I was going to write something titillating about a recent session I had, but fuck you assholes and your dicks. This is what I feel like writing:
Of course I know this is silly and completely subjective, but I think that my rules for the jukebox are pretty universal and should be abided by no matter what situation with a jukebox you might find yourself in. I'm not a music nerd, I just value my ears.
The biggest mistake people make when selecting from the jukebox (I love that word!) is to make decisions on what is familiar, rather than on what others who are listening to the jukebox might like. Look around the bar. Is it a dive? Are there a bunch of crotchety old men sitting around in their legionaire's uniforms? Or are there a bunch of NYU students? (if yes to the latter, I suggest you forget the music and leave) I have a tendency to enjoy an atmosphere of infirmity and drowned sorrows- and inevitably these places will have the better jukebox. A bunch of crotchety old men are not going to want to listen to the Dead Milkmen (although they rule). Obviously. Find stuff that was made before 1967. Who knows, you might even get a free drink out of it.
Secondly, do not play anything that you could hear as soon as you turn on a classic rock station. This is a huge, unforgivable blunder that most people make when choosing songs. Don't choose Zeppelin if it's not a B-side off of CO/DA, do not, under any circumstances, choose Journey or Air Supply or Chicago EVER, do not play the Stones, the Beatles, Black Sabbath, or any other popular yet ground-breaking band unless it's obscure (Gimme Shelter and Beast of Burden are the only exceptions- I told you these rules were subjective). Do not play Janis Joplin, The Doors, or Jimi Hendrix- unless you have no other option.
Thirdly, do not choose hip hop or rap unless the bar is completely packed full of yuppies. Hip hop can be a huge crowd-pleaser. Unfortunately, in most instances, it is the most insipidly common mainstream bullshit that gets the best reaction. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether it is more important to make people happy, or for your ears to bleed.
Fourthly, do not play goth music. Just don't. Yes, The Cure falls under this category. That said, do not play Tori Amos (ugh!).
Fifthly (is that a word?), scratch the Jimi Hendrix rule. I'm listening to him now, and I change my mind.
Sixthly (hee), if you're over forty-five, don't try to choose something contemporary that you think "the kids" will like. Jukeboxes are never kept up to date, and you're not impressing anyone. Contemporary popular music by it's very nature is faddish and banal. Just don't go there. I implore you.
Seventhly, do not play show tunes or Billy Joel. Hopefully this goes with out saying. This is a bigger problem with karaoke than jukeboxes, granted. Also, no Metallica or heavy metal or punk made after 1983. This falls under the same category as show tunes, because I said so. And because you shouldn't play anything that makes people feel like they might go mad listening to it. Whether it's completely atonal or completely insipidly treacly and trite.
Sometimes you may come in contact with one of those internet "choose your own adventure" (nightmare), look-and-you-will-find-it sort of jobs. Originally only to be found in places that one should actively avoid anyway, they seem to be making themselves into halfway decent bars. This is unfortunate, because inevitably people will always pick something right out of their own CD collection. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but face it, most people own like 12 CD's (thanks for that observation, Billy). I hate these jukeboxes, because while seeming to foster the idea that you can go crazy and use your imagination, they in fact encourage people to do just the opposite. I can, however, appreciate them for things like Desmond Dekker (why can't I find that shit anywhere?) or the Melodians, or bad British ska music.
Essentially, when faced with a jukebox that is old-fashioned and has a static list of choices, one is forced to spend some money on songs/artists/albums that perhaps they aren't familiar with. This is trial by error, but that's part of the fun! Sometimes you win, sometimes not. Can one really put a price on something they played randomly and ended up really enjoying?
ADDENDUM: This also should go without saying, but country music made within the last 30 years is bad, unless you're in like, a saloon, or there's line-dancing happening in front of you. This rule does not apply to Dolly Parton or Willie Nelson.