Party planning can be daunting, but a few elements can be a little more fun than others, and planning the musical aspects of your party is usually a fan favorite (right behind taste testing). As a popular entertainment agency, we are clearly advocates of booking a DJ or live band to handle your musical needs; however, we understand that budget and availability can sometimes hinder one’s ability to have a live musical experience. When this happens, you may find yourself thinking about how to make the perfect party playlist. Check out these tips to learn more:
Tailor the Playlist to Your Theme, Guest List, and Setting
When you begin cultivating your playlist, you should consider your party’s theme, the guest list, and the venue setting. Are you hosting a kid’s birthday party in the backyard? A basement bachelor party? A formal dinner party at a rented facility? A garden wedding? While it seems like this shouldn’t matter much, it does, since we all know music sets the tone for the flow of any event. For instance, if you are planning a wedding, you may need a very fluid playlist to highlight the different sections of your party. For example, you might want to stay with a romantic theme during the ceremony or cocktail hour, which means you will want to keep your music light and semi-quiet; however, if you’re going to party with your guests later in the evening, you will want your music to stay energetic throughout the night. The mood, feel, location, and type of guests should all be considered when you begin to add songs to your playlist.
Incorporate Cultural Elements
Another essential element to consider when creating your playlist is whether you want to incorporate cultural influences and themes. If this is the case, you may want to add music to go along with the cultural elements. Here’s a great example from a blog about creating a playlist for a wedding:
During Jewish weddings, guests and the wedding party participate in a traditional dance called the “Hora.” During the hora, family and friends lift the newlyweds into the air, and the rest of the guests dance circles around them while they both hold a handkerchief to signify the union. Traditional musical selections are played, and many bands and DJs are familiar with this traditional element and have the songs prepared for this time.
If you plan to incorporate cultural themes into your event, look for the special songs early on, especially if they are not as popular. You may have to do a deep dive or ask family and friends to give you recordings of the unique songs if they are not readily available on iTunes or Google Play.
Make Sure You Have a Good Mix of Styles
Versatility in the music is a must, no matter the occasion. If you have a mixed crowd, it would be wise to include Motown-era songs, line dances like the “Cha-Cha Slide,” and of course, current or Top 40 songs. It is fine to have a handful of your favorites, but you should leave room for your playlist to be versatile enough to ensure that everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy the night.
CultureMag.com addresses playlist versatility,
“A party will become dull when the crowd can easily predict the next song to be played. Be adventurous with your list and mix a few nostalgic tunes with the popular new ones. Notable artists such as Britney Spears, Beyonce, George Michael, Madonna, and the Spice Girls all have full ranges of songs to fit any occasion. These may not necessarily be your favorite tunes, but once your crowd acknowledges them as world-acclaimed singers, the majority will get into the spirit of the party. Indeed it’s also your responsibility to be up-to-date with new music, and if that’s something you’re struggling with, you can always hire a professional DJ.”
The takeaway — consider your theme, add a few memorable songs that align with your theme, then leave the options open so you can maintain a diverse playlist.
Ask for Song Requests Early On
As you’re building your playlist, it may be helpful to ask for song requests from friends who will attend the party. It is almost like doing a small focus group to see what people may want to hear during your event. If you have a friend who has an excellent ear for music, you can start by asking them to share their current playlists or new songs they like so you can add them to your growing list. You may learn about new songs you wouldn’t have thought to add to the list. If you use iTunes, sometimes people can share entire playlists, and you can merge them with your list instead of adding each song manually.
The benefit of asking for song requests early is because you can avoid people who want to make their requests during the party, which can be an inconvenience. If you ask ahead of time, you can fill your playlist with songs you know everyone will love.
If you hire other entertainment, get their playlists
It is essential to mention that there are times when you may add other entertainment elements to your party. For instance, you may opt to hire dancers or a magician to entertain your guests. The entertainers may desire to have specific music played during the performance, so it is important to communicate with the booking agent or vendor early on to have enough time to add the songs to your playlist.
Make Sure Your Playlist is Long Enough
Imagine being in the middle of your party, dancing the night away with your guests, then suddenly the music comes to a screeching halt. That would be a total buzzkill and would completely ruin the vibe. It is crucial to ensure that you create a playlist that is long enough to last during your entire event. We recommend creating a playlist that runs 45 minutes to an hour longer than your event is scheduled to run. Doing this will ensure that if you have a few stragglers after the party is supposed to be over, or if you add songs you thought were longer to your playlist, you can cover the time. No matter what, just plan to have more music than just enough.
Extra Tip: If you use your phone or iPad, be sure to turn it on airplane mode once the party starts so that unplanned alerts (calls and texts) don’t come through and disrupt the music.
Don’t Go on Shuffle Mode
It may seem tedious to put all of your songs in order of the flow of the night, but it is probably your best bet to avoid going on shuffle mode. You don’t want your most energetic, party-rocking songs to be played too early or at the wrong time —like when guests are arriving. We recommend letting the music build and maybe doing this in 30-minute intervals. The only time you can get away with going on random play is if the party’s energy will stay pretty consistent throughout the night.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play Some of Your Favorite Tunes
By now, you may feel that we are deterring you from incorporating your personal music taste into the playlist, but this is far from the truth. It is great to play some of your favorite tunes — you should be enjoying the party as well. If you are hosting a party that will last a few hours, there is nothing wrong with playing 10-15 of your favorite tunes. Not only will you get the opportunity to hear the songs you like, but you could also possibly be introducing your guests to new music, which is a great way to be voted “Best Party Host/Hostess.” Treat yourself and play some of your favorite tunes throughout the night!
Sandwich Lesser-Known Songs Between Fan Favorites
On the flip side, if some of your favorite songs are lesser-known songs, we encourage you to put them in between your fan favorites. The ratio should probably be that for every (2) fan-favorite songs, you can add (1) lesser-known song. A lesser-known song can turn into a fan favorite if guests are enjoying it, but if one of your favorite tunes doesn’t get the crowd moving, people can use this time to run to the restroom or get a refill on drinks and food. Just make sure you have a balance of new or unknown songs against fan favorites.
Listen to Your Playlist and Make Harsh Edits
We recommend listening to the playlist a few days or even a week before your event. Play the songs while cleaning your house or doing another task and see how you feel about the flow. As you hear the songs, delete the ones that don’t “do it” for you immediately so you won’t have to try to remember later on. Once you make your edits, you should now feel comfortable with your playlist and will have your music complete! After all, is said and done, you will need to take the time to listen to the playlist and possibly make edits.