How to create a party playlist

By Sam Lopez

Playlist blog


Making a playlist for your next party is one of the most important parts of DJing. This is your opportunity as the hired DJ to show your client that you care about making their party the best that you can. Start with demographics: how many people did your client invite, and how many people are expected to show up? Will there be drop-ins? What’s the age group of the guests? This should have been discussed earlier in the planning, but I’m getting you to imagine this situation. So, if 16 year old teenagers are at the party, you know they aren’t going to like the same music as 30 year old professionals. That is when you as the DJ must create a bridge. Also, think about how long the party is going to last. A three hour playlist and a six hour playlist call for different strategies. 

Depending on the occasion that your creating your DJ playlist for, you should have already spoken with your client about the vibe they want to maintain during the party. I suggest that you take notes while they give you ideas and songs so that you get what they need correctly. A song name without the artist name who sings it can be dangerous and embarrassing for the DJ if they play the wrong version. That is why you need to make it clear that your going to play what they requested. If you know of similar artists and songs that you think might work better, don’t hesitate to share with them.  Remember, your the pro at music selection and playlist creation. Generally speaking, good party music is upbeat and doesn’t require a lot of attention to appreciate. Songs with difficult or complex structures, and songs that shift from very loud to very quiet and back, should be avoided. Sad and depressing songs, no matter how well-liked they might be, don’t have a place in a party playlist unless it is that type of occasion. Slow songs usually work at the end of the party as people are leaving. But, again it depends on the occasion. You probably won’t want to play break up music at a wedding, or play violent rap music at a baptism celebration, right? After you get what your client wants to hear then you should get together what mixes or blends with that list. I suggest you practice the mix as often as you can and have a recording to offer the client as a bonus. This would allow you to show your creative DJ skills and use the mix as a business card for the friends and family of your client. 

Here is a sure fire way to set-up your playlist when you go live at the party. You may need to customize as you see fit according to your style, but this format can help you succeed. 

  • Start Easy – The night should begin with a relaxing vibe to put your guests at ease. Stick to lounge type music that can be enjoyed at a low level allowing for conversation. Lounge music has many meanings, but generally you should stick to slower tempo songs, with an easy feel. R & B or chilled hip hop works well. After people have conversed for a time, and the party starts to flow more freely, its time to spice things up.
  • Mix It Up – Start to incorporate more popular and uptempo music. You may want to look at Billboard charts to get ideas for popular songs to include. Variety is important to your party music playlist. Try different genres and time periods. Avoid things like comedy shows, or spoken word because you can’t follow what is being said at a party. If there is a theme to your party, include music that fits it. 
  • Dance tunes – Include fun, upbeat songs that will get your guests in the mood to dance. The best parties usually have some sort of dance music. Mix these in with the other types of songs. Don’t be afraid to put several in a row to keep the energy going. As with all music, a good balance of recognizable favorites, and new music works best.
  • Line dance songs  works over 85% of the time. Here is a rare line dance song:  The Gospel Slide (Jesus Apostles March)
  • Slow things down – as people start to leave you can start playing exit songs. Slow jams, inspirational music and chill mood music work great and give the crowd a sense of safety. 

There are different ways to create a good party playlist. The best chances of getting the right one that works for you is to experiment for friends and family. Please don’t experiment at a live party that you were hired for, it’s better to experiment with your friends and family at gatherings and birthdays, etc. Get feedback and take it from there. You can always learn different strategies as you grow in your DJ skills and deepen your song collection. For now this is some basic how-to strategies to get you motivated and spark up some ideas. Enjoy your week -DJ life is good. Signing off it’s your brother DJ SAMROCK. 

I offer One-on-One DJ consultation. For more info just email me djsamrock@soulwinnerz.org and put “One-on-One” in the subject line and I’ll get back to you asap. 

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