Planning and Playlists with a local DJ
By Kaitlyn Murray
We all have that one friend who has said “Don’t bother hiring a professional, I’ll just put on a playlist and we’ll be good for the night”. But after chatting with Matt Ezyk, owner of L&M Entertainment, it’s clear that there is so much to DJing than just pressing a play button – especially when it comes to wedding receptions. Curious as to what else his work might entail? Then listen up.
How did you get into this business in the first place?
I started when I was in high school so I’ve been DJing for about twenty years. I did my own homecoming senior year and my own prom so it was pretty interesting. Not too many people get an opportunity to do that. But I didn’t have quite the traditional prom experience. If it had been prom nowadays, in 2016, I could have just put on a playlist and left – but back then I had to actively change everything. You played a song and then you had to change the disc. I started doing it back then on CDs and turntables and then about 13 years ago I started doing more event DJing – weddings and parties and the like – and it just evolved from that.
What do you wish clients knew about the work that you do?
It’s not just music. A lot of people come in and think “I’m going to pay this guy and he’s going to lay music and that’s it”. Music dictates the whole night (or day). I build timelines with the couples so that everybody that’s working the wedding that day knows and understands what I am doing with the music. If I start playing more upbeat music, that’s going to be the dance portion of the night. Music dictates all of that. So I not only help them choose music but I help them actively manage everything.
I just started doing that from experience. I found that a lot of times [the event] becomes a cluster otherwise. If no one’s managing it, no one knows what’s going on or when to do certain things.
It’s critical. For example, I always let the photographers know when I’m planning to play the couple’s first song or the parent dances so they can get their cameras out ahead of time and capture the moment.
How do you know which songs to play?
Most DJs probably do this nowadays, but I have an online planning tool where couples can go and search my music library for potential songs. I do it as a sort of stoplight signal. Green means “I like this, definitely play it.” Yellow means “I like it, play it if you can.” And red means “No, I hate this, do not play this song.” I often find that if they can give me twenty to thirty different songs that they like and then maybe a dozen or a half dozen that they don’t, that will give me a good foundation to go off of.
So how do you decide the rest?
When I’m DJing – I don’t choose music just based on genre, I also choose tracks based on other attributes like BPM (beats per minute). If I’m playing a song that’s 130 BPM and the dance floor’s packed, I’m going to try and mix a similar song in with a similar BPM. That way it’s seamless and everybody keeps dancing. A lot of modern dance songs are 120, 125 or 130 BPM, so it’s fun to sync them up and mix them in. You never want dead air at a party.
What else do you do to prepare before a wedding?
When I prep for a wedding I’ll make a playlist of all the songs that I have to play [based on the bride and grooms’ choices] and that’s it. I used to sit and rack my brain and say, “I need to build this playlist for the whole night. I have to have a plan.” But I’ve found that when I get to an event and start going… it changes. I read the crowd, I get a feel for the atmosphere. And I play songs based on that.
That’s really the core reason people hire DJs nowadays. That atmosphere building, dance floor management… You can’t achieve all of that by just making a structured, night-long playlist.
What sort of questions do you get asked most by your clients?
Ill often get asked, “So, first dance, what do you recommend?” That kind of stuff.
Well, we went ahead and asked the same. For any of you that unsure of where to begin when it comes to selecting your “must-play” tracks, Matt has generously put together three playlists for your consideration. Below you will find his top suggestions for bridal processional songs, first dance songs and even ten of the best dance floor energizers.
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