I've been very lucky in my DJ career to have witnessed some amazing sunsets in some truly amazing places and each time the experience has been greatly enhanced by one thing... music! Of course the location helps but music takes things to a totally different level.
I've written many times about the importance of music and how not to miss an opportunity to add to your DJ services by providing a music solution for various parts of an event. I've personally developed a number of music concepts that use lower-tempo tracks, played at ambient levels, to create unique audio experiences predominately for chilled sessions and, more recently, for sunsets. In light of the current global situation these are the DJ concepts that I'm seeing an increased interest in.
As I write this article, the world continues to adjust to life during a pandemic and DJs face an uncertain timescale as to when we'll be able to perform full scale party events again. The big question of when we can all return to work remains a mystery. At the moment, all we can do is speculate but the reality is it may be some time before a decision is made and parties are finally allowed. When it does happen, DJs will have an important role to play in helping guests and venues follow the guidelines that will be in place. In the meantime, we need to find creative ways to still do what we do best: play music to create an atmosphere. Playing ambient music for a sunset is a perfect opportunity to do just that.
It doesn't matter where you are in the world you are guaranteed that at some point in the day the sun will set and, with careful programming, coupled with some clever marketing, you can use that moment to your advantage and make it a feature of an event rather than something that just happens as part of a normal day. Whether the venue is on the beach, by the sea, in a field or in a hotel in the middle of a large city, it really doesn’t matter. If you can find a suitable part of the venue to create a sunset area then you can offer a music solution and create a unique experience for your clients and their guests.
Weddings are the perfect environment to play music at different stages during the day, including guest arrival, ceremony, pre-dinner drinks, wedding breakfast and, normally, dancing. However, given the current rules, this might be the right time to add another music service to your armoury and sunset music may be worth considering to sit alongside your other background music concepts. Adding festoon lighting, furniture and props is also worth considering to offer as part of the package and really helps to enhance the moment. You don't need to go silly and spend lots of money. Festoon lighting is relatively cheap and delivers the desired effect whilst furniture and props can be offered as an extra if your client requests it. So rather than buy things, simply research a few items that will work and hire them for a specific event or invest in them if you manage to secure a number of sunset concept bookings and wish to own certain items for future use. I've used various pieces of furniture including shabby-chic sofas, large armchairs, giant bean-bags and even a range of rugs and blankets that are all comfortable to sit on and look great too. Add to that an Ibiza-themed soundtrack to accompany the sun setting, some suitable up-lighting and you've got a concept... simple but very effective!
Whilst on the subject of Ibiza, I spoke recently to a very good friend of mine called Richard Bright who lives on the island. He DJs at some of the top venues Ibiza has to offer, including Café Mambo. Under his DJ pseudonym of Doctor Feelgood, he has recently returned to the decks at Mambo to create ambient sets for the guests to enjoy and that includes programming music for the legendary Ibiza sunsets:
“ I play sunset sessions in Ibiza including Café Mambo on the Sunset Strip and always take time to plan my sets carefully. If I play there several times a week I want to ensure a unique experience each night as many customers come back on a regular basis to enjoy the atmosphere, music and the sunset, so the last thing I want to do is repeat too many songs. ”
Earlier in the summer, Ibiza announced that nightclubs will remain closed for the rest of the year and that pool parties are banned to avoid large gatherings of people. This has effectively shut down the main reason that people visit the island... to party! But there is another reason that people visit La Isla Blanca (The White Island), and that is for the legendary sunsets. So DJs like Richard have used that to their advantage and turned their residencies into chill-out and sunset venues. Richard explained to me the importance of track selection and creating digital crates from which he can pull tracks for each part of his set as he builds up to the sunset moment:
“ The sunset sessions here in Ibiza usually start around 6:00pm and last until the sun sets at around 9:30pm, depending on the time of year, and then continue for another 30 minutes or so after the sun has gone down. I like to split the session into three sets. For the first couple of hours I usually mix up a selection of reggae, funk and soulful house whilst keeping the atmosphere chilled and laid-back, and the volume at ambient levels. I'm creating the required vibe without trying to fill a dancefloor. I then move into the sunset session itself, which usually starts around an hour before the sun actually sets. This is when I change the music style to include some Balearic classics and down-tempo tunes. To keep things fresh each night, and add my own unique twist to a set, I also like to include some movie and TV themes that work perfectly and I've even been known to add some ‘80s ballads in to the mix! After the sun has set I play a final set that lasts about 30 minutes and includes tracks that complement those that have gone before as well as being respectful of the mood that I have worked hard to create over the previous three hours or so. ”
5 Sunset TV Themes
1: Miami Vice (Crockett's Theme) – Jan Hammer
2: Taxi (Angela) – Bob James
3: Harry's Game – Clannad
4: Black Beauty (Galloping Home) – Denis King
5: Twin Peaks (Falling) – Julie Cruise
I love the creativity of adding TV and movie themes to a party set or theme night and, until we are allowed to perform those type of events again, I'm personally focussing my DJ attentions on providing background, chill-out and sunset concepts, using my music programming skills to create unique sets for those clients who have recognised the value in this service. By mixing up well-known chill-out anthems with other down-tempo tracks, from a wide range of styles and decades, I can create innovative sets without the need for floor-filling anthems played loud. Adding a few surprise tracks from the big screen can set you aside from everyone else. There are some excellent soundtracks that work really well, including Jurassic Park, Tron, Lord Of The Rings, The Godfather and even Jaws... do your research... dig a little deeper in your digital crates and you'll find a whole new library of music that fits perfectly for this type of music concept.
Some classic Ibiza sunset tracks include 'Porcelain' by Moby, 'Les Nuits' by Nightmares On Wax, 'Floatation' by The Grid and 'Slip Into Something...' by Kinobe. These, and many more like them, can be used to create the back-bone for a sunset playlist that you can add to with your own music selections to create something unique. Just because the music is background doesn't make it less important and if this is to be the way DJs play music for the foreseeable future then perhaps it's time to embrace it and, whilst doing so, ensure you put your own stamp on the theme to remain ahead of the competition.
Creating a sunset concept isn't just for weddings or venues by the sea, it's for any event, any location, any venue and the music can be whatever you want it to be as long as you adhere to the guidelines and use ambient tracks rather than big party anthems that entice people to sing and dance. You are initially creating a mood and then a big moment when the sun sets, as opposed to filling a dancefloor. Almost every decade has songs that would fit perfectly and by taking the time to do a little research you'll soon be able to create the required playlist for any client and their eclectic tastes.
Richard explained to me the importance of creating something special for his audiences:
“ I always work hard to include an eclectic mix of music for my sunset sessions so the audience leave the venue having enjoyed songs I selected for that night's event. I never tire of comments like “Wow... that was great... I wasn't expecting that” and that's what I'm looking for. Their unexpected is my planned... and I'm ok with that! ”
In this age of digital technology it's easier than ever to create exciting digital music crates and add loads of relevant information too, including Key, BPM, Style, Year... you can even organise them using a range of pretty colours if that's your thing. Richard understands music and how it works for him and his audiences, especially when it comes to his sunset sessions:
“ The music and volume that I play it are the only things I can fully control. I know roughly when the sun will set, the internet helps with this information, but nature has a way of letting you know who's in charge! This often results in you having to think on your feet, adding or removing tracks accordingly, to ensure you hit the sunset at the right moment. Picking the sunset tune is THE most important thing. It's the culmination of everything I've been doing for the previous few hours to build to that moment so when the sun finally disappears it does so with the last note of the right song. ”
If you think about how you programme your music for your events it's the same principle for the sunset concept. The last song of the night is usually an absolute belter that has been preceded by tracks that build the euphoria until you reach the crescendo... the big song that seals the moment! The same goes for sunset, you build up the atmosphere steadily until it is time for that all-important sunset track.
“ When the time comes to play the sunset tune so many emotions are running through me (which I know will happen but I cannot control or stop). It is a whole mixture of feelings, a cocktail of emotions ranging from being nervous, scared, stressed, anxious, excited, joyous and, to be honest, when it’s over, relieved! I wouldn’t want it any other way, the feelings are amazing and one of the main reasons why I became a DJ. ”
I spoke to Richard recently and complimented him on his use of the ‘80s classic 'The Power Of Love' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood as a sunset track. As the last note of the song played the sun gently disappeared and the sunset moment was complete... perfect!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 103, Pages 30-34.