Navigating the World of Open and Closed Playlists

February 27, 2017

You’re familiar with the saying, “the customer is always right.” But does that apply to music requests while you’re DJing? When it comes to pleasing patrons at gigs, especially people who request songs, the topic of open and closed playlists often enters the conversation. There are multiple schools of thought on the issue, and there are definite benefits and challenges of each.

What Are Open and Closed Playlists?

Open and closed playlists refer to the music chosen to be played and whether or not the selections for the night includes requests from guests. An open playlist would mean the DJ is free to accept requests from the guests at will. If the playlist is closed, only the DJ or hosting client gets to decide what to spin with absolutely no requests from guests at the event.

The decision to opt for an open or closed playlist isn’t always one the DJ makes solely. During a business consultation the topic should be broached, with the pros and cons being addressed with your client. An event coordinator for a company may have largely different views than that of a client throwing her teenager a birthday party. You’ll want to know if the client prefers open or closed playlists to be completely prepared.

Pros and Cons

Even after DJing dozens of weddings, parties and corporate events, it is likely that you’ll find yourself in the middle of a situation you have never encountered before. You never can tell what you’ll run into until you do, especially when it comes to obscure or regional song favorites. With that said, one of the advantages to having an open playlist is that the audience gets to assist in track selection. If guests can come up and request songs, you get the satisfaction and security of knowing everyone got a bit of what they wanted to hear that night. What’s more, having an open playlist encourages crowd interaction and attention. Everybody can get in on the fun and stay engaged. Taking requests can be as simple as using your JammText setup to have a crowd wish list of upcoming tracks to play.

Of course, there’s always a flipside. Ask any DJ about the dreaded request factor; EVERY DJ can recount a story of someone approaching the booth with a “favor” or “birthday song” they want played. “Hey, can you play…” is probably the most cringe-worthy phrase to a DJ’s ears. You never know what will follow, and chances are it will not fit into your setlist. The request can be obscure, random, unknown or inappropriate. Either way, having an open playlist can sometimes create a more stressful work environment for a DJ.

Having a closed playlist can sometimes feel unintentionally harsh to guests, but it can certainly make your job as the DJ significantly easier. Event coordinators, especially for corporate entities, may have strict guidelines about the music to be played. Deviating from the plan could  throw off the mood, negatively impact the entire event and make for an extremely disappointed client. Your customer knows what they want, and that doesn’t always mean playing the songs guests want at their whim. Be wise and respect the wishes of the client.

The Impact of an Open or Closed Tracklist

An open playlist could also throw off the internal instincts of a seasoned DJ. A skilled DJ knows that the order in which music is played can make or break the night. It is an unwritten rule not to bring out all the heavy-hitter crowd favorites at the beginning of an event, especially if the gig is at a club. Energy is built and manipulated with BPMs; it’s a savviness that only DJs can truly understand. Having a closed playlist means not having to turn away defeated guests because you cannot honor their song requests. Guests don’t always recognize that your job for that night is to shape the event with music and that depends on a well thought out formula.

When it comes to paid gigs, your client is usually the one who decides whether or not to open or close the playlist for their event. When the client has a definite view on which route to take, respect that, and ask further questions to make sure you know how to proceed. If he prefers an open playlist, ask if there are certain artists, tracks, or genres they’d prefer avoiding. What about profanity/vulgarity in lyrics? Should that be an automatic no-no? What about preferential treatment, such as honoring the wishes of a mother-of-the-bride versus another random guest? Does mom get an inevitable yes while others need to be vetted? Ask similar questions if the client prefers a closed playlist. Should you reject the wishes of everyone no matter what, even if the person asking is CEO at the corporate event? Can you bring and post your own “No Requests” sign?

Asking these detailed questions and helping your client consider all sides of the open or closed playlist pendulum is sure to result in an extremely happy client—which will mean return business for you and a win for everyone involved.

JammText interactive software

Learn More Get JammText Today

JammText interactive software

Learn More Get JammText Today

About Mixcity Inc

Mixcity Inc was founded in 2008 with the mission of creating innovative software solutions and engagement tools for the working DJ. The team's first DJ product, KueIt, was groundbreaking when it was introduced years ago, and still remains an industry standard software solution to this day. Mixcity's latest innovation, JammText, is a revolutionary text to screen software solution that allows DJs to reach exciting new levels of crowd interaction and audience engagement.