The music at your event should reflect the atmosphere you are trying to capture, and it should also capture you. I often find that when people are crafting their dance playlists, they’re concerned that they have to choose songs that people know, and in doing so, they compromise their personal tastes for their guests entertainment. However, when it comes to your cocktail hour, I always stress to my clients that this is where they can be uncompromisingly themselves.
So how does one craft that perfect playlist? Here is my advice.
1. Don’t Procrastinate
A good playlist takes time to curate, start working on your playlists a month ahead of time! This is one of the most fun parts of the planning process, so enjoy it! Wash some dishes, fold the laundry, grab a glass of wine kick back and jam out. Choose one song that captures the atmosphere you are trying to create perfectly. Just the one. Then start a radio based off of that song. If you are on any streaming services this should be very easy to do. Wait until you find that first song that makes you think “YES. This is the vibe” then begin. The song will find you, don’t worry if it takes a few skips…Immerse yourself in a mindless activity, don’t focus on the music too intently. The right song will always interrupt what you are doing to make itself known.
2. Be Picky
Now that you’ve picked that first song, you have your point of reference. Let’s try this together. I am currently working on a beachy cocktail hour playlist for the wedding I am performing at in Hawaii next week. The first song I choose is: Matoma’s Reimagination of “Free Fallin by John Mayer the (Tropical Mojito Remix)”. It perfectly captures everything I want my audience to feel musically, lyrically, and atmospherically. It also reflects my own personal music tastes. I search through my personal likes first and build a solid base with songs that I know and then I let the radio takeover. I want happy house with an island flair. Total mood booster. It may be snowy outside in Seattle but damn if I am not already Knee Deep (Bobby Brush Remix) in the water somewhere dreaming of this beachfront wedding.
3. Play with the Order
Order can make a difference if your aim is really to create that perfect playlist. It allows you to dictate the ups and downs of the hour as well as the ideal transitions between songs. Sometimes it’s not that a song doesn’t belong in a playlist, but perhaps in a different part of it. I always tell my clients, it’s your job to make the requests, it’s my job to figure out when is the best time to play them. In my beachy cocktail playlist, I decided to start with a pretty upbeat track, Felix Jean’s Honolulu. My aim is to ride the wave of the excitement from the ceremony and then ease them back into a more mellow mood for conversation. Finally I pick things up gradually at the end so that they are starting to feel those mojitos in their feet. Mix it up, try things out! Have fun with it, it’s all about the feeling and flow of energy you are trying to create.
4. Try Something New
Don’t just stick with what you know. Challenge yourself, find a new artist that you’ve never heard before! Do some music discovery! The worst thing that can happen is that you find some groovy tunes to make you move. Don’t be afraid to play music in different languages, it can really add an interesting texture to your event, and I am always a fan of exposing people to culture through music.
5. Make it diverse
Variety is important to a good playlist. You’ll notice similarities and elements that tie your choices together but make sure that you have a good variety of female and male vocalists and that you don’t pigeonhole yourself into one genre! In my beachy cocktail hour, it definitely rests it’s laurels on tropical house, but I included a sprinkle of country/folk, some traditional hawaiian music, an appropriate pop song or two, and some island remixes of popular songs. Take a listen for yourself, make a mojito, and put yourself in one hell of a mood. Enjoy!
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