closely to a predetermined plan may risk losing the interest and excitement of the crowd.


I find that the best way to approach any set is to always come prepared and make sure you have a diverse and vast collection of music, even stuff that you may not think would suit the event. There’s been events I’ve been asked to play a certain style or genre, but then during the night the manager or promoter has asked me to play something completely different, so always be prepared for the unexpected.

I have found that even on residencies where I’ll play the same venue on the same night of each week, that the vibe and energy can change week to week! Meaning I’ve needed to play different tracks that I may have played the week previously.

You can never predict whilst you’re sat at home sorting your playlist out what that vibe will be until you’re there in that moment, so planning what track you’re going to play and in what order, may seem like a great idea, but more often than not, it isn’t.

Every DJ has their own preference towards approaching planned or unplanned sets but here’s my advice… by all means plan a set, as it can give you a guide or foundation to work from, but make sure you are ready to pivot at any point. So always ALWAYS bring a lot more music with you than you think you’ll need, keep an eye on the crowd, vibe the night and flow with what feels right at that moment.