I saw a blog recently with the title “DJ or Band? How to Decide What Music to Have at Your Reception” so I eagerly clicked on it and began to read away. The author of the blog, Jamie Birdwell-Branson, does a nice job of going through the pros and cons of hiring a DJ versus a band and while I could quibble over her statement “If having someone enthusiastically encourage your guests to do the Electric Slide or the Cupid Shuffle isn’t your thing, you may not want to hire a DJ” (if it’s not your thing, it’s as easy as telling your DJ “no line dances please”), what I really want to focus on is the final point Birdwell-Branson makes in her blog.
After highlighting some of the pros and cons of hiring a DJ or a band, Birdwell-Branson finishes her piece with a paragraph titled “Not Sure Which to Choose? Consider Making your Own Music.” She states that making your own playlist “is one of the only ways to ensure that every song you want to be played will be played (and none of the ones you don’t).”
What Birdwell-Branson seems to be missing is that most DJs (and certainly everyone on the Elite staff) work very closely with their couples and will craft a playlist so that they hear only the songs they want to hear (and none of the ones they don’t). And the advantage for the couple is you get to tap into the DJ’s experience while doing this. For most couples we work with, it’s not just about hearing their favorite songs. It’s also about ensuring everyone in the room feels included and hears something they like. That’s where a DJ’s expertise can come in. We can offer suggestions and help you put together a playlist that is all-inclusive (if that’s something you care about).
Then Birdwell-Branson makes her most inaccurate statement. She writes, “The only drawback to DIYing your music is that you won’t have someone on the microphone guiding your guests through the reception.”
That’s just not the case. There are plenty of other drawbacks. Here are a few:
Timing. Do you know exactly to the minute when dinner will be served at your reception? And when everyone will be done eating? My guess would be “no” because no one could know that in advance. Thus, how can you build a playlist that slows the music down for dinner and then picks it back up after everyone is done eating. The best answer is multiple playlists, but then you get into, who’s job is it to switch playlists? That same “friend or family member who is comfortable on the microphone and with technology” that Birdwell-Branson suggestions can make some announcements is now going to be manning that iPod throughout the reception. That’s not something most wedding guests want to do all night.
Mixing. One of the many advantages to hiring a professional DJ is our ability to smoothly mix songs. This is a nice feature when the music is slow and light for cocktail hour or dinner. It’s an essential feature during dancing. A lot of dancers tend to sit when a song ends. That’s why, during a dance set, DJs don’t let songs end. We mix them by matching beats and keeping the energy consistent on the dance floor. Some DJs’ talents vary when it comes to this skill (which is why couples should ask to hear some mixes by a DJ before they hire them) but even a mediocre DJ is going to be way better than an iPod when it comes to blending songs together.
Volume. This goes back to the “friend or family member” who is manning the iPod. They better be there all night. Because not only should the volume vary throughout a reception (softer during dinner, louder during dancing) but it needs to be tweaked for each and every song. Some songs are just recorded louder than others. So volume is not something you can just “set and forget.” It needs to be monitored and adjusted all night long. This is another thing that a professional DJ does second nature. But when you remove us from the equation, you now have to worry about it all night long.
Load In and Load Out. One of the not-so-glamorous parts of our jobs is schlepping gear in and out of our facilities. So forget the fact that you’ll have to rent professional grade sound equipment for your reception – that nice bluetooth speaker you have for your back porch just won’t be loud enough to get a large room full of your family and friends dancing. Now somebody has to pick it up, load it in, set it up and then after the reception break it down, load it out and return it the next day. That’s an awful lot to ask from this “friend or family member,” who, by the way, better have some audio experience if that sound system needs any kind of trouble-shooting.
All of this is not to say “don’t DIY your own music.” I was actually a guest once at an “iPod wedding” and my wife and I had a wonderful time. But just know what you’re getting in to. While Birdwell-Branson makes a good point that “making your own music” is a viable option to hiring a DJ or a band, she misses out on some of the drawbacks associated with that decision. I hope this blog has made that clearer.