3 Essentials For Every Great Music Playlist

Music is a big part of our lives. Most of us listen to it in the car, at home, at work, or a mixture of all the above.

Terrestrial (AM and FM) radio has been in decline for the past decade and more. Satellite radio has tried to gather its forces to take over a lot of the void created by lack of options. [One can only listen to the same Top 40 songs so many times.] It used to be that popular radio stations and record labels decided what music the masses would hear. But all this is changing.

Because The Internet

Most recently, people have rushed to Internet radio and music-streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, iTunes Radio, and a few others.

Many joined these streaming music platforms for ease of listening in multiple locations, but the largest benefit is the massive amount of music users can stream for free or a small monthly fee. Spotify boasts 40 million active users, 10 million of which are paid subscribers.

Users can connect their accounts to social media profiles, see what their friends are listening to, suggest music to others, follow artists and their new releases, and create their own playlists.

Transforming Music

Music is becoming less about the one-way communication from artist to consumer, and more about the experience of music in a variety of spaces. More people want more music. More artists are writing, recording, and releasing music from their bedrooms or in-home studios, but people like you and I have more control over what music we hear, where we hear it, and how.

We’ve transformed from consumers into producers. We can choose our own content and our own delivery systems. That’s one of the reasons music streaming services are growing into a formidable force.

You’re probably someone who wants more music, in more places, more specifically suited to your tastes. The good news is that by embracing our transitions from consumers to producers, we can help each other find and enjoy the music we want.

One of the best ways to do that is by creating playlists to share publicly. Music streaming services like Spotify and Rdio provide just that. So what are the most important parts of building great playlists to enjoy the best music?

3 Essentials For Every Great Music Playlist

If a playlist doesn’t do these 3 things, it’s missing out.

1. Set The Mood

If your songs aren’t matching the environment they’re being played in, something is off. It just doesn’t feel right.

Whether a summer evening outdoors, a holiday party, or a relaxed dinner inside with friends, the perfect playlist can make your occasion that much better.

The only way to get better at finding and creating the best playlists for your events is to start with a couple options and test them out. How do your house guests feel when they’re sitting down to dinner with R&B playing in the background, as opposed to folk or rock? Does a backyard summer get together feel too much like a high school keg party if pop or rap hits play over the speakers?

It’s more art than science to gauge how your playlist is impacting the event it’s created for.

If listeners comment on your music choices, take note and adjust accordingly — but not at the expense of pleasing a vocal minority if the rest of your guests seem to be enjoying the mood you’ve set through your music selections.

2. Introduce New Artists

Everyone expects to hear the popular songs everybody knows already. If you want to delight your listeners, pepper your playlists with songs that take them further than they’ve been. Give them something new.

People want options, not just the same old music they’ve already heard on repeat. It’s not just about introducing a new song or new band; a playlist is at its best when it plays a combination of familiar (or familiar-sounding) music and new music that your listeners haven’t yet come across.

There’s so much undiscovered music on the Internet that anyone should be able to find something he or she likes that very few people have heard. [The “Related Artists” section on Spotify helps with this, as well as following other users and playlists featured on Spotify’s “Browse” homepage.] When you offer new music to your listeners, their enjoyment of the playlist can grow from the excitement of something new into a new artist or album to check out more later.

You can become the person your friends go to for new music recommendations and up-and-coming artists.

3. Cultivate A Theme

Give your friends or family something to think about long after they leave your get together. Make your coworkers ask you about that one song they keep hearing on your playlist but can’t get out of their minds.

For a playlist to stand out, it needs a differentiating factor. In business, they call it a “unique selling point.” It’s what separates your playlist from the rest.

Find a small niche type of music, like 50s rock-reggae-fusion-polka or something. Sometimes obscurity can be a good thing. Add songs to a playlist that have the same feeling, evoke the same emotions, or have similar lyrical territory. Discerning listeners will begin to pick up on the theme after a few tracks, and they’ll want to suggest some additions to the playlist once they’ve listened through it.

Want a head start on creating playlists that set the mood, introduce new music, and cultivate a theme?

Visit my Spotify profile, click “Follow” if you already have a Spotify account, and check out some of the playlists I’ve created. Here’s a head start:

14 Best Albums of 2014
Post-Modern 80s
Reluctant Love
Nu Folk


What about you — what do you love to have in every great music playlist?


Read more about music:
The Best of the Worst Relationship Advice in Pop Songs

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