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Making a Great Playlist: Interview with DJ Mister Joshua
Hiring a professional DJ can help set an event’s mood. Read on for expert advice on what makes a great playlist.
A DJ since 2001, Joshua P. Ferguson—known by Mister Joshua behind the table—slings songs at several Chicago bars as well as weddings, in-store events, and corporate parties. We asked him about how he crafts his playlists to set the ideal mood for every event.
Know your crowd. The songs that work at the bar at 2 a.m. won't be the ones to open a wedding. At a hosted event, Mister Joshua begins by inquiring about the ideal genres or energy level. Then he asks the hosts the key question: what they absolutely don't want to be played. "Usually they can articulate that really well."
Fine-tune an existing playlist. Once he has a feel for the event, Mister Joshua draws from a trove of playlists separated by genre, mood, and decade, adding in new tracks based on what he’s learned from the host. "I have playlists that have 1,700 songs in them. The idea is to have a bunch of different stuff at your fingertips that will fit in with the night or the venue."
Don’t be afraid to change it up. Although he performs with a master playlist in front of him, Mister Joshua always plans ahead, lining up two to three songs in his head in case he needs to adjust on the fly. That said, he’s a little more rigid with the first and last songs. “To start, I always pick something with a nice intro that’ll set the mood. I do the same with the close, but the opposite—something with an easy ending that settles into ambiance.”
Pacing is important. Choosing the right song for the moment involves thinking about the night’s flow. "If you get too amped up too early, then you’ve got to keep that pace for the next three to four hours. It’ll get monotonous, it’ll get boring for the people there, and you’ll just create a one-note set." A good set should be like a story, with "an ebb and flow—a beginning, middle, and end."
Leave the audience wanting more. In the end, a great playlist's job is simple: to Mister Joshua, it's about "taking people through a couple of hours of music that makes them want to stay, listen, drink, dance, laugh, and hopefully get bummed out when your last song ends."