Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How To Create Your Cocktail Hour Playlist

Pete's back for another blog post. You can read his first one here.

I’ve always believed that music is medicine, music is magic, music is a language that any human being from anywhere on this planet can understand, a language we intuitively know and can comprehend fully without ever having to be taught, regardless of the genre or the country the music comes from. Music creates an environment with its own "feel" and setting, an environment with its own "vibe," if you will. With that being said, it follows logically that the musical choices you make for your wedding's cocktail hour will directly impact the overall feel your cocktail hour will have.

Once you decide on the way you want your cocktail hour to feel, you can then plan your playlist accordingly. For our wedding, Lisa left this task to me. She is a brave woman. Thankfully we were in agreement that we wanted our cocktail hour to feel fun. We wanted to create an environment that felt uplifting, happy, and relaxing at the same time. I believe that the feeling you create at the cocktail hour,   with the music you choose, sets the tone for the whole wedding. Personally, I cannot understate the power and influence of the music one chooses. It creates the mood and the backdrop that affects the mood of all of your guests at a subconscious level.

How To Create Your Cocktail Hour Playlist

Wanna throw the all-too-common "El Snoozo" wedding? Go with classical! You'll have people falling asleep at the table in no time. Just watch as your guests doze off one by one, and fall face down in their plates of fine cheeses and cured meats. My line of thought was: Let’s pick songs that won't make people want to start a mosh pit and/or regret coming all the way to North Carolina, yet won't make people feel like its nap time either.

My goal was simple: find music we liked that would create an environment conducive to smiling, dancing and drinking -- and would work well as background music without making people say, "Ah man what the hell is this song playing?"

I would have loved to pick Black Star by Mos Def & Talib Qweli. That album inspires me and makes me really happy, but I don’t think my dad would have been like, "Black Star! I love this album! Good choice Pete, man do I feel happy! I can’t wait to break dance!" Plus, you want to play a variety of songs, not just one album start to finish.

So here’s how I built the playlist for our cocktail hour. While the specific songs you select may be different --  we all have different musical tastes and opinions of what artists and songs are happy, exciting, good, bad, etc. -- the general process worked well for me, and I think it'll work for you too.

The first thing I did was log into my Spotify account and look at my starred tracks (ones that I had noted as my favorite). Knowing the vibe I wanted to create, I proceeded to browse looking for songs that would fit the bill. I also made sure to apply this thinking to a variety of genres, not just one. For example, I have a love affair with The New Mastersounds and knew that the band made music that pretty much everyone can tolerate, and would help create the ambiance I was looking for. I also used Ricky’s Theme by the Beastie Boys. Yes the Beastie Boys. Sound bonkers to you? Just give a listen:

If you’re a Beastie Boys fan, you didn’t even have to click the link to understand that’s an awesome pick. But, even if you're not a fan, this is an example of picking the right song, regardless of the band. I would have loved to pick You Gotta Fight for Your Right (To Party), but that isn't exactly a cocktail hour song.

Don’t have Spotify? You can do the same thing on Pandora. I’ve used both and prefer Spotify. It's more user friendly, gives better related artists and songs, and allows you more control over skips and rewinds. Don't have either? They're both free to download as an app or you can use them from their respective websites. If you've never used either, you probably don’t have a starred list to work with. No worries, here’s a super simple (and fun) solution: All you need is one song and/or artist idea to start. Simply type the name of the song or the artist into the search bar and find a whole bunch of other artists under the related artists column. From there you can sample tons of music you can't believe you never knew existed.

As long as you have a seed artist or song, you can type it in and let Spotify or Pandora do the rest for you. If you're really stuck and can’t think of a seed artist or a song, there's a solution for that too. Just click on browse (at the top left of corner of Spotify), then click genre and moods, and you’ll have access to 32 different categories (work out, focus, party, etc.) to inspire you. Even more good news: When you click on any of the 32 main categories, there is a wealth of specific sub-categories and playlists to help you narrow your focus even further.

When you find a song that matches your criteria, just right click on it, and add it to a “Cocktail Hour” playlist! Once your playlist is complete you have a few options when it's cocktail hour time:

1. Plug your phone into a stereo and play your playlist from the app. For those of you with Bluetooth speakers, leave the plug at home.

2. If you have the free version of either service and don’t want your guests to hear commercials every few songs, you could just pay for the songs on iTunes, and play your music from your phone sans commercials.

3. Save the list as a Word document and give it to your DJ or band to play during the cocktail hour. Make sure to send your list over before your wedding day so the DJ or band has time to find the songs you want (that's what we did).

BRIDAL BABBLE: What songs would you put on your cocktail hour playlist?

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