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10 Tips for Perfect Playlist Curation

playlist-curationIn the world of song promotion, no format has gotten more coverage than playlisting. From how to get on them to knowing which ones are the most popular, everyone wants a piece of the playlist pie. The downside of being featured on someone else’s playlist, however, is being at the mercy of the curator. One day your plays spike out of control and the next they take a nosedive. For this reason, one recommendation we often make to clients is creating playlists of their own. This ensures you have a certain amount of control over the promotion of your content. Easier said than done, right? Let the following steps be your guide to creating the perfect playlist for your audience.

The Basics

While there are many different ways to approach playlist curation, there are a few basics that can guide everyone’s strategy:

The first objective of any playlist is to make it great. The second objective is promoting your content. Try to stay away from using only your music. This often prevents the playlist from being the best it can be.

Try not to repeat tracks from one artist. In certain genres it may make sense to have two tracks from the same artist but it should be an exception, not a rule. For example, if you are an artist promoting a new release, it makes sense to drop your standalone singles into the playlist in the lead up to your album.

Playlists should be between 20 and 60 tracks. If it’s less than 15 tracks, Spotify will rotate in random tracks on the free mobile tier. If it is more than 60 tracks, users are unable to cache for offline listening in the mobile tier.

Playlist descriptions should not only be well-written, but should include tags that reference the artists, genres, contexts described, or some combination of all three. If you are using this to promote your release, paste a link to your release. If you are a label pushing your brand, link to your user profile. Relevant terms in the description will also help the playlist surface in search.

Promote your playlist! Just creating a playlist and setting it live is a tree falling in the woods situation. The volume of playlists on services is so saturated that it’s unlikely that anyone will stumble upon it by chance. The most reliable way to help it grow is by supporting it on your social channels. If you are an artist, this should be obvious. You created this piece of content and it’s up to you to spread the word. If you are a label, using your socials is crucial but your reach is multiplied with the participation of your artists. Hit up other artists and labels to set up a post exchange to expose even more potential fans to your music.

Less is more. It might be tempting to create dozens of playlists, but a slow and steady approach to expansion yields the most efficient results. If you are a new artist or label, coming back and building on the same audience will have much more impact than having 10 playlists with only a few followers on each. If you are more established, creating a variety is possible, but only if you feel there is truly an opportunity to expand your audience by creating a new playlist.

Defining the Audience

Beyond the above rules, there are different angles to be considered depending on your position in the market:

New artists: This playlist should most resemble one that you would create for yourself or other music fans. It can be as simple as tracks you are listening to right now or songs that have a specific theme. Just make sure that it makes enough thematic sense to put your track in the number one slot. Although you may not have a large audience, chances are the fans you gain in the early stage of your career will be your biggest evangelists, so give them a peek into your musical taste. As you release more content, update the same playlist to build on your followers and give the existing ones a reminder of your expert curation. A good example of this is the Turf ‘N’ Surf playlist by Palmas. Their list features influences and favorites from new and classic artists, and their music fits right in.

cody-simpson-salty-sundayEstablished artists: Once you have an established base of adoring fans, your playlist powers level up. Your playlist isn’t just another asset to post on your socials; it becomes a way to collaborate with your fans, thus increasing their engagement with you. Cody Simpson’s Salty Sunday Soundtrack is a great example of this. He’s amassed almost 5K followers and encourages his fans to make playlist suggestions. When an artist has a fanbase this engaged, we tend to see the streams from their playlists contribute significantly to their overall numbers.

Niche labels: If your label has a strong brand and name recognition in certain fan communities, you already have a built-in audience who is hungry for more of your curation. Daptone Records took the idea of a radio playlist to create WDAP: House of Soul Favorites. It has a healthy number of Daptone artists, supplemented by soul classics that highlight the throwback sound that’s become the label’s signature.

High volume/Catalog labels: Some of our clients don’t have a brand that is necessarily defined by what they’ve released, so a presence needs to be created. Music Brokers, a large label with a wide range of releases, created PMB Music to serve as an umbrella profile that encompasses house artists and brand profiles to fit their diverse catalog. This strategy only works if you have significant resources to promote the playlists and keep them updated.

There is no magic formula to creating a popular playlist, but a combination of great songs and strong promotional effort can yield dividends. Let us push forward into the streaming frontier!

Photo courtesy of Balazs Kovacs Images/Adobe Stock.

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