Playlists – Why?

Client Play-lists for Mobile DJs – are they a good idea or not?

I can remember a time long before the Internet, Digital Music and Smart Phones when a mobile DJ was hired to play current chart music and classic dance hits from the “Hit Parade” or “Pop Music” from yesteryear or “Golden Oldies” as the radio Disc Jockeys called them.

Music had longevity back then. A “single” would be released and slowly climb the chart week by week. A tune would often stay in the Top 40 for months on end meaning that mobile DJs only had to buy a handful of records each week to stay up to date.

Building a record collection was a slow process and costly. Very few members of the public had extensive record collections. They simply relied on the radio to hear music and had an extremely limited choice of programs to tune into.

old gold disc

old gold disc

Back then Mobile DJs where expected to have the most popular tunes and the classic dance tracks and people were happy to leave the selection to the DJ with only a minimum mention of a more general indication to their favourite Groups, Bands or preferred genre before the party..

These days music is instantly available, often not even purchased, and spends only a few weeks in a diverse and specialised “Chart” with only a small proportion ever attaining popularity across the broader spectrum of the population.

For some reason instant access and bulging music libraries appears to have given licence to everyone and their son to think they know what music should be played at a party. They think their selections will be liked by their guests and more worryingly some party organisers believe they know when their tracks should be played and in what order. Why?

No professional DJ would ever pre-select and program an evening’s music for a live event where he did not know his audience. He might have certain “sets” of music prepared to cover brief segments of the evening but would rely on reading the audience and selecting appropriate tunes to transition between genres based specifically on activity before him at any time. Spontaneity and the ability to switch between genres is a bench mark by which DJs are measured and more importantly valued. So why would someone hire a DJ and then tell him what music to play?

Would they hire a comedian and tell him what jokes to tell. Would they give him a script and say tell the jokes in this order? I think not. The idea is absurd and so too is the idea of giving extensive lists to your DJ.



If a person is organising a party and they wish to influence the type or style of music they should TALK to their DJ before hiring him or her. They shouldn’t hire blindly via an email or website. They shouldn’t hire based on cheapest price. Hiring a DJ in this way and then relying on supplying a play-list is a disaster waiting to happen. [As is the often suggested brainwave of using an i-pod until the realisation that everyone wants to repeat play the same half a dozen tunes all night!]


A better solution is to share musical tastes with the chosen DJ. Many DJs will welcome a short list of specific tunes to be featured on the night. Ideally such lists should be no more than twenty tracks. This is enough to give a flavour as to the music taste but leaves plenty of room for interpretation and innovation based on the reaction of guests on the night.

Personally I prefer to spend the first hour of a party mixing informally with guests asking them specifically what they would like to dance to this evening. While the background music is on auto-pilot I take the opportunity to get to know their musical tastes and connect with their ideas of what will go down well with them and their friends. This method guarantees we get to play the right music for everyone in the room. The music selection is no longer based on theory or wishful thinking. It is based on real people’s wishes on the night and in the moment. Their selections will reflect their feelings there and then and will be somewhat influenced by their surroundings and the people they are partying with.

Thankfully modern technology by way of the World Wide Web and on-line music providers means almost all requests can be sourced and played subject to a suitable wifi connection. If need be the DJ can purchase legally sourced music instantly and keep everyone happy.

So forget long lists; relax and enjoy the evening. Hire a confident and competent DJ who has testimonials that confirm he knows his music and is happy to play what his audience likes. Leave the crystal ball in the cupboard and trust him or her to deliver a busy dancefloor built with talent, expertise and experience. That, at the end of the day, is why quality DJs can, and do, charge more than their local average disco operators.