[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
Some people claim that playlists have replaced the album, and while they do sometimes have a fair point or two, the transition hasn’t happened yet, and it probably won’t for some time. Having said that, now that we live in a streaming-first world, playlists have become more important than ever, and not just for listening. Compiling your own playlists can be a fantastic way for you to interact with your fans and form strong relationships, but how?
1. Stay In Their Lives
Every musician hopes that when they release their music into the world, millions of people will not only hear it, they will consume it all the time. Artists want to have at least one track that people want to listen to for years to come, and which becomes very special to them. That is a very rare accomplishment, so if you’re not one of the lucky few who can touch people’s lives constantly with an old piece of content, you need to do so with new items, and that’s a struggle.
You don’t ever want to disappear for very long, as that can be damaging to your career, and you can lose any momentum you built while promoting your last project. I’m not suggesting you need to always be sharing new music (as that can be costly and creatively exhausting), but you do need to find other ways to put your face, name, art, or at least your moniker in front of fans and could-be fans on a regular basis.
A playlist that’s updated often can be a fun way to connect with fans without killing yourself churning out new singles, EPs, albums, or videos all the time.
2. Start a Conversation
Posting pictures on Instagram and tweeting jokes or daily thoughts is a fine way to stay present in people’s lives, but this kind of content isn’t always a conversation-starter. A playlist, perhaps one with a theme or a ranking, can be a fantastic way to get fans, especially those who are truly musically-inclined, talking – and that’s exactly what you want.
Social media is a great way to disseminate information, but it should also be about a conversation. Don’t just talk to your fans, listen to what they have to say, ask them their opinions, and reply to many of their comments. That way, a dialogue has started, and they’ll feel closer to you than if they feel what they type back to you isn’t being heard or acknowledged. You can do this in many ways, with a playlist you’ve put together being one of the most fun.
3. Tide Them Over
As the person actually creating music, it might feel as if you’ve just released a new album, even though it came out months or even years ago. The speed at which musicians are dropping new tunes and full collections is speeding up all the time, and it can be difficult for even the most prolific acts to keep up, let alone those who are working day jobs or who don’t have the resources to always be recording and releasing music.
Instead of rushing a new piece of music and giving it to your fans before it’s really ready, you can tide the anxious masses over with other types of content. Social media, blogs, photos, behind the scenes clips, remixes, and other items are all great, and a playlist of other kinds of music can also be a fun way to keep people satiated, even if it doesn’t give them everything they want from you.
4. It Forces You To Listen To New Tunes
As a musician and a music fan, chances are you are already listening to music constantly. Many acts seek out new tunes, but it’s always good to be on the hunt for even more tracks and albums that will become favorites and which can inspire you as an artist. If you’re someone who sticks to time-tested songs that have always been in your collection, you really need to devote more time to browsing streaming platforms and listening to what other musicians are churning out.
If this isn’t something you already do, creating a playlist, especially one that refreshes, is a great way to force yourself to do something you might otherwise let fall by the wayside. If you have a due date for the playlist you share with your fans (every week or every month, perhaps), you’ll set aside at least a bit of time to listen to what chart-toppers and up-and-comers are releasing.
5. Makes You A Better Curator
Sure, you could just throw a few songs onto a playlist and call it a day, but that’s not the ideal way to compile one. Choosing the songs and deciding what order they should go in requires a lot of thought about how they fit with one another, how one ends and another begins, and what emotion you want the entire experience to leave someone with.
Curating a playlist is great practice for any musician, as they will one day need to do this for their albums. A good artist can write, produce, and record several songs and put them together into a collection of some kind, while a great one can rank them and order them perfectly, which elevates the album as an art form. Since albums only come along every so often, a playlist is a great way to get a feel for tracklists and curating in general.
6. Promote Other Artists
While albums are comprised of your own music, playlists allow you to show your fans what you’ve been listening to and what you love. Playlists can be a fantastic way to promote other artists, some of whom may also just be on their way up like you. If that’s the case, make sure you let those artists and bands know when you include them on your latest playlist. They may promote your ranking, which points their fans to you and your social channels. They may also reciprocate the honor and feature your tunes in some way, and if you cultivate that new relationship, you could have a new touring partner or friends to record with.