Creating a Wedding Playlist with DJ Brettly – E119

Creating Wedding Playlists Podcast

Matthew Campbell of My Wedding Songs and DJ Brettly of  Ever After Entertainment chat about creating a wedding playlist and his story of survival!

DJ Brettly; Weddings and Clubs. Currently a resident DJ at several clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin, on several wedding venue preferred lists, Best of La Crosse Winners Circle 2018 – 2023.  From my beginnings at Medusa’s in Chicago to performing at venues all over the midwest, DJ Brettly brings his own style and flair to every one of his events, with a mix of top 40 remixes, house, and EDM.



Show Notes:

  • Remembering Past Weddings
  • DJ Brettly’s Story of Survival
  • Planning the Wedding Playlist with Couples
  • Early Night Playlists
  • Prepping Songs
  • Working Guests to the Dance Floor
  • Trending Songs In Wisconsin
  • Backup Music Plans
  • Organizing Cates
  • Hidden Gems
  • Keeping Up With New Music
  • Tips for Wedding DJs
  • Connect with DJ Brettly

Welcome everybody to the Wedding Songs Podcast. I am Matt Campbell today. I have the privilege of talking to Brettly from Ever After Entertainment based in Wisconsin, but as he will tell you, he is also in Minnesota.

Welcome to the show, Brettly. Thank you for having me. Hey, thanks for being on the show. I really appreciate it to help us talk about creating the wedding playlist. But before we get started on that, can you share with everybody, a little heartwarming or memorable wedding moment?

Remembering Past Weddings

Most definitely. I will say that a majority of my weddings are definitely what you’d call the rager-type part. Part and parcel, it goes being in La Crosse, and I’ll allude to this several times, that La Crosse is kind of the Wild West of Wisconsin. What you can get away with here is definitely not doable in any other part of the state.

I didn’t realize that really until after I’d been living here for a few years, and then COVID really showed the difference. Because once we reopened for COVID in Wisconsin, it was Wednesday, May 23rd, still remember the day, like the back of my hand, because at four o’clock when they lifted the ban here, I got to call it like five minutes after four.

What are you doing? I’m like, we’re partying tonight. Let’s go. But along with that, a lot of my parties are ragers. And there was one point my now ex-girlfriend and I were joking about it from June of 2021 until March of 2022. I saw 18 ambulances at my weddings. And not all of them were from the partying, mind you.

If you’re doing a sparkler send-off, please make sure the area is well-ventilated and your grandparents can breathe. Otherwise, you’re gonna get that fallout. There were some from just, outdoor heat. In Wisconsin, getting, a hundred-degree weather is almost unheard of until the last couple of years.

So, that was a couple of my weddings. But then I’ve had the absolute sheer ragers. Where 35-year-old men are turning the floor into a slip-and-slide with beer and doing the whole thing. When Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like a Woman is the anthem for all the men to rip their shirts off and rush to the dance floor.

So that became kind of my M O or what you will. And now that I look back, it’s like when I’m DJing a wedding. If it doesn’t go that way, I honestly have to ask myself, what have I done wrong? But then brought out something that really changed my entire DJ scope when I DJed a wedding in 2018ish, it was my first wedding year.

I’d been a solo op. I’d left the wedding company left. The security blanket of managing the nightclub here in town and was only DJ. And I’m sure, you know, Wisconsin is, they’re proud of their motorcycles up here. It’s a very big part of the culture. The father of the bride was the six foot six, 350-pound biker with a shaved head, earrings, the beard that every man is envious of and rolls up there with his bang in his vest that afternoon.

Didn’t wear it to the wedding, mind you. But as soon as we got into the dancing portion of it, he was in his tux on the dance floor bawling his eyes out. And I’m watching this manliest of men, he’s just sitting there crying with his daughter. And that totally changed me that day. Not only did it make me become a better DJ, but I understood now that I’m not great with love.

It’s not my thing. Mitch Taylor, for example. Part of the reason he hates my emceeing is because I don’t get emotional like Marbecca will teach you. You can’t emote it out of me. It’s not, it’s not going to happen. But that day really kind of changed my entire outlook on looking at being a wedding DJ as just a job, so to speak, to, Oh, wow, there is so much more involved in this.

From that day, it’s like, I looked at the picture of my daughter in the booth. And I’m like, That’s my daughter. Someday, shh, I’m going to be in this position with my daughter. So when I started thinking about weddings in that day, Is this good enough for my daughter? Am I doing something that is quality enough that I would be happy my daughter received this kind of work from their Entertainment?

I apply that to every wedding I go into now. To this day, when I see father daughter dance, I do kind of well up with tears because I know I’ve only got maybe 10, 15 years at most before my daughter is really at the marrying age. And it’s like, you’re going on 12 now, whereas all the time gone, but understanding, that bride’s father has watched her from the day he held her in his arms until the day he gave her away and understanding what that truly means to everybody involved.

Really changed me. It definitely made me a better parent because then I’m like, wait a minute. Okay. You’re there’s more to it. Not just about the wedding, but the love aspect with your child. Since that day, my daughter and I, our relationship has really become a very close one. Like if you’re at Midwest DJs live, she’s there with me by my side the entire time.

When I did the spinoff a couple of years ago. She was like, dad, if I never have to hear any of those songs again, I’ll be a happy kid. But that was a good set out of you. Thanks, kid. I love you. So when I coupled what I’m doing into everything, I do it all, to make sure my kid is taken care of and apply that same feeling I have for my daughter and understanding to my weddings.

That’s been a big factor in how I deal with things. I love that how you’re talking about the emotion because yeah, there is so much memories. There’s so many, taking back of what got to that date. So I love that.

DJ Brettly’s Story of Survival

Can you talk a little bit more about your company and yourself as a DJ? See, I got lucky enough to start. when I was working at the record exchange in Chicago, I was 15. They let me start early. Cause my dad’s like, go ahead and work. I don’t care. You’re probably going to drop out of high school and need the money. And see with the love thing. My dad was first born, first generation Japanese in America and saw heart mountain internment camp.

So one, he was a very cold individual, warm heart. And I knew he loved me. But showing love was not his thing. He’s like, go work, go do your thing, have fun. And I went to work at the record exchange and they had three locations. One was the Morris Avenue store, which was where I’d been buying all of my music since I was like 12 years old.

Between that, my dad bringing the records home from the jukebox at the bar, I was hooked on music at a very young age. It’s driven my path basically my entire life, but worked at the record exchange. And one day they sent me down to the Belmont store. Someone called him sick. Go work down there. We’ll drive you cool.

And I got to work with Wilbur, who was the main DJ at club 950. At that era, 950 was in the trifecta of the top three goth industrial alternative clubs in Chicago being 950 exit and, Neo. His best friend at the time, Leroy was the video jockey. And one of the managers at the only all ages dance club in Chicago, Medusa’s.

 So me going there, and I was all punk rock at the time, Mohawk, the whole nine yards, but listen to all the other music. They kind of honed me in, got me a little bit more grown up, and then I was hanging out at Medusa’s all the time. Leroy one night was like, I have to leave something really as important as come up.

And guess what? You want to do me a solid and work in the booth tonight? I’m like, well, sure. I’m 17. What 17 year old doesn’t want to DJ at the biggest all ages dance club in the city of Chicago. From there, I did a couple more nights. And then one day he’s like. You just want to do all ages from now on.

I’m like, yes, not a doubt in my mind. Over time, Leroy realized I’d gotten really good. And he’s like, just take over Saturday’s complete. So I did all ages, got a half hour break, did late night. Then occasionally I’d have to work at the other record exchange in Evanston getting to work with one is still, who was one of the goddesses of house DJ Heather out of Chicago.

She had a different mentality on the DJ thing and the music she listened to. So I got turned on the occasional shift. I’d work with her a lot of funk house and soul. So as I was growing up into the DJ thing, I’ve got the alternative thing with Medusa’s and the record shop, her house influence and the jazz influence from the guy that ran the Morris store.

So my musical tastes were everywhere so much so that, I mean, it led me down paths of playing in punk bands, rock bands. And my last band was a bluegrass band for almost 10 years. They really honed me in on the music aspect of it. And when Medusa’s shut down in Chicago, it couldn’t have been another month later, which was both a blessing, but a really bad thing.

I got an offer to DJ on division street in Chicago, which in the late eighties, early nineties was the strip to go party. And in Chicago, the West loop area and corner hadn’t been developed. So you had mothers across the street. I got a job at poets. And from that, I got an occasional night at mother’s occasional night upstairs at rocket.

But I just turned 21 you know, how young, dumb and full of it. Yeah. Like every 21 year old is chasing it, doing everything wrong, not taking anything seriously. It took its better toll on me. And at the same time, when I was like, going on 23, my dad had fallen really sick and he’s like, I need your help.

So I literally at that point had to give up the DJ thing, more or less. Take care of my father went between taking care of my father. Once he passed, I DJ occasionally and play in bands, go back and forth. Until, which, you know, got me in the Vans Warped Tour in 2005 with my old band, got me in a bluegrass band that I loved and played with for 10 years.

Musically speaking, that’s where I learned the most about music theory, not from education, but from live playing with a band that would, rather than call out here, here are your chords. They bring out the Nashville chord chart, one, four, five, T A G, go. So all of that tied in, which has definitely made me a better DJ today because of my understanding for music theory, how to build a set.

And when it comes to quick mixing, if the song is bombing where I can get out of it or work into it. So with all the DJ stuff, when I moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, I was the GM of what’s now called legends and a La Crosse beer house. It was Sawtooth Sam’s and, Coconut Joe’s when I first moved to town.

The owners knew they needed to close both and rebrand. They had a really bad DJ in the Sawtooth side. Part of the reason was, he was a wedding DJ they tried to make into a club DJ. And more often than not, you’re gonna have very limited success with it. There’s very few who, like Nick Spinelli is one of those DJs who gets it.

But that’s one out of, a hundred I can think of off the top of my head. So it came to the conclusion that we were going to ask this DJ, close both venues and completely rebrand.

When I was a GM, one of the DJs, didn’t show up one night and they’re like, it was off school season. So, it was like June and we kind of scale back, don’t have as many people on because UWL is pretty much your typical. College town during the semester. It rages soon as it’s over.

Summer is a ghost town, but they needed a DJ. And the only other person who could had himself tied to the bar schedule. The owners are like, here you go. You’re going in. I’m like, these aren’t turntables. I kind of know how to do this, but the most I DJ prior to that and over the, you know, playing in bands was setting up playlists or using autoplay and auto mix on an app and just putting songs through to keep the bar I was working at going after shows.

So the owner’s son, who was the bartender that night, I’m like, you got to give me a quick run through. He’s like, turntable A, turntable B, crossfader, up and down. Don’t touch anything else. Okay. Then he’s like, and I’m like, give me the top 500 or most played 500 songs on your computer. Two minutes later, he’d done that and I was off to the races.

Amazingly, it wasn’t a train wreck because I knew how to mix by ear. Lo and behold, by January of that year with another DJ issue, they’re like, guess what? You are now the GM and in the booth Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I’m like, Oh, this is going to be great. But they were kind of cool and gave me a couple hours off.

Like once the lunch rush is over, you can leave at three, come back at five, five 30, and you can even wear whatever you’re going to wear to be in the DJ booth, be available for the floor until, I hop in the booth at nine o’clock. So it was tatts. By June of 2017, I’m like, please just fire me.

I don’t want to leave you high and dry, but you’ve got a manager who can take my place. Let me DJ and get me out of the management thing, or just fire me completely. I pushed their hand. I really pushed their hand. And I wanted to get fired then so I could have gone back to Chicago. And a few of my friends were like, Hey, do you want to work at some of these fests?

Or do you want to work at this venue for a few big shows? By all means, I could do that. And with lacrosse’s cost of living, I could have worked, 20 days in Chicago that August and paid everything else through the end of the year. But that didn’t happen. They fired me and I’m like, well, crap, now I’m high and dry.

This is going to be tough. And I looked at my kid and I immediately went, I’m like, I can go book some gigs and use my name from being at the number one club in town and started booking myself out. Went to my daughter because a couple of weeks later, I was interviewing for another GM position. At the time, my daughter was five and I’m like, do you want me to go get another real job or do you want me to DJ?

Yeah. It’d been like two weeks of me DJing all the time. I laid it out to her. I’m like, we could be very broke and very poor. We may be eating ramen pasta. There’ll be no candy or toys. But the trade off is I’m going to be home every day of the week. For most part, when you get home from school, I can pick you up.

We can do things and have our afternoons and Sundays free. My daughter was really keen on, and I’m like, okay, let’s do it. But just so you know, we could be broke. You’re sure. And I’m like, yeah.

There were some real rough times in that patch because I went to work for a wedding DJ company and the owner just, you know, John Lovitz and the wedding singer, that scene when you see the sleazy 1980s, that was everything I didn’t want to be or deal with when I left the club side of it to be a wedding DJ and all of it was embodied in the owner of this company.

It pretty much had a head for it that I’ve done with the wedding company. I’m going to go and do my own thing. How I’m going to do this. I have no idea. So we had to do a couple of wedding expos and since I was still working in his office, I grabbed the couples list from each of the expos Message them all and did what every beginning DJ does when they’re saturating a market.

I undercut everyone. I think the going rate at the time was between 900 and a thousand. I’m like, I will do your entire day for 700. But I knew I needed one feed my daughter and I know it’s a big point of contention among DJs. You shouldn’t be charging so little, you shouldn’t be charging so much.

Everyone’s situation is different. And I had my daughter to take care of first and foremost, so whatever I had to do by Legal means necessary. I was doing, and so I did that for a couple of years and still did the club thing, and I was bouncing around from club to club until I found a home at a legends in Rochester, which later I moved to Dooley’s in Rochester, Minnesota.

And that’s where I met my business partner, Brent. He’d been watching me online, watching me tear up the club scene. I went to DJ at legends in Rochester and Thursday nights went from being nothing to Out doing duallys where I later went on Thursday nights subsequently the manager of duallys is like, we want you at duallys

He would come over every one of my gigs at legends and same with my now business partner, Brent, Brent and I would just talk all night and be like, yeah, that’s cool. We kind of, got to become friends first. And then he approached me, go at the end of 2019. Do you want to do this?

I’m like, and I honestly, because the John Lovett’s taste I had in my mouth. It took me until I want to say after COVID reopening in 2020, where I’m finally like, I trust you enough not to be that guy and not to let me become that guy. So let’s try this out. And it was a win win proposition because since 2020, we’ve now got what, eight DJs in Rochester, seven DJs here in La Crosse.

And it seems that when I’m looking at the Facebook groups, knock on wood, when I’m seeing all the other DJs in this area, still, chiming in for weddings this year on prime dates and most of the other summer dates, we’ve already got our crew booked. What I began to realize is that we’ve kind of taken the market and just saturated and we get everything first and then everybody else has been trickling down to.

So it’s been a very win win scenario. So much so that when Brent brought me to Midwest DJ’s live for the first time, I’m like, wait a minute, I can learn this much. It literally spawned me after the first one on an entire year of watching YouTube gig logs, going to every like your site, you know, for wedding songs, going to Allen Burg, going to watch Nick Spinelli and just oversaturating myself.

And all this education, so to speak. So by the time that Mitch Taylor came down the next year, he laid into me. He’s like, you don’t charge enough. You need to grow a pair. You are the best DJ in your market. And I pay attention the whole nine yards. And I’m like, you’re out of your mind. It’s just me. I’m nothing great.

He’s like, you’re popular here. You are every top nightclub in every city you are in. You have won the best of lacrosse in your market X number of years in a row. You deserve more. And he’s like, I challenge you to be better. Him and my partner said, if we’re wrong, we’ll pay you the difference.

Okay, I’ll do it. So at first I went par with, a hundred bucks over all the Ever After DJs, but I was still offering my really sweet setups. I’m like, I just don’t have the confidence. I’m scared to do this because if I fail, my child suffers. But then Mitch was like, if you succeed. What do you get that?

So I went for it and then I was still like, wait, I’m booked out now and it’s like going into this year and last year. I only had a few Saturdays open in 2023 going to 24. Same with 22. So by bringing Mitch on as our coach and Brent pulling me under his wing, they opened up just a plethora of opportunities.

And an avenue I never ever saw myself walking down because I’m this, 50, almost 51 year old post punk rock, very jaded and cynical about it all. How can I be a good wedding DJ with all they’ve done? It’s like, wow, you guys were spot on. And now, I’m always still dying to learn something.

Like, the more you can feed me, the better. I think exactly what you’re saying. You’re giving kudos to the conferences that are out there , to come out of your little zone that you’re in and to challenge yourself. And I definitely find that even myself, I recently went to MEX as an attendee, just to listen to the speakers.

 Can take those things that I’m learning into my regular business. It’s so important to challenge yourself and maybe, conferences aren’t your thing, then just the connections that you make, yeah, it’s so important. It’s so worthwhile. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for me going to Midwest DJs live for the first time.

I honestly don’t, I am so thankful. I got that opportunity. Cause it did open my eyes to a completely different world of everything. Yeah. It comes back to, you don’t know what you can do until you can see somebody else already doing it. Yeah. It’s incredible.

Planning the Wedding Playlist with Couples

Speaking of weddings, I just want to get more into the playlist creating, you know, talking to your couples, what’s the typical conversation that you have with that’s trying to plan their music.

Well, prior to them even inviting me as their DJ, I almost try to talk them out of booking me, not talk them out, but I really want to get a good feel of what they’re looking for musically from me, in addition to the whole scope of the day, but being a DJ, making sure I have all their musical covered.

When they’re first booking me, the biggest question, what vibe are you looking for with your reception? Because of the club’s ideas yet, most couples are like, we want that at our celebration. Cool. Done. It makes life so much easier for me because I’m not hunting down songs, or trying to come up with ideas to compliment that.

The only other major question I will ask any couple is, Are you looking for anything that’s heavy into one’s genre? If they say country, I will bow out immediately. I’m not a country DJ. The country I play at my weddings I joke with it with couples, if it’s not white girl wasted country, I’m not playing it.

If it doesn’t fall in that category of college party girl or white girl wasted, I don’t even want to touch it. With the exception of maybe Garth Brooks, Sing Along, something like that. Because now I want everybody, arm up together, singing and loving each other. Yeah, there’s a few odds and ends in that, but I definitely don’t try to take anything.

That’s going to be a predominance of the country or a predominance of rock or rap. I know that’s not an Avenue that is conducive to the party Jam so to speak. So with that, I’m very cautious. Now, when we get into the planning stage of it, by the time we’re really talking about it.

They’ve already gone to our portal and entered all their information in, and I get a real good chance to look it over. Then I’ll call them up and, ask them what year’s like, when did they turn 16, when did you graduate high school? And those two things I’m thinking about, you probably got your license when you turned 16.

What were the top charts in that year that you were cruising down, screaming at the top of your lungs with your best friend riding shotgun with you? Same with when you turned 18 or graduated. I graduated. What was popular that June? What were you running out of your graduation to go to the party with with your friends?

What was playing on the radio and that same stroke? Sometimes I will ask them about when they graduated college. Because if they’re not from this area, the reason I asked, I want to know where they went to college. For example, if they went to Iowa, if they went somewhere in Minnesota, if they went here.

Depending what college they went to, I can throw a couple of those college party jams in that I know their teams were about. Knowing the era they went again, knowing that area and years, it gives me something to dip into so I can pinpoint those, must play songs that they didn’t think were must plays.

I’ll also, ask them about concerts they’ve been to, their favorite bands. And a lot of couples are like, these are our favorite bands, but you don’t have to play them at our wedding. They’re too heavy. They’re too this, that, or the other. I’ll even try to delve a little further into that and ask about, what kind of movies do you like?

Are you into pop culture? And one that’s come out a lot is the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Marvel stuff. Because those two soundtracks are awesome. And I can’t tell you, especially when I get folks that are like, we love the Avengers, we love this, that, or the other. Oh, you’re darn right. I am dropping, you know, going back into the yard, that soundtrack or the two of them and figuring out based on their must playlist, Oh yeah, this is going in there.

You’re getting some of that at your wedding. And with other couples, they’ve been like, well, these are the things we’re into. And one couple was like, we’re really into the office and a couple other shows. The office has some killer music in that are definitely wedding applicable. So I went back and looked at the entire score from the entirety of the office.

We had to be about three quarters of the way through. They’re like, you took our most plays. Where did you come up with everything else? I’m like, you actually gave me everything when you said you’re fans of the office. There’s pretty much nothing that isn’t in the office that I haven’t played tonight.

They’re like, Oh wow. And another couple’s called, they’re like, we want to start in the fifties with our music and slowly work our way up. I had a set. After your first dances, we’ll do a couple songs from the fifties jumping into the sixties.

But I also did that through the course of the night while following a BPM curve. So keeping in mind, I want to keep pushing my floor while pushing genres. It was one of my favorite weddings I’ve done in recent years. I don’t get tipped very often, but this couple literally came to a gig and handed me an envelope with 500.

I’m like, are you kidding me? I will delve that far into couples. And let them tell me everything they can. The other thing I will do when I’m prepping, what I’m going to play that night, it’s a last minute thing. But I don’t know how many DJs or entertainers will pay attention to toasts that night.

There was one I did a couple of years back and the dad was like, you came out screaming to Springsteen’s I’m on fire because I had the radio on so about three quarters of the way through the night when it was just family and close friends and I needed a slow song. I’m like, here you go. He just starts bawling and grabs his daughter and brings her to the floor.

But you never know when you’ll catch a hidden gem like that. You’ll hear people like, remember that time we were at the Avril concert. You have just given me three songs I can play right now. And let me think, okay, if you like Avril, you’re going to like Pink, you’re going to like Katy, and all the early 2000s girl anthems that I can blast out.

That’s how I kind of delve into prepping the music for it. I think, for the DJs that are listening, this is great tips and in working with your couples and figuring out how you’re going to plan out the night. It’s so funny.

Early Night Playlists

You mentioned concerts though, because recently I was reading on a board where somebody said that they created a playlist for the dinner and the cocktail hour of concerts. The couples went to during their life together. If they went to Goo Goo Dolls or whoever those bands were, then that’s the music that they played for that background music.

I thought that was That was a fantastic idea that you’re bringing that their personality into the background music. And that helps to make it all unique. And when they tell me stuff like that, a lot of couples be like, you have free reign at social out. So like I was saying, your guardians fans, whatever, isn’t a dance song from those soundtracks.

Let’s throw it in my early night playlist. Let’s take some of the B hits or sing along songs that aren’t. Reception ready that you can play during social hour, make it familiar, tailor your music, just like here. We’re tailoring our outfits and attire at times to our setup, to our lighting, every aspect of the day should be tailored to your couple.

And there are definitely commonalities across the board in every way. You’re going to run into that, but it’s what’s not common that you need to enhance and go with. That will bring out just, Oh, that guy’s a genius. Where’d you think of playing that? Those hidden gems that, people don’t think of are what can make or break a night or get you the five star review.

Songs we’d forgotten about. That’s when crafting your playlist is just important. Totally agree.

Prepping Songs

When you are planning your playlist about how many songs are you having prepared before the night begins? It depends on what they give me for their must plays and their do not plays.

If they send out RSVPs with requests. My typical, you must play, I get about 20 songs from my couple. And then with that, I’ll say, Hey, if you’ve got a Spotify links, you can send me, send me those too. So I can see what you listen to day to day, but then I will kind of roughly.

Put together with, our conversation, start dragging and dropping everything into that crate with their must plays. And that’s usually like 30 to 50. So, and from there, I will leave it at that and not try to add too much. So I have that one crate of what I must play then I have my wedding hits crate, which is about a thousand songs and there are some double edits.

The quick edit of this acapella intro of this. So I can use the same song in different parts of the night when it comes up. And then I have, a complimentary clean crate, which is not wedding music, but it’s stuff I know that I’ve played at a wedding before that I should have the clean version too, or any of the current charts, like rich baby daddy from Drake, I know it’s going to be getting played all summer long.

Just like Texas hold them from Beyonce. I know I need those, but they’re not going to stay in my wedding crate forever. So let’s just put them in the clean crate. That’s kind of attached to the wedding. And of that, my typical night and play for a three to four hour set, I’m averaging about 250 songs, but I do quick mix up majority of the night.

No one wants to hear all three and a half minutes of celebration or Whitney’s want to dance with somebody. Even the older folks now are getting accustomed to hearing a verse in a chorus, two in a chorus. And they’re done with it. I try to push that even harder where I’m playing 30 seconds of a song here, maybe a verse and a chorus, like certain songs.

I know I can’t do that too. If it’s a slow song, a sing along, like, don’t stop believing want it that way. No, we’re not cutting those short because I want those songs to get the full impact. I want you to do the slow dance. Breathe for a second and let me work the floor back up again. This is something that mitch taylor my business partner are like, why are you playing?

Yeah at 8 45 That’s why people are dropping off on your dance floors. You’re starting them hard before 9 10 o’clock and pushing them for two and a half hours Point well taken which definitely changed how I format and plan my sets out now But I want the impact of every song I play to be a part of their night when you’re playing man, I feel like a woman.

You can’t use an intro at it because everybody knows the intro horn, or if you’re playing one, two step, if you don’t play the ladies and gentlemen, Oh, that’s what’s playing now. No, I want the full impact of every part of the song that’s applicable. And some, yeah, you can just quick mix in and out of that.

You don’t need to do that too. And it’s definitely curating the night based on that and their taste. So, yeah, I definitely will. Go into my wedding crate and as the night goes, I will start dragging songs into the must play list that they’ve given me because I know where we’re at and I know what’s working and I’ll build out from it and I could, if I’m totally wrong, I have no qualms about dropping a slow song and being like, okay, I’m completely off base here right now.

Working Guests to the Dance Floor

Let’s, for example, if the crowd looks a little older, I’ll drop wonderful night from Clapton. How many of the over 50 crowd have made their way back out of the dance floor? How many of the young crowd have departed? Or if I put Sheeran perfect on her thinking out loud, everyone knows that both young and old, how many people are coming back or are they just not dancers and then coming out of that?

Fine. I’ll do it. Let’s throw on a group participation song of some kind, if I’m allowed to. And then if no one is really going for it, either a, they’re not drunk enough and still want to commiserate and talk. And I will back off. I will play a credible set, but now I’m gearing for them to get loosened up a little bit more after dinner and then start taking stabs at it as we go through the course of the night.

So like one night it was, this is how we do it for Montel. What you guys like this. I have played every other song from that era and you haven’t jumped, but it’s this one. Okay. You just can’t plan or you know predict that but once you find it going with it and I guess Exploiting that weakness, so to speak, as I was taught as a martial artist.

Once you figure it, you keep going with it and trying to base everything thereafter on that. And yeah, I do try to push away from that as we get further into the night by all means. So when you’re planning your set, I’m just trying to think of you have your crates.

Organizing Cates

Are you putting them in order of BPMs or the flow of the night? So that way you can pick it out at any time. I’m very BPM based when I mix because it leads to smoother transitions, unless you’re trolling, unless you’re doing like the Nick Spinelli, where he plays Turn Down for What into Dancing Queen. When you can find cute little ways like that to jump up or play the up down gain.

And this is what I tell every DJ I train for the company. The only way you can be a good DJ is you need to know every track you’re playing inside and out, how it starts, how it stops, where you can mix out of it, what part of the song you need. For example, if I want to play the country game for a little while, but I want to play Shania cause it ends on the man.

I feel like woman, you can echo that out. I’ll drop fishing in the dark because it comes in on a guitar intro, or if I want to get away from the country thing, I know outcast. Hey, yeah. Has that one, two, three, four pickup. With that, and what they’ve done for some of the pioneer stuff, you can play with the keys on that and do like one, one, one, one, and do some cute transitions on acapella to work your way into the song.

I definitely try to mix by BPM, but if it’s not flowing the way I want it to, I’ll play the up down game until I find my groove with that. It’s, and this is something I tell all the DJs I train. When you’re starting your dance floor, it is kind of like dating that the first couple songs you’re playing, you are completely on your toes, holding back, being very well reserved, just like on a date.

As you get 10, 15, 20 minutes into the night, you’re into the courtship period. But now that you have the idea, let’s see how far you can get out there with them. So you can hit the home run later, so to speak. And all my teachers are like, that’s a really twisted but good way to look at it.

I’m like, you’re dating somebody, the first couple dates you’re with somebody, you are on your absolute best behavior. Just like you’re trying to play the best possible song. Everyone you drop the first few minutes until you figure each other out. Love it.

Trending Songs In Wisconsin

When you are planning your sets for the people that aren’t in your area, are there any hits that are just going off the hook that you know you can play?

For weddings, the new Beyonce song. I still can’t believe Texas Hold’em is a banger. I played it at weddings and I played it at, the college club. I’m like, who would have thought that this would be a banger? Or, obviously last night from Morgan Wallen and even at weddings, even though the material is questionable.

I can’t think of a wedding that was in the country that hasn’t told me not to play. And then, you know, obviously some of the newer charts that come and go like SkeeYee, rich baby daddy, I’m playing those you wouldn’t think I’d be playing them at weddings, but a lot of the couples that want me at their weddings are asking for that.

And hand in hand with that, I’ve gotten a lot of the EDM housey kind of weddings. And what’s really been coming sudden death, Riz. Excision and Rez have all been just dominating any EDM playlist I get. And I’ve done, I want to say at least 15 of them last year. The one I’m doing on Saturday, they sent me their playlist and I’m like, Oh, you really don’t want the old folks dancing.

They’re like, they’re not going to. Me and our, us and our friends are going to do our thing. The old folks can sit and watch and maybe play a slow song for them. I’m like, okay, we’re doing this. That’s definitely where I am up here. I mean, it’s a very bland market., Spotify songs that get white people turnt that basically explains what we do up here.

There’s not much going in any other direction with it. Even the EDM stuff here, we play up here at the EDM club has to be heavily top 40 based. Near the end of like the last 20 minutes of the night when they’re good and looted. I’ll go into some heavy dubstep and have a little fun. A couple of DJs I’ve worked with will do the same when they’re there, but you can’t go at it all night.

They’re not into it. You have to keep it very college friendly with what you do. When you’re planning your playlist, we’re talking about, packing the dance floor, you’re having all these ragers. Do you have any backup plans? for sets when people kind of clear the dance floor and you’re like, Oh, like we were talking about, Oh,Montel Jordan got them back on the dance floor.

Backup Music Plans

How do you work your backup plans? My number one backup is I will always fall to a slow song. I like to call it. If nothing’s working, reset your floor or if it’s kind of working, but you need a cohesion between everyone. Reset your floor, play a slow song and judge who came out.

And then you have to make that quick decision. What is going to keep these people out there? Be it if it’s mostly women who have dragged their boyfriends out there or their husbands go with, Wannabe, and always play to the women first. Cause women like the music that you’re using is very top based.

Very bubblegum y, bounce your head. I’m certainly not going to go play my neck, my back out the gate after that. Although there was one wedding I DJ’d where the bride was like, that is the first song you’re playing after our spotlight dances, I want my mom to lead. I’m like, you’re sure? She’s like, yes, you are doing it.

And as soon as she heard all you ladies pop, her mom got up and walked out. After that, there wasn’t really much dirty stuff to play thereafter, but she wanted her mom out I don’t know, but that worked, I definitely tried to play girl pop driven pop music. To always kick off after a slow song, after the spotlights, after tosses, when they come up, it just seems like the right play.

And then if it’s really not working, one, I’ll go talk to the couple and say, Hey, you’ve 86, 25 songs. And I know of these three or four of these may help me work your dance floor. You care if I play it 99 percent of the time, they’re like, yeah, do it. And then I’ll also say in that same stroke, you’ve been talking all night.

Why the dance floor a little, for a little while, get your friends out here with I will coach them prior to the day of, but, just like you coach somebody with a microphone. They’re going to forget. I let them know that the party follows you. Absolutely. Where the women are, the guys will follow for sure. Exactly. That’s why bars have ladies nights.

Hidden Gems

Every DJ knows the top 100 most popular songs. Are there any hidden gems that you’re seeing out there that’s working on your dance floors? I wouldn’t say hidden gems. Because I do the club thing, my opinion is going to be slightly jaded on that. because what I’m playing as club bangers might be hidden gems at weddings.

I’m just not sure. The last time I actually went to a wedding I wasn’t DJing at was in 2009, maybe 2008. So I don’t know necessarily what would be a hidden gem at a wedding. When I started, a lot of people weren’t into like Taylor for a while. Like, you know, she didn’t have the insurgent she’s had the last couple years.

 So a few years ago, me dropping, you know, a Taylor track at a wedding was, Oh, wow, he’s playing this. And I started seeing that era of boy girl pop was kind of like when I start, I dip into the most nowadays, both at weddings and clubs, because that seems to be what everybody’s really into.

I can even play since you’ve been gone from Kelly at a wedding and the entire wedding party is screaming it. , it might be a lot of the weddings I’m getting personally, but the age group is, who are getting married the, 2010s they’re 25 now they were 10, 15 years old.

Those are their glory days of their youth music. So that’s kind of where I dip and do for a lot of my sets. Whereas the eighties and nineties, I barely even touch anymore. You might get like from the nineties, you might get DMX, maybe shaggy, it wasn’t me and a couple others, but most of my sets are two thousands and up with, you know, like the exception of the true classics, like September from EWF.

Anything from ABBA, that kind of stuff. But most of my weddings are two thousands and up. So that might be the hidden gem that people aren’t seeing is going to the golden age of EDM, what they call where clarity had just come out. And that’s another big thing at my weddings, that era of EDM, I can play clarity, titanium, don’t you worry, child, all of that.

And it will keep my dance floor going. So that might be the gem that people are missing nowadays. And maybe it’s just cause I see things differently based on my gigs compared to weddings. Well, and I think that, we say this over and over, it depends on where you’re located. a wedding in Wisconsin, it’s not going to be the same as a wedding in Colorado or a wedding in LA.

It’s just not going to be even a wedding from me going from lacrosse to Madison is night and day. Yeah. Cause being the big city, the capital also, whereas I’m generally told not to play any Motown up here. Whereas I go down to Madison. Hey, I’m at it buddy. And you can play soul and R& B.

And the last wedding I did, it turned out to be a very East coast style wedding where I just jokingly threw on my girl to start off social hour and everybody flocked the dance floor. I’m like, Oh, we’re doing this. Cool. And got everybody sat down for dinner, forgot to cut the cake. They started having cake and I think I played a Bill Withers song, which wasn’t a banger, but everybody’s like, all right, going out.

I’m like, everybody get out of the way. It’s time for the first dance. Cause there was no other way for me to get them to leave the floor, but in lacrosse, that doesn’t happen. It’s the old traditional Midwest.

Don’t touch the dance floor until the first dance, unless there’s kids, if there’s kids, I will burn them out. So I’d give the parents a break, let them all sit in front of me, run around in circles for 20 minutes. We can go have dinner after that. In your area, then I know polka is very popular in Wisconsin.

Are you playing any polka music? Barely really one out of 25, but because the age group I’m getting, they don’t want it. And most don’t want group like Cupid cha cha. They don’t want any of the, the kitschy cliche wedding, yesteryear wedding stuff anymore. They’re not into it. Interesting. So then it sounds like you’re playing, like you said, a lot of the newer music.

Keeping Up With New Music

How are you keeping up with the current trends in music ? I’m a geek. I spend at least one eight hour day every week going through billboards, going to Spotify, looking at all the TikTok charts. Going to Shazam, seeing the most Shazam charts, songs in the nation and then in certain areas that are more applicable to me.

I have a whole list of where I look, so I can know I’m not missing anything. Because you don’t know, like Apple music has something different than Spotify does than billboard. So there might be one track that’s not between the two of them. And that could be the difference of, an extra banger on my dance floor or seeming average.

And along with that, I’m pretty religious. Like if the charts are all the same, like they haven’t moved like over the Christmas holiday, they’re stagnant. You have all the Christmas charts head back into billboard and all across all the other charts. I’ll take that month and really delve backwards and I’ll pick a year and go through the entire year’s charts week by week to see if Oh, you should be playing that.

And this year I decided it was 2003 and I got through 2008 this year of going back and just going week by week. And I think I may have found like 20 songs, like forgot about that. And I’m like, I’m glad you went and did that because the kids are going bonkers for this and hidden Gem was MKTO, classic.

I never pictured that as a wedding song necessarily. I thought it was just, 11, 10 30 before we’re really bumping into a college bar. Ooh, girl, you’re shy. And, you know, getting that little groove on. I’m like, let’s try it one day. I’m like, oh, wow. Everybody’s back out here. Wow.

Okay. And that got into my wedding rotation. So it’s not your typical wedding song, but yeah, it works. I think it’s so important because especially with. The age group of the couples that you have to know what’s trending right now, just to be seen as a DJ that has the quote unquote, it factor, an example is murder on the dance floor.

That’s been going hot for just, you know, Since Saltburn was released. Yeah. And if you’re not including that in your mix, then they’re, they may think less of you because it is trending so high right now. And it’s those ones, especially because I like to be in the one 20 to one 30 range as long as I can.

It comes in at one 16. Yeah. I’m bumping it. You’re, you’re playing at 120 to 125 period. And there’s a lot of songs I do that with, but yeah, I’m definitely seeing that. And it’s definitely in my club gigs as well cause it was charting on billboard, but now it’s only showing up on Tik TOK.

So you have to pay attention to all these mediums to find the right stuff. And not only that, yeah, you might download it, but listen to it. We’re really listened to it. So you can figure out how to quit mix it first off, or second, this version, the real version isn’t great, but you want to play it. So go dig.

And one of the record pulls you’re in and find the version that fits what you’re doing. Because I have that gamut of college club, dance club, the occasional, town bar and weddings, I am really delving into my music. So an eight hour day every Thursday or every Wednesday isn’t unheard of for me, but it keeps my sets.

Younger, fresher and doing what they’re supposed to. Cause I don’t want to go to any gig and become stale. It’s you’re not, you’re wasting everybody’s time by doing, I love that so much. It’s, it goes back to even watching the award shows and, knowing what songs are getting the awards or just being up for the awards, especially the brand new artists, we’re in music every single day and the best new artists.

I may know two of the five. Yeah, it’s crazy. I know the song title, but artists, I’ll forget who it is half the time. My daughter will laugh. She’s like, yeah, okay. That’s that’s cool, dad. And my daughter is also I’m in a super, super fortunate position. I have an 11 going on 12 year old girl.

So when I’m listening to new tracks or I want to go and, kind of mix a little bit, I have a deck in my downstairs.

And this is where I do all my work up here, but I’ll go downstairs, listen to the music while she’s in the house, she’ll be like, no dad, that version, no dad. That’s cringe. Hey dad, if you’re not playing that, you should be. So having a kid that, and there’s some, she’s wrong on because of the seven year age difference between college and her.

But 90, 95 percent of the time, my kids spot on. So I’ve got, the brain of the kid to really help me hone in on some of it too. I love it. that’s definitely advantage that those of us who don’t have kids, just kind of close things out.

Tips for Wedding DJs

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our listeners that we didn’t cover today? I don’t think so. My biggest factor about being a wedding DJ and doing it. Nowadays, as opposed to when I, started in this market, because I’d done weddings in the eighties, you know, like the nineties and two thousands, but not many, maybe a handful because I was club DJ, making sure that you, when anybody steps forward to be a wedding DJ or DJ, someone’s wedding, you understand what it all encompasses.

It’s not just playing music. It’s not just being an MC. But you’re there to help curate the entire day and moments of love, happiness, sorrow, joy. Everybody at the celebration is going to walk away with and hopefully remember for the rest of their lives. And so like when I’m planning my sets, like I was mentioning, I try to make sure that everybody from the baby, the toddler to get out with baby shark to the 90 year old grandpa who will only dance that one slow song.

I want everybody who came to celebrate with my couples to walk away feeling like they celebrated and have that all encompassing joy that everybody should have when they leave their reception. I truly hope that if somebody’s listening to this, this, goes like a light bulb in their head and goes, Whoa, wait a minute.

And they can apply that to their couples to be better for them. I think that’s a great way to close things out.

Connect with DJ Brettly

Brettly, where can people follow along with you and contact you? Well, I’m on all the socials as DJ Brettly, Facebook, Instagram, Tik TOK, my website’s for weddings Ever After Entertainment.

And that’s my parent company for all the weddings I do and some of the special events. I love it. Thank you, Brettly, for being on the show today. Stay tuned for next week for with another episode of the wedding songs podcast with an interview with another wedding pro. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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