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The Differences Between DJs’ Festival, Nightclub, and Tour Sets

What You Can Expect From Your Favorite DJ in These Different Settings

Getting to see your favorite artist is always a special experience. If you tend to follow your favorite artist to various festivals across the country, nightclubs in various cities or catch their tour when they come to your city, here is a quick guide to help you distinguish what to expect from their set.

Festival Sets

Credit: & Ultra Korea

Festival sets are the most common sets you have probably experienced. It’s typically an hour-long set for the artist to showcase their artistry. Depending on the artist, they may play strictly their own music while others may play other artists’ music while providing their own twist to it. Typically being at a festival is very high energy so artists usually bring their most energetic set forward to match the festival vibe.

Live Sets vs. DJ Sets

Credit: Dancing Astronaut

Sometimes on festival lineups, you could see “DJ Name (DJ Set) or “DJ Name (Live Set). A good example of this is Illenium, Madeon or Porter Robinson. Depending on the festival and the production capabilities they’ll have a live set or a DJ set. A live set typically includes live instruments, synths, or drums that the artist will play live with their music. This usually requires them to bring their own setup. If for whatever reason they are unable to bring their setup (or they want to save live sets for tour), they’ll perform a DJ set which is generally them curating their sets from classic CDJs.

Nightclub Sets

Credit: Omnia Las Vegas

If you’re heading to Vegas anytime soon or have nightclubs that book DJs, you can expect the vibe to be a little different than what you’d see from a festival set or tour set. Essentially the artist is going for the more club type of vibe, might be more mainstream music played. I had a friend one time see Calvin Harris in Vegas and was disappointed he didn’t play any of his music from his Funk Wav Bounces album. That was because generally, those songs on that album don’t fit the nightclub vibe. You’ll find that the artist will play their music that fits the atmosphere of where they’re playing as well more mainstream type music to appeal to the crowd.

Tour Sets


Finally, tour sets are a favorite of mine. Mainly because you get to see a different side of the artist. When they’re in control of the production, atmosphere and can play a longer set, you’ll be fully immersed in their music. Depending on the artist you may get more live aspects of instruments, vocalists, etc. to bring their music to life. Festival sets and nightclub sets also are usually an hour and sometimes when you see an artist on tour they could play for longer which means getting to see songs they might not play at festivals anymore or rarely play in general. 

To give you an example, I saw Illenium at Austin City Limits 2018 where he played his live Awake set featuring songs from that album that he was playing from festival to festival. Later that week he had an aftershow where he played a two-hour set and brought back songs he hadn’t played in a long time like his remix of Infinity and Gold Dust. That was probably my favorite set because it was a perfect blend of old and new.

Send this guide to anyone who may be new to the scene to help them understand the differences. I know when I first started attending festivals and shows I was confused about the differences between the sets so use this the next time you’re seeing your favorite artist to prepare you for what to expect.