Playlists – Saviour or No?

As a Wedding DJ, I’m often asked to play many varied styles.  Of course, the party classics often get an airing, but many parties will have their own particular favorites.

Your DJ will have 1 thing in common with you.  They want an awesome party!

They want bragging rights that they had a great one, people dancing and singing all night, a delighted client and they’ll drive away knowing they helped provide a night to remember.

Ok, so you’re worried about the DJ upsetting your cool mates by playing the Birdie song or showing off their knowledge of Norwegian Death Metal and so feel you need to give the DJ some guidance.

You have a few options:

100% playlist.

This is typically where the DJ is given a list of 100-200 songs and cannot deviate from the list.  They are unable to use their experience or take requests.  The list must be adhered to.

Why is this a good idea?

You have complete control.  No surprises.

Why is this a bad idea?

The DJ cannot use their experience.  Guests will be complaining.   If the list isn’t working, the party will not be a good one and typically guests will not dance and will leave early.


Dictating every song of the night in a specific order

This is the same as the 100% playlist, but where you specify the order of play.

Why is this a good idea?

It is never a good idea.  You cannot predict how guests will react at a party.  Timing will vary so that 80s party set at the end of the Buffet  (starting at song #28) may start during the buffet if there are any delays.

This IS acceptable for background music, but again, if you need a certain song to co-incide with a specific event, it needs close co-ordination between the DJ and other parties and so some flexibility is required.

Why is this a bad idea?

The experienced DJ you have hired is now simply loading tunes in a specific order.  You have paid a lot of money for a job that you could have done on Spotify.
You may have decided these tunes and their order weeks in advance with good intentions, but on the night, the guests that you felt would enjoy a certain set, decided to sit and chat.  The rest of the room is wondering the significance of the music and start to request music from the DJ.

The DJ may have their requests on the playlist, but it isn’t the right time to play it.

Abba is to be played in 12 songs time, I can’t play it right night as I’ve got to follow this list in order.  Sorry.


The 3rd way…

The best way to get the magic playlist for your party is to discuss with your DJ.

Ideally, this should be something you’ll cover before you book.

Not all DJs are equal.  Some will have musical strengths over others.  If you do need a night of Norwegian Death Metal, you need a specialist.  If you only want a few tracks, you’ll need to help them or they’ll need to do their own research.

Quiz the DJ.  If you want mainly older tunes, how is their 70s and 80s knowledge?    Will they be picking older tunes from a “best of the 80s” compilation do they actually know the era?

Ok, so you’ve spoken to a few DJs and decided on one that you can trust musically (and they appear to be professional and tick all your other boxes).  You’ve booked them and now you can start fleshing out the music plan for the party.

You may wish to provide a “Do not play” list.  I’ve had parties where Abba is banned.  The Bride doesn’t want to hear any Frank Sinatra.  The Bride doesn’t want any Indian music (The Bride’s family where from India).  With this knowledge, I was able to explain that I was unable to play these songs (which were all requested) to guests.  I’ll be working directly for my clients and then their guests.

What can you do?

  • Create a shortlist of artists and songs you like.
  • Create a list of any songs/genres you do not want to hear (if any).  Very few experienced DJs will break out anything too hardcore if your initial chat was “oh, a bit of everything really”, so if you’re looking for a fairly general mix of party tracks, there should be no need to mention hard-core Rap/Metal/Rock/Dance a the DJ will be sticking to party classics and chart pop.
  • Think about previous parties and your guests and make some notes.  Do any tracks get one of your guests breakdancing or perhaps are a family sing-a-long?
  • Discuss all this with your DJ.  Are there any songs that give them cause for concern?  I personally know many DJs and none know every song from every genre, they should be honest.
  • Let them use their experience to provide a really great night of music that you and your guests to enjoy.

I have an online event planner system for my clients.  This allows music requests in advance of the evening, and we do discuss music at meetings.

For me, being told rough genres is enough.  For example, “90s” “Garage”, “Club Classics”, “some 80s” and “Singalongs” is as much detail as I usually need if my client is too busy.

So, please consider if you really need to provide a massive playlist, and take my experienced advice against choosing a 100% playlist option.
Some of my DJ Colleagues would refuse a booking where this is going to be provided and I totally understand their reluctance.