Reception Music 101
How to get the party started and keep it going
When Robert Juneau started Decades Music more than 25 years ago, he was pushing vinyl on two turntables at weddings and other events.
“I had to carry in crates of records and two huge speakers,” he said, adding that songs were limited. If he didn’t have the record, the song wasn’t played.
Today’s DJ has thousands of songs carried electronically. Juneau brings 100,000 songs to every event and if someone requests a song not in his arsenal, he can download the tune easily in a minute or two.
“There’s not a song in the world that’s not at my disposal,” he said.
But getting people on the dance floor and keeping them there remains an unwavering problem, a dilemma for every wedding planner and deejay. Getting the party started and keeping it going may be the deciding factor on what makes a successful wedding.
“Music is the perfect recipe for the perfect party,” Juneau said.
Start with a plan
Knowing your audience is key, Juneau explained, including what their tastes in music are and their age range. Playing music to appease a young teenager is vastly different from keeping Aunt Myrtle happy.
“The most important thing to know is to find about more about the people you are playing for and to make a plan,” he said.
Wedding couples should relate to their DJs or musicians what their expectations are for the reception, giving details on those who will be attending. Will there be a second line and traditional New Orleans music being played? Will it be strictly a young audience or will older family members and friends be attending who may not appreciate loud or fast music?
“I look at the entire crowd and try my darnest to give a little bit of something to the subgroup inside that larger group,” Juneau said.
Juneau’s perfect world is a wedding couple offering 10 to 20 songs that must be included in the playlist and then allowing him flexibility to expand as long as it relates to the reception’s demographics.
“We DJs are more comfortable when we have flexibilities with our playlist,” he said.
His goal, however, is to play to the entire audience and make everyone happy.
Get up on your feet
Getting people out of their chairs and on the dance floor remains the bottom line of good musicianship. Once the fun begins, the goal shifts to keep them dancing.
Juneau uses a fishing analogy to explain how it’s done. In fishing, you bait the pole and throw it out. If you catch a fish, you’re on to something. If not, move on to better bait and a new location. At a wedding reception, he plays songs that will get people moving and if the first one hits payday, he sticks to that course of action. If not, he changes course until people start dancing.
“The hardest part is getting the person out of their chair and away from the hors d’oeuvres, away from the bar and on the dance floor,” he said. “But once you have them hooked, you’ve got them.”
Juneau offers two ways of getting people up to dance. Start with a fast song or easy line dance to get women on the dance floor. Often women are not afraid to dance alone or with each other and “don’t need to be liquored up like men,” he said.
Another option is to play a slow song for couples because then the men, usually shy about dancing, have a partner.
The last three weddings Juneau worked the bride emphatically said no line dances. During the receptions, however, they caved in to demand.
“People love the line dance,” Juneau said.
Choosing whether or not to include a line dance at the reception is, of course, at the discretion of the wedding party but it may be received with resistance. Having one or two on hand just in case may be in order. Current favorites include “Cupid Shuffle” by Bryson Bernard of Lafayette, otherwise known as “Cupid,” and “The Wobble” by rapper artist V.I.C.
Who danced and how long rates a great a party, Juneau said. If the reception dance floor was full and people remained dancing, the wedding was a success.
“There’s not a better feeling for a DJ than leaving a party and everyone’s high fiving you,” he said.