Yes, you can use Spotify as your wedding DJ

January 30 | Guest post by Lauranette
By: Jon ÅslundCC BY 2.0

Before we got married, I read SO MANY posts about how it's just easier to hire a DJ and not worry about ceremony music on an iPod. Still… I wasn't having it. I wanted to control the music, I wanted to make it our own, and I didn't want to pay out the wazoo for any of it. Our solution? Spotify.

Spotify is a free music service, available in the United States, that works through a player on your desktop (like iTunes), only all of the music is web-based and free! You can find almost anything on it. Like Pandora, the free version includes semi-annoying but necessary ads here and there. Unlike Pandora, Spotify plays your playlists AS IS. You pick the exact songs.

Here's how we pulled it off…

What you'll need:

  • A Spotify premium subscription. It costs $9.99 per month and you can use the same account on multiple mobile devices. (The paid version also gets rid of the ads.) I can tell you that it's 100% worth it, but try the free version on your computer first and then make a decision. To use Spotify for your wedding, you'll need the PAID version.
  • An iPod Touch. You could probably use a phone, but if someone calls you during the ceremony, even a telemarketer, it could ruin everything.
  • Speakers or access to a sound system. We used a small sub with two peripheral computer speakers — a setup easily connected to an iPod via auxiliary cord.
  • A playlist.
  • A responsible person to control the tunes — someone you trust, who understands how to use an iPod.

How-To:

1. If you're creating your own ceremony, figure out where you'll need music and have fun with it! If you're more restricted, ask your officiant where music might be appropriate.

2. Download the Spotify app (for an iPod, from the iTunes Store).

3. Make a playlist using your Spotify premium account OR make one from any account and subscribe to it later using a mobile device that's logged into the premium account. (This was our playlist.)

4. Set the playlist so that it's available offline on the mobile device of your choosing. If you're using a iPod Touch, you need wi-fi long enough to "download" the playlist. Spotify lets you download temporary files to your iPod which last 30 days, at which point you'll lose access and have to log back in and re-download.

5. Test your setup wherever you plan to have the ceremony, preferably with some of the same songs you'll be using to see how they sound and how loud they should be.

6. Designate a responsible person to control the music. Give them a script for the ceremony with cues for where they should play each song.

Tips

Give your music person a script and a copy of the playlist in advance so they have time to study their cues and familiarize themselves with the music. I had my brother (who was also an usher) do it, and he and his girlfriend knocked it out of the park. But by giving him his cues the night of the rehearsal rather than earlier, we inadvertently caused him more stress than was necessary. If I could do it all over again, I would have been more prepared for his sake and mine.

Don't make people sit there and listen to entire five-minute-long songs. Choose music that can be faded in and out as the ceremony moves along. I stressed about this, worrying about cutting off lyrics, but the transitions will sound better than you might think.

  • Keep the playlist in order of your wedding day schedule, for easy use.
  • Practice with the music the night of the rehearsal.
  • Use the music to cue actions in the ceremony.
  • Use an iPod rather than a phone to avoid interruptions.
  • Download and check your playlist a few days before so you know it's good to go.
  • Make sure your device is charged before the ceremony. (In this case it doesn't hurt to have a second mobile device, even if it is a phone, as a backup.)
  • Make sure the music is not too loud, but that it can be heard from any seat.
  • Relax. You'll have so much to pay attention to during the ceremony, you won't be as worried about the music as you might think.

A note to our wedding DJ friends:
At Offbeat Bride, we super love wedding DJs (true story: our founder had FIVE DJs and 10 hours of music at her wedding!), and feel that that couples who want to use Spotify are NOT the clients a pro DJ wants. You want clients who are pumped about pro DJing… if someone's considering Spotify, that's just not your target market!

The same is true of couples who self-cater, or opt out of wedding photography… as a vendor, you want clients who value your work, and have prioritized your skills in their budget. In other words, the people interesting in this post just are not your people.

  1. Okay, disclaimer first! As a wedding DJ, I applaud anyone who wants to break away from the cookie-cutter, wedding-in-a-box notion of what someone's big day should look like. That's exactly what I want, too! A GOOD DJ should listen to what you want, and put your personality on the nuptials.

    My worry here, is that the advice, while well-meaning, is a little dangerous. It implies that success is the most likely outcome. The author of the piece, frankly, got lucky that nothing went wrong. I could run blindfolded through a minefield and come out unscathed at the other side, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a viable means of getting to the other side.

    The "trusted friend" can be as tech savvy as you like, but, in the event that something unexpected happens, and there's ALWAYS the chance of that, would they have the cool head to fix whatever it is, quickly and without disrupting an event which has no do-overs?

    A GOOD DJ (that's twice I've emphasized that – it must be important! ;)) does this week in/week out and has backups, and more crucially, knows the drill for what to do and when, because they do it for a living, not because they can simply be "trusted".

    I'm not saying "woe is me, you guys will put me outta business", because there will always be brides who contact me who don't want the hassle of dealing with all the logistics of ensuring this goes seamlessly. What I'm saying is "how hard can it be" is the equivalent of flipping a coin on your wedding day. Heads it works like a charm, tails it goes wrong and there's blame and tears all round. There's a reason good DJs are much in demand. Just please be educated on both sides. Thanks – love the blog usually!

    19 agree
    • Hi Alan,
      I wrote this guest post, and by no means meant to offend anyone.

      In fact, to clarify, we actually paid a DJ to do our reception. We sent him a Spotify playlist "for inspiration" and asked him to play as many of those songs as he could. On the one hand, he didn't play nearly as many as we would have liked. Moreover, we said no country, and there were more than a handful of country songs played. I have wondered what it would have been like had we used the actual Spotify playlist, and I think it could have been a good time. That being said, what our DJ lacked in musical taste, he made up for by doing a great job announcing us and keeping the reception rolling the way it was supposed to. Spotify couldn't have done that, so we were thankful. Plus, he had equipment that we didn't.

      However, we used Spotify for our ceremony, which was short and felt intimate (even though there were about 200 guests). There were a handful of songs we wanted played, and it was nothing a "trusted friend" or in this case, my brother, couldn't handle. (Plus, it allowed the DJ to set up at the reception and be prepared for people to arrive after the short ceremony. That was a big thing, we didn't want to keep our guests waiting long.)

      True, this advice is not for the faint of heart. If you are a bride or groom who is that worried that something will go wrong, then by all means hire a professional. You're right, we were lucky, but had something gone wrong, I believe my husband and I are the kind of people who could have laughed it off. For people like us, it's at least worth considering. Especially for those on a tight budget.

      14 agree
  2. I used spotify with my iPhone and a PA system that I got from a pawn shop for $100. It worked great. It was totally worth the small investment, and I still use my spotify mobile subscription. Also, when you sign up for a new account, I think they give you 30 days free… So you can sign up just before your wedding and cancel if you don't want to keep the subscription. But why wouldn't you want Spotify on your iPhone?!

    6 agree
  3. I think it's important to note if you're not familiar with Spotify that the main difference between the paid and free versions is the ads. Every few songs on the free version, you will hear an advertisement for anything from a new album to car insurance. This is why the paid version would be required for a wedding. Unless you don't mind your guests listening to an ad for e-surance in the middle of your first dance.

    11 agree
    • The other main thing is that the free version does not work the same on mobile devices. It works more like Pandora. To listen to your playlists, you have to have premium. That, and the ads 😉

      3 agree
  4. It's also good to check and see if the artists you want are on Spotify. Two big ones that are not available on Spotify are the Beatles and Eva Cassidy. You can get around this by importing music from itunes that you've ripped from CDs to the Spotify list (if you have a premium account). It'll let you use those songs, but won't publish them for the public to use.

    7 agree
    • This is true, but at least on my laptop, Spotify will seek out and play all of the music I already own, so if you have a ton of Beatles/whoever tunes that are yours, you can mix them in to the lists.

      3 agree
  5. Weird, I just googled this a few hours ago. Can you use Spotify with a laptop for your wedding tunes? We don't have an iPod Touch.

    5 agree
    • Totally! We did it with a laptop and borrowed sound equipment and it was awesome :) If you can get it, good sound equipment is really worth it. Especially for dancing. Also, ramp up the cross-fade time to prevent awkward silence between songs.

      9 agree
  6. I've been thinking about this too! In a lot of ways for me, iPod music I got to choose would be BETTER, not just cheaper, than a dj. There will be NO electric slide at my wedding. Just saying. 😉

    12 agree
    • There would be no Electric Slide at your wedding if you told the DJ not to play it. A good DJ will tailor the music to fit your personality and style. Don't lump all DJs as unresponsive tools. I think your solution is fine for many people that don't want to spend the money on a professional DJ and that's fine. We're not for everyone. But DJs bring WAY more to a wedding than just hitting play. A good DJ HELPs make sure everything flows smoothly for you on an important day and lets you be a guest at your own wedding instead of having to worry about syncing that spotify playlist without wi-fi :) yes, plenty of Bad DJs out there but do your homework and make sure that a professional DJ is not for you before you just write them off :)

      11 agree
  7. If you don't have an Ipod and want to use a phone, Spotify has a feature in the paid version called "Offline Mode" it allows you to download and play playlists even when the phone features are off. (This comes in handy while travelling because you can listen to music while your phone is in airplane mode)

    8 agree
  8. I used a spotify playlist for a big party (wedding-like, but not a wedding) and it was awesome. I totally recommend going this way if you want to save big on music. Do make sure that you have a system that can project loudly enough, however.

    1 agrees
  9. Yes! I was planning on doing this myself, so it's good to see it has been field tested. I also asked people to send in songs they want to hear so that the iPod can be GUARDED. I'm setting up a bouncer for the express purpose of keeping my music-loving friends away from changing the song every minute.

    4 agree
  10. Ohh! My husband and I did this at our wedding! And yes, you can use a laptop, because that's exactly what we did. While I was at work during the day and thought of songs I wanted to use I would put them into my wedding playlists. It was super convenient being able to make the different playlists (arrival music, dinner music, after dinner music, cake cutting music, dancing music, etc.). Our venue was in the middle of nowhere, so there was no internet to speak of, and being able to have the playlists offline was great. We were able to hook up my laptop to my husbands PA the night before when setting up to test it out, and it worked great! We had an appointed music person who played the appropriate playlists at the appropriate time and voila! For the $9.99 for the month it was totally worth it. I would highly recommend it.

    6 agree
  11. Instead of asking people for requests on what to play at the reception, I've decided the geeky contingent of the guests can submit their suggestions to the collaborative Spotify playlist anyone can submit songs to via the URL given in the invitation, or by (e)mail in the RSVP. Set it to offline before the wedding and thing is set up. Also, I've already pre-emptively RickRolled the list so there's no need for that… (We've been to two weddings together and have submitted a DJ request on both to play Rick Astley.)

    8 agree
  12. This post could not have come at a better time! I was initially intent on using my laptop and Spotify for our music, but kept getting negative feedback from family members about the need to hire a DJ. (It got to me so badly, that I actually emailed a DJ today to figure out some price options.) Does anyone have a recommendation on the types of speakers or PA system to use? And, any idea how to make this work between the ceremony/reception areas?

    5 agree
  13. We used Spotify because my computer crashed the week before the wedding and there would be no updating the iPod playlist I'd been working on. We just about had to start the whole playlist over. I then synced my Spotify account to my dad's compy, so that I could run away at the end of the reception, while music was playing, and not have to stop for my phone. Then, we had the access to the playlist on my phone during our honeymoon and the slower songs made for some great background music. 😉

    As for no telemarketers, if you use an iPhone, you can set it to "Do Not Disturb" and no phone calls or Words With Friends notifications should come through during the festivities, at the wedding or, ahem, any other time. :)

    8 agree
    • Agreed. Do Not Disturb mode will do the trick here.

      It will stop all notifications and phone calls, so you can enjoy nothing but music.

      3 agree
  14. If the paid version of Spotify has an offline mode, couldn't you use a phone and just put it on airplane mode to prevent surprise phone calls?

    7 agree
  15. A friend who uses our app and works in Wedding Photography PR directed us to this awesome post (thanks Offbeat Bride for the cool info) and I felt the need to comment- but I'll keep it brief so this doesn't come off as a shameless promo. The startup I work for has a free app (and a Spotify version) that is really cool at weddings- allows your guests to "be the DJ" and choose from songs on your customized playlist.

    Feel free to email me personally if you want any more info.

    Laura- love the post and hope this comment is alright. Would love to be in touch to chat more about Spotify at weddings since you seem to be knowledgeable on the topic!

    3 agree
  16. I am using Spotify for our wedding – this software is fantastic. You can make various playlists, one for ceremony, dinner, party music etc! Who needs a DJ!

    1 agrees
  17. I have been using Spotify to preview many of the songs we were thinking of using. Never intended to hire a DJ. I have been to a few weddings where they have ruined the event! I have organised lots of playlists. many of which run over the amount of time we need for each section (This way if the person in charge of the music gets held up it doesn't cut out and they can always stop playing halfway through a list). The only thing that is lacking I find is you aren't able to order the songs like you can in itunes (I'm not an apple fan but this is handy). Anyway we decided about a week ago that we would use spotify for the wedding. Thanks for the post! Great timing and it raises my confidence in our decision.

    1 agrees
    • Yetti – you can order the songs in your playlist in that you can set up the playlist in a certain order and then just tell it to play through in order rather than on shuffle. Hurrah for Spotify!

      1 agrees
      • Hey Thanks :) That will make things just that bit easier.

  18. That's fantastic! Does it do Karaoke? That's what we did at my wedding. LOL

    1 agrees
  19. I've also gotten into Songza (songza.com) recently. They have great playlists tailored to what you're doing. Free, no ads and the playlists go on forever! You just need an internet connection. This is a good option for people who want something trustworthy but don't want to make the playlist themselves. Kind of like Pandora, but I think the result is better because someone made the playlist instead of it running on a computer algorithm, which sometimes yields weird results. We used it for our New Years party and it was perfect so I'm sure it'd be great for a wedding too!

    1 agrees
  20. I'm confused, why is this better than just using an Ipod?

    3 agree
    • Because you don't have to buy all the music that you want to play. You just "rent it" at $9.99 per month. So if you already have every conceivable song that you want on your ipod, there's no difference. But if you really love to rock out to Call Me Maybe on the wedding dance floor, but the Indigo Girls are more your thing day to day, you don't actually have to buy Call Me Maybe with spotify. Saves a bundle.

      6 agree
  21. For my fellow Canadian peeps, Spotify is unfortunately not available in Canada yet (which made me very sad), but there is a very similar program called Rdio that is available up here, so I was happy again – I'm looking into using that, because I LOVE the idea! It seems it works almost exactly the same way, although I haven't actually gone through it yet beyond signing up for the free account…

    3 agree
    • However, UK readers note that it IS available in the UK!

      It's available in most of the rest of Europe too, it started in Sweden or somewhere.

      I love Spotify for party music (especially just hitting "Play music like X", and you'll get good stuff that's kind of similar to what you like).

      1 agrees
  22. I think you could use an iphone if you sync'd your wedding playlist to your mobile and turned on airplane mode

    2 agree
  23. Why get the Premium version rather than the Unlimited version (Unlimited is $4.99/£4.99 rather than $9.99/£9.99)? Is is something to do with making the playlists? There's no ads on Unlimited either, and you can play as much music as you want (as the name suggests).

    1 agrees
    • With unlimited you would need internet access to stream the music. With Premium you can download the playlists for an off-line mode.

  24. Music is just one component of a successful reception. I use spotify all of the time (love it) but a preset playlist can't anticipate the flow of the evening involving hundreds of people, and you'll need someone to keep things on schedule and MC your event. I think this would be far too risky on your wedding day.

    5 agree
  25. The other advantage of Spotify is collaborative playlists. The playlists for our reception has been in both mine and my fiancee's accounts for six months and we both drop songs into it now and then and the other can the see what has been added etc.

    With regards to it being a preset playlist i intend to run spotify from a laptop and use a phone/tablet as a remote control, means the preset playlist can be left to run but if it needs changing it can be done with ease. I already run Spotifty this way at home as it easy to set up and use.

    With regards to Alan's worry about things going wrong there is always a risk of this but i would trust any sound engineer friends over most DJ's given my experience working on gigs with DJ's in the past. However as Alan validly states tech is not just tech and sound gear is a whole different ball game to computers or lights etc

  26. if you have to use a phone, you can always turn it on airplane mode to prevent incoming calls from connecting. then you don't have to worry about loud, high-pitched annoying interruptions!

    2 agree
  27. We did this for our wedding. No offence to the DJ above, but we'd been to two friends' weddings ruined by bad DJs and there was no way we were spending hundreds of pounds for the same experience. I'm sure a good DJ would be better than DIY-ing it, but at least with DIY you know what you're getting. Plus we had a giant scalectrix racing track so the disco part was more of a bonus than the main event.

    Here's our Wedding Disco playlist on Spotify:
    http://open.spotify.com/user/sophievdennis/playlist/7nA9VW69tWoVtbiWtNkTWk

    Feel free to raid for tracks – or use the whole thing! There's about 3-4 hours worth there.

    Top tips:

    * You have to have premium to have offline playlists, and make them available on a mobile. We used the 30-day free trial, so it didn't cost us a dime!

    * Like others we set up a collaborative playlist in advance for guests to make suggestions. I then compiled it into a final, non-collaborative playlist for the day itself.

    * Yes, you can set an order for your playlist. Just drag and drop the tracks into the order you want, just like in iTunes. Warning: I spent bl**dy ages fiddling with track order so it all flowed, especially as we were cross-fading between tracks.

    * Set your playlist to "Available Offline" so you aren't subject to iffy venue wifi! (right click on the playlist in the desktop app).

    * Sync your playlist to multiple devices as a back up (again, I think you can only do this with premium). We used an old laptop as our main playback device, but I also synced to both my phone and my new husband's ipod just in case.

    * Use cross-fade! This makes the tracks overlap, so there isn't an awkward pause between them. Makes a HUGE difference to keeping the dancing going. On the desktop app, go to "Edit > Preferences". Then in the playback section tick "Cross fade tracks". I set ours to 8secs – sounds a lot, but given how many tracks fade out at the end it was pretty good. Also tick all the other boxes there as well.

    * Yes, you can include non-Spotify tracks (Beatles etc…) so long as they are on your PC. Just buy the regular MP3s or rip your own CDs. Again, go to Edit > Preferences and under Local Files pick where you store your music files.

    * If you want a full-on dance-heavy party disco, don't make it compete with a giant scalectrix track! :)

    6 agree
  28. How can you edit down the song length as you recommended? Is this a spotify preference or do you have to do this on your computer?

    1 agrees

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