During the last decade, websites specializing in music streaming services have flourished, allowing users to access ever evolving databases containing millions of songs, albums, and other audio tracks.
As is always the case with online innovations, the audience has also become a prime actor in the new medium’s evolution. Today, online music streaming users actively contribute through the creation of curated playlists.
Typically based on an abstract theme, such as emotional conditions like love or loss, or even the dreary mood inspired by cold winters, curated playlists are designed to set the mood, inspire, or motivate. Many people use their preferred curated playlist to get through the more humdrum aspects of daily life, from the long commute to a tough workout. Curated playlists can even serve as personalized gifts, modern day mixtapes exchanged between friends, family, and romantic interests.
Previously unknown music fans have garnered worldwide fame in recent years by posting their personal favorites in playlist form, only to attract hundreds of thousands of followers – or fans willing to download or subscribe their arrangements of tracks. As noted in December of 2015 by venerable music magazine Rolling Stone, casual curators like Carlos López Casany have become professional “tastemakers,” shaping the latest trends by carefully constructing playlists which seamlessly blend modern hits with eclectic classics.
Steve Savoca, vice president of content and distribution for leading music streaming site Spotify, which has 30 million paying subscribers as of March 2016, explained the paradigm shift thusly:
“In the old economy, you’re in Philadelphia, listening to your local radio station. Now you’re dealing with a playlister in Germany influencing an audience in Spain that’s sharing music to friends in Sweden and driving conversation around music in multiple markets. This guy who’s good at curation and social media has suddenly built a meaningful audience.”
Where to Find the Best Curated Playlists
The majority of popular curated playlists are sourced from music streaming sites like Spotify, Apple Music, Rhapsody, Rdio, Songza, IndieShuffle, and SoundsGood.
Major online music streaming platforms compile seemingly limitless databases of songs and tracks, with most spanning several million unique titles. Users can search for specific artists and albums, let the site design a playlist based on a preferred style, or explore the archive of curated playlists.
While these sites primarily rely on proprietary algorithms to create computer-generated playlists, often designed to resemble virtual radio stations, industry experts have documented a greater demand for human-generated playlists.
Celebrities from all walks of life are a natural attraction, with users appreciating the newfound ability to connect with their favorite bands, actors, and other pop culture figures on a personal level. From politicians like Hillary Clinton, who posted an official campaign playlist to Spotify, to sportswoman, Olympian, and poker pro Fatima Moreira De Melo, who contributed her favorites to a list of poker playlists, anybody with access to a streaming music site can create their own sound.
In particular, musicians like Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, and The Black Keys have carved out a niche within the curated playlist marketplace, offering a genuine insight into their own musical leanings as a listener.
Some sites, like Playlist a Day, have even automated the process of locating curated playlists, delivering a fresh arrangement of songs directly to your smartphone or mobile device every morning.
Why Curated Playlists Work
Music is essentially an act of expression, and people love nothing more than sharing their favorite songs and artists with others. The marketplace of music is extremely multifaceted, and new generations are always looking backward, exploring the lives of their parents and grandparents by diving deep into the classics.
Exposure to new music comes in many forms; impromptu trips to a new concert venue, reading the labels on CDs lying around a friend’s car, reviews and other industry publications, and simple word of mouth.
But while reading about the best new Irish bands can be an informative experience, there’s nothing quite like discovering those same bands yourself after stumbling upon a special playlist curated by a kindred spirit living in Ireland. The personal connection which can only be forged between strangers through artistic expression is a wonder to behold, and curated playlists allow people to communicate on the most personal of levels despite continents of distance or decades in age between them.
The thrilling moment when you hear a certain melody or lyric that immediately speaks to you for the first time is facilitated by curated playlists in the same way that it was once facilitated by radio stations. Hidden gems written and recorded more than a half-century ago can be paired with last summer’s anthem to form a moving musical statement. Artists passed over by popularity’s fickle eye during their own era can now be celebrated in earnest, while aspiring musicians can catch that elusive big break.
Curated playlists are the perfect extension of the technological age, providing people with a previously unheard of opportunity to source new music, while also reconnecting audiences and artists like never before.