4 Tips to Make a Better Anime Convention Set

Anime Con season has started. An Anime Dance is a strange, wondrous, beast where otakus, ravers and confused parents unearth themselves from underground sects of society to mingle and coexist in a public place a couple times a year. For many of these participants, this one of their few chances to socialize outside of the internet. So where does this leave you?

As an Anime Convention DJ, it is your obligation to make these events a celebration for the attendees. Unlike their Japanese counter-part, American otaku’s are proud of their otaku-dom. In this way, Anime conventions are an otaku-pride event where otakus meet other otakus that they wouldn’t find else where. The Anime Dance is another expression of this validation. If the day-events of the Anime convention are the show, the Anime Dance is the after-party.. and everyone wants to be at the after party.

We’ve compiled the following short list of tips for you to keep in mind for improving your own Anime Convention set. While we like to make it clear that these are tips and not rules, many of these tips are common etiquette held by DJ’s outside of anime conventions. Read on.

TIP #1 – Listen to the DJs on stage before you.

Chances are, you’ll be sharing an evening with other DJs. Arrive an hour before your call-time. Aside from supporting a fellow DJ, you’ll learn quite a few things to prepare for your own set. It’s always a no-no to double play a song on a crowd, for example, so arriving a bit early will cue you in on the songs not to repeat. Before you get behind the decks, it’s also a good idea hit the dance floor to feel the rythm of the music from the crowd’s perspective. Dancing to the Dj’s set before you will give you a sense of the groove that’s currently working the floor, and you’ll feel how you want to move the current groove to where you want it to be for your own set. And don’t worry: it’s an anime convention, no one will judge how you’re dancing.

If you’re opening a room, it is usually suggested that you play the role of an opener. We’ll embellish what this means in a future post. But for now, we’ll just say that as a warm-up DJ, you should warm-up the party and not crash it. Nobody likes the dude who crashes the party. Seriously bro, what gives?

TIP #2 – Know the music.

Having a familiarity with video game, meme, and anime music helps. Anime conventions are the only places in the world where you can play that dubstep remix of Dragon Ball Z and the crowd will get it. By all means, this is a chance to truly celebrate what it means to be an otaku. Even the non-otaku’s who wandered into the dance with no understanding of the otaku references will be energized by the rest of the crowd’s reaction.

It almost goes without saying that having knowledge of your own music will make it easier for on-the-fly song selection to match what the audience needs, as well as the understanding of how to mix-in and mix-out of your songs quickly. When you know your songs well, you’ll naturally know how to mix them.

TIP #3 – Play contemporary.

It is with great sadness, but rational understanding, that we admit that the main crowd for anime dances come and go depending on their age. Teenagers are the most likely to be in attendance at your dance. By the time they can drink and invest in their 401k, they’ll be at the notorious hotel-room-parties. This means that the classics you could play ten years ago will not be so well-received by the teens today. They simply haven’t heard the same classics as you. The widely-known anime performer and remixer, DJ AMAYA, had this to say:

The last generation of con goers have pretty much stopped doing the convention dance thing. leaving it to the teenagers. the crowd now is noticeably younger, and doesn’t react the same ways at all. The older crowd was easy to get excited with familiar older tunes, but the younger crowd isn’t as informed, and also doesn’t react as strongly to what they like (they’re a bit lazy). but the up-side is that the younger crowd is much more open-minded to new things, it’s just a lot harder to read them.

Based off of DJ AMAYA’s response, we can surmise that playing your newer, edgier stuff will go well with the new generation of attendees. Gone are the days of “techno.” Anime teens want the new, different, stuff.

Even with the new generation of attendees, however, nostalgia will forever be one of the strongest celebrations of otaku-dom. Video game songs from the 32-bit era will probably be lost of these kids, but it should be noted that they grew up in the 64 bit one. Pokémon has been coming back with a vengeance, lately, and this generation should remember it.

TIP #4 – Project stage-presence.

As a DJ you’re the focal point of the dance. All sorts of colored lasers and sound emit from your booth. You are very much the center of attention. Many of these teens will be looking at you while they’re on the dance floor. Give them a show to watch.They’ll feed off the energy you have for your own set. Enjoy your music and show it.

Monkey-see, monkey-do. For teens, in particular, having a guide on how to dance or participate really rallies the crowd-up. If you clap above your head during a build in the music, they’ll do the same. If you don’t have dancers on stage, dance to show them how they should be dancing. Any guide at all for ways to participate with the music will make them love the set more. If you haven’t had one of these experiences before, you’d be surprised by how strong of an influence you have over the crowd.


Remember that this is a party for people who aren’t going to judge. Acknowledge that these kids are here to be in a rare environment where they can celebrate being themselves. Be yourself and create an environment that validates their uniqueness.  If you have any other tips you think our readers should know, leave a comment.

2 thoughts on “4 Tips to Make a Better Anime Convention Set

  1. The Old Guys at the Convention says:

    LoL…do you still feel the same way after all these years? esp. with the bulk of your experience at FanimeCon where the demographic is younger?

    • Dj PeterLo says:

      I hate reading the writing style of this post which appeared however many years ago; but yeah: I still stand by these tips. The genres of music have changed a bit in terms of what is popular over the years, but these tips still make sense for the anime crowd.

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