It’s Time To Face The Music

By now, hopefully you’ve figured out that we’re more than just a food blog.  Our goal is to be your one-stop source for all the information you need to entertain guests in your home:  The eating, the drinking, and the preparation for your entertainment events, whether they be big and boisterous or small and intimate. A really, really important part of in-home entertaining is music. But if you’ve ever clicked into the Good Music category in our Tips For Entertaining, you’ve noticed that we haven’t spent much time sharing tips to help you select music for your party.  Actually, to date, that would be “no time at all.”  Until today.

Old Radio

To kick things off, here’s a super-easy suggestion on how to make a playlist.  For the past couple years, I’ve been relying heavily on Pandora.  Yeah, I know there are online music services that some people like better, and I’ll be writing about some of those in the near future.  But first, here’s a little background on why I like Pandora.

I was that guy who loved making “mix tapes” in college.  I’d select 15-18 songs per playlist and carefully arrange them to kick off the party and keep the energy going.  As I matured (and music technology went digital) my mixes grew into playlists of 150-200 songs, enough music to begin in the afternoon and still be playing all the way through after-dinner drinks, and well past midnight if necessary.  A long playlist is great because it allows you to focus on entertaining your guests without putting energy into managing the music.

Playlist - iTunes

But there’s a downside to hand-crafted playlists.  Once you’ve used the same playlist more than a few times, it can start sounding stale and repetitive.  Not to mention that a good playlist takes a lot of time and energy to create.  That’s where Pandora comes in.  I’ve found Pandora to be a quick and easy way to create a music Why I Like Pandoramix that’s dynamic (the mix is different every time) while still feeling like the songs are hand-picked.  It’s kind of like outsourcing my “mix tapes” to a buddy who shares my taste in music but has a WAY bigger music collection than I do (and also way more free time on his hands).

Here’s how I’ve made Pandora work for me:

Pandora has dozens of pre-made “Genre Stations” with different music styles to choose from.  There’s even a genre called “Dinner/Cooking” with some great options for different types of dinner parties.  These stations (basically, collections of hundreds of songs that play in random order) are constantly being updated by their team of “curators”.  A while back I found a station called Laid Back Beach Music  that has been one of my go-to “party on the patio” mixes ever since.

But Pandora also gives me the option to create my own stations, which is what I really like.  This is a super-flexible, easy-to-use way to custom-tailor the music that Pandora will play.  I can create a list of several artists; Pandora then uses my list to find music from similar artists and creates a custom station for me.  Elizabethtown Vol 1Better still, Pandora will accept specific tracks as input for creating a station, giving you even more control.  For example, we have a CD (a movie soundtrack, Elizabethtown, Vol. 1) that’s always been a perfect mix for that late-morning/early-afternoon in-between time when you want something that strikes a balance between calm and upbeat.  I entered every track from that CD into Pandora and created a station I named “Elizabethtown-ish”.  When I select that station, Pandora streams an endless playlist of similar-sounding songs that would be right at home on the CD (even including, occasionally, the actual songs that I entered).  Perfect.  And, when an occasional “clunker” slips into the mix (and, honestly, what radio station doesn’t play one of those now and then?) I can click the “thumbs down” icon and block that track from my station forever.  Nice.  (On the flipside, I can also click “thumbs up” when I hear a song I really like to tell Pandora, “Play more songs like this one, please.”)  Plus, I can add additional tracks or artists to any existing station at any time to fine-tune what gets played.

The end result?  Never ending, never stale playlists, for any occasion, and all based on my musical preferences without having to spend hours or days hand-selecting each song.  Perfect.

One last thing.  While Pandora’s basic service is free, they also have a subscription option (that we use).   By paying a monthly subscription fee, we get their “Pandora One” service, where they don’t interrupt the tunes with the occasional commercials heard on the free version.  The subscription also provides a higher-quality music feed and gives me plenty of “thumbs-down” track skips (the free version limits those to a few per day).

(Note:  We’re not compensated by Pandora or any other music service.  I just really like their service and know several people who like it as well.)

So there’s my first Music tip.  It’s one that works well for us.  Give it a try and see how it works for you — enter the tracks from your favorite playlist or movie soundtrack and see what comes out.  And please drop us a comment telling us what you do for your party music.  We’re always looking for new ideas.

Up next:  How we find good music for entertaining.

Cheers, and happy listening!

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