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How to Pick Perfect Homecoming or Prom Music: 6 Top Tips

If you’re in charge of the music for prom, three cheers to you! You’ve scored one of the most fun jobs on the planning list. Sure you have to juggle numbers for the budget, and you can’t just list all of your personal song favorites for the band or DJ. But still, lucky you because this simple guide will help you make all the right choices for prom, everything from budget to DJ plus a couple of creative ideas to create unforgettable memories for everybody!

  • Set Your Budget

First, check with the prom committee how much you can spend. Some high schools have resources that will accommodate a popular local artist while others will need to make do with a decent DJ. Wherever your budget falls, gather as much price info as you can and consult with the rest of the committee every step of the way.

  • Band or DJ?

If you can afford a local band, a live group that’s known for playing popular and contemporary music—and playing it well—book ‘em! Do remember that a live band will take breaks, so you’ll need to fill time between their sets with either a DJ or something like an iPod with pre-programmed songs to run through your sound system.

When it comes to DJs, they know exactly what to play, both on the “safe side” like tried and true classics and also the most current upbeat tunes. Some DJs like to create their own mixes which can add a memorable spin to prom night. Do ask to listen to a sample of the custom mixes first, though, and make sure the rest of the committee is in agreement.

  • Extra Entertainment: Recruit Student Talent

Instead of just using iTunes for fill-in music, why not book schoolmates with their own band or who are good at rapping or acoustic music, either instrumental, vocal or both? If they’re into performing and you know that they sound good, schedule them to play at different times during the evening. They can fill in for both DJs and live bands. Also, depending on the number of talented student acts, you might be able to save money by cutting the professional band or DJ down one set or so.

Additionally, if you have a classmate whose part-time job is a successful DJ in a local hot spot—book him or her immediately! Of course, you don’t want them to work for free. You’ll want to pay for their talent, but you won’t have to pay as much as a professional. If you have two DJs in school, you’re totally set because they can trade off sets. You can also sweeten the pot by offering to put the group or DJ’s name on the tickets as headliners.

One Note: It is perfectly OK to ask student talent to audition! Never hire a student based on reputation alone.

  • Let Your Prom Program Guide Your Songs

Again, if you have a DJ or band, they’ll do most of this job for you, but if you’re on your own to pick music—or if the professional actively wants your suggestions—keep these ideas in mind. (These are also handy if you plan to play Spotify or iTunes or other background music and have the band or DJ start later in the evening.)

Your program should be your guide in deciding which songs will work best for particular segments of the night. For example, it might be more appropriate to play light contemporary tracks during the opening while people are just arriving. If there’s a dinner, smooth jazz or down-tempo love songs would be the perfect. Use “couple’s songs” for crowning prom king and queen. Then ramp up the tempo to get the party started and draw people to the dance floor.

One thing you will need to consider when it comes to arranging the order of songs is to keep a healthy mix of alternating fast and slow songs. A safe formula would be two or three fast or up-tempo songs and then maybe two slower songs. You’ll want to give people a break to catch their breath, grab a drink, or rest their tired feet. The slow songs also give the couples a chance to snuggle, and while they’re doing that, then the rest of the party can mingle, have pictures taken, or grab some fresh air outside.

Prom isn’t an all-night affair, and four hours into it, you’ll probably think of winding down. The way to ease people into leaving is to switch from alternating fast-slow songs to songs that gradually become consistently slower until the last ten minutes you have left in the venue.

  • Invest in a Good Sound System

No matter how good your DJ or band, or even the song list you put together yourself to run through iTunes, all that work will be for nothing if you have an inadequate sound system. The pro’s you hire may or may not have their own speakers. Whether you’ll have your prom in your school building, or you’ll be the one responsible for getting speakers to an outside venue, you’ll need to do a thorough sound check. No buzzing, hissing or crackling allowed!

If what you have is old (or just older) get the committee together to have a listen and make a decision whether you need to invest some of this year’s prom budget into better speakers or connections. Also when using the school’s equipment, recruit someone in the know to make sure either the mixers you have will work fine, or if you need to buy a mixer or two instead of new speakers.

The good news is that both speakers and mixers are items you can rent, so once you make your entertainment decision—especially when you know whether or not they’ll bring their own equipment—look into your sound system needs.

If you use a DJ, he or she will know what songs to play to keep everybody on the dance floor. But it’s also thoughtful to solicit your fellow students’ opinions. So you might consider stealing an idea people use for weddings and make a “Prom Song Suggestion Box.” Print up slips of paper with “I’ll dance at Prom if you will play—” and then a fill-in-the-blank line with the name of the song and the artist. Put the box in a common area like the cafeteria. Then give the DJ the list to include as many of the requested songs as possible (within reason and still keep the majority of the crowd on the dance floor).

  • Song Request Card Resource: You can download a file to print the cards in the photo above. There are several options online but for the card in the above photo, CLICK HERE 

Planning for prom music involves a lot of decisions, but it’s still a great job to be assigned to. Just remember to do your prom homework based on our 6 steps here, and not only will prom night be memorable, but the effort involved in making great music happen will be, too!