Music has been an integral element of parties since the dawn of time. Before recorded music, that usually meant hiring a performer or group to provide musical entertainment or goading a more musically-inclined guest to sit behind a piano for a while to belt out some old favorites. There’s more to crafting a playlist than adding great songs to the queue and hitting “shuffle.” We have 10 tips for making the perfect party playlist.
The era of streaming has made setting the musical mood at your party easier than ever. Now you just have to connect your computer or phone to a set of Bluetooth speakers and press play. The hard—but fun—part is building the actual playlist.
There’s more to building a party playlist than adding a bunch of bangers to the queue and hitting “shuffle.” Here are our tips on crafting the perfect party playlist that will keep guests vibing ‘til the sun comes up—or until it’s time to relieve the babysitter.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is always important when it comes to entertaining guests, and the party playlist is no exception.
Don't just play to your own tastes just because it’s your party—keep your guests in mind. If your taste falls more into Gen Z but you have some Gen X in the house, throw in a little Prince in there to keep them happy. If you know someone is a huge reggae fan, drop in a few classics and modern hits from the genre to help them feel appreciated.
Make the Playlist Longer than the Party
Let’s say you’re in the thick of your party and everyone’s having a great time. Then, suddenly, the mood shifts and everything feels awkward. You’re not sure why at first and then you realize … that music stopped. That’s just one problem with making a party playlist that’s shorter than the party.
But what if you have the playlist set to repeat automatically? Then you have the issue of repetition. Even if you love a song, hearing it multiple times will make you notice time passing—and you probably don’t want people thinking, “Oh wow, have we already been here for 90 minutes?”
Making the playlist longer than the party means you won’t have to worry about either of those uncomfortable scenarios. And overshooting the estimated length of your party means you can skip some songs if you need to—like if you notice a certain track isn’t getting a good response—and not come up short.
Committing to one genre will definitely give you a cohesive playlist, but what if someone at the party just doesn't like that genre? If you just don’t like EDM and you’re stuck at a party with an all-EDM playlist, you’re probably not going to have a very good time.
Instead of going all-in on one style, switch things up, transitioning between genres in ways that make sense. For example, try aligning songs that aren't the same genre but have the same tempo or are from the same year.
You could also try transitions between musicians who influenced each other and work your transitions from there. For example, the funk of Sly and the Family Stone influenced the genre-bending Prince, whose Minneapolis Sound influenced Janet Jackson, whose career had a 2000s resurgence that can lead you to other tracks from that time period.
A section of that playlist could look like this:
- “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone (funk)
- “When Doves Cry” by Prince (rock)
- “All for You” by Janet Jackson (dance pop, released in 2001)
- “Drops of Jupiter” by Train (pop rock, released in 2001)
From there, you might remember that Train had other hits in 1998 and 2009 and choose a top track from one of those years to keep the playlist going. You don’t need to be quite so meticulous with your party playlist, but this is a good exercise for when you’re feeling stuck or want to transition out of a specific genre.
Don't Fear the Hits
When you DJ, there's an urge to show off your knowledge of the deep cuts. But don't completely forego the hits. Better yet, keep those hits handy for when the party slows down and needs a little revitalization. After all, it’s impossible to hear “Crazy in Love” and not move your hips.
In addition to the big, timeless hits, try perusing old Billboard chart lists for songs that were huge at the time but might not be quite as top-of-mind today. For example, everyone remembers Matchbox 20's hits, but pulling out some Gin Blossoms "Til I Hear it From You" will get a great response from fans of ‘90s alternative rock.
Don't Go Hard the Whole Time
Up-tempo numbers are your best friend when it comes to making a party playlist, but be sure to slow it down every once in a while. Too many up-tempo numbers can feel exhausting or monotonous if you put too many in a row. Swapping up the tempo with slower numbers might actually keep the party lively instead of weighing it down.
Even though it’s technically your playlist, getting others’ input on what to include is a great way to encourage feelings of group participation and open your playlist to things you may have missed. You can do this before the party—such as including a field for song requests in an event invitation—or while the party is rolling. Folks are always excited to hear their request or something similar, like a song by the same artist.
Chances are, you already have something close to the request on the playlist before turning to your guests for their picks, but even asking will make your guests feel more involved and appreciated. And if their request adds totally new flavor to the playlist, even better! You might get turned onto your new go-to party jam.
There’s a misconception that a Spotify playlist on shuffle can replace a DJ for a party or event. That’s just not true. Even if you have a party playlist that’s chock-full of great songs, turning the order over to shuffle takes away any ability to control the flow of your songs.
You might find yourself making awkward transitions between Reba’s “Fancy” and Paramore’s “Misery Business.” Both great songs, but it’s the equivalent of musical whiplash. It takes more effort to nail transitions, but it’s worth it, especially for more eclectic playlists.
Pay Attention to Dynamics
Briefly put, dynamics are volume changes within or between songs on a party playlist. Most streaming platforms use loudness normalization to keep things consistent, but some songs are naturally going to be louder than others, and you should keep this in mind when putting your party playlist together.
It’s okay to have some volume difference between tracks, but you don’t want a super quiet song next to one that’s going to shake the furniture. Try to find songs that were mixed and mastered for streaming services, as they should be approximately the same in volume. With the exception of songs from the “loudness war,” older tracks that weren’t mastered specifically for streaming tend to be quieter or less consistent than songs optimized for Spotify and similar services.
Listen to Your Playlist
Last but not least, give your playlist a test-run before the party. Yes, you should listen to the whole thing, all the way through. You don't have to do it in one sitting, but you'll probably find some changes, some things to cut, and think of some better transitions.
You also might want to briefly screen your songs to make sure they’re appropriate for your guests. Some songs that were absolute fire when they were released might not have aged well due to the artist or the lyrical content. Ultimately, that’s a personal choice, but it’s something to consider, especially if you have professional peers at your party.
Get the Right Speaker for Your Party
Once you have your party playlist down, you want to make sure your guests hear every note. Our Get Together Duo is the perfect way to play music at your party and is more than able to fill a room with True Wireless Stereo sound. Check out our full collection of Bluetooth speakers today.