The holidays are a time for people to come together and celebrate. There is so much beautiful music written specifically for the season and many reasons for people to gather. And so, there is also a big demand for DJs to spin holiday events and New Year’s Eve parties. This festive time of the year brings its own magic and a unique set of DJ considerations. Here are some things to think about as you prepare for your holiday DJ gigs.
There are many great holiday classics to have in your library.
Songs include “All I Want for Christmas is You” (Mariah Carey), “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (Brenda Lee), “Jingle Bell Rock” (Bobbie Helms), “Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano) and “Last Christmas” (Wham!). BPM Supreme offers a great selection of holiday standards. You can search by the category “Holiday” or genre “Christmas”. You can also browse through BPM Supreme’s holiday-themed playlists such as “Christmas”. If you select the “Holiday” category, you will find new releases as well as the most trending holiday songs.
Pay attention to which version of a holiday standard you are playing.
Many traditional holiday songs are performed by a variety of artists, and each version may create a very different feeling. For example, Madonna’s version of “Santa Baby” sounds very different from Eartha Kitt’s. Some clients are very particular about which artist/version of a holiday standard they want to hear, so you should clarify this with them before the event. If you are asked simply to play holiday music at an event, and the client gives you no further details, you can use your own judgment. Is the crowd over 70 or in their 20s? If they’re younger, maybe try the Dimitri Vegas / Like Mike / R3hab EDM version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Clarify with the client beforehand what percentage of the music should be holiday music.
Even though it’s the holidays, your client might want you to play primarily Top 40 music and only throw in a holiday song here or there. Alternatively, they might want you to play only holiday music. Rather than assume what they want you to play, ask beforehand.
Prepare for your New Year’s Eve drop.
Before your gig, clarify with the client if you should announce the countdown. You can also download stand-alone drops to play as the guests count down to the New Year. Here is one place in BPM Supreme’s library where you can find them. Or check out sound packs like this one on BPM Create to add FX or make your own edits. Once the clock strikes midnight, maybe leave a few seconds for the audience to cheer and applaud. Then, “Auld Lang Syne” (traditional), “Happy New Year” (Abba,) and “1999” (Prince) are some popular songs to start the New Year.
Try to throw in some non-denominational songs.
There are many songs written specifically about Christmas, but not everyone celebrates the holiday. If you are spinning any kind of event with a diverse audience, especially a corporate or public event, it is great to include some songs that are about winter, the holiday season in general, or New Year’s Eve. This way, you reach a larger audience. You can also include songs about Hanukkah or Kwanza.
Be careful about when to play very religious songs.
Certain holiday songs may be very religious and shift the mood of the event or alienate secular guests. Very religious songs might be great for family events or those held by religious organizations, but may not work so well in other situations. Use your judgment for when and where to include religious songs.
Keep your holiday playlist family-friendly.
Holiday occasions are often family events with young children, so it’s best to play clean versions of songs unless the client specifies otherwise. Many holiday songs are classic standards so they are clean to begin with, but BPM Supreme also offers clean versions of the most well-known pop and holiday songs.
You can raise your prices.
Since there are many New Year’s Eve parties being thrown at the same time, DJs are often booked well in advance. Some DJs would like to spend the time celebrating with their friends and family instead of DJing. So, it may be hard for a client or venue to find a DJ last minute to work their New Year’s Eve party. The same may be true for any Friday or Saturday during December. Holiday parties are very popular among corporate and private clients, so the demand for DJs increases. Therefore, you can and should charge a higher rate. Never charge your typical gig rate.
Get a little festive with fashion and decor.
Don’t forget to wear a little red or green, and maybe a fashionable sports jacket, sweater or Santa hat. Maybe decorate your table or booth with some lights or ornaments. The possibilities are endless.
Be extra careful about safety.
The holiday season, especially New Year’s Eve, is a time when a lot of people drink and party. On your way to and from your gig, there may be traffic and drunk drivers. Give yourself extra time before the gig to arrive so that you can drive carefully and defensively. Driving home from the gig, you may be tired, but stay alert to erratic or exceptionally slow/fast drivers on the road. While everyone else may be partying to excess with champagne and eggnog, limit your own drinking so that you can drive safely.
Holiday DJ gigs can be a lot of fun and evoke a special sense of magic and community. This is especially true if you prepare yourself well and allow yourself to fully embody the spirit of the season. As a DJ, you can use the power of music to bring even more happiness, love, and joy out of your audiences. It is such a privilege to be in that position, so it’s great to embrace your role as this joy-bearer of the holiday season. If it is OK with the client, try to capture some shots of you DJing or of your crowds celebrating. You can post these on social media and also have these photos for your own memories (as well as DJ website) for years to come.
About the Writer
Anna Awe is a DJ, producer, and singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles, CA. She is passionate about helping DJs and artists use entrepreneurship and digital media to pave their own paths in the music industry.