Should a Wedding DJ play music with Vinyl, CDs, or a laptop?


These days, music can be put on a lot of carriers. From the classic ones like vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes tapes, into the digital age with laptops, hard disk, and all kinds of media players.

It should not matter what source a wedding DJ is using to play music from. Nobody cares. A wedding DJ is not a rock star, he should make the people dance, for the rest he needs to be invisible. As long as he plays the correct music that the dance floor wants to hear, it doesn’t matter if it comes from CDs, vinyl records, or a laptop. It’s up to the DJ to select what music source he prefers. Where a laptop is much easier to operate and MP3s are much cheaper to buy online, vinyl records are much more trendy and romantic. CDs have lost their value in most countries.

Having said that, there is a lot of advantages and disadvantages you might want to hear. Stick around, so we can discuss them all.

Vinyl record, cassette tapes, and CDs.

Having said that, there are some pros and cons to the available sound carriers.

CDs

The golden discs came around in the mid-’90s and were very popular for more than 20 years. Since the internet became stronger, they lost a lot of popularity.

A lot of mobile DJs are still using CDs. Mainly because of the big investment they made over the years to grow their collection.

Pile of CDs, gathering dust

Although vinyl records are much older than CDs, those CDs look a lot more old fashion and less cool than records.

Every media player, even the high-end brands, still play CDs. However, newly released music will be harder to find on CDs. Only the very mainstream songs are still available, all the rest is “download only” and if the record company wants to be fancy, on vinyl records. Even that is slowly changing to “stream only”.

The MP3 and for sure the arrival of the Apple iPod has hurt CDs a lot. Streaming services like Spotify killed it. Almost nobody is still buying CDs

So CDs lost their value. Only the most mainstream (grandma proof) music is still released on CDs. On flea markets, you can find buy big boxes of CDs for very low prices.

Vinyl Records

A lot of DJ’s fall for it. The romantic idea, smell, and touch of vinyl records are awesome.

People who don’t believe in streaming music online and collectors will probably buy vinyl records.

Being able to touch your music really has something powerful. And of course, it’s so cool to play with real records.

If the party is in a very trendy venue, with a heavy vintage atmosphere, it makes even more sense to play with real vinyl records.

Almost all modern music is still released on vinyl. I don’t know how long this is still going to happen, but for now, it is. Also, all the classics are still available on vinyl. So no issue there.

But there are some big disadvantages to DJing with vinyl records. Let’s dive in.

Cost

They are expensive. You easily pay 10 to 15 bucks for a new record. And then you end up with ONE song. Ok, sometimes there are 4 or 5 songs on it, but probably you’re only going to need one song of it. If you compare it with this 1 dollar download of the same song, it makes a big difference. In the end, it’s the same song people will be dancing to!

Heavy AF!

Ever tried to lift a box of vinyl records? They are very heavy. As a wedding DJ, you have already a lot of heavy stuff to carry around. The last thing you need is a few additional heavy boxen with all your records.

Also, you need extra space in your car to take with you. Time to become jealous of the laptop DJ…

Wear down

Yes, they wear down. Even if you take great care of your records, they won’t last forever. Yea, if you leave them on the shelves, and play them once a year, you’re good. But if you are using them to DJing, for sure, sooner or later they are going to start skipping. Nice for your dance floor!

Your DJ booth needs to be level and stable!

One of the biggest drawbacks to play with vinyl records is that your DJ booth needs to be absolutely stable and level. If not, you risk the record to start skipping!

This is all good if you play in a fixed DJ booth in a fancy club, but I’ve been places where I had to install my DJ booth at the most skewed places. Far from perfect to play vinyl.

Drunk idiots

You know them, right? When some people get drunk and getting a bit too enthusiastic, they pay no attention anymore to how and where they dance, and before you know, they start kicking against your turntables. I don’t have to explain to you what’s happening next with the music and the dance floor.

Space

Turntables take a lot of space. So the DJ booth will need more space as well. For sure that’s a disadvantage.

Laptop

USB sticks

Every modern media player in the DJ world is capable of playing music from a USB stick. As a DJ you put your music on a couple of USB sticks, insert them in your media players and you are ready to go.

Pioneer CDJ 2000 Nexus – taking USB disk with music

So here you’re actually not playing music from a laptop. You use your laptop to buy music online, manage your library, and copy it to USB disks.

Software DJ+Controller

There is a lot of software on the market that doesn’t need anything more than a laptop and a USB controller to spin music like a pro!

Serato, Traktor, Visual DJ… All companies that are creating professional DJ software that works together with a controller.

Serato Scratch Live
Serato DJ Software
Pioneer dj DDJ-1000 Daw controller
Bad-ass controller: Pioneer DDJ 1000 controller

The only thing you still need is an amplifier, some speakers and fancy lights and the party is on.

Does a DJ need a controller? Yes, he does. Sure, he can operate the laptop with the keyboard and mouse, but come on! What kind of microwave DJ would he be?

Are there drawbacks to playing with a laptop? I guess not too many. Welcome to the 21st century I would say.

For sure a DJ needs to be energetic while playing music. Nothing more boring than watching a guy sitting on a chair at a desk, staring at a laptop. Guess who’s not going to dance? Indeed: your guests! A DJ should jump around, dance, smile, and jump around behind his DJ booth while playing music. It doesn’t matter if the sound is coming from a laptop or not.

Just make sure the DJ has backup material, like a second laptop), just in case the computer stuff decides to stop working on your wedding party!

Hybrid DJ

In a hybrid situation, the DJ is playing music from his laptop, but he is actually using classic media players (or even turntables) to control it. The way this works is that a small hardware box is placed between the laptop and the media players. The media players do not play music, instead, a control CD (or vinyl) is inserted. See it as “best of both worlds”.

I’m using exactly this setup. Because I believe the DJ controllers have not 100% the same quality as the classic media players, like the Pioneer CDJ 2000 series.

Benefits of playing music with a laptop

  • Buying music is cheap. Depending on the source, you pay 1 to 2 dollars per song. Physical carriers like CD or vinyl records are much more expensive.
  • Finding the correct song and loading it to play next, is much faster. Try to find a specific song in a huge CD collection, insert it in the player and mix it in, when the current song has 20 seconds left before it ends. Trust me, I’ve done it enough with a laptop.
  • A laptop is easy to carry around. A few boxes of records will hurt your back and take much more space in your car.

No Internet Streaming

In the year 2020, I still wouldn’t recommend using an internet streaming service like Spotify. Internet connections aren’t always reliable. For sure, some venues might have connection issues with a bad Wi-Fi connection. Changes you are going to have drop-outs or cuts are very high in a DJ set that takes a few hours.

So if you are a DJ playing weddings, or if you hire one, make sure that the music is stored offline.

Check my Spotify article as well.

Advantages / Disadvantages overview

SourceAdvantagesDisadvantages
CDsCheap
No new music released
Takes a lot of space
Lost value
Vinyl recordsTrendy
Romantic
Keeps value
Heavy to carry
Expensive!
Takes a lot of space
wears out
DJ booth needs to be level
LaptopCheapest (MP3)
Quick to operate
takes no space
Laptop can fail, need backup

Conclusion

For the party people on the dance floor, it really doesn’t make any difference. For sure not at a wedding party. The most important thing is that the DJ plays the correct songs. Good music that the crowd wants to hear. If the music is stored on CDs, vinyl, laptop, or a Walkman, nobody cares.

The only thing that matters is what the DJ prefers, based on the article above. If the DJ is living in the 21st century and doesn’t play in a very trendy funk bar, a laptop would be the way to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I love buying and owning a big vinyl record collection. For some reason, it has a lot more value than a load of MP3 files on a hard drive, and playing them is a lot more romantic. But playing music with them at a wedding party is a whole other story and brings a lot of issues.

Mike

I'm Mike, a wedding DJ for 16 years. I want to share with you as much advice as possible.

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