Yes, you can use Spotify as your wedding DJ

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 interested in this post just are not your people.

Comments on Yes, you can use Spotify as your wedding DJ

  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!

    • 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.

  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?!

  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.

    • 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 😉

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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. 😉

    • 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 🙂

  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. 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.

  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.

  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.

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