It’s summertime and that means BBQ’s, beach days, parties and road trips: plenty of opportunities to show off your awesome musical taste. Follow these guidelines to become the one who gets asked to make sure you have your music on hand with you wherever you go.
- Know your audience
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it should be at the forefront when you’re compiling your songs. If it will be small shindig with friends who share your niche musical taste, go ahead and bring on the B-side release from an obscure artist. If it’s a big party, try to keep the more bizarre stuff to a minimum. When in doubt (and unless it’s a dance party), the Starbucks rule of thumb usually works: if it’s something you can imagine hearing when you’re standing in line for coffee it probably has the right kind of mass appeal.
- Keep things familiar, yet diverse
Make sure you sprinkle some hits from whatever genres you’re emphasizing. No need to go Top 40 Radio, but make sure there are enough well-known songs to be appealing. An easy trick is to use older hits that people may have forgotten about and aren’t sick of hearing. Music from the 90’s or before will give you nostalgia points from anyone older in the crowd and convince others of your classic good taste. Plus tweens will probably recognize some of the tunes as covered in Glee.
- Organize using sets of music
Group similar songs together in sets of two or three, and make sure there are no jarring shifts between those sets. It’s also important that songs which sound too similar get a little space between them (“Sweet Cherry Pie” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” might meld into one mindless lump of mullet rock, while ZZ Top’s “Legs” stuck in the middle would maintain the 80’s vibe while keeping things varied). This would also include songs by the same artist.
When ordering the sets themselves, it’s always good to start strong with a few impressive, distinctive songs to catch everyone’s attention and set the mood, ramp up to some solid hits in the middle and then slow things down, wrapping up with a long, satisfying song for the finale.
- Use smaller playlists to tie everything together
Having a few different lists up your sleeve keeps things flexible. Not only does it make your job less unwieldy (30 songs are much easier to sort than a solid 90), you can switch things up or shift according to everyone’s mood. For example, start off a dinner party with some low-key, ambient jazz like Frank SInatra and Norah Jones, move on to more upbeat dance music like Michael Jackson and David Bowie, then finish with some mellow, thoughtful rock like The Beatles and Arcade Fire.
- Listen and learn
Finally, it’s important to always be expanding your library. Explore sites like Spotify and 8tracks for inspiring mixes. Whenever you download music, organize it based on genre or mood (beachy, indie chill, sultry, dance, folky, etc) so that you have master lists to consult later. And, of course, make sure you double check your own mixes thoroughly so you know they’re perfect. Happy listening!
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