Is Spotify BAD for wedding music?
The simple answer is: probably.
It’s just that those who think it might be OK haven’t seen a positive alternative.
If I were to pull back the curtain on the wedding DJ industry so you could see what many say in networking groups, you’d find a lot of discussion about Spotify and an almost “how dare she?” attitude from some DJs about brides making DIY wedding playlists instead of a DJ. I believe this is the wrong attitude for DJs to have, and Wedding DJs fail to understand overall why Spotify has become a viable option for many brides.
In most cases, it is the DJ community’s own fault that Spotify got the jump on them.
I believe there are two main reasons why Spotify is considered or recommended instead of a DJ:
- Perceived Value.
“Cost” is NOT the same thing as “Perceived Value”.
I’ll explain more on each of those points further on in more detail.
But here’s the short version…
I try to keep an unbiased delivery when sharing observations and advice, but when it comes to Spotify I really am on the fence. Spotify can do a great job if you really have no alternative, like if you just have no money budget available, or you’re really not expecting or wanting a party atmosphere, just more “background”.
But to assume there’s no difference between a good DJ and Spotify, you’re risking the celebration being less than it could be. If you’re then advising others Spotify is the same as DJ without really knowing the alternatives, you’re not helping anyone.
Here are some highlights from an actual wedding where a couple relied on Spotify instead of using any sort of professional and got it wrong, as witnessed by a contracted caterer at the wedding venue:
- The sound system was set up but other than the groom, nobody knew how to turn it on. Guests sat in silence at the reception until the groom arrived.
- No microphone, the MC was inexperienced and struggled to gather control of the room.
- The music was just bad. Obscure, eclectic tracks that might have seemed cool and funky in the months leading up to the wedding, but did not suit the atmosphere on the day.
- Gaps between songs
Bottom line – guests were all packing up the room and starting to leave at 8:30pm, less than three hours after the reception started.
Yes, it was a celebration, but could it have gone better? How many of those guests might have stayed longer, chatted longer, celebrated harder?
“If your guests leave right after they eat, that’s not a wedding celebration; you’ve just paid for a very expensive dinner party.”
When someone gives advice saying “Spotify is just as good as a DJ”, chances are they just haven’t seen a good DJ.
A great DJ will start to shape the energy and atmosphere from the moment the first guest arrives.
- Spotify can’t read a crowd and sense when the energy is shifting
- Spotify can’t use a microphone
- Spotify can’t follow the timeline and be ready to alter pace and style
- Spotify can’t mix seamlessly from stuff your nana will love to top 40 without nana noticing
- Spotify can’t adjust the tempo of each song to avoid going from a fast song to something that’s just a bit too slow.
- Spotify can’t monitor the crowd and guests, ensuring they’re actually enjoying themselves
- Spotify can’t always tell if a song is inappropriate or has blatantly vulgar lyrics
Spotify is just music. A great DJ is so much more than that.
An experienced, dedicated professional wedding DJ should do a better job than Spotify.
- Monitor your timeline to assist the MC
- Ensure your favourite songs transition in an almost scientific way compared to a random playlist. Tempo and style matching, flowing seamlessly, instead of a slow rock song going into a faster top 40 song, then back to old and slow. That just messes with people’s heads if they’re in the mood for dancing. There’s a better way!
- They’ll keep an eye on your guests, ensuring they’re not having too much of a good time on the dancefloor putting others at risk.
- They’ll keep the volume at a respectable level, considering all of the guests, where they’re seated, how they’re acting or reacting during dinner and speeches etc.
- They will keep the venue happy with volume, as often a simple noise complaint can end the party early and potentially put the venue’s future at risk.
- Bring all their own tested and reliable equipment that you don’t have to understand.
- Great professionals will bring back up audio equipment too!
And so much more…
Wedding DJ Cost vs Perceived Value
WEDDING DJ COST
If you just don’t have the money, then, of course, as much DIY as possible makes sense. Family or friends make the cake, do the catering, you run a BYO bar, if the budget simply does not afford for human entertainment, that’s completely different from saying a DJ does the same thing as Spotify. THAT is perceived value – or lack thereof.
Scrolling through the New Zealand Wedding Discussion Group on Facebook, there is plenty of feedback from brides that have been guests at other weddings and suggest “a DIY Spotify playlist was OK”. My initial response is instinctively “OK compared to what”, but that’s the downside of these discussion groups. A group of well-intended brides with all the experience of just a handful of weddings to base their advice on, either as a guest or their own recent celebration.
Rather than go into more detail about why these groups are great and super helpful but not without associated risk, I’ve put my thoughts about the risks of unqualified wedding advice from forums and Facebook groups here.
DJ’s PERCEIVED VALUE
It’s easy (and common) to think that a DJ and Spotify basically do the same thing. The reason for this is many DJs actually don’t bother doing much more than Spotify. Some DJs are less helpful than Spotify. As mentioned earlier, this is really the fault of the greater DJ community who have failed to evolve. If a DJ turns up to a wedding and doesn’t have any classic hits and there’s an older crowd, or isn’t up to date and is missing most of the top 40 hits from the last few years, has no ethnic music for a cultural wedding, or worse…. then yes, Spotify will seem like it would have done a better job for free.
If the DJ is “just pressing play”, fading one song into the next like a radio station, then yes Spotify will seem just as good, for free.
If the DJ’s equipment isn’t up to scratch, or looks messy or takes up too much space or just sounds bad, then yes, Spotify through the venue’s sound or a hired speaker or even home stereo might seem like a better option, for free.
I could go on, but these examples exist, they happen at weddings every weekend in New Zealand and worldwide, and these examples are why brides choose to just go with Spotify instead. It’s us, the DJs as an industry that are to blame. “Saving money” isn’t always why the bride chooses Spotify. It’s often because the DJs they and friends and family have experienced have offered no perceived value, no skill, service, or thing more than Spotify. The DJs simply haven’t been able to do any more than press play, fade into the next song, press play, repeat, they haven’t evolved, they haven’t tried to learn anything new, and they instantly assume it’s the brides that are in the wrong for choosing Spotify. The DJ just wasn’t very good, and if you don’t go to many weddings and the few times you do, the DJ is just a human jukebox – of COURSE you’re going to think DJs are overrated and overpriced.
To sum up, please consider all of the options when choosing wedding entertainment.
If you really just want background music, or if you really can’t spend for a DJ (just don’t want to), Spotify might be exactly what you need.
But before you listen to friends that say “Spotify is just as good as a DJ”, please consider all of your options, and consider WHY they’d be saying that. What’s THEIR experience? How many weddings have they been to? Also, talk to a few DJs and see if they themselves can tell you why you should hire them. Ask them the questions nobody asks – read them here.
I hope this helps!
Nick Logan – the original idj4u
Auckland Wedding DJ | Wedding MC | Nice Guy