Who Chooses the Music For Dancing With the Stars Routines?
Who Chooses the Music For Dancing With the Stars Routines?
Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC    

Dancing With The Stars

Who Chooses the Music For Dancing With the Stars Routines?


Music can make or break a routine on Dancing With the Stars, but how do they get their songs? Every season, at least one song doesn’t seem to fit the dance style, and the couples throw their hands up and say they had no choice. Other times, couples talk about choosing particular songs for the routines.

So who chooses the music?

The 2014-2015 Dancing With the Stars live tour is in full swing and, during the show, Season 19 champ Alfonso Ribeiro has been asking pros questions about how the dance sausage is made. He asked who chooses the music on the show, and longtime pro Kym Johnson answered.

"In the beginning of the season we get to suggest some songs that we'd like to use," Kym said. "But obviously the producers can't do the same music for each show, so sometimes they [say] 'Would you mind doing this song?' So you kind of have to be flexible. Sometimes you may get a song and you think, 'OK, how can I make that work for a Paso Doble?' But you have to get creative with it and there has to be a variation of songs with each episode. But we definitely get to put our suggestions in the beginning, and it depends on who you have as well." Like when she had Jerry Springer, she'd use different music for him than someone else.

The next question was how Mark Ballas gets inspired for new choreography, and he said it's all in the songs. "For me, I try to send in five songs per dance at the top of the season, so if one doesn't clear, two doesn't clear, hopefully I'll get something that gets me moving. There's nothing worse than when you put the song in, and you're just like [deflated noise]. ... For me it's all about the music and the feel, and now the show has really gone a long way with the production and the themes."

He thanked the producers for letting them stretch the boundaries with contemporary music, while also keeping dances traditional. They are doing the same dances they've done for 10 years now, but they are — as Mark put it — "a gajillion ways to do them" and he's grateful that the producers have allowed the pros to evolve.

So it sounds like music choices are a collaboration between the pros and producers — and there has to be a budgetary element to it as well, in terms of getting access to songs. What’s too expensive? Which songs have taken the longest to clear? It’s kind of fascinating, and it really does make a difference in the success of a routine.

Dancing With the Stars Season 20 is expected to premiere Monday, March 16 on ABC.