DJ Gregg Ambient’s Top 40 Song Countdown of 2017

Happy New Year party people!

Methodology – I am a mobile DJ based in Central New Jersey and spin in a variety of settings from weddings to bars/clubs.  I am particularly fond of electronic and international music.  The selected songs below incorporate all styles of music and tempos with the songs in the #25 – #40 slots representing some songs that were personally enjoyable to me, but that may not have charted well or been heavily requested.  The Top 25 songs of 2017 are highly correlated to requests and dance floor impact captured at my 200+ performances during the year.

Musical Trends –  It’s a an exciting era to to be a DJ with so much music available across a variety of mediums.  The increasing popularity of streaming services like Spotify has enabled me to easily explore and organize all of the music from across the globe that I could ever want.  One of my other favorite places to research music is in the car listening to commercial-free Sirius radio.  Currently my favorite channels are Venus (Rhythmic Pop) and Chill (Channel 53).  Is there a catchy song in your daily travels that you want to identify?  Of course, use the free app Shazam.

As previously identified by my colleague Mike Bacon (aka, DJ Iron Mike), euphoric EDM music faded from the musical scene in 2017 and was replaced by a demand for mid-tempo tropical house compositions or collaborations between electronic producers like Calvin Harris with rappers like Migos.  “Trap Rap” (aka “drug music”) remained immensely popular with artists like Future, Migos and Lil Uzi Vert, and exotic dancer turned rapper Cardi B blew up big time with her hit song “Bodak Yellow.”  Ed Sheeran had a great year with Shape of You, Galway Girl and several ballads.  The members of “One Direction” also achieved great acclaim as solo artists in 2017 with hits like “Slow Hands” (Niall Horan) “Sign of the Times” (Harry Styles) and “Strip That Down” (Liam Payne).  Latin music was big in the pop arena, with mega hits by J. Balvin (“Mi Gente”) and Luis Fonsi (“Despacito”).

As we look into 2018, DJs crave a musical breakthrough with a new sound – and hopefully one that is more upbeat and dance floor friendly than trap rap at its dreary 60 to 70 beats per minute tempo.

Check out the list below, and you can listen to the songs on the Spotify playlist embedded later in this blog.

By, DJ Gregg Ambient, January 1, 2018

DJ Gregg’s Top 40 Countdown of 2017

40. Lights – Bobby Green f/ Whitney Philips (tropical house)

39. YES – Sam Feldt w/ Akon  (tropical house) * Love the warm happy feeling of this track and the synthesized Caribbean steel drums.

38. Strip That Down – Liam Payne w/ Quavo (R&B) * One Direction alumnus.

37. Call the Police – LCD Soundsystem (dance punk)

36. Perfect – Ed Sheeran (pop ballad) * The wedding ballad of Fall 2017 may become the wedding ballad of 2018!  A welcome development as wedding guests are tiring of Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”

35. Versace on the Floor – Bruno Mars (pop ballad) * Best suited for adult audiences.

34. Attention – Charlie Puth (pop) * I suggest using a remix to juice up the tempo and reduce some of the uncomfortable slowdowns in the original.

33. Sign of the Times – Harry Styles (pop) * One Direction alumnus

32. Body Like a Back Road – Sam Hunt (Country) – the top pop country hit of 2017!

31. Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton (Country) – while this bluesy cover version was released in 2015, the song’s full power has grown on me like a fine Tennessee whiskey.

30. Game of Thrones Theme (Armin Van Buuren Remix) – Ramin Djawadi (soundtracks/trance)  * “Winter is Coming” but this song can ignite dance floors.

29. New Rules – Dua Lipa (pop)  * part rap, part pop – Dua Lipa’s unique vocal delivery works.

28. Disco T*ts – Tove Lo (pop/electronic) * Definitely opt for the radio edited version of this Swedish star’s song when families are in the building.  For a good laugh, check out the music video.

27. Rockstar – Post Malone w/ 21 Savage (hip hop / R&B).  * 21 Savage’s deadpan rap delivery will grow on you with time.

26. I Feel It Coming – The Weeknd w/ Daft Punk (R&B) * One of the only songs to repeat from the 2016 playlist.  The Weeknd with Daft Punk is a divine collaboration.

25. It’s Everyday Bro – Jake Paul w/ Team 10 (YouTube Rap).  * This is an example of the type of track being requested by teen dance audiences.  Songs that may not be commercially available (although this one is).  This track logged 167 million YouTube views.

24. Passionfruit – Drake (R&B)  * DJs, be sure to edit out the false start to this song.

23. Dile Que Tu Me Quieres – Ozuna (Latin/Reggaeton)

22. Vente Pa’ Ca’ = Ricky Martin w/ Maluma (Latin)

21. Slow Hands – Niall Horan (pop) * One Direction alumnus.

20. Malibu (Lost Frequencies Remix) – Miley Cyrus (pop/electronic)

19. Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato (pop)

18. Chantaje – Shakira w/ Maluma (Latin/Reggaeton)

17. Rollin – Calvin Harris w/ Future and Khalid (electronic / R&B)

16. Slide – Calvin Harris w/ Frank Ocean and Migos (electronic / R&B)

15. Unforgettable – French Montana w/ Swae Lee (Hip Hop / R&B)

14. Wild Thoughts – DJ Khaled w/ Rihanna and Bryson Tiller (R&B) * DJs, of course you’d want to mix this with “Maria Maria” by Santana.

13. Humble – Kendrick Lamar (hip hop)

12. Mask Off – Future (hip hop)  * The hypnotic flute and Future’s chants of popular street drug names will draw you in.

11. Redbone – Childish Gambino (R&B)  * Such a soulful track!  DJ Iron Mike suggests the “Nick Bike Edit” – check it out here

10. Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man (alternative rock)  * Portugal.  The Man, a band from Alaska, has been together since the early 2000s and finally scored big with this hit!

9. Havana – Camila Cabello w/ Young Thug (pop)

8. Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake (pop)  * Despite being released in 2016, the song’s presence and dance floor power remained strong in 2017.

7. Bad and Boujee – Migos f/ Lil Uzi Vert (hip hop).  * This song was massive in the first 4-5 months of 2017 but faded fast thereafter.  Lil’ Pump’s “Gucci Gang” (not included in this year’s countdown) could be 2018’s Bad and Boujee equivalent.

6. That’s What I Like – Bruno Mars (pop)  * This feel good sing-a-long by Mars is a great late night selection.

5. Mi Gente –  J. Balvin w/ Willy William (Latin/Reggaeton) * whether you opt for the original version or remix with Beyonce, this song’s intoxicating groove works on dance floors.

4. Bodak Yellow – Cardi B. (hip hop) * Cardi’s unique rap cadence and swagger made her an international superstar in 2017.

3. Shape of You – Ed Sheeran (pop) * A great party starter… for added percussion, we recommend DJ Cloak Dagger‘s Shape of You Moombahton Edit.

2. Despacito (remix) – Luis Fonsi w/ Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber (Latin/Reggaeton).  This massive global hit has scored 4.6 BILLION YouTube views just on the original version of the song alone.

1. 24K Magic – Bruno Mars (pop).  It’s my first ever repeat #1 song!  Released on November 18, 2016, I saw the power of this track early on.  As predicted, 24k became a massive dance floor success with the right energy to get guests moving and grooving.. “players, put yo pinky rings up to the moon!”

Worst Song of 2017“Everyday We Lit” – YFN Lucci f/ PnB Rock.  A childish, ridiculous song!  Runner-up would be “Get It Together” by Drake that bastardizes the original song “Superman” by Black Coffee.

Listen on Spotify

Take a listen to the Top 40 on the Spotify playlist below.

More Select Music Videos

About Ambient DJ Service

Ambient DJ Service is an award-winning mobile DJ entertainment company based in Central New Jersey and servicing the New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and New York City markets.  For more information about DJ Gregg Ambient or any of our other talented music mixologists, vist us online at www.ambientdj.com 

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Listen to Our Mixes

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Top Mobile DJ Memories – 2016

Each December, I like to publish various countdowns and lists, re-capping the past year.  This post recounts the top memories and achievements (mostly good) from 2016, taking readers into the life of a mobile DJ company owner.  I’ve been operating Ambient DJ Service full-time since 2010.   It’s been a primarily positive experience with more highs than lows.  But as with any small business, the demands of the job can be intense at times.  With a larger operation comes the need to delegate responsibility and to streamline operations.

The list below is in no particular order:

1.  Expanding Our Staff.  In 2016, we added eight music mixologists (DJs) to our staff.  Two of our DJs moved out of New Jersey during the year, leaving us with a net addition of six.  The majority of the new entertainers are specialists such as DJ Nick (karaoke), DJ Jonathan (kids entertainment), DJ/Producer Cloak Dagger (high-performance, high-end retail, corporate and lounge/club), DJ Dre Ovalle (Latin Events) and DJ Linda Leigh (techno/underground electronica).  Other newcomers included musician/DJ Joseph Grillo, DJ Vinny Blanc, DJ Statle  and dancer Sasha Saco.  It’s great to know that we at Ambient DJ likely have the right guy (or lady) for any particular party type.

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DJ Cloak Dagger – Live in NYC

2. Performing with an American Idol Star.  In November, I had the pleasure of working with singer Devin Velez, a finalist American Idol Season 12.  Devin was flown in from Chicago by birthday girl Marie, who threw a 70s themed birthday party for her milestone birthday.  Devin’s vocal performance was incredible, and he was a true gentleman as well.  For a musical recap of the party, see the mix below.

3. Ambient DJ Sponsors Logo Design Competition.  Our original logo was invented in the late 1990s in the midst of the Acid House / Rave scene.  Our business has grown and evolved significantly since then.  Thus, we sponsored a logo design competition and selected the following winning design that pays homage to our past, present and future.  The winning designer was from Indonesia!

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New logo, 2016 – Welcome to the Wedding Boutique!

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Our original logo, created in 2003 – Feel the Rave / Electronica Influence

4. The Wedding Cocktail Hour Series Spreads Its Wings.  What began as a pet project with cocktail hour music playlists paired with signature drinks, we achieved critical mass on this series in 2016.  As of year-end, we’ve published 79 carefully crafted playlists and over 1,600 song selections.  Themes for 2016 included Boy Bands (DJ Iron Mike), Bossa Chill (DJ Dre Ovalle), Disco Love (DJ Gregg Ambient) and even a 420 “High Times” playlist.  To view the playlists and selected signature drinks, see https://ambientdj.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/2016-wedding-music-master-class/  While we’re in no rush to hit 100 playlists, it’s a distinct possibility in 2017 or 2018.  To my knowledge, no mobile DJ company in the world has compiled the depth of wedding music playlists as we have.  Be on the lookout for our “Wedding Music Master Class 2017” to be published in January.

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Our Favorite Client Models, Sarah and Michael #HelloWeAreSciscilo

5.  Ambient DJ is Interviewed for Debut Episode of Mobile DJ Tips Podcast.  DJ Shri is a New Jersey-based DJ who has created a phenomenal educational podcast series for DJs that is available for free on i-Tunes.  I was fortuitously interviewed for the debut podcast on the topics of “Scaling a DJ Business” and “Financial Forecasting for DJs.”  Shri has been on a roll all year, interviewing an impressive list of A-list DJ entertainers (now up to 26 interviews) including Mitch Taylor, Marcello Pedalino, Bill Herman, DJ Magic Mike, Joe Bunn, DJ Shelly,  Jack Bermeo, Scott Faver, Sean “Big Daddy” McKee and more.  To connect with DJ Shri, visit  http://mobiledjtips.com/   I can’t recommend this free resource enough for DJs who want to improve.  Listen at home, listen in your car – just tune in!

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6.  You Never Know Who is Watching.  Over the summer, we received an offer from an entertainment company who was interested in acquiring Ambient DJ Service.  This company is perhaps one of just a handful of companies who I’d ever considering merging with.  While the deal dissolved due to exogenous factors, the moral of the story is in that building a business (even in a small business environment), you never know who might be evaluating you.  Understand the value drivers of your company and keep in mind that mergers & acquisitions do exist in the mobile DJ entertainment field.  Want to grow your own DJ business?  Then consider acquiring or merging with a synergistic DJ/company.

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7.  Ambient DJ Joins the Board of NACE.  In 2016, Ambient DJs’ Executive Director Gregory Lambiase was appointed as a Board Member of the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) of New Jersey.   In addition to his new executive responsibilities, Greg also competed in NACE’s “Battle of the DJs’ competition held over the Summer.

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DJ Greg Nice, NACE Board Member

8.  Ambient DJ is Inducted into The Knot Best Of Weddings Hall of Fame.  With our fourth win for Knot Best of Weddings – determined by reviews from real wedding couples, Ambient DJ was inducted into the Knot Best of Weddings Hall of Fame.  This achievement is a testament to our consistency and quality in the wedding DJ entertainment segment – an area where the stakes are high and the degree of difficulty for performances can be lofty.  Many thanks to our core wedding team of DJ Greg Nice, DJ Spinz, DJ Iron Mike, DJ Sully and DJ Marti Gras.

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9. Ambient DJ Rocks The DJ Times International DJ Expo.  Each August, some 4,000 DJs gather in Atlantic City NJ for the DJ Times DJ Expo.  An important leg of the program is the seminar track.  In 2016, myself, DJ Iron Mike, DJ Linda Leigh and DJ Dre Ovalle all participated as speakers at educational seminars, sharing our expertise to the DJ community at large.  In this “talent based” business, it’s comforting to know that Ambient DJ has a huge pool of talent.  My advice for DJs of all skill levels – is to check your ego at the door and never stop learning.  Stay hungry to improve and refine your skills.  You will benefit professionally and financially from being at the top of your field.

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Learning from DJ Skribble at The DJ Expo

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10. The Passing of the Queen.  Ambient DJ’s official pet mascot for the past 15 years was Queeny, a fiery Bichon Frise who greeted all of my DJ visitors with a shrill bark.  A true sweetheart and loyal companion for a DJ with long and irregular work hours, the Queen didn’t quite make her Sweet 16.  She is sorely missed.

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In Conclusion

2016 was a year of positive experiences and growth.  With a strong foundation and eagerness to improve, 2017 should be our best year ever.  We are particularly optimistic with Alain Adams (DJ AQ) spearheading the launch of our new Philadelphia/Delaware operation effective January 1, 2017.

Thank you for your continued support.  We look forward to partying with you in 2017 and beyond!  For more information or to book Ambient DJ Service, visit us online at www.ambientdj.com

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DJ Cloak Dagger Rocks Gotham Hall, NYC

Halloween Music Sampler 2016

In tandem with the Halloween party season, Ambient DJs’ music mixologists have assembled some of our favorite party jams for your listening enjoyment.  In this blog, we share five pieces of spooky musical content that include a Spotify playlist (unmixed), three Halloween party dance sets (mixed) and a video of one of our homes illuminated with LED uplights programmed to the classic “Thriller” – great job DJ Vinny Blanc on the lighting job!   Contributing DJs to this blog include Linda Leigh, Iron Mike, Vinny Blanc, Gary G, Marti Gras, Dre Ovalle, Nick and Gregg Ambient.

Have a blast, and if you enjoy the music, please share it with a friend.  Boo-yah!

Eerily Yours,

The Ambient DJ Music Mixologists

P.S.  You will need to scroll down the page to access the mixes

DJ Mix #1 “Sinister Halloween Dance Party” by DJ Gregg Ambient – an open format mix containing everything from classical music to techno to MJ’s “Thriller”

DJ Mix #2 “Tapestry of Terror” by DJ Linda Leigh – old school electronic treats, spun on vinyl back in the 1990s!  Tripped out, spooky, avant garde…

DJ Mix #3 “Nightmare on Teal Court” by DJ Gregg Ambient – recorded in 2016, this mix focuses on dark electronic music but also contains some 2016 pop/dance hits.

Thriller Custom Programmed Lighting Show by DJ Vinny Blanc

About Ambient DJ Service

Ambient DJ Service is an award-winning mobile DJ entertainment company specializing in weddings and based in Central NJ.   Connect with us online at www.ambientdj.com

DJ Cloak Dagger Featured On Buddha Bar

Congratulations to Luke Rizzo, aka Cloak Dagger, for the inclusion of his production “Ale’ Sofi” (Captain Planet Remix) on the new Buddha Bar ‘Select 9’ compilation.  This fun tropical house track evokes the feeling of flamenco and Brazilian Carnival – and is found on the “Party Friends” side (Disc Two) of the album.

Read Luke’s thoughts on this accomplishment below!

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To enjoy the Captain Planet remix:

To enjoy the original Cloak Dagger track that was remixed by Captain Planet:

To learn, more about DJ Cloak Dagger, read our recent interview at:

https://ambientdj.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/interview-with-dj-cloak-dagger-luke-rizzo/

Booking Information

To book DJ Cloak Dagger for your wedding, club or private event, visit us online at www.ambientdj.com or email info@ambientdj.com

Hot Summer 2016 Playlist by DJ Gregg Ambient

July 2016 here in our company’s headquarters of Central New Jersey has literally been steaming hot with daily temperatures averaging 95 degrees.  In this blog, Ambient DJ founder Gregg Hollmann (aka DJ Gregg Ambient) shares his top songs of Hot Summer 2016.

Gregg’s selections span pop, electronic, hip hop, Latin, deep house, soca and a Guns N’ Roses throwback (they are currently on tour).   We also debut a new feature in this blog – a suggested “DO NOT PLAY” track!  Immediately below the playlist is a link where you can listen to the playlist (unmixed) on Spotify.  Enjoy and please comment with your own favorite songs of Summer 2016!

Hot Summer 2016 Playlist – by DJ Gregg Ambient

  1. Feel Like I Do – Disclosure f/ Al Green (this track is perfect for a wedding or wedding cocktail hour combining a classic soul track over a house beat)
  2. In Common (Kaskade Remix) – Alicia Keys (note: for a deep house treatment, try the Black Coffee remix. Both remixes are included on the Spotify playlist)
  3. This Girl (Kungs Vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners) – Kungs
  4. Ginza – J Balvin
  5. Bailar – Deorro f/ Elvis Crespo (this track is an interesting fusion of merengue and EDM and would make a great transition track for mixing)
  6. Crash – Usher
  7. Cold Water – Major Lazer w/Justin Bieber
  8. Into You – Ariana Grande
  9. Toothbrush – DNCE
  10. Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake
  11. Gyal You a Party Animal – Charly Black
  12. All the Way Up – Fat Joe w/ Remy Ma and French Montana
  13. Don’t Mind – Kent Jones
  14. Me Too – Meghan Trainor (this track has a popping coffee machine… it was meant to be mixed with “The Perculator”)
  15. My Boo – Ghosttown DJs (the ‘running man challenge’ song!)
  16. Panda – Desiigner
  17. One Dance – Drake w/ Wizkid and Kyla
  18. Cheap Thrills (Le Youth Remix) – Sia
  19. BOSS – Disclosure
  20. Acceptable in the 80’s – Calvin Harris
  21. Take Me There – Cloak Dagger f/ Basement Love (note: this track was produced by one of our DJ music mixologists Cloak Dagger) – you can listen and enjoy a free download of this track on Cloak’s Soundcloud page by clicking here.
  22. Sambal – Aeroplane and Purple Disco Machine
  23. Someone Who Needs Me (Kryder Remix) – Bob Sinclar
  24. Hot Summer Nights – David Tavare
  25. Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses (throwback)
  • BONUS TRACK – Perfect Strangers – Jonas Blue f/ JP Cooper

DO NOT PLAY – Track of the Season

  • M.I.L.F.$ – Fergie (this song will not be as long lasting  or satisfying as Kelis’ Milkshake!).  Listen at http://youtu.be/bsUWK-fixiA

Listen on Spotify

Mix of the Season

Enjoy a hot reggae mix by Gregg  featuring dancehall classics, the Penthouse riddim and mellow vibes on the Mixcloud player below:

The Vineyard Vibes Wedding Cocktail Hour

Pack a picnic lunch and your favorite bottle of wine and enjoy this new cocktail hour playlist compiled by Ambient DJs!

True to form, our DJ Gregg Ambient has selected favorites from the jazz, electronic, bossa nova and R&B spheres.  Representative artists include Miles Davis, Jose James, Roy Ayers, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.  The playlist also includes a new Disclosure remix of Al Green’s “Feel Like I Do.”

For a signature drink, Gregg has selected a bottle of Chardonnay.  If you can find it, try a bottle of the 2012 St. Eden Vineyards Chardonnay produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California – the vintage was rated 95 out of 100 by Wine Spectator Magazine.

To enjoy the playlist (unmixed) on Spotify, click here.  Cheers!

The Vineyard Vibes Wedding Cocktail Hour

  1. Stella By Starlight – Miles Davis
  2. Everybody Loves the Sunshine – Jose James & Takuya Kuroda
  3. Liquid Love – Roy Ayers
  4. Cantaloupe Island – Herbie Hancock
  5. Song for My Father – George Benson
  6. St. Thomas – Sonny Rollins
  7. Bossa (Canto G Bossa) – Stanley Turrentine & Herbie Hancock
  8. Chitlins Con Carne – Kenny Burrell
  9. Bossa Nova U.S.A. – Dave Brubeck
  10. Postales – Federico Aubele
  11. Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre) – Gotan Project
  12. Cascades of Colour – Ananda Project
  13. Cruisin’ – Smokey Robinson
  14. As – Stevie Wonder
  15. Feel Like I Do – Disclosure w/ Al Green
  16. River Song (Grant Nelson Remix) – Bebel Gilberto

For more information about Ambient DJ Service, visit us online at www.ambientdj.com

The Great DJ Debate – Mac or PC?

Over the years, I have owned both Windows-based PCs and Apple computers.  My preference for DJ performances has been Windows-based laptops, specifically Dell computers.  In this blog article, I highlight some of the important differences between Macs and PCs, and answer the question, “do you really need an Apple MacBook Pro to rock a dance floor?”

Over the past ten years, the vast majority of mobile DJs have transitioned to digital DJ setups with a laptop computer paired with a variety of MIDI controllers used to play back and mix digital MP3 files.  Prior to the digital DJ revolution, DJs used CDs or vinyl and were forced to carry cumbersome cases/crates of music to parties.  While performing from a laptop is incredibly empowering to a DJ, it’s critical to have a reliable laptop computer that doesn’t crash during a hot dance set or while a wedding couple is sharing their first dance together as husband and wife.

From time to time, I receive comments from party guests who are astounded to learn that it’s possible to DJ without an Apple MacBook Pro – you know, the one with the glowing Apple logo on the back.

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Well, I’m here to tell you that, YES, it’s possible and Windows-based computers work great with popular DJ software programs like Serato DJ and Virtual DJ.  I also far prefer the Word Processing and Spreadsheet programs (Word and Excel, respectively) of Windows over their mediocre Apple counterparts (Pages and Numbers).  On the other hand, what I most enjoy about Mac over Windows is the simplicity of design and more intuitive feel of their products.

Fans of Apple laptops will mention that Macs are free of computer viruses, and that they play music better.  Other benefits as per one commentator, “with a Mac, you are guaranteed a high standard of construction, and they have universal audio drivers so you don’t need to mess around installing ASIO drivers to get your computer’s sound card to work with them as you have to for some hardware when using a PC.”

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Contrary to popular belief, Mac computers can experience problems that put a DJ’s performance in peril (e.g. computer crashes and the spinning pinwheel of death).  Numerous DJ peers of mine have experienced serious problems with their MacBooks that required professional repair at the Apple store.

As a rule, for all of my DJ laptops, I use them exclusively for music.   I purchase laptops with fast processors and lots of RAM.  I remove as many programs as possible from the computer that are unrelated to music.  I don’t want other programs placing a drain on the processor to interfere with its sole purpose of running my DJ software without any glitches.  Importantly, I do not surf the internet with my work laptop.  This virtually eliminates the risk of contracting a computer virus from the worldwide web.  Finally, I am reluctant to install software updates once I have my computers running smoothly.

The cost savings from using Windows-based laptops versus MacBook Pros can be significant.  For identical specifications, Macs command a substantial premium.   A 15 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB hard drive is currently listed online by Apple for $2,499.  A 15 inch Dell Inspiron 7000 series with 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive plus 128 GB Solid State Drive is listed on Dell’s website at $1,299.  In this case, a similar Apple product costs double the price of the Windows based alternative.  How much of this premium is attributable to performance versus branding?

Speaking of branding, why as a DJ should you promote Apple’s brand with their glowing Apple logo?  You’re not endorsed by Apple and receive no compensation to ‘place’ the brand as is common in Hollywood movies.  If you’re going to decorate your laptop computer, why not use a custom skin promoting your own DJ brand?  That’s what two-time DJ Times DJ of the Year Jack Bermeo of LJ Productions did (see photo below).

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Cool factor?  Yes, Apple is cooler than Dell, HP and the other popular PC brands.  However, a skilled DJ can deliver a cool performance on any brand of computer laptop – MAC or PC.  A computer is merely a tool of the trade.  Keith Richards would be formidable with a toy guitar, and Roger Federer would still beat a recreational player using a wooden tennis racket.

If cost was no object, would I opt for an Apple MacBook Pro?  Most likely yes, but not definitely.  I’ve been very happy with the stability of my PCs out in the field.   The MAC versus PC debate is a personal decision – you should use whichever brand fits your image, performance needs, and budget.

Please leave a comment below to let us know where you stand on the Mac versus PC debate.  Which do you use to DJ, and why?  For those who attend DJ set as guests, do you perceive DJs differently based on their laptop brand or custom skin?

 

New Jersey’s Top Wedding Venues (2016 Edition)

Through the years, we have had the opportunity to provide wedding DJ entertainment in many of the finer banquet halls located throughout the state of New Jersey.  In this article, we share our top wedding venue selections.  This is our third consecutive year counting down the top 25 wedding venues in New Jersey!  While our company is based in the Princeton area in central New Jersey, we perform across the state, from Cape May to Bergen County. With our referral sources and advertising programs scattered across New Jersey, we tour the Garden State heavily (it’s a lot of fun!) and you never know where Ambient DJ Service will pop up on any given weekend.

New Jersey offers an incredible array of quality wedding reception venues that are as diverse as the state itself. From rustic farm weddings to summer celebrations in the heart of the Jersey Shore to luxurious banquet halls with the most decadent Viennese spreads to romantic wineries, the Garden State is a great place to celebrate a wedding! We recommend couples to find a venue that suits their personal style. Do keep in mind that outdoors celebrations in unique venues can produce the most memorable parties, but that New Jersey’s weather is unpredictable.  You are well-advised to select a venue that offers a quality indoor alternative should the weather prove uncooperative.

To further explore the lures of New Jersey weddings, check out Erik Kent from NJWedding.com’s blog article “10 Reasons to Get Married in New Jersey”by clicking here.

What Makes an Exceptional Venue?

Factors that impress us:

  1. Natural beauty and ambience (how does the venue look both inside and out?);
  2. Friendly and service-oriented staff (preferably with long-term staff retention);
  3. Delicious food (DJs are often provided an entree);
  4. Venues that strive to deliver a personalized wedding experience for the bride and groom, and are not ‘wedding factories.’ The fact that a venue has multiple rooms doesn’t make it a wedding factory; rather, wedding factory refers to a mechanical approach to service.
  5. Well-maintained facilities – are the lobby, bathroom and parking lot clean and well-maintained? If a facility doesn’t care about its appearance, will it care about the details of your once-in-a-lifetime celebration?  As DJs, we possess a behind the scenes perspective that factors into our opinion of venues.

A bonus factor is a venue whose staff treats the DJ as a valued member of the wedding “team” and not as some jerky DJ. As DJs, we feel that love from the staff, and channel the good vibes back to the wedding guests. Conversely, a difficult banquet manager can present a barrier to us entertaining guests to the best of our abilities.  For ideas on how DJs can work better with wedding venues and other event pros, see our blog on this topic by clicking here.

Tips to Engaged Couples in Selecting a Venue

  1. Research your venue on WeddingWire (www.weddingwire.com), the Knot (www.theknot.com) or Yelp (www.yelp.com). See what past clients had to say about their experience. WeddingWire, for example, rates vendors on the factors of 1) Quality of Service, 2) Responsiveness, 3) Professionalism, 4) Value, and 5) Flexibility. You can bet that a bride who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a reception venue will be eager to rave about a wonderful experience or rant about a venue that fell short.
  2. Take special note of venues that won a recent “Knot Best Of” award. The Knot Best Of Award is a respected industry award based on online ratings/reviews from real wedding couples. It is more difficult to win than the WeddingWire Couples Choice award.
  3. Don’t underestimate the factor of service; try to look beyond the decor of the room and the food. A poorly trained, lackadaisical or apathetic staff can dilute the guest experience, even at a beautiful venue.
  4. Ask your wedding planner, DJ company or other wedding vendors for recommendations.

The Top 25 List

Here’s our list, presented in countdown fashion. Drumroll, please…

New Jersey has a wealth of excellent wedding reception venues. Our selected venues are based purely on personal experience. Our list is by no means all-inclusive. Any business relationships that we have with a banquet hall and the ease of load-in were NOT considered in compiling the list.  From year to year, our selections change as we discover new venues.

As a cross-check to our ratings, we’ve listed in parentheses WeddingWire’s average aggregate star rating (maximum 5 stars) and number of WeddingWire reviews as of mid-January.

(25) S.W. Bowne Great Hall (at Drew University in Madison, NJ) – Modeled after Oxford’s Christ Church hall (which was also replicated for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts), Drew’s Great Hall boasts a dramatic stone staircase and magnificent wood-paneled hall with leaded-glass windows.  This unique and stunning venue left an incredible impression on us for Christopher and Annie’s 2015 wedding.  However, Great Hall is currently only available to Drew alumni and staff.  This policy may change in the future according to Drew University’s event coordinator, so interested couples are encouraged to inquire.  Website:  www.drew.edu/calendar/event-rentals/ (unrated on WeddingWire) (photo below courtesy of Ed Hafizov of Zorz Studios (click on the Zorz Studios link for more photos of Great Hall)

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(24) Hotel Icona Diamond Beach (Diamond Beach) –  For lovers of beach weddings, this contemporary, upscale all-suite hotel overlooks the ocean and is located on one of New Jersey’s only private beaches.  The 3,000 square foot luxury tent “The Pavilion” is located on the beach and available from May through October.  The Lani Rooftop is found on the hotel’s 3rd floor and open year-round.  Friendly and attentive management and staff. Website: www.iconaresortdiamondbeach.com (4 reviews, 4.9 average rating)

(23) Minerals Hotel (Hamburg) –  The Minerals Hotel at Crystal Springs Resort offers a  rustic pavilion for wedding receptions with beautiful views of the golf course below and mountains of the Appalachian Valley in the background.  The 175 room Minerals Hotel offers an array of year-round amenities, including its Elements Spa.  Friendly staff.  Website: www.crystalgolfresort.com/stay/minerals-hotel/ (4 WeddingWire reviews, 4.9 average rating)

(22)Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.35.29 PM The Hotel Alcott (Cape May) – The Hotel Alcott is a restored Italianate-bracketed villa located a block away from the Atlantic Ocean in the charming town of Cape May, NJ. No need to settle for mass-produced banquet hall food – Hotel Alcott’s chef serves delicious entrees with artistic flair. The lobster bisque soup and filet mignon are must tries. Website: www.hotelalcott.com (20 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

(21) The Prallsville Mill (Stockton)– The Prallsville Mill is a historic grist mill located on the Delaware River in Stockton NJ. This unique and intimate venue is particularly well-suited for rustic Fall weddings. The dance party action occurs downstairs, where historic mill equipment and whirlpools add to the ambience. Website: www.brillmansrentalbarn.com (4 reviews, 3.5 average rating)

(20) Triumph Brewery (Princeton) – Located directly across the street from Princeton University in the bustling downtown area, Triumph Brewery is a unique space that can be reserved for your wedding. Imagine guests enjoying craft beers brewed onsite with huge metal beer tanks looming in the background. Triumph’s professional management team is very well-regarded. Website: www.triumphbrewing.com (5 reviews, 5.0 average rating)

(19) The Barn at Perona Farms (Andover) –  The newest addition to the Perona Farms estate (under family ownership since 1917) is its newly-renovated rustic barn.  The barn has been transformed into a modern facility and possesses a visual “wow factor” both inside and out.  The house uplighting is particularly striking.  Website:  www.peronafarms.com (146 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

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(18) The Sunset Ballroom at Jack Bakers (Pt. Pleasant) – Located on the Point Pleasant side of the Manasquan Inlet, the bride can arrive for an onsite ceremony by boat. The venue offers beautiful views, delicious food and a friendly staff. Pt. Pleasant offers many fun options for the “afterparty” and is also a family-friendly town for visiting guests. Website: www.thesunsetballroom.com (44 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

(17) The Shadowbrook (Shrewsbury) –  We love the Shadowbrook for its beautiful gardens, perfect to host an onsite wedding ceremony and cocktail hour.  Indoors, its wood-paneled Oak Room and adjacent Horseshoe Bar inevitably host lively dance parties.  In February 2015, Robert Zweben who had been the sole owner for 20-plus years retired and sold the mansion and its surrounding 18 acres of property to the current owners of the renowned Venetian in Garfield and Seasons in Washington Township.  Upgrades to the interior of the mansion are currently underway.  Be sure to ask about the Shadowbrook’s caviar/vodka bar option for cocktail hour!  Website:  www.shadowbrook.com (102 reviews, 4.9 average rating).

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(16) The Inn at Fernbrook Farms (Chesterfield) – The spacious grounds include beautiful seasonal gardens, a cottage and water tower. Tented wedding receptions are the norm here. Max Hansen, the recommended caterer, provides a delicious ensemble of gourmet food. The Inn at Fernbrook Farms is particularly well-suited for a rustic Fall wedding. Website: www.innatfernbrookfarms.com (14 reviews, 4.2 average rating)

(15) The Merion (Cinnaminson) – The Merion is a grand, majestic complex offering numerous magnificent European-designed ballrooms. The Empire Ballroom is a particular favorite of ours, sporting the perfect environment for a Great Gatsby/Roaring Twenties party. Many couples opt for the Skylight Ballroom (with its distinctive dome) on the third floor. The Merion’s Viennese-style cocktail hours and desserts are over the top and may leave you in a state of food intoxication. We also enjoy their special “Rose Parade” (at the beginning of a reception) and “Sparkler Entrance” (for the unveiling of the desserts). Website: www.themerion.com (192 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

(14) The Lake Valhalla Club (Montville) – The Lake Valhalla Club is a building of Tudor-style architecture, rich in character with a dark, classical interior.  The Lake Valhalla Club is the antidote to large, impersonal banquet halls.  Great food and service.  An onsite ceremony with the beautiful lake in the background is highly recommended. During warmer months, newly married couples can enjoy a boat ride on Lake Valhalla and capture some epic photos in the process. Website: www.lakevalhallaclub.com (62 reviews, 4.9 average rating)

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(13) The Conservatory at The Madison Hotel (Morristown) – The English-style Conservatory is the top attraction at this historic and well-appointed hotel. The glass Conservatory, with its hanging plants is beautiful for either a daytime reception or evening celebration dancing under the stars. Website: www.madisonhotelweddings.com (106 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

(12)Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.34.19 PM Reeds at Shelter Haven (Stone Harbor) –   A recent entrant to the Cape May area wedding scene, Reeds offers a modern, luxury boutique hotel featuring sparkling views of the bayside harbor from its Sweet Grass Ballroom.  The hotel is decorated in warm earth tones, richly inspired by nature and the sea.  Delicious food and friendly management and staff.  Website:  www.reedsatshelterhaven.com         (11 reviews, 4.7 average rating)

(11) The Liberty House Restaurant (Jersey City) – With a jaw-dropping view of the lower Manhattan skyline directly across the Hudson River and the most delicious Chilean Sea Bass ever, the Liberty House shines.  Website: www.libertyhouserestaurant.com (109 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

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(10) Laurita Winery (New Egypt) – New Jersey offers numerous vineyard options for weddings.  Laurita Winery, located in Central NJ in New Egypt (not so far from Six Flags Great Adventure) is our favorite for its upscale and trendy environment.  The picturesque grounds and venue are top notch.  Website:  www.lauritawinery.com (20 reviews, 4.8 average rating).

(9) Park Savoy Estate (Florham Park) – This recently renovated turn-of-the-century mansion features cozy fireplaces, an exquisite bridal suite and details only seen in the great mansions of Newport Rhode Island, and is enhanced with floor to ceiling windows.  Take a stroll through the beautiful onsite gardens.  Website www.theparksavoy.com (197 reviews, 5.0 average rating).  Also consider Park Savoy’s sister property, Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville (www.naninasinthepark.com)

(8) David’s Country Inn (Hackettstown) – Outstanding food and service in a venue oozing country charm, David’s Country Inn is a stand out venue in Warren County. For an onsite ceremony, the bride can dramatically process down a grand staircase. Regarding staff longevity, three staff members have been with David’s for more than 25 years! Also check out the antique coffee maker in the cocktail hour space. Website: www.davidscountryinn.com (77 reviews, 5.0 average rating)

(7) The Hamilton Manor (Hamilton NJ) – The Hamilton Manor is a modern venue in the Hamilton/Bordentown area that can host a wedding of up to 500 guests. Its Grand Ballroom features 20 foot high ceilings, antique chandeliers, a dramatic staircase for grand entrances and beautifully-restored mahogany floors. The Salzano Family runs a top-notch professional operation and continues to expand the property, most recently with a covered outdoor patio barn (for cocktail hours, pictured below) and outdoor ceremony area.  Many North Jersey couples are choosing the Hamilton Manor based in Central NJ for its North Jersey style amenities, but at a Central NJ price point. Website: www.thehamiltonmanor.com (105 reviews, 4.9 average rating)

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(6) The Estate at Florentine Gardens (River Vale) – This newly renovated and expanded Georgian-style mansion features expansive gardens, a grand ballroom with views of the gardens (the gardens look striking in the evening with the trees lit up), world class cuisine (the Chateaubriand is incredible), and an attentive professional management team and staff.  An in-house A/V company offers an exciting array of lighting and video options. Website:  www.florentinegardens.com (336 reviews, 4.9 average rating)

(5) The Stone House at Stirling Ridge (Warren) – The architecture and design of the Stone House stand out, evoking a modern California lodge feel.  As per their website, “this space is designed with classic, clean lines, patterned wood and stone floors, a neutral color pallet and an appreciation for the scenic beauty that is part of this secluded location.” The food is exceptional, utilizing vegetables and herbs grown on a local communal farm. Choose from either the traditional ballroom or the artsy “Gallery” – each with its own ceremony and cocktail areas. Banquet manager Frank always offers a warm smile to DJs and guests! Website: www.stonehouseatstirlingridge.com (51 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

(4) The Nassau Inn (Princeton) – Our company is based in the Princeton area, and the Nassau Inn, located in Palmer Square, has always been a favorite of ours, capturing the history of this great town.  The Inn offers several classy, prestigious party rooms to choose from.  In an industry where rapid staff turnover and transient workers are the norm, it is refreshing to see many of the same waitstaff and banquet managers year after year at the Nassau Inn. Be sure to check out its recently renovated Prince William Ballroom.  Palmer Square, Princeton University and the iconic Princeton Record Exchange offer wonderful photo opportunities for wedding photos or an engagement photo shoot.  The wintery photo below is credited to our friend Kyo from Kyo Morishima Photography. Website: www.nassauinn.com (33 reviews, 4.9 average rating)

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(3) The Palace at Somerset Park (Somerset) – For those with champagne wishes and caviar dreams, the opulent Palace is the perfect venue. Located on a palatial estate, the Palace includes two magnificent ballrooms with separate entrances. The bridal suite, located upstairs, is a modern oasis of massive dimensions. Use the outdoor balcony for your own private fireworks show. Website: www.palacesomersetpark.com (196 reviews, 4.9 average rating)

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(2) Clark’s Landing Yacht Club (Pt. Pleasant) – With a new luxurious ballroom with high ceilings and panoramic windows fronting the water, a top notch management team and sumptuous food (particularly for cocktail hour), Clarks Landing is a standout selection.  An added plus is that DJs plug their mixing board into an in-house sound system with speakers built into the ceiling above the dancefloor.  The result is that dancers enjoy louder music, while guests seated at tables are not blasted out of the room (a frequent complaint against DJs and bands at weddings).  Regarding management, we’ve witnessed the intense and detailed staff prep meeting. Clarks Landing is clearly committed to superior service and the results show.  Clarks also wishes past wedding couples happy anniversary on their Facebook page! Website: www.clarkslandingcaterers.com (215 reviews, 5.0 average rating)

(1) The Pleasantdale Chateau (West Orange) – Congratulations to the Pleasantdale Chateau for repeating this year as our top pick!  The Pleasantdale Chateau is the ideal venue for those couples seeking an elegant, custom fairytale wedding. With a long and storied history dating back to the 1800s, the original building was constructed in an English Georgian architectural style in the early 1900s by industrial leader Charles Walter Nichols. In 1994, the Knowles Family acquired the estate and commenced a series of restorations that gave deference to the Chateau’s history, but also made the property more accessible to the public. This venue has that “wow factor” that is hard to describe with words but is impossible to miss when attending an event here. Enjoy your cocktail hour in the distinctive “Music Room,” chat with friends in the library and stroll through luxurious parlors. A hidden gem of the Pleasantdale Chateau is Maitre d’ Santiago Sevilla who makes each and every guest (and wedding vendor) feel like a VIP. Thanks Santiago! Website: www.pleasantdale.com (41 reviews, 4.8 average rating)

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Comments are welcome. Please let us know what venues would be on your list of favorites!  For any banquet managers interested in providing us an introduction to your venue, please contact us at info@ambientdj.com or p 609.672.1270

For More Information

For an alternate and humorous venue selection methodology, check out the blog of “Dad Needs Help” who evaluated wedding venues based on their bathroom amenities. Read the article by clicking here

Already booked a venue and need musical ideas for your big day? Then click here to view Ambient DJs’ “Wedding Music Master Class 2016” that contains over 1,800 song ideas spanning ceremony music, First Dance songs, Parent Dance songs, Cake Cutting Songs, Bouquet Garter Songs, grand entrance songs, grand finale songs, 65 themed cocktail hour playlists and 10 songs NOT to play at a wedding.

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About Ambient DJ Service

Ambient DJ Service is a full-service mobile NJ DJ entertainment company based in Central New Jersey specializing in wedding DJ entertainment. Ambient DJ is a 2016 winner of the Knot Best of Weddings award as well as of the WeddingWire Couple’s Choice Award.  As of mid-January, we had 160 WeddingWire reviews with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5.0 stars.

We have a deep passion for the music that we play and enjoy collaborating with our brides and grooms to create unforgettable parties! We would be delighted to perform at your wedding in the New Jersey / Philadelphia / New York Tri-State area, or destination wedding. For more info and to read our wedding reviews, visit us on the web at www.ambientdj.com.

 

A Year of Writing and Music

Since 2013, I have been an avid blogger writing for the Ambient DJ Service blog.  More recently, I’ve been a columnist for Stacy Zemon’s ProMobileDJ.com website and the Digital DJ Blog.  Each August, I cover the seminars at the DJ Times International DJ Expo in Atlantic City and write a lengthy review of the seminars that is later published in DJ Times Magazine over multiple issues.

While I enjoy the written word, my favorite mode of artistic expression is music and recording dance mixes.  These projects take longer to create.

This blog lists some of my best articles and mixes of the year. The educational articles will be particularly helpful to a beginner or intermediate level DJ seeking to grow their business.

For 2016, if you have an article that you’d like to see me write or a mix concept that you’d like recorded, please reach out anytime by email to gregg@ambientdj.com

WRITING:

A) The Ambient DJ Blog (Highlights)

The Wedding Music Master Class 2015

New Jersey’s Top Wedding Venues (2015 Edition)

The Seven Deadly Sins of Karaoke

Wedding Trends, Statistics and Marketing Tips from The Knot

64 Themed Wedding Cocktail Hour Playlists

How to Recruit DJ Staff – An Ambient DJ Case Study

B) ProMobileDJ.com

What DJs Can Learn from Car Salespeople

Making a Continuing Education Commitment

10 Lessons that DJs can learn from Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue

7 Tips for a Successful DJ Website

How DJs Can Use The Profit First Financial Management System

How DJs Can Work Together to Share Venue Information

How to Sell Your DJ Business (to a new owner)

How to Book More Same Sex Weddings – An Interview with Jodi Duston

How Mobile DJs Can Use Spotify

Dress for Success

Should DJs Maintain a Full Time Office Space?

How to Create a DJ Business Forecast

How to DJ Kids Parties – a Primer

Growing a DJ Business with Advertising

C) DigitalDJ Blog

5 New Years Resolutions for DJs

5 Tips to Start a Successful Mobile DJ Service

The 10 Best Social Media Marketing Practices for DJs

The Wedding DJ Opportunity – Part 1 (How to DJ a Wedding)

The Wedding DJ Opportunity – Part 2 (How to DJ a Wedding)

D) Reviews of DJ Times DJ Expo Seminars

Reviews of the 2015 Educational Seminars

MUSIC MIXES

A) Soundcloud

B) Mixcloud