How Are Spotify Playlists Evolving the Way We Listen To Music

It is no secret that the digital revolution in music industry has pushed artists and labels to release and market their music in new formats, but the current wave we are in thanks to streaming is unprecedented. I’m talking about the tide of playlisting that is washing up the music world and redefining our way of listening with its sophisticated data and curation features.

The consequences of playlisting are in two levels; at least for now. The first level is playlisting as a format to release music. The second is playlisting for marketing for musicians. Both are the babies of streaming era and it really changes the way we listen music to a whole new extent.

So why is playlisting so important?

First, let’s take a step back and look at the traditional music formats. In modern music, we have long-plays (LPs), which are albums, ranging of usually 8-12 songs curated by an artist and/or producer, and recorded in a limited amount of time. Then we have Extended play (EP), which can be considered like a mini-album of 3-5 songs. We also have singles, which are released for promoting a song from an album, which kind of lost importance with iTunes’ feature of downloading songs individually more than a decade ago.

And then there are playlists. We always had them and we love them. Maybe we called them mixtapes, or birthday jams, but they were always there so we could put our favorite songs together. Before streaming, they were our event-savers or our iPod ear candies, but now they mean much more.

Now artists actually curate playlists and they can promote it like an album and buy billboards and run a full marketing strategy based on that. As a pioneering example, Drake’s successful playlist ‘More Life’ should be scrutinized. ‘More Life’ is very interesting because it is actually an album, with new songs and an album art and everything. But Drake chose to release it as a ‘playlist’ by also adding songs that he loves from other artists. For this reason, not only is playlisting a smart way to associate yourself with different artists you might like (and maybe haven’t collaborated yet), but also a great tool to mine data from listeners to see which songs they like the best. Bands used to release an album and play the album live to see which songs the audience liked the best, and now it’s almost the other way around.

On the second level, we can use playlists as a tool for marketing.

If you are a Spotify user, you have come across ‘Discover Weekly’ or ‘Release Radar’ somewhere along the way. These are playlists that Spotify curates that magically is full of songs that you love. But how does Spotify know what songs you like? Surely, there aren’t playlist curators creating millions of playlists for everyone out there. But this is based on an algorithm which collects data from playlists of millions of users of Spotify. Then, the algorithm looks for patterns between songs.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say I put song A and song B in my playlist. And then my friend Matt also puts song A and B in his playlist as well. Since this implies a pattern between both songs, Spotify will start associating song A and B with each other. Now, let’s say my friend Eric loves the song A. It is very likely that Spotify will suggest song B to him in his ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist. So this is how you get songs you like on your playlists.

So what does this mean for marketing?

I can feel that the bells are ringing in your head! Yes, if you are a verified Spotify artist, you can create your own playlists with your own songs, and most importantly, you will be associated with the artists you would like to be associated with. That way, your songs will get pushed out to the  followers and fans of these artists – and it will expose your music to a whole new fanbase. It is a long term strategy, but it definitely pays off given that Spotify is the biggest streaming service.

Playlisting is still at its baby steps as a format to replace more conventional formats to release music, but in the age of streaming it is becoming a more attractive option and it presents new  options and provides new possibilities for artists to get their music out there.

What are some of the best features you like about playlists? Do you regularly use Spotify playlists to discover new music? If you have anything you would like to add, feel free to share them below!

Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. You can listen his debut eclectic album  ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists on Spotify, follow him on Instagram  or Twitter @alpertuzcu, and visit his website


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