Using Spotify as your DJ
Article by Paul Hill
In my opinion, Spotify is one of the best apps for playing music at your events. Why? Because it ticks all of the boxes that I feel are essential:
- It allows offline playback
- It does crossfading and normalising
- It’s completely legal
- It has EVERYTHING!
1. It allows offline playback
You should NEVER assume that you’ll get perfect signal – whether you’re on Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or 7G… OK, I made up 7G.
The lack of offline playback is definitely the main drawback for traditional music streaming. If, for whatever reason, you lose signal, the music stops. This has never been a problem for iTunes, MP3, or any other type of music that you store on your own device.
This is where Spotify bucks the trend. It allows Premium users to download music to their device so that there is no need for any type of internet connection. This is a huge advantage when using a mobile device for music playback.
2. It does cross-fading and normalising
Cross-fading is not taking a Bulldog and a Shih Tzu and creating a hybrid “BullTzu” puppy… (there may be a variation on the name).
Cross-fading is what you hear whenever you listen to the radio and they subtly blend one song into another. It is just fading out the last couple of seconds of one song and fading in the first couple of seconds of the next song. The result is a seamless blend of music, with no dead-space and at a party it keeps the dance floor alive.
Cross-fading is a great technique for making transitions between tracks sound seamless but it’s nothing without it’s more difficult-to-explain brother – normalisation.
What you will never really notice is that every song is either louder or quieter than the previous one. If you listen to an album then they will be “normalised” in the studio so you’ll never notice. If you listen to the radio then the sound engineers will “normalise” the signal before it is broadcast. However, if you play one random track after another then there will be a noticeable difference in volume, and this difference is multiplied when played over a loud sound system.
The solution is normalisation – where software calculates the average volume of the music and plays everything at a matching volume. A DJ has to do this manually but, as always, modern technology is here to do it for you.
3. It’s completely legal
The first time I checked this was in 2011, and at the time of publishing this article (October 2015) nothing has changed.
You are not allowed to play music from Spotify when you are earning money from the event. There are two scenarios that should be avoided.
- If you’re hosting an event where you charge the partygoers an entry fee then you can’t use Spotify to play music to them. If you invite your friends and/or family to a private party or wedding reception then this won’t be an issue.
- If you’re a DJ who charges a fee for your services then you can’t use Spotify to play music for your client. If you offer to DJ as a favour for a friend then you CAN use Spotify. If you charge them a fee then you CAN NOT.
4. It has EVERYTHING!
Actually, it doesn’t have everything. But, it does have everything that you will ever need. If you’re really not that interested in music then you’re much more likely to come up with a really successful playlist. If you’re obsessed with music then I would strongly advise that you delegate the task to someone who isn’t. The most important thing you need to know when choosing music for a party is this:
Just because YOU think that Track 4 on the unreleased 1993 promo EP from that band that was cool until they became slightly famous is A-MA-ZING… doesn’t mean that everyone else loves it. In fact, it will clear the dance floor.
We all have our guilty pleasures and favourites but the fact of the matter is that pop music is short for “popular” music. By definition, it’s popular because most people like (or liked) it. The same goes for chart music. It is in the Top 40 (most popular) charts because it is in demand at the time.
So, I’m not saying that your playlist has to be filled with CURRENT chart tracks, or that everything in your playlist has to have reached number 1 in the singles chart. I’m just saying that when you’re making a playlist you need to appreciate that popular music isn’t something to fight against. It’s a cheat sheet for guaranteed dance floor fillers.