DJ Iron Mike Bacon of Ambient DJs and Events and Matthew Campbell of My Wedding Songs sit down and chat about quick mixing at weddings.
Podcast episode includes:
- Memorable Wedding Moments
- About DJ Iron Mike and Ambient DJs
- What is Quick Mixing
- Is Quick Mixing Request at Weddings?
- Mixing styles through wedding reception
- How many songs are played during a wedding with quick mixing?
- Is TikTok influencing quick mixing?
- Slow songs at receptions
- Dance sets during receptions
- Quick Mixing needed?
- Tips for couples planning wedding music
- Contact DJ Iron Mike NJ
Welcome everybody to the Wedding Songs Podcast. I am Matthew Campbell. Today we’re going to be talking about mixing at weddings. Today’s guest to help me along with the topic is Mike Bacon from Ambient DJs. Welcome Mike. How are you doing, Matt? Good. Great to meet you and talk to you. Awesome. I’m so happy you’re here to help me along in this conversation about ways that DJs are mixing today and in particular yourself.
Memorable Wedding Moments
So just to get started, can you give me some examples, or one example is fine, of the most memorable wedding moment? You know, off the top of my head, I would say that it happened at my own wedding, and this is good advice for other DJs who haven’t gotten married yet, or they’re about to be married, I had DJ Demand, Jason Cohen, DJ me and my wife’s wedding in September 2016.
One of the things he told me in the planning was you should do a set and I said, no, no, it’s that’s crazy because we all know how quickly a wedding can go. I just felt like it was a little selfish on my part to, do a set at my own wedding and it would be taking away time, from me and my wife.
He said, just do 15 minutes. I think 15 minutes would be good. And I brought it up to my wife and I said, what do you think about me doing a set? Jason suggested it and she goes, What, like an hour? I said, no, 15 minutes. And she said, oh, yeah, that’s, that’s fine. Totally cool. So fast forward to the wedding.
I started to walk on the stage. This is at Hamilton Manor, Yardville, New Jersey. And, I started to walk on the stage. I could feel the rush of the crowd because they realized that I didn’t tell anybody I was going to do it. but once I got up there and started to touch the turntables, the reaction was one of the greatest reactions I’ve ever heard.
You know, I did a pretty basic set. I didn’t want to go too crazy. Didn’t want to take too many risks, at my own wedding. I want to say I played, Hip Hop Hooray by Naughty By Nature. This Is How We Do It. Montel Jordan. Be Faithful, Fatman Scoop, Crooklyn Clan, and Black Sheep, The Choice Is Yours.
There might have been a jump around in there or something, but that was like, the focus of the set. And, yeah, I think that’s an all-time great wedding moment.
Can I give you another just another came up. Absolutely. I did a wedding in Harvard, Mass. I want to say this was 2017. I might be off by a year, for the sister of a friend and, you know, an awesome couple.
Really nice. I go up there it was just one of those days where you’re, I always feel like I’m, I’m good, but you can always pick apart your set and criticize yourself. You’re kind of like your own worst critic., But this day I’ll say this day I was, I was on. there was nothing I would change about any moment of that, that day,
The theme of their wedding was Love Supreme by John Coltrane. I’m not as familiar with Coltrane, not a huge old-school jazz guy, but I thought let me put this on before the couple walks into the room when they do the You know Sometimes venues will have the couple do a walk-through to see what the room looks like before everything starts And they brought him in and Coltrane was playing and they just they had the biggest smile on her face And she’s like Coltrane’s playing.
All right, and everything went great from start to finish It was as good of a wedding as you could ever have The crowd was great, my mixing was on point, the song selection on point, and everything was great. I had traveled from Hamilton, New Jersey with my wife to go there. This was a time when if I was traveling far, I would bring her with me.
Now she usually stays home with the kids, but at this point, we were still doing the traveling thing. She stayed overnight and the next day we went to go get breakfast they were having a brunch breakfast thing for all the wedding guests and we were invited. I said, Oh, yeah, we can go over there.
And she was like, can you just be me and you? I don’t really know everybody. don’t feel that comfortable. I was like, okay, yeah, that makes sense. So we went to the other side of the restaurant. We had our own just me and her breakfast. And we finished up and we’re getting ready to leave passing near the area where they’re going to have their brunch or they’re already having it.
I said, you know, I think I should just at least say goodbye before we leave. She said, yeah, that’s cool. Let’s let’s go in. So, I walk in with my wife and we’re walking into this area start to see people looking up and you start to hear, and it’s this roar, this crazy reaction, and a standing ovation and I’m looking behind me to see if maybe the couple had walked in.
But it was for me, and it was one of the coolest moments. She was turning red. She didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect it. But it spoke to how good of a job I had done. And I think about that every now and then. So that’s a great moment for me.
Well, I think that the point that you’re hitting on is you surpassed their expectations. You gave them what they wanted and then 10 X that. So I think that appreciation just tells you that you didn’t play what you wanted to hear. You played what they wanted to hear. Absolutely. Yeah. That you hit it on the head.
About DJ Iron Mike and Ambient DJs
Before we go any further, why don’t you tell me a little bit about you and your company and deejaying weddings? Definitely. I’ve been with Ambient DJs since 2007, I had sworn off DJing weddings before I joined. It just wasn’t my bag as a youngster. I was probably about 25 at the time. I just wanted to do college events, clubs, bars, whatever, because my experience with other companies wasn’t so great.
They had a lot of forced routines. The mixing was very repetitive. You know, you would go to one wedding one week and then the next. They would play pretty much the same exact set. And I’m one that’s okay with having some routine. And having some go-to, sets where we’re not always going to have the most original set every single week, but it was very, copy and paste and I felt.
Like this one couple was not this couple and this that couple is not another, they’re all very different and there’s no way they would like the same exact thing. So, I felt like at that time weddings were just different in that way. Long story short, it was winter DJ work that was kind of slowing down.
I was doing construction on the side. It was miserable. I said, you know what? I got to find a company. It had been a couple of years since I’d been with the company at that point, so I felt maybe I was ready for it. Let’s, let’s see what, what we got. And, I looked up companies on Craigslist and this is when Craigslist was much more reputable than I, I don’t even know what it looks like today.
So I found, found Greg. We met up and we just clicked. He gave me the idea. The notion that I was going to be able to be myself as a DJ, but then also, but still adhere to the structure and the way weddings work, with our company. And it was, it was a really good fit. We’ve just been growing and getting better every single year. We have a great team of DJs and photo booth operators. We do that as well. But weddings are our focus and it’s us, it’s our bread and butter. When you say New Jersey, because I know there’s a big difference between North Jersey and South Jersey, and I think you guys are more central is there a specific area that you guys target?
Central Jersey exists and we are in the center of it. I would say central Jersey is our target, but we definitely are willing to work in the north and south and do so. That’s not uncommon. But, yeah, our main area would be the central Jersey. We do events in PA.
We do events in New York. For me, you know, I mentioned Harvard mess. If it makes sense, I will go literally anywhere. I drove the D. J. wedding in Boulder, Colorado in 2022. We have our focus area. But, if the terms of the wedding make sense, then I will do it. I was just curious because I know some DJs focus on the North South and Central, and I wasn’t sure what your company does.
What is Quick Mixing
So let’s go ahead and get started on the main topic. Can you tell everybody a little bit about what quick mixing is? Sure. so quick mixing in a nutshell is playing excerpts or smaller portions or the meat of songs and moving on from one to the next. Sometimes it might just be the chorus or the hook A lot of times it’s one verse, chorus, and then you mix it out. But essentially, it’s cutting down the amount of songs you’re playing, due to many reasons. Some would say attention deficit, with younger crowds in particular. If you go back, to the seventies, the longer versions of songs were heavily embraced at parties.
I’ve heard stories from other DJs or other people who attended clubs or different parties, and they love talking about how you could play, not just Knee Deep by, Funkadelic and let it run from start to finish and it’s a 17-and-a-half-minute song. Or, things like Rapper’s Delight, the long version.
Now, some DJs myself included, will play certain songs for about 30 to 45 seconds and keep it moving. I appreciate the answer.
Is Quick Mixing Request at Weddings?
Speaking of the quick mixing at weddings, do brides request it?
If someone were to come to me directly. And ask for me to DJ their wedding I would just run everything through our company through the contract and everything so most couples that book me either expect it or Know that that’s part of how I normally play if they’re looking for the DJ Iron Mike club style of mixing at their wedding, which a lot are. Sometimes I’ll receive bookings directly from Greg or leads that we might get from WeddingWire or The Knot, leads where they haven’t necessarily heard of me or me mix before they decided to book.
And what I’ve seen in the past year is a good handful of couples that wrote in their notes under pet peeves were DJs that don’t let the songs play out. I thought that was interesting so what I’ve done with that information is I’ve learned to adapt and you figure out what the couple Enjoys what they like what their crowd likes And what I say I’m a hardcore quick mixer the answer is no.
There are some that No matter what they’re going to play the quickest they’re going to get in and out of every single song. My strategy is to get the most value out of every song. There are some songs out there that are worth playing out. Bohemian Rhapsody. Would you ever cut that short for any reason?
Unless everybody left the dance floor, which rarely ever happens. Even songs like Love Shack, September by Earth, Wind Fire. there are songs where people wait for specific parts. I’ve been known to cue points on Serato DJ Pro. The bridges to songs, because I feel like the bridges are great parts.
It’s like that extra layer. Even in today’s, or should I say recent pop music. Beyonce, even Pitbull has some bridges that people are familiar with and they want to chant or they want to sing. And if you skip that part, you’re missing out on some good quality, stuff there.
That goes right into a statement that I want to make about how quick mixing is a true talent. Not everybody can do it. And there’s so much preparation that goes into it. Like you said, the Q points and knowing what parts of songs that I think maybe a lot of couples don’t realize the amount of work and talent that goes into it.
That if you’re going to have that type of wedding, it really does take somebody that’s skilled and knows what they’re doing. Agreed.
Mixing styles through wedding reception
As a wedding DJ, what mixing styles are you using throughout a wedding reception? Like the cocktail hour, dinner, dancing.
Are you doing quick mixing during the whole wedding reception? If I could. I would, usually with a cocktail hour, we’ll set a playlist, especially if it’s in another room, which is 9 times out of 10. For dinner. Yeah, I love mixing during dinner because you can get in some good songs that you wouldn’t normally play during peak hour or in your 1st dance set. yoU could still mix those in the way you would a regular set.
And the same concept, you’re mixing in the key points of the song. I would say I definitely let songs during dinner play out a little bit more, but not all the way through. The same goes for walking in. which I feel has become an underrated portion of weddings. when the door is open when the guests are walking into the ballroom or the main reception area going back to, my friend, Jason Cohen, DJ Demand.
We had a great conversation years ago where we were talking about that and the old way of doing things was mostly you would usually have something like Sinatra. Dean Martin played while guests were working and walking into the room and it didn’t really match the energy from where you’re about to go.
So, say, you got summer wind playing and then all of a sudden you turn it down. You’re ready to do your intros and you have all this energy. All right, who’s here, right? Do you know who’s ready to party or what have you? Make some noise if you’re ready to meet the bride and groom.
However, you want to say. To go from that to this it just didn’t seem right. So we started talking about songs that make sense for walking in as long as you maybe won’t play during the course of the night, but they work for here and you can gauge or get a good feel for how people are going to party.
Playing something like I Can’t Wait by Nu Shoes or Genius Love TomTom Club, Lionel Richie, All Night Long, stuff like that, even some newer stuff that maybe didn’t blow up, like Leon Bridges, he’s got a good one that I use, ILY by Surf Mesa, stuff like that, Sunday’s Best, Surfaces, you can see people kind of moving and bouncing and, you know, doing a little move and, you can feel the energy, if that makes sense.
You can get a good idea of where things might go. We’re speaking the same language. I, I totally agree. Let’s get away from all of that stuff to exactly what you’re saying. It’s new times. Let’s play some upbeat music. This is a wedding. This is a celebration. Let’s. That’s a party, not put people to sleep, as they say.
How many songs are played during a wedding with quick mixing?
Yes. I have to ask you then, looking back on my days of DJing, I could say, okay, the average song was about two and a half minutes. Now you’re saying, okay, the song might be 30 seconds to a minute. How many more songs you must be playing must be an incredible amount and the knowledge you must have of what songs go together.
Can you speak on that of just the number of songs that are played during a wedding? Yeah, I would say the old way or the way I used to do things, I would estimate that you would do about 20 songs per hour, right? If you were saying it, they clock in an average of two and a half to three minutes. Now, we’re definitely touching into the 30 to 40 range at times depending on how wild I want to get that.
But, yeah, I’m like, I said, I’m somewhere in the middle on this topic, which I think is good because I can look at both ends and say, this is why it to. Totally quick mix throughout the evening. And this is why it’s a good idea. So I see both sides. Get those crates together.
Organize those crates, prepare, prepare. Have the best versions. And have, like I said earlier, mark the cue points. Especially of bridges. I’m trying to think of a Rihanna song. The only girl in the world. That takes me for a ride. If you skip that, you’re skipping some really good stuff. Yeah, I can’t I can’t reiterate that enough.
They know this Taylor Swift. A lot of times you have to play her songs all the way. It’s a lot about knowing and knowing your audience too. I totally agree like Blank Space. I would have a hard time skipping any part of that. Cause the whole song is a sing-along song.
Like you said, rusted roof on B-52s. You have to play that. You can’t skip that. Yeah, absolutely. Can’t skip that out.
Is TikTok influencing quick mixing?
So, of the days of TikToK, do you think that’s been influencing how much the songs have become shorter at wedding receptions? For sure. Yeah. And just the ability for any person to change a song at will, say if someone’s using Spotify or Apple music, whatever their, their sources, I’ve seen people in, you know, just hanging out, listen to 30 seconds to a minute of a song and just go next, next, next.
And I think that ability. To do that has ruined patience. I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s for me. I remember Anticipating certain songs that I really wanted to hear and you had to wait and that was it There was no other answer unless you already owned it or you went to the store and you bought it You had to wait to hear that song that you wanted to hear.
I agree. I remember listening to countdowns on the radio and having a press record, just so I could capture that one song. That’s funny.
Slow songs at receptions
How many slow songs are you playing during the dancing part of the reception? I like to try to get in 2 normally around dessert. I think there are still couples that expect slow songs and like to dance to slow songs. You might have some seniors that maybe they’re not gonna go all out on the dance floor, but they’ll, they’ll make their way to have that 1 or 2, slow dance with their, with their spouse. There are times when I’ll work on some of the slow songs that might be on a request list.
They might be on a must-playlist. I’ll work them into dinner, just because I could tell that I’m not gonna be able to play too many later on just based on the energy of the crowd. Say, if the first stand set with great. I’m going to look at it. Like, I don’t know if I could get all these in.
So speaking of your sets, how many songs are you using in specific genres in a row, like an example would be three country songs to three punk rock songs.
Dance sets during receptions
Are you using any formula for your sets? Yeah, it definitely depends on the reaction, but I’m definitely seeing and I feel a lot of us are couples that are aware of the idea of sets. you’ll have brides and grooms that want. Right. The 90s 2000 era pop set they want a pop punk set they want a hip hop set from the 90s or the 2000s, dance music EDM is now it’s almost like, somebody wrote in on a planning form, golden age EDM, which I would think.
Is somewhere around 2008 to, you know, 2012, 2013. The years of the big festivals, booming. So yeah, there’s an expectation that these songs are going to get grouped together. I like to be able to dip in and out of different songs, and I think that’s it’s a good thing to do. There are definitely some DJs that I work with that when they’re starting to have the mindset of doing nothing but sets and I think you can become too predictable what I mean by that is say if you played an oldies set and everybody got up and then you moved on to An edm set or a hip hop set or what have you once?
There is a contingency of people on the dance floor that Understand that that’s the direction you’re going and if that’s not their thing, they’re going to exit the floor because they have it in their head that you’re going to stick to this lane no matter what for the next 15 to 20 minutes. Most likely.
Whereas if you do some sets and you kind of space it out, you throw in some different things in between maybe one song from a genre, maybe two, and then go in a completely different direction, they have no anticipation, which is kind of good. They have no idea where you’re going. And it’s interesting.
That and I think that that’s the true art of an open format DJ that they go from one genre to another from song to song, but then maybe an occasion occasionally work in a set, That’s, I think that’s the best way I can answer that. Yeah, I think exactly what you’re saying about the talent of the DJ is very important at the reception.
It’s funny that you said the golden age of EDM. I think of when I was playing Captain Hollywood project, real McCoy, all of those groups. And you know, and I know if you’re going to play one of those and the dance floor clears. That tells you, okay, they’re really not into that.
Let’s go into something else. And that’s where that talent comes in, okay. And quick mixing, you have to be able to quick mix out of it as well. Agreed. And, and that’s another set. That’s one I didn’t mention. I’ve I’ve done those. couple times at least this, this, wedding season this year where, you’re doing Real McCoy and, Bizarre Incorporated, Amber that, you know, that, C+C Music Factory all in one little block.
So it is something that I feel couples are asking for. But you definitely have to treat it like baseball. If you’re a pitcher, you’re not just going to keep if you keep throwing fastballs after fastball, they’re going to know how to hit your pitch. So you want to throw in a curveball, you want to throw in a slider and change-ups every now and then.
Quick Mixing needed?
Awesome. So what are your thoughts on quick mixing at wedding receptions? I think it’s good to know how to do it. So practice, prepare, learn, learn how to do it. If you know any other DJs, let’s say if you’re a DJ that doesn’t know how to quick mix or, you know, a little bit, you know, lean on your friends, lean on other sources online, maybe check out some YouTube videos, what have you.
Have it in your back pocket, just in case that’s the couple that has hired you because couples are, are different. We’re not copy and paste, like, a lot of times. I don’t want to apply that to all wedding DJs, but I feel it in general. The week to week was pretty similar where I could be playing completely differently I did a wedding last week where there was a lot of afrobeat on Friday And I didn’t touch afrobeat for the rest of the weekend. It could be very different and their Musical tastes are spread out.
We’re definitely playing directly to the couple more I think which is a great thing So be prepared And adapt if you have a couple that isn’t into it, like I mentioned earlier, I was surprised to start to see that because chances are that couple attended a wedding or they went somewhere where they heard a DJ and they were just blowing through each song as quickly as possible and I don’t think it’s a good idea to do that if it’s not the right crowd or the right vibe.
I do recommend knowing how to do it because it’s great in spots, especially. If you have a lot of, if you have a big request list and you have an hour, hour, and a half left, maybe dinner took a little longer, longer than you expected. Maybe some things were delayed, but here you are, you got an hour left and you’re looking at your sheet or what have you, you’re looking at your, your platform online and you still have, you know, a good 30 to 40 songs you’d love to play.
And here you are. That’s where quick mixing’s gonna come in handy. And it’s really about feeling it’s, it’s about feeling out the crowd, paying attention to the vibe and focusing on the key points of the songs, in my opinion, you mentioned the wedding couples and music.
Tips for couples planning wedding music
Can you give any tips for couples who are planning their music when they’re creating their playlists?
Yeah, I think, and I advise this to couples because early in my DJing days and my wedding days. I had a couple that were very, they were big micromanagers. I allowed them to micromanage everything because I do in theory want to be as flexible as possible for every couple, that’s just my nature.
I want them to have their vision, but sometimes when you control way too much, you ruin the chance of a better wedding. So I had a couple in Princeton where they micromanaged everything. Song one to to the last song and I’m talking ceremony music prelude music for each song. Okay, we’re going to play this song at 5 o’clock.
The next one is going to come on at 5:04. This one comes on at 5:09 5:13 and so on and so forth. And in that very specific order. The early portion worked. It was fine because everything just kind of stayed the course. Once we got to dinner, that’s, that’s when it fell off the rails because it’s very hard to anticipate where things are going to go.
I believe I was playing One by U2, which is kind of a strange song to play at a wedding dinner. It’s kind of sad. But it was under the playlist. I’m following it. We’re playing it. Brother of the groom comes up to me and he says, he goes, what are you doing? And I said, well, look, okay, it’s 7:49 now.
And then after this, a little sarcastic, but, you know, so I’m showing him the layout. He didn’t know. So he’s like, Let me see this and he takes, takes my papers, brings it over to, the, the bride and groom and I could see them having this spirited discussion going back and forth. He takes the papers, rips them in half, and he throws them in the air, and he comes over and he goes, Play what you think works.
I said, all right, okay., analyzed the crowd, started playing some disco, some 80s, and they hit the floor, and it was a great night. So I say all that to say that, DJs.
You can give your DJ some, I say a good amount of must plays is probably about 10 to 15. If you do some play of time allows, you know, why not? You can, that’s usually an option on most platforms. I usually treat them like must-plays. If all these songs are on your playlist, I’m going to try to get to as many as I can.
That’s, that’s always my goal. but also don’t try to out-cool your guests. Consider who your guests are. If you have a bunch of senior citizens on your list. And there are no oldies, or there are no line dances, or there are no songs, maybe even, say, like, Uptown Funk or Fireball, like, usually there are some senior citizens that love a couple of the newer, new to them songs, I would say.
If you take that out of your offense, but you have these guests there, they’re probably not going to enjoy themselves. So consider your guests. And consider how they’re going to react to certain things. I’ve seen couples pick very obscure sets and want to stick to them. I’ll tell a brief story about that.
Me and a friend of mine, DJ Spins, and Chris Smith, DJ’d a wedding together in North Jersey. They had a very strict list and there were a lot of obscure David Bowie songs I didn’t even know, I like Bowie, same with Led Zeppelin. There are a lot of classic rock B sides and songs. Most, most people aren’t familiar with it, and they were adamant that we stuck to it.
So we played them. It wasn’t really getting a reaction. People weren’t hitting the floor, but we noticed that the couple would periodically leave the room. To, go partake in some, extracurricular activities for about 15 to 20 minutes. So, as soon as they began to do that, we would go into a Motown set or, you know, what have you, maybe throw out a line dance, whatever we could to get the crowd going.
The crowd hits the floor, boom, then they come back and they send a guy to tell us to go back to the playlist. That same floor would part like the Red Sea and leave, and that went on the whole night. be mindful of who your crowd is and I always tell couples as well. There’s a time and place for everything. If you’re a hardcore hip-hop fan, I just had a couple that, the groom loved Wu-Tang Clan.
So do I. There aren’t that many Wu-Tang Clan songs that normally work at a wedding, but they had some spin-offs and some solo songs that lean more into the club vibe. Or I had a party break that sampled different, Wu-Tang beats that were a little bit more upbeat for a wedding and it worked or I’ll run into metal heads. There was a groom who could care less about 99 percent of the music.
He just wanted this one Killswitch Engage song and I’m not as familiar with that, but I was like, yeah, we could do it. Let’s I’ll figure out a way. And I waited until the last song of the night right after we we did a big finale I left a cushion so that I wouldn’t go over time and I said For the groom he asked for just one song so if everybody could hit the floor for him and have a good time with him, we’ll see what happens. Boom played it and He said it was his favorite portion of the party reception.
Love the story. Thanks for sharing. And, it takes me back to the one tip I have for every wedding couple is that you can plan the music for any part of your wedding day, but just be more open during the dancing part of the reception. Don’t be so rigid because it will affect if people have a good time or not.
Absolutely. For me, with my own wedding, a lot of my friends expected me to be like a playlist czar to take control and, because I’m a DJ and, and I appreciate all types of music and I want this, that, and the other thing. Particularly my wife said, the music is your thing.
And I said, no problem. I only had 10 must-play. That was it. I want to be surprised. I want to feel, I want to, I want to see where the DJ goes. So I think if I could have that philosophy, most, most couples could probably adapt to that, right? Awesome. Great tips. So is there anything else that you want to cover today?
I think we got the meat of everything. I was trying to think. Are there any lingering topics about this? No, I think, I think we’re good.
Contact DJ Iron Mike NJ
Cool. So just to close it out then, where can people find you? How can they contact you? You can contact me at my main… Go to as obviously as Instagram @DJIronMikeNJ. I use that for almost everything. Same thing with my Facebook fan page. For our company, it’s ambientDJ.com. We’re on social media as well, same way. But for me in particular, almost all of my platforms are @DJIronMike NJ, because there are a couple of other DJ Iron Mike’s out there. I’ll find out later, but I decided that name when I was 15 and I’m going with it. love it.
Well, thanks very much Mike for being on the show today, and make sure you tune in next week for another interview with a wedding professional. Thanks for listening and have a great day.