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Are B2B DJ sets overrated? Let’s explore the good and the bad

Photo: Rukes

Festival season is upon us, which means over the coming months we’ll be inundated with lineup announcements that include some of the most popular DJs of the year. Among these massive lineups are the all-too-familiar B2B (back-to-back) sets peppered throughout.

It seems as though the frequency of B2B sets appearing on these rosters is increasing. For example, at Excision’s Thunderdome event in Tacoma, WA — which took place at the end of January 2020 — eight of the sets were B2B. Excision is also planning a B2B set with Illenium for his 2020 Bass Canyon festival. But this begs the question: are B2B DJ sets overrated?

Many of us have witnessed a B2B set before. Basically, two or more DJs (excluding multi-person groups working under the same name) join forces to share the turntables, trading off on song selections and hyping up the crowd manifold. On the surface, this seems like a great deal for fans. We get to see multiple DJs for the price of one. But the more of these B2B sets we see, the more the cracks begin to show.

The bad side of B2B DJ sets

B2B sets seem to sacrifice the individual identity of the artists involved. Where before we are able to immerse in the well-defined vibes of a single artist or supergroup, with multiple artists on stage the experience can feel fragmented. Things tend to get messy with multiple DJs behind the decks.

More hands stirring the pot means less cohesion and more attempts at crowd-pleasing at the expense of truly vibing with the crowd. DJs in a B2B set tend to prefer dishing out banger after banger as their time to shine comes around again, while putting aside things like controlling the flow of the set.

Another thing to consider is that from the perspective of the DJs, B2B sets are usually just friends having fun on stage together. But from the perspective of fans, we can feel like we’re not being catered to, in a sense.

Virtual Riot b2b Datsik b2b Crizzly Photo: Banana Cam Photo

Also, most B2B DJ pairs appear random, especially on huge festival lineups. Scheduling issues and limited performance slots may sometimes leave event organizers with no choice but to combine artists. In some cases, B2B sets spontaneously form just because multiple DJs happen to be standing behind the booth.

Beyond that, there’s definitely an element of marketing value when considering the hype that many artists generate by being on a lineup. Unsurprisingly, event organizers may capitalize on this by pairing big-name artists together that might attract fans. Seeing two or more of your favorite artists on stage at once will prompt more livestream views and social media posts thereafter.

Still, an unprecedented number of talented DJs exist today who can actually make B2B sets work. Continue reading below to see some of the best large-scale, B2B DJ sets over the last few years.

The best B2B sets in recent years

The sad reality is that most B2B sets of the past have under-delivered on the promise of something huge. However, over the last few years, there have been some seriously epic B2B sets that people still talk about to this day. Below are a few of the most talked-about B2B sets of recent times.

Slander B2B Nghtmre @ Ultra Music Festival Mexico [2018]

Illenium b2b Said the Sky @ Global Dance Festival [2018]

G Jones B2B Eprom @ NYE360 [2018]

Tchami B2B Malaa @ Tomorrowland Belgium [2019]

Seven Lions B2B Jason Ross @ AGBT250 Gorge Ampitheater [2017]

Alison Wonderland B2B Jauz B2B Diplo @ EDC Las Vegas [2017]

Jauz B2B Slushii B2B Netsky @ Reading Festival [2018]

What the above B2B sets have in common is that the DJs involved are closely related. They’ve collaborated on past songs and have displayed an authentic friendship both offline and over social media. The resulting B2B sets feel simultaneously organic and well-thought-out. More often than not, the DJs involved are talented enough to feed off of each other and at least create the exciting EDM live shows we all love. Indeed, a few of the above sets were actually planned out, which made for a synergistic show that played on the varying styles of the different artists involved.

Are B2B DJ sets overrated?

B2B sets are becoming increasingly popular as more and more talented DJs enter the scene. To abate overcrowding festival slots, many event organizers have opted to pair EDM artists together. This can be a hit or miss depending on how natural or planned out the pairing was.

Ultimately, whether or not a B2B set becomes a flop is really 50/50. On the other hand, there seems to be a growing self-awareness among EDM artists for how B2B sets can be tailored to be something greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak. Hopefully, this means more quality sets going forward.

And finally, as fans, we have to admit that it’s an insane experience to see more than one of our favorite EDM artists on stage at the same time. For those in the Pacific Northwest, test the merits of a B2B DJ set yourself this summer as Excision and Illenium play a set together at Bass Canyon 2020, taking place at the Gorge Amphitheater. Tickets are on sale now!

Which DJs do you think had the best or worst B2B sets? Let us know in our comments section on Facebook, and Twitter!

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