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How to Master the Art of Playlist Curation

This post comes from Napster’s blog.

Thanks to all the advancements in the audio streaming space, you (yes you!) are now in control of what you listen to, where you listen, when you listen, and how you listen. There has never been a better time for music accessibility than now.

But with every new innovation and feature, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all your options. When did listening to music get so complicated? At Napster, we believe one of the best ways for you to take back control of your listening experience is to master the skill of playlist curation.

Before we start with the guide, it’s important to understand what makes the perfect playlist. Think of all the times you’ve had to hit the next button during a streaming session or change the station when listening to the radio. Ultimately, the perfect playlist should allow you to take a step back from your device and pay full attention to whatever activity you’re immersed in without interruption.

Building this perfect playlist will take some time, but here are ten suggestions to getting started.

  1. Choose a theme. This one’s obvious, but you should first decide on a common theme for your new playlist. What mood, genre, event, or activity are you looking to build a soundtrack for? Feel free to get super specific here — “Country Songs for Rainy Mornings” and “Country Songs for Sunny Days at the Shore” should be made up of completely different tracks. As long as you understand why you created this specific playlist, you’ll know your theme. A playlist without a theme just ends up becoming another subset of your general library.
  2. Name your playlist and customize it with some playlist cover art. Here’s your chance to (1) brand your playlist, but also (2) remind yourself what this playlist is for. Get creative with the name of your playlist and go even crazier with the cover artwork. Want to get even more expressive? Napster has integrated with GIPHY to give you more spirited ways to personalize your playlist.
  3. Start with your library. Once you have your playlist’s theme and have also branded it, it’s finally time to start adding tracks. The best starting point for inspiration is your existing library. Which tracks have you already decided were worthy of saving? Run a mental filter on these songs with your playlist theme in mind. Start adding anything to your playlist that fits the bill. Remember you can always go back and remove anything that you don’t like later on, but you’ll need to start somewhere.
  4. Take a peek at other playlists. There’s no shame in getting inspiration from someone else’s playlist. A great place to start is Napster’s selection of official editorial playlists. Editorial playlist curators are paid to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest, so why not let them do some of the heavy lifting for you? Find some playlists similar to yours, official or fan-made, and play through them. Start saving the songs you like to your playlist. (Hot Tip! Use Napster’s Recent Playlist feature for quick access to recently managed playlists.)
  5. Swipe through tracks on Suggestion Wizard. Thought swiping was just for dating apps? Well, give your heart a break and swipe through some matches with fewer strings attached. Suggestion Wizard gamifies your recommendation experience by feeding you clips of similar tracks and giving you an option to swipe right on songs you like (to add them to your playlist) and swipe left on songs you’re passing on. Access the Suggestion Wizard by clicking on the floating blue Edit button when inside a playlist.
  6. Discover similar tracks through Playlist Radio. Now that you finally have a starting base for your playlist, it’s time to start discovering. Head into your playlist and click into the Playlist Radio feature. This tool analyzes the playlist as a whole and spins off a queue of tracks that it reckons also belongs on the playlist. (Hot Tip! Like a specific track or artist? You can also kick off a Track Radio or Artist Radio.) Add anything you like and skip past the tracks that you don’t. The Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons also help us cater recommendations by teaching us what you like and don’t like.
  7. Turn on Endless Playback. When your playlist has played through completely, you have the option to automate the Playlist Radio experience by turning on Endless Playback. When the last track on your playlist is over, this feature will seamlessly play another track similar to those already on your playlist. Don’t worry — Endless Playback won’t add any tracks to your playlist without your approval, it just creates a temporary extension that allows you to stream without any interruptions. Turn on Endless Playback by clicking on the loop button until it changes to the infinity symbol (∞).
  8. Get feedback from people you trust. Is cousin Robbie a music trendsetter? Is your college roommate the best at giving song recommendations? Share your playlist with them and get their thoughts. Not only does this give you even more suggestions to add, but this is also your chance to prove to Robbie or your roommate that you can also dish out sick recommendations as well.
  9. Shuffle, adjust, repeat. Once you have what you think is your final playlist, quickly shake that thought because this is not your final playlist. As with most things, practice makes perfect, and your playlist still needs much practice. Before you debut your playlist at next Saturday’s house party, take it for a test spin. Hit shuffle and see whether or not the playlist flows without interruption. Remember, the key attribute of the perfect playlist is its ability to be played through without having any tracks purposely skipped or removed.
  10. Move on to the next playlist. The beauty of playlists is that you’re not limited to just the one. In fact, if you only had one playlist that you turned to regularly, you’re bound to quickly get bored of it. Once you’ve mastered this first playlist, go back to step one and start curating your next one. In no time, you’ll have a handful of strong playlists under your belt and will maybe have some pointers for us to add to this list.

Tl;dr: Playlists give you the power to control your listening experience. Create a playlist, brand it, add songs you already love, and use Napster’s recommendation tools to add undiscovered tracks you may like.

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