Let guests DJ your party

Hate planning the music for your party? Learn how to give your guests a fun way to take control of the party playlist.

I get all panicked when I have to put together music for a party. It's not because I hate music; it's because I love it too much.

Putting together a playlist is like putting my ego on the line. If someone doesn't like a song I picked out -- or just fails to love it as much as I hoped they would -- it has the power to send me into a depressive spiral of self-loathing.

I'm weird that way. I could never make it as a DJ.

That why I was excited to see CNET alum Eliot Van Buskirk write about an app called Jukebox Hero over on Evolver.fm.

The concept is simple. You load some music onto your phone and connect it to your stereo, and as guests arrive, they use their own phones to dictate what songs from your phone get played.

The foundation of the whole thing is a free app for iPhone (iTunes link) and Android (Google Play link) called Jukebox Hero. As the party host, you'll open the app, log-in with an e-mail or Facebook account, and then define what music on your phone will be included in your virtual jukebox. You can throw everything in there, but if there are some embarrassing corners of your music collection you may want to narrow it down to a playlist of 30-50 party-worthy songs.

Next, you'll need to connect your phone to your stereo. It could be as simple as connecting an auxiliary input cable, or as sophisticated as wirelessly pairing to a Bluetooth speaker or receiver. If you're an iPhone user with an Apple TV, sending out your music over Airplay to your Apple TV is a recommended way to go, especially if you already have a home-theater system connected to your TV.

Making Airplay work with Jukebox Hero isn't completely straightforward, unfortunately. You won't see an Airplay option within the app itself, however, if you double tap the home button and swipe twice to the right, an Airplay button should be visible. Once engaged, if you're given the option to "mirror" the phone onto your Apple TV, be sure to say "yes." Without the mirroring option turned on, playback will stop between tracks.

What makes the Airplay method worth the hassle is that you get to keep your phone in your pocket, instead of leaving it out and vulnerable to drunken revelry. It also leaves you with ultimate veto power for any songs that deserve it. Sometimes you have to keep the rabble in check.

Speaking of rabble, once your guests arrive, let them know that it's their job to DJ your party. Tell them where to find the app, and to sign in as a "remote". Assuming that you gave your jukebox a personalized name, they should have no problem finding it and checking out the catalog of tunes they have to work with.

Screen shots of JukeboxHero app.
With Jukebox hero you can stock and manage your own virtual jukebox like a pro and share it with your guests. Screenshot by Donald Bell/CNET

The real fun comes into play when a guest first picks a track they want to play. Jukebox Hero offers them three playback options. They can either add their song to the end of the queue for the price of one virtual token, or have the song play next for a few extra tokens, or have the song start playing immediately for even more tokens.

Users are allotted 25 tokens to play with by default, and it's all funny-money. At no point do your guests have to cough up actual dough for the privilege of playing songs from your music collection. That would be lame. These virtual tokens are a great idea, though, since they prevent any single person from dominating the playlist.

Also, as jukebox administrator, you can always dole out extra tokens to your guest to keep the good times rolling. You do this by selecting the gear icon in the upper right corner that only you can see. From here you can reset the tokens for everyone and even raise or lower the default number of tokens handed out. From the remote view, users can individually request more tokens, which you can approve or reject as you see fit.

And that's about all there is to it. To get a better sense of what you're in for, sure to check out the video at the top of this post or the slideshow I made of several of the screenshots.

And before the comment thread becomes a shouting match of all of the dozens of other ways to accomplish this same idea, let's recap what makes Jukebox Hero uniquely awesome: it's free, it works on both iPhone and Android, and all you need is your phone. There are plenty of remote apps out there that can control iTunes or Winamp running on your computer -- but if you want to get a jukebox started on a family road trip, a summer barbeque, or just not have an open computer in your living room, then this is a great way to go.

 

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