Which songs should you play during your cocktail hour?
Whether it's a holiday party, a wedding or a corporate function, the song selection for your cocktail hour and the means by which those songs are delivered are paramount to creating an atmosphere that your guests will feel comfortable mingling in and stirring up an appetite for dinner.
4 Tips for a successful cocktail hour:
- Make food and drinks easy to access: Consider that only a certain number of people can comfortably cram around a single table at once - and each one only has one had to reach out and grab things (the other is occupied with their plate or beverage). Keeping this in mind, it's better to use more tables and spread out your appetizers and drink dispensers so more people can help themselves at once. Keep your tables away from the walls so more people can access them from all sides.
- Choose music that will suit your party's vibe: we've got some great tips below, as well as a few music playlists that may be perfect for you. Keep reading!
- Keep the music at a reasonable volume: Generally speaking, the point of a cocktail hour is for people to mingle, catch up and make new acquaintances. Conversations are essential, so having music that is not too loud will help make this experience comfortable for your guests.
- Don't drag it on too long: it's called cocktail HOUR for a reason. Try not to let it stretch on too long. There's only so much drinking, standing and small talking that most people can handle.
Cocktail Hour Music
As with most things, the secret to a good cocktail hour is in the small things.
The list of songs your choose for your cocktail hour may seem small and insignificant, but it will set the tone for the rest of the evening. It may also encourage or discourage your guests form enjoying your appetizers and beverages.
Loud Music Encourages Drinking
Think about it. What do you do when you are in a social environment and the music is too loud to continue any intelligible conversation...and there happens to be booze around (or FREE booze)?
Well, according to this study about the psychology of music, loud music increases our intake of alcohol and soft drinks. Since we find talking more difficult in this environment, we are less engaged with our conversations and more engaged with our drinks.
If you want your guests nicely liquored up, consider raising the volume of your cocktail hour music so you achieve this result.
And of course if you would rather your guests not over drink, keep that volume down!
Music Increases Food and Fluid Intake
Generally speaking, people stick around longer to eat and drink more when there is music playing. It creates a welcoming environment that makes us feel like lingering and enjoying ourselves.
Remove the music and you'll have a sterile cafeteria vibe almost instantly. No one wants to linger in a cafeteria - it's get in and get out. Don't let that be your cocktail hour!
Live Music Brings Charm and Intrigue
We all love to stand around and marvel at art that we enjoy but can't do ourselves. Live music at your cocktail hour will not just provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for your guests, it will also provide something for people to engage with and marvel at.
A skilled cocktail band or musician will give your guests a unique treat and something to transport them away from their daily lives and into a truly special moment. Anyone can crack open a bottle of wine at home and put on Spotify, but how often do we hire a string quartet to perform in our living room? (Never!)
Of course, not everyone can afford a string quartet, but at least hire someone to play that beautiful upright piano that your venue just happens to have in the lobby!
Cocktail Hour Songs
If you want to hire The Phonix band to perform at your event, we will be happy to suggest a perfect live music pairing for your cocktail hour, and of course curate a playlist of songs for you that will be perfect for your occasion.
We generally like to suggest that cocktail hour songs fit these guidelines:
- Instrumental Music: lyrics tend to distract people. There's a reason people like studying to classical music - our brains can only process so much at one time. Once lyrics enter the picture, it's like our brain wants to have a conversation with the song. Our thoughts wander off onto the songs subject material and the friend we had just been conversing with suddenly a lot harder to talk to.
- Make it Unique: If you are having music at any other point in your event (like your ceremony, dinner or dance party), mix it up. Don't use the exact same configuration of musicians for your cocktail hour that you plan to use for your dance. Keep the event building at every stage. If you used a solo musician (pianist, harp, or guitarist) during your ceremony, up it to a trio or quartet during your cocktail hour. A string quartet is a great option since you definitely won't have them performing for your dance, so it's something completely different and special.
- Use Songs that People Know: Unless your event is celebrating the unveiling of some new modern art piece, the best cocktail hour songs will be clever renditions of the familiar classics. The smiles on the faces of your guests as they recognize the melody of their favourite Disney tune or Motown hit is just the sort of magic that will settle everyone's nerves and put people in a perfect relaxed state for drifting between pleasant conversations with one another.
Cocktail Songs You Can Use
Instrumental Cocktail Hour
This list abides by all of our guidelines above. It's a list of tasteful covers of many pop classics that anyone with a slight interest in music over the last few decades will easily recognize. It's mostly solo and small ensemble arrangements involving piano or guitar.
These beautiful melodies will hover in the air and keep the conversations freely flowing.
High Class & Formal:
If your event could be described as high-class, romantic, formal and luxurious, think classical music. Piano pieces with strings are a perfect combination.
You can't go wrong with selections from Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Eric Satie, Frédéric Chopin or even some Beethoven. Here's a Spofity playlist to get your started:
Summer Fun Days With a Splash of Romance:
You can't go wrong with Flamenco if you're looking to create a playful and fun vibe. Flamenco brings a sense of lightness and carefreeness that most people associate with warm weather, beach parties and free-flowing drinks. At times melancholic and romantic, this style can take you on a journey that always brings you back to a safe landing somewhere in paradise.
Try this list of flamenco tunes to get you started:
Old School Jazz
If you need music that will transport your guests back in time, nothing does it better than some oldies big band Jazz.
We're going to break our rule of instrumental music for cocktail hour a bit here. Because you can't have a great jazz playlist without tipping the had to Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Nat King Kole and Ella Fitzgerald.
These classics remind us of better days gone by and warm up our appetites for some good old fashioned cooking we may be about to enjoy!
The Phonix band has been performing live music and providing sound, lighting and Photo Booth services at weddings and events in the Vancouver since 2009. It would be our pleasure to help you design a cocktail hour that fits seamlessly into your special occasion.
We know music and we know events. No matter how big or small your event is, we'd love to help you out!
Just get in touch with us today and see what we can do for you.
The perfect band for our wedding reception! We had The Phonix for four hours and it wasn't long enough. They had everyone dancing until the very end of the night. They play a perfect mix of music which caters to everyone in the crowd. The Phonix was also so easy to plan with and made the process very stress free. It is such a special memory for us.
Cassandra and Alex, Newlyweds. Sept 2018