GUIDE TO Planning Music for a Party

Music is what creates the atmosphere at any party, and so it’s an essential part of the planning process! There are relatively few high-quality guides about how to plan brilliant music for a party, so we have decided to create our own.

Our how-to guide for planning the best music for a party, is exactly what you need to throw an epic celebration where the music completely carries the vibe.

We take you through music strategy, changing the vibe and using music to strucutre the event, the best way to set up stereo and optimal sound system sizing, how to creat your won event playlists, and everything you might need for inspiration to book live music for your event!

If you like this guide, you may also get great inspiration to our Ultimate Decoration Strategy, and Ultimate Party Entertainment guides too!

Top tips for planning the music for an event

​Before we start with all the technicalities, we’ve created a little collection of our top tips for creating an atmosphere with music at your party:

Top tips for music at a party (as written by professionals):

  1. Make the Most of Streaming Platform DJ sets: Take advantage of platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, which offer pre-made playlists and DJ sets for different moods and occasions. Customize them to suit your event’s needs.
  2. Live Music Experience: Live music will elevate the experience at any event! It’s not just music but it’s music that guests will feel in their bones, and it creates the entertainment as well as the atmosphere.
  3. All-inclusive Tunes: Add a few classic catchy tunes to bring everyone at a party together and create a strong common tune Incorporate catchy songs like the “Macarena” or “YMCA” to encourage dancing and create a fun, nostalgic vibe.
  4. High-Quality sound: Don’t cut corners on sound quality. The quality of the sound makes a much bigger impact on the atmosphere, than the tune you play.
  5. Music Psychology: Take a bit of time planning the tunes and the timing of the event. Make the music jolly and intimate to start, then crank up the energy and atmosphere as the night goes on before finishing up with some classic end-of-night bangers.

1. Using music to give the event structure

For social occasions, it’s a great idea to vary the music and let the energy of the tunes evolve throughout the event.

Use warm, lyrical music to welcome guests initially, transitioning to energetic dance tunes as the party progresses. Finally, slower, more peaceful songs signal the event’s conclusion, and will create a friendly, subtle cue for guests to wind down.

Iconic tracks like Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” often signify the end of events like wedding receptions because of their mellow, final-hit style. Other ideas include ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Don’t look back in anger’ by Oasis and ‘Sweet Caroline’ (Neil Diamond).

Similarly, the following songs are classic in getting people hyped up and energised:

  1. “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
  2. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – Justin Timberlake
  3. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett, GoonRock
  4. “Don’t Stop the Music” – Rihanna
  5. “Happy” – Pharrell Williams
  6. “Yeah!” – Usher ft. Lil Jon, Ludacris
  7. “I Gotta Feeling” – The Black Eyed Peas
  8. “Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift
  9. “24K Magic” – Bruno Mars
  10. “We Found Love” – Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris
  11. “Wake Me Up” – Avicii
  12. “Timber” – Pitbull ft. Kesha
  13. “Let’s Get It Started” – The Black Eyed Peas
  14. “Turn Down for What” – DJ Snake, Lil Jon
  15. “Sorry” – Justin Bieber
  16. “Levels” – Avicii
  17. “Firework” – Katy Perry
  18. “Dynamite” – Taio Cruz
  19. “Sexy and I Know It” – LMFAO
  20. “Hips Don’t Lie” – Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean

2. How to choose a pre-made Spotify playlist

This can be a really great way to prepare for a party by having a few excellent premade playlists lined up. If creating your own playlist is not your jam, that is no problem nowadays.

If you search online for the best Spotify playlists in a particular genre, DJs often send recommendations for their best suggestions of what’s out there or even their own playlist suggestions.

Audiohype is one of the sites where you can find great playlist recommendations for whatever niche you’re looking at.

Remember Spotify Playlists show their length and the amount of likes they get –  this helps see which are popular and which will have the best song selection. You want to pick one that is 30-16 minutes longer than the duration you’d like to play it for.

We always suggest to our clients that they find a few perfect party playlist options to chop and change throughout the party depending on the vibe you want to create. You can also prepare a list of songs that will make the transition, as we suggested above, if you’re transitioning to a dance vibe, maybe set off the dance playlist with one of the dance floor crowd pleasers.

Adjusting the playlist tot the vibe and anticipating the energy to keep things exciting and fun is something a professional DJ is trained to do. if you are going to be busy hosting at your party, but want to make sure guests are having the best time on the dance floor, put someone in charge of the music so they can control the party hype and field song requests for you! 

Tips for creating your own playlist

If you’ve opted to create your own playlist, there are some thing you can bear in mind while selecting somegs to make sure there is maximum flow and that the energy stays high, and appealing to everyone at the party.

Here we have asked some of our party planners their top tips for how to achieve this:

  1. Balance Familiarity and Freshness: Include popular hits that everyone knows, but also throw in some less familiar tracks to keep the playlist interesting.

2. Create Smooth Transitions: Arrange songs so that there’s a natural flow between different tempos and styles. Avoid abrupt changes that might disrupt the party vibe.

3. Include Crowd-Pleasers: Add songs that are known to get people dancing and singing along. Think of classics, anthems, and universally loved hits.

4. Mix Up the Genres: Keep the energy up by mixing genres. A blend of pop, rock, dance, hip-hop, and even some nostalgic tracks can keep everyone engaged.

5. Know Your Audience: Consider the tastes and preferences of your guests. Mix genres and eras to appeal to a wide range of listeners.

6. Time Your Playlist: Plan your playlist to match the length of your party. It’s better to have a few extra songs than to run out of music.

7. Avoid Too Many Slow Songs: While it’s nice to have a few slower songs, too many can bring down the energy. Keep the slow tracks for specific moments, like the end of the night.

8. Test Your Playlist: Listen through your playlist at least once before the party to ensure it flows well and has the desired effect. Make any necessary adjustments.

9. Always Have a Backup: Technical glitches are unpredictable. Always have a backup, an extra device, or a secondary playlist. An adept party planner knows that preparation is crucial in handling unexpected situations.

How to hype the atmosphere through music

If you need an energy shift, go for a big song, that will get everyone’s attention. For instance, if you are encouraging people onto a dancefloor, start by playing faster, dance-style tunes and then hit the crowd with an epic dancefloor song that has some meaning to it.

It could be generational, for instance, a throwback to a banger from a group’s teen years, or something that is timeless and intergenerational like Abba or earth wind and fire.

Here are some fantastic songs to do this:

  1. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston
  2. “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees
  3. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA
  4. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
  5. “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
  6. “Le Freak” by Chic
  7. “Hey Ya!” by OutKast
  8. “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas
  9. “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire
  10. “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader
  11. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder

Generally we suggest you have a few of these up you sleeve as go to’s when the vibe needs some energy injection. If you are doing the music yourself this is a good strategy.

This is the type of support a DJ would offer, keeping on top of the energy and creating the continuous drive to keep dancing with a higher and higher vibe. 

Where to locate the speakers or the live band

There are lots of things to think about in terms of location, and these include acoustics, spatial and visual. here are some of the things to consider:

Optimize Room Acoustics: Use sound-absorbing materials like carpets, curtains, or acoustic panels to reduce echoes. Test the sound in the room beforehand to identify any problem areas and adjust accordingly.

Ensure Even Sound Distribution: Position speakers or the band centrally and at an appropriate height so sound reaches all guests evenly. Use multiple speakers if necessary to cover larger areas and avoid overwhelming any one group.

Prevent Feedback: Position microphones at a safe distance from the speakers and at angles that minimize feedback. Use directional microphones and test the setup in advance to identify and eliminate any potential feedback issues.

Noise Levels: Be aware of local noise regulations and set the volume accordingly. Also be aware that although loud music can be great for dancing, too high volume for too long is stressful and unhealthy for the ears to absorb.

Think about the visual appeal: Arrange speakers and equipment neatly and out of the main sightlines to keep the setup visually appealing. Use decorative elements to blend equipment with the event’s decor and maintain an aesthetically pleasing environment.

Make sure there’s plenty of space: Secure all cables with cable covers or tape to prevent trips and ensure that large instruments or speakers are placed in stable, secure positions.

If there is a sit down meal, make sure the table closest to the speakers are still able to hear well enough! If you have live music, and can’t control the volume, consider who is sat closest to the music, making sure it’s young people who are likely to love loud tunes and be more likely to hear each other chat over them. I recently went to a wedding where many of guests found the meal exhausting because they could barely hear each other talk.

You can often tell by the decor of the room, one with hard surfaces and furniture will make background noise louder, thereby echoing nad making for a less pleasant ‘sound’.

It’s likely that the music will be located near to the dancefloor, but make sure, if this is the case, that there will still be enough space on the dancefloor for everyone to move freely, and that no music stand legs are protruding into the space too much.

Technical sound planning (speaker size and set up)

What type of speakers are the best for a party?

When it comes to indoor events, a general rule of thumb is to aim for about 6-8 watts per person. If you’re cranking up the tunes, like at a lively wedding reception, doubling that recommendation and adding subwoofers for some extra bass can enhance the atmosphere.

But remember that louder isn’t always better. Maintaining a comfortable volume ensures everyone can enjoy the event without straining their ears. For occasions like weddings or birthday parties, striking the right balance prevents guests from waking up with ringing ears the next day.

  1. Small Venue (e.g., House):
    • Bookshelf speakers: These compact speakers are suitable for small spaces and can deliver clear sound without overpowering the room. Suggested zwattage: 20-50 watts per channel.
    • Compact powered speakers: All-in-one solutions with built-in amplifiers, offering convenience and simplicity for smaller setups. Suggested wattage: 20-100 watts.
    • Soundbars: Ideal for casual listening in small spaces, providing decent sound quality in a compact package. Suggested wattage: 20-100 watts.
  2. Medium Venue (e.g., Restaurant/Small Hall):
    • Powered PA speakers: Versatile speakers designed for live events, offering sufficient power and clarity for medium-sized venues. Suggested wattage: 100-300 watts.
    • Floor-standing speakers: These provide robust sound coverage and are suitable for medium-sized rooms, delivering balanced sound across different frequencies. Suggested wattage: 50-150 watts per channel.
    • Subwoofers: Enhance bass response, especially if the venue requires deeper low-end frequencies for music playback. Suggested wattage: 100-500 watts.
  3. Large Venue (e.g., Large Hall):
    • Line array speakers: Ideal for large venues due to their ability to project sound over long distances while maintaining uniform coverage and clarity. Suggested wattage: 500-2000 watts per speaker.
    • Full-range PA speakers: Powerful speakers designed for professional sound reinforcement in large spaces, delivering high-output audio with minimal distortion. Suggested wattage: 300-1000 watts.
    • Subwoofer arrays: Multiple subwoofers are strategically placed to ensure even bass distribution throughout the venue, enhancing the overall listening experience. Suggested wattage: 500-2000 watts.
Venue SizeSpeaker TypesSuggested Wattage Range
Small (e.g., House)Bookshelf speakers, Compact powered speakers, Soundbars20-100 watts per channel
Medium (e.g., Restaurant/Small Hall)Powered PA speakers, Floor-standing speakers, Subwoofers50-300 watts
Large (e.g., Large Hall)Line array speakers, Full-range PA speakers, Subwoofer arrays300-2000 watts

Where to set up a speaker for optimum audio?

The placement of your speakers is crucial. Avoid directing all the sound towards the front row, which could leave others struggling to hear at the back. Here are some things to consider:

  • Symmetry: Position speakers symmetrically with respect to the listening area. This helps distribute sound evenly across the space.
  • Distance from Walls: Keep speakers at least a few feet away from walls to minimize reflections and interference. This prevents sound distortion and ensures clearer audio.
  • Triangle Setup: Form an equilateral triangle between the two speakers and the listening position. This arrangement helps balance sound and improves stereo imaging.
  • Speaker Height: Position speakers so that the tweeters are at ear level when seated. This ensures that high-frequency sounds are directed towards the listener’s ears.
  • Toe-In: Angle speakers slightly inward towards the listening area. This directs sound more accurately and improves clarity.
  • Speaker Separation: Maintain adequate space between speakers for optimal stereo imaging. Too much or too little separation can result in uneven sound distribution.
  • Consider Room Acoustics: Take into account the room’s acoustics, furniture placement, and reflective surfaces. Adjust speaker placement accordingly to minimize audio reflections and optimize sound quality.

What type of live music to book for your party

We love live music, and we think it’s one of the best investments for an epic party to create an unmatched atmosphere.

  • Live music creates a unique atmosphere with energy and spontaneity.
  • Musicians tailor their performance to match the event’s mood and audience preferences.
  • Live performances foster emotional connections and create memorable highlights.
  • Supporting local talent adds prestige and sophistication to the event.
  • Live music offers a personalized, interactive experience that Spotify playlists can’t replicate.

You can have live music in different ways, you could book it for an impressive enterance, for an immediately intimate atmosphere and to set a sophisticated and luxurious feel for the night. In this capacity the music is a combination of background and entertainment. 

You can also book live music as background entertainment during cocktail hour or during a meal. This can add a very rich setting for the event with a full, warm sounds. 

You can also book music as entertainment at a certain point in the night or late in the evening after cocktail hour. For instance, if you book a 30-minute steel drum set it would create a fantastic atmosphere, a show for guests to watch and interact with and a brilliant party spirit heightened.

Similarly, you can book a tribute band or cover band for epic live music to accompany the dancefloor. Some musicians will include costumes and energy and will do some talking to and fro with the audience making the spectacle of the music an event in itself. This is a really fun option for a portion of the night and can be preceded and followed by prerecorded Spotify music or something like that. 

Quite commonly, people will book a combination of these, for instance, some type of live music for cocktails and then a DJ for later on. Or a premade playlist to start with a jazz band booked later in the evening for dancing.

The only thing to ensure is that the band are ready to play the exact music you want and that their offering suits the style you are trying to curate. Discussing this with them in advance will be very helpful in making sure they are playing the right music and there is a lot of mutual gain from the booking!

Certainly! Here’s the updated table with additional entries for brass band, vintage girl band, Spanish guitar, and steel drums:

Live Music OptionType of Energy CreatedCommonly Booked ForRough Pricing
Tribute BandHigh, NostalgicThemed parties, Corporate eventsMedium to High
Mariachi BandFestive, LivelyWeddings, Cultural eventsMedium
DJHigh, EnergeticClubs, Weddings, General partiesLow to Medium
Jazz BandSmooth, ElegantCocktail parties, Corporate eventsMedium
String QuartetSophisticated, ClassyWeddings, Formal dinnersMedium
Rock BandHigh, EnergeticClubs, Corporate events, General partiesHigh
Acoustic DuoRelaxed, IntimateSmall gatherings, Garden partiesLow
Solo Singer/GuitaristVersatile, PersonalSmall parties, Wedding receptionsLow
Classical EnsembleElegant, FormalWeddings, Formal eventsMedium to High
Pop Cover BandUpbeat, FunBirthdays, Weddings, Corporate eventsMedium to High
Reggae BandRelaxed, UpliftingBeach parties, Summer eventsMedium
Big BandBold, DynamicLarge events, Corporate partiesHigh
Folk BandWarm, InvitingCultural festivals, Community eventsMedium
Blues BandSoulful, RhythmicBars, Music festivalsMedium
EDM ArtistHigh, HypnoticNightclubs, Music festivalsMedium to High
A Cappella GroupVaried, EngagingCorporate events, WeddingsMedium

Some things to consider if you’re booking live music:

  1. Set Length: Determine the length of each set based on the overall duration of the event and the preferences of both the performers and the host. Typical set lengths range from 30 minutes to 1 hour, with breaks in between sets for rest and refreshment.
  2. Performance Schedule: Plan the performance schedule, including start and end times for each set, as well as any breaks or intermissions. Coordinate with the performers to ensure they arrive on time and are ready to start playing according to the schedule.
  3. Sound Check: Arrange a sound check session before the event to ensure that the sound system is properly set up and calibrated for the venue. This allows the performers to adjust their sound levels and address any technical issues before the guests arrive.
  4. Equipment Requirements: Communicate with the performers to determine their equipment requirements, such as microphones, amplifiers, instruments, and stage lighting. Make sure the venue can accommodate these requirements and provide any necessary equipment or technical support.
  5. Performance Space: Designate a performance space within the venue where the live music will take place. Ensure that the space is large enough to accommodate the performers and their equipment, with adequate lighting and acoustics for optimal sound quality.
  6. Contract and Payment: Negotiate and finalize the terms of the contract with the performers, including the fee, payment schedule, cancellation policy, and any additional requirements or provisions. Make sure both parties agree to the terms in writing to avoid any misunderstandings later on.
  7. Hospitality and Accommodations: Provide hospitality and accommodations for the performers, such as refreshments, dressing rooms, and parking facilities. Make them feel welcome and comfortable so they can deliver their best performance at the party.

All set! Happy music planning

Finding the perfect music for your party can really set the mood and make your event special. Remember to consider the type of party, the guests, and the atmosphere you want to create and mix up your playlist with a variety of genres and tempos.

Don’t forget to add a few crowd-pleasers that everyone knows and loves! And of course, always have a backup plan in case something goes wrong

. With these tips, you’ll be ready to create an amazing soundtrack for your next party. Happy planning!

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