Enoch Marchant’s Dos & Don’ts for the Perfect Party Playlist

The music connoisseur behind Nice Price Books & Records shares 12 tips for building a crowd-pleasing soundtrack for any occasion
By Josh Klahre

We’re easing into the heart of the summer, and boy what a difference a year makes! We’re back to some of the classic summer activities we’ve been missing: gathering poolside, hitting the road in search of beach or mountain vibes, crashing in funky rental homes, grilling out under a late-day setting sun for that impromptu backyard dinner party, and happily seeing friends and family. 

To me, these occasions beg for the perfect soundtrack. Creating a great playlist takes time, though, as well as consideration for the audience’s tastes, the mood and energy of the occasion, and more. And if you love music as much as I do, the quality of the playlist can become as consequential as the temperature of the meat coming off the grill. 

To get a master’s course in how to create the juiciest and most succulent playlist possible, I tapped a true music connoisseur, Nice Price Books & Records owner and playlist-maker extraordinaire Enoch Marchant. 

As we kicked off the conversation over a beer at Person Street Bar, I was relieved we could agree on the fact that there is an art to making a truly excellent playlist. We could also agree that there are many varieties of playlist, i.e., “Are you looking for chill stuff to play in the background, or, are you looking to create one karaoke moment after another by busting out crowd favorites?” says Marchant. 

Beyond matching music to the occasion, you can consider the intention of the playlist. “I have to decide, am I looking to turn people on to new stuff, or, am I playing to the crowd dropping one banger after another?” says Marchant. Ultimately, Marchant says, it’s about playing what you like, whether it’ll give you music cred or not. If you love a particular track, put it in and own it!  “There are no guilty pleasures, just pleasures,” says Marchant. “Don’t feel guilty, just like it!” 

Beyond that, here are 12 dos and dont’s Marchant shared to make a great party playlist for summer — and beyond. 

For a stellar playlist, do…

  • Put a song on the playlist that you know your friend has been hot on lately for a musical shout-out
  • Think about tunes that you know will hit with the majority of the group
  • Inject moments of surprise and delight, like a throwback favorite or fun cover of a classic
  • Consider a themed playlists (like, one made up of only songs by lead singers who are redheads) to give yourself some discipline and direction around what goes in
  • Limit playtime to 60 minutes (aka, hold yourself to the old limitations of a cassette tape)
  • Pick songs that can be good for background music – the reality is people in a group setting are likely chatting and not focused only on your music picks
  • Consider your neighbors or, if you’re in a public place, the folks nearby — you will be subjecting them to whatever you’re listening to, after all, and no one wants to have The Talk with their kid because of someone else’s tunes

But do not…

  • Play anything too weird, obscure, or nuanced — this isn’t just your playlist, it’s to share 
  • Just put it on the “music person” in your group to built a list, anyone should feel empowered to bring their tastes and interests to the group
  • Cut a song before it ends if you’re live-DJing — it’s an instant buzz kill
  • Overload a list with mostly-instrumental tracks (that extended jam from a live Grateful Dead album will fail 99% of the time) 
  • Overload it with more lyric-driven tunes, either — beware the pensive, monotone Bob Dylan thought-track

Speaking on behalf of my fellow “music people” out there, please feel confident about sharing your playlist for the next group gathering. We want to hear from you! If you feel intimidated or are concerned about being judged by the more musically inclined people there, then, you are probably hanging with the wrong gang.