INLE believes only three things are necessary to make a successful party (assumes alcohol provisions are taken care of). Adequate space, food and – most importantly – music.
Given the season, parties / cookouts / communal events are picking up. You can make excuses for space and food. Maybe the place is just too small and you have too many friends. Bully for you. If the food sucks, maybe you’re just not a cook or someone else you live with can’t put together an edible comestible.
The music? No excuses, kids. Be ON this. It can make up for any other inadequacies. We believe this wholeheartedly. Here are our rules for a successful playlist. Regardless of your taste in specific kinds of music, we think this is a blueprint for success.
- Know Your Audience – You damn well know who’s coming over! Keep that in mind as you’re scouring that iTunes library (Steve Jobs pees on Rhapsody). If your friends like radio rock, don’t hit’em with a bunch of soul and long-winded live music. You can listen to what you like when no one’s around. If there’s age diversity, keep that in mind as well. You get more compliments and make a more memorable music evening if you’re playing to the crowd.
- Pay Attention to Time – You need to know the approximate point in the evening each and every song is hitting the speakers. Note your event start time, eventual arrival times, when the party ACTUALLY gets moving and put that against the song lengths one by one. “At 9:47, your grandmother’s college roommate and her sixth husband will have departed making it perfectly acceptable to start T.I.”
- Filler is a Necessary Evil – An “all killer, no filler” approach makes for problems about halfway through the party (if you think everything you’ll be playing is “killer,” you’ve got problems we won’t solve for free). This belief also assumes every person will be listening contently to every song. FALLACY! Don’t be afraid to drop in some acceptable lines of fluff that fit the overall theme but don’t necessarily jump out and grab someone. You need high points . . . and you can’t have those without a relative low average point. It sounds like giving up, but it’s just a painful reality. Give into this fact and you get more out of a playlist and more memorable high-points.
- Find Genre Bending Bands and/or Songs – Do it . . . and work them the hell outta them. How do you get from the bluegrass country-ish sound of Alison Krauss to more straightforward rock of Frightened Rabbit in one song? Gotta know that. Transitions. It’s playlist mileage AND it lets you keep infusing eclectic magic throughout the night. No one wants to start with “this” and then suddenly listen to “that,” just to get onto “the other thing.” Mix it all up. If you can make those tweeners “filler” to boot? Yahtzee. F’n Yahtzee.
- Stay True to Your Stuff – We told you to know your audience. That’s a given and it was rule one for a reason. Prefaced with that, these folks are asking you to provide the soundtrack to the night for a reason. Eight times out of ten, if you ask someone what they want to hear at a given moment, you get “Oh, I don’t know/care” as a response. Take this to heart. Give them what you like. You might have to move a little to keep everyone happy, but it’s your list.
- Shuffling Is For Cards – If you’re portable music device or library is appropriately eclectic, you’re going to tortorously murder your event with this “shuffle idea.” Sounds easy. I get it. “I’ll just let the magical robots in my electronic thingamajig do all the work.” Playlist. Fail. Your electronic thingamajig can’t do anything in the first five rules. You’ll spend all night sprinting across the room to change the song because that guilty pleasure of yours just dropped in to say “hello.” And by “hello,” we mean “embarass the shit out of you in front of your friends.” Shuffle? Never an option.
Playlist / party music selection is far too important not to spend significant time on. That’s really the underlying thesis. However you get there is fine. Blaze a trail or whatever, just keep these things in mind. If you’ve broken any of the rules above, chalk it up to bad luck. Everyone’s been to a wedding, bar mitzvah, social event, etc where the DJ completely f’n ruined the party by going in another “more clever” direction. Screw that guy for doing it and then realize THIS IS HIS JOB. It happens . . . but it DOESN’T NEED TO!
We hope this wasn’t condescending. It wasn’t intended that way. As a matter of fact, we only intended it for good and we genuinely mean that. To prove it, we’ll give you our suggested Alison Krauss to Frightened Rabbit tweener. There’s a bunch, but we like this one (’cause it’s killer, too). All three because 1 – you get a chance to hear it and 2 – it’s Friday, kids!