As much as musicians don’t like to be classified under one sound, their songs have similarities that are best expressed in easily digestible playlists. We’ve focused on playlisting for the past 6 months, yet we’re still trying to figure out what works best.
There doesn’t seem to be any guide out there, so thanks to SF MusicTech we got off our ass and did it ourself. Or at least the start of something.
This article doesn’t focus so much on the art of playlisting, but rather how best to research and set up your playlists. We use SoundCloud as the platform, but it can be easily applied anywhere else.
1: Know Your Resources
Where you spend your time listening online is the first thing to think about. SoundCloud has been the only one to prove itself as a consistently fresh resource for music, at least for us, if you build a ‘feed’ by following your favorite artists & listeners with similar tastes – not too different from Twitter (for music).
It’s important to be liberal at first when deciding to follow someone or not. You want to be following at least a few hundred people, so you’re catching a wide variety of new releases daily.
Equally as important, although being a little less liberal with it, is unfollowing people. What you’re not listening to is just as important as what you are and there is no time to follow people who post & repost a bunch of shit everyday (unless it’s good shit).
2: Quantity & Organization
The more you listen, the better your resources will get and the better you’ll be at playlisting.
I try to listen to anywhere from 30 to 100 new songs a day and ‘Like’ anything on SoundCloud that sounds decent – you want to be liberal with Liking too. I keep the Like section on SoundCloud as a running playlist of what I’ve recently found until I get the song into a specific playlist or two (or none).
Start to get songs into playlists as soon as possible. To come up with new playlist ideas, look for reoccurring styles & themes in the music you like. The more you listen to a song, the more you’ll know where it should go and if you could make a new playlist out of it.
– Listen whenever you can: commutes, the gym, mindless work at work, etc.
– Skip to at least 30 seconds into the song. Intros are a luxury.
– Make sure all playlists are set to ‘private’ on SoundCloud until they’re ready to be published.
– Don’t be afraid to put songs into multiple playlists. The better the song, the more playlists it should be in.
‘Begin Again’ is a movie about an A&R guy from some made up music label that’s down on his luck and can’t find any good musicians to sign. In the opening(ish) scene, he starts listening to music submissions that were sent to the label, but throws a hissy fit after hearing six songs or so.
It’s going to take well over six songs, or six hundred, to find a really good act.
Playlists can be any length, but generally shoot for around an hour. This means you should have at least 15 songs or more to start with, but account for losing 10 to 50 percent when picking for the final version.
I actually try to have 30 songs in my first draft, but you can actively search if you have less. Here are the best places to do so:
– 8tracks: multiple keyword search can be useful
– Hypem: search a keyword and sort by ‘Most Favorites’
– SoundCloud: search other playlists with similar themes
– Silence Nogood: search sucks but very reliable
Once you feel you have enough songs, it’s time to narrow down and sort your playlist. This is all based on preference, but you’ll get better with practice. Here are a few helpful reminders:
– Listen to & reorder a playlist as many times as necessary. Space it out over multiple days.
– Scrutinize the hell out of each & every song. Removing songs can be as hard as finding new ones.
– Keep the best songs on top and flow through similar styles & moods toward the bottom.
Put as much effort in the look of the playlist as you did at picking the songs.
– Keep the title descriptive, but not too plain & standard as it will mesh into the crowd of similar playlists.
– If you don’t know the basics of photo editing, find someone to help you with the cover art. I still see a lot of musicians not put enough time in the artwork.
So there is the bare essentials to music playlisting. We might do something on promoting or the actual art of playlists, but let me know if you have any specific questions. Just remember to be constantly listening! That’s what makes the difference. Also, talk to people more knowledgeable than yourself.
Had to end with a playlist. I originally made Electro Relaxations for this article, but the playlist got priority and came out a few weeks ago. I felt like chill music would suit better for a wider audience.