Used to be, you'd have to hit bar after bar until you found one with just the right jukebox, and then that was your own personal lair of alcohol consumption from then on. The people demanded more freedom of choice, however, so most bars have already switched over to Internet jukeboxes, where one can search vast online resources and download your song of choice on the spot.
If your bar hasn't already, it probably will soon. When used improperly, Internet jukeboxes are proof that democracy DOES NOT WORK. So don't just learn the rules for yourself: Learn them FOR AMERICA.
5. Don't Play the Same Shit They've Been Playing on the Radio for the Past 20 Years. The amount of music at your hands is, for all intents and purposes, infinite. The only limit is your imagination. So don't be the unimaginitive dingleberry who who cues up "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Jump" or "Dream On."
If you want to hear those songs, turn on the radio for free and tune in to literally any rock station and they will be played within minutes. This is your chance to play something you haven't heard in a while, something that may take five or six seconds of creative thought. Don't hurt yourself.
4. Don't Play That One Song Everyone's Listening to Right Now. Remember Autumn of '04? Wasn't "Drop It Like It's Hot" a great song? Yes, it was! Everyone loved that song... but not so much when it cued up for the fifth time in an hour. Because guess what: you're not the only one playing music tonight.
If there's a song with huge buzz making the rounds all over social media and has turned into its own little cultural meme, don't be the guy who plays it for the umpteenth time and forces a driven-insane bartender to leap across the bar and stab the jukebox with a corkscrew. Someone else will play that song, probably several someone elses.
Have restraint. Be the better person.
3. Play the Real Song. Before you press play, make sure this is the correct version of the song you've chosen. No one wants to hear the extended dance remix that drones on for 12 minutes and thinks it's so very clever because it worked in some fake orgasm noises. Don't play a lame-ass cover version, either.
"When a Man Loves a Woman" is by Percy Sledge, not Michael Bolton, and you'd better make a note of that unless you want to spent the world's most awkward slow-dance avoiding eye contact with someone whose opinion of you just plummeted well past "Never Have Sex With, Ever." On the other hand, if everybody's drunk enough and you're feeling charismatic, you could try playing an instrumental version and leading everyone in a singalong.
Be warned: that is some expert-level shit.
2. Know the Mood. Look around at your surroundings. What do you see? A couple of broken old regulars at the bar and a run-down call girl sobbing quietly in a corner? Well then maybe reconsider playing Andrew WK. On the other hand, is it a crowd full of young professionals getting drunk, cutting loose, feeling each other up, and pounding shots like it's Spring Break? Now might not be the time for Tom Waits.
Deliberately playing against the mood is funny if you're a selfish bastard, but if you're really trying to enhance the general demeanor for everyone, try to adhere to the general vibe. If you do it right, it really is like being in a goddamn movie.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. In Case of Alien Invasion, Play Tom Petty or Tears for Fears. Only aliens hate Tom Petty or Tears For Fears. When aliens have landed and disguised themselves as humans to walk among us and steal our women, play "Runnin' Down a Dream" or "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" and look around for whoever's scowling.
Once spotted, calmly dispose of the alien prick by whatever guidelines are approved by your local municipal government.