Playlists are the most important way we listen to music today. Industry estimates show that 1 in every 5 plays happens in a playlist across all streaming platforms. That’s a lot of playlists people!
From an artist’s point of view, playlists are a gift to your fans and a powerful music promotion tool: Here’s this thing I made for you! After you distribute your music, you have to get creative about the ways you share it.
They’re a great way to showcase your music without being too annoying. How? Slip one or two of your songs in your playlists—make it work thematically and musically.
Or work on co-promotion with other artists: “I’ll put you in my playlist, and you put me in yours–deal!”
Playlists give a new life to your tracks, even those from your back catalog. It’s a smarter way to re-share your tracks without spamming your audience.
If you’re asking yourself “how do I get on a playlist?” making your own playlists is the best first step.
Plus, you get to show off your great musical taste. People love to know what influences an artist, what you listen to and get inspired by. Tell your story as a creator with playlists and build your community while pushing the craft of music forward.
Playlisting in an art in itself. So to get you started, here’s 8 creative ideas that will help you craft your next playlist:
1. Musical Element
Create a playlist based on a musical element that you’re obsessed with. It’s a clever way to make a coherent playlist and gain some musical knowledge along the way.
Think of a musical element that catches your attention: Broken kick patterns? Choir samples? A particular key? Counterpoint? A certain BPM? Polyrhythms? Syncopation? Types of chord progressions? It’s all fair game.
Pick something as your throughline. If you’re starting with your own tracks, pick a musical element that your track includes. That way, when you slide it into the list it’ll fit perfectly alongside your influences.
For example, Lena Willikens played only tracks that contain arpeggios—whether synths or guitars.
The result is a brilliant playlist that flows exceptionally well (and of course, her DJ chops make it a seamless mix).
Feeling inspired? Go the conceptual route.
Playlists with interesting themes are more memorable. The more clever and musically consistent your playlist is, the more interesting it is to keep listening.
For example, this Spotify playlist focuses on the theme of the ocean.
Other good themes are: Decades (60s, 80s, 90s), trains or planes, a particular emotion, a social movement (May 68, punk, feminist anthems, etc.), weather, moods, your musical heroes, the songs you were listening to while making your album, etc.
Feeling inspired? Go the conceptual route.
The more passionate you are about the theme you choose, the better your playlist will be.
Have you ever heard of chromesthesia?
It’s a form of synesthesia that causes someone to perceptually associate sounds with colors. For the people who experience chromesthesia, everyday sounds can trigger the sight of color. How cool right?
You don’t have to be a synaesthete to start thinking about how sound and color go well together.
We all have associations about what colors mean to us. Why not make a playlist with songs that relate to those meanings?
An easy way to think about color in music is to make a playlist with songs that mention certain colors.
For example, Creative Mornings simply made a playlist with songs about colors.
You could choose to focus on one single color. Or choose songs that all have the same color on their album cover and go well together. Start thinking in colors!
4. Food and Drink
Expand your senses… to taste!
Music and food are a classic combo. Having the perfect tracks to play when your friends come over for dinner is almost as important as cooking the right meal.
When it comes to playlisting, think about food and drinks that provoke your senses.
What songs would go well with sipping a glass of wine? Spotify made a Wine Tasting playlist to give you an idea. Or make your own! Sky’s the limit.
Here’s an idea: Compile all the songs in which rappers talk about sipping champagne. Cheers!
Are you obsessed with acid basslines (me for sure)? Make a playlist of songs using the TB-303—get inspired by my “Acid Refluxx” Spotify playlist.
Choose the instrument that inspires you the most—whether it’s the Fender Rhodes, the TR-909, the harp, the cello or that special audio effect.
What’s an instrument you used in your last track? Start your playlist with that and build around it.
Running, cooking, meditating, cleaning the house, getting ready to go out… All these things are better with the perfect soundtrack.
Make a playlist that will get people in the right mood when doing a specific action.
Make it as specific (like ‘sitting by the pool with margaritas’) or as broad (like ‘walking’) as you like.
LA-based artist Moses Sumney made an awesome “Infinite Driving Playlist” on Spotify.
You just watched a movie with a great soundtrack. You look it up. You find that someone out there took the time to make a playlist with all those tracks. Isn’t that a great feeling? Be that person!
Make a playlist with the soundtrack of a film. Or even better, get inspired by a film and add your own twist to the soundtrack.
Make a playlist with songs that could go in a sci-fi movie. Or that remind you of the mood of a film or movie character.
Could you imagine going back to silent films? Not really. Music and movies have fallen too deep in love with each other. Let that relationship inspire your next playlist!
Cities each have their own soundtrack. It can be from famous artists who were born there, or people who’ve sung the praises of a city.
It can also be completely subjective. We each have our own unique relationships to certain cities. Make a playlist that represents your personal memories and relationships with your favorite city.
Whether it’s your birthplace, a city you’ve visited or the city you dream of traveling to, let it inspire your song selection.
For example, Time Out put together “The Best Songs about London,” combining both classics and new anthems.
Sharing is Caring
Sharing the music you love is as important as sharing the music you made. Playlisting keeps your fans from feeling spammed. It allows you to express your taste and your influences. Add one of your songs to the mix and promote your music in an authentic way.
Remember to give your playlist a cool, catchy title. If you wanna go the extra mile, make custom cover art for it.
Don’t forget to post your playlist to your social channels, so your followers can find out about it. Sharing is caring, so start sharing some playlists!