Science Museum Group. Daily Herald Photograph: Woman selecting Christmas records. 1983-5236/63908Science Museum Group Collection Online. Accessed 1 August 2023.

How To Choose A Dinner Party Playlist

“Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one plays bad music people don't talk.” - Oscar Wilde

Ah, the daunting task of choosing a dinner party playlist. The pressure is on to strike a balance, to harmonise melodies that resonate with your guests’ tastes while avoiding any discordant choices. 

For the most part your goal should be to create an environment for your guests, making them feel welcome and at ease. Great food and a welcoming location help, but the right soundtrack will help tie everything together! A fitting musical selection can make your party, setting the mood and keeping the good times going. So here go our thoughts on – how to choose a dinner party playlist. 

Shape the mood.

As you know, music is a very powerful mood-shaper. The pace, intensity, and even the notes of certain songs can affect how people interact during the party. For this reason, you could consider using a playlist to facilitate the mood you’re looking for. A soft instrumental jazz playlist could be the best choice when you want to evoke a classy, sophisticated, and relaxing atmosphere.

If you want to create a more upbeat yet subdued and sophisticated atmosphere, an atmospheric alternative music playlist could be the best way to go, as it alternates energy with introspections, providing a varied dynamic to the party soundtrack. Don’t underestimate the emotional power of music, and use the right playlist to drive the vibe of your dinner party! If you want to create more ambience, you could consider including instrumental artists or an instrumental outfit like This Will Destroy You (Fun fact: this band actually scored the soundtrack to a restaurant in Los Angeles, creating original themes for each room of the eatery!)

Creating an “arc” with music.

You can use music to create a “dinner party arc.” Begin with softer and slower tracks during the initial phases of the dinner party when guests are arriving and settling down. You can gradually introduce more energetic or upbeat songs as the evening progresses if appropriate. By the end, you can revert to a softer selection of songs to ease towards the conclusion of the dinner party. You can create a better arc by including different artists. For example, a band like Durand Jones & The Indications can bring a charming retro touch, which is upbeat but not too overpowering. It would work perfectly in the middle of the arc! On the other hand, a song like Life Is Good” by Francis Moon could bring a fresh, energetic twist to the playlist, still without going overboard. Keep in mind that music should bring some electricity but never get in the way of dinner ambience and conversations.

Facilitate conversations and create an ambience.

If you want to encourage guests to be more present and engage in conversation throughout the dinner party event, it’s important to use music that won’t stand in the way of a good get-together. Remember that, generally, more easy-going songs might allow guests to engage in conversations without raising their voices over the soundtrack. Pay attention to your guests’ reactions to the playlist during the dinner party to ensure everyone’s enjoying the music.

Don’t take it personally if you notice the music isn’t resonating with them. Your guests might not realise you put a lot of effort into creating a nice party playlist, so if you feel that they’re just not vining with it, be prepared to make some on-the-spot adjustments. It’s important to be flexible, and streaming platforms make it easy to change songs on the fly or even pivot to another playlist. If all else fails, piano composers such as Ludovico Einaudi are almost always a safe bet for a smooth dinner party, as the music creates ambience without being in the way.

Do you have a special theme?

If your dinner party has a specific theme, it can be a great idea to highlight it with the right playlist. For instance, check out this popular playlist perfectly suited to an Italian-style dinner party! (A theme doesn’t have to be specifically food-related, you can get as creative as you want). 

Keep it diverse.

 Your guests likely have a broader range of musical preferences. Include a mix of genres and eras to cater to different tastes if you feel that it applies to your dinner crowd. You should consider a more diverse range of musical styles for many other reasons. Trying to incorporate different styles of music into your dinner party playlist can break the monotony of having only a single genre or artist on tap. A more eclectic collection of songs can stimulate conversations about music and help guests find common interests.

If you know any songs that are favourites of your guests, be sure to include them. Personal touches here and there can make the playlist more special and enjoyable and show your friends you care and pay attention to what they like. You could also throw in a couple of unexpected tracks that might make your guests smile or reminisce about a fond memory. For instance, a song you enjoyed together during a road trip or a track from an artist you saw in concert with your friends. Any song that is connected to a memory or an experience you shared with one or more of your guests could be fun to include.

Don’t commandeer the queue! 

Many people rely on streaming platforms for their party playlist needs. This means they have access to fun and practical technology, which enables them to edit, control and manage playlists in real-time. In particular, letting your guests add their picks to the playlist queue is a really fun idea. You could even consider creating a collaborative playlist to share with your guests at the venue or beforehand. This is a great way to make everyone feel included in the song selection. If you have guests who might be excited about putting on music at the party, letting them become a part of the decision-making process might be a great idea. The collaborative element can be a great way to add a more engaging activity to the party or even to discover new music.

Use a pre-made playlist. 

If you lack the time or inclination to create a custom playlist, there is no shame in using a pre-made playlist. Platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube have countless playlists which cater to different moods and themes. You’ll certainly be able to find something suitable to match your desired atmosphere.

A last ‘note’ – music is one of those things that people tend to focus on at a dinner party, even if they might not consciously realise it. As you plan your next dinner party, don’t underestimate the importance of a thoughtfully crafted playlist! Your guests will appreciate your efforts as a host because of it. 🎶


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