Silent Disco is a growing party trend among partygoers and party-throwers. In the not too distant past they were a novelty event at clubs and festivals, but people are quickly discovering that silent disco is perfect for house parties, birthdays, weddings, and company events.
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A silent disco or silent rave is an event where people dance to music listened to on wireless headphones. Rather than using a speaker system, music is broadcast via a radio transmitter with the signal being picked up by wireless headphone receivers worn by the participants. Those without the headphones hear no music, giving the effect of a room full of people dancing to nothing.
In the earliest days of silent discos, before 2005, there would be only one channel available to listen to music through. Over time, the technology moved along to where there were two, and later technology allowed for a third channel that three separate DJs could broadcast over at the same time.
Silent discos are popular at music festivals as they allow dancing to continue past noise curfews. Similar events are "mobile clubbing" gatherings, where a group of people dance to the music on their personal music players.
An early reference in fiction is Astroboy's 1967 japanese science fiction story The Summer of 1993. Where the titular character attends a party where everyone wears headphones.
The concept was used by eco-activists in the early 1990s, utilizing headphones at outdoor parties to minimize noise pollution and disturbance to the local wildlife.
In 1994, the Glastonbury Festival linked its on-site radio station to the video screen sited next to the Main Stage, allowing festival goers to watch late night World Cup football and music videos on the giant screen after the sound curfew by using their own portable radios. The idea was the brainchild of the project manager from Proquip, who supplied the giant screen, and engineers from Moles Recording Studio in Bath, Somerset, who were working with Radio Avalon.
In May 2000, BBC Live Music held a "silent gig" at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, where the audience listened to a band, Rocketgoldstar, and various DJs through headphones.
In May 2002 artist Meg Duguid hosted Dance with me... a silent dance party at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago where she created an outdoor club installation complete with velvet ropes and glow rope in which a DJ spun a transmission to wireless headsets that audience members put on and danced to. Duguid threw a second dance party at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago the following year, entitled Dueling DJs where two DJS simultaneously spun two separate musical transmissions various wireless headsets that audience members put on and danced to. This performance was repeated the following year (2004) at the Chicago Cultural Center.
The term "silent disco" has been in existence since at least 2005 with Bonnaroo Music Festival advertising such an event that year with DJ’s Motion Potion, Quickie Mart and DJ medi4 and headphones provided by KOSS. In the Netherlands, the traveling arts and culture festival De Parade already featured a "stille disco" [silent disco] earlier, for example in 2003. Dutch DJs Nico Okkerse and Michael Minton have been described as "the pioneers ... in the legend of silent disco" because they started "stille disco" events in 2002.
The Oxford Dictionary Online added the term "silent disco" to their website in February 2011. As interest has increased, there has been a rise in the number of companies organizing parties and providing events with wireless headphones.