Never underestimate how fast the world can change. The move from home phones to cell phones, to smart phones took less than twenty years. Our primary means of consuming news changed from print to digital in what is ultimately the blink of an eye as far as the history books are concerned. Heck, less than a hundred years ago it took week for a message to be sent from one country to the next, but now in the digital age we can send mail to space and back again within seconds.
Music is no different. Columbia Records, the oldest label in the world, launched in 1887. In less than 150 years the industry has undergone more evolutions than anyone can count, changing much faster than most realize. Within the 60 years you could have recorded a single and drove it from radio station to radio station in hopes of getting it played. Today you need an entire team of people who understand radio to even have your song considered.
And let’s not even deep dive the changes in music journalism. The image most carry of a young writer rubbing shoulders with their rock idols a la Almost Famous is a thing of the distant past. Today’s writers are more often than not laptop junkies who maintain a healthy photography hobby on the side (or they’re photography junkies with a writing hobby – it’s 50/50) who make next to nothing writing articles read by anywhere from tens of people to millions. Every one of them is constantly searching for the next original thought or undiscovered gem that might catapult them a bit further into the arena of those who actually get paid to write about music.
While I encourage you to always keep your passion for the next big story strong, it’s important to know that as much as things seem to change there is a lot that remains the same. One of those things is playlists, and in the digital age it is easier than ever to cultivate and engage with a community through playlist curation. In fact, the Music Business Association recently called playlists ‘more popular than the album.’ Ouch.
The biggest problem you’re going to face when deciding to integrate weekly playlists into your writing is deciding which one of the big four streaming companies are you going to build your content on. Spotify has the largest share of the market by a vast margin at the moment, but Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon each have millions of monthly subscribers. Ask your readers what they use and follow their lead.
As for the playlists themselves, the easy access to most music throughout modern history makes gathering simpler than most daily chores, which is all the reason you need to create as many playlists as your mind and collaborators can imagine. At the very least you should be creating weekly discovery playlists based on the coverage you plan to run. Take all the reviews and editorials you’ve got lined up and channel them into an eclectic collection of sound to help further promote the focus of your work. In doing so you’ll not only better engage your audience, but you’ll also make a lot of publicists and independent artists very happy.
But you should never do the bare minimum unless it’s absolutely necessary. Get creative. When the possibilities are endless you can be both extremely niche and shamelessly generic at the same time. Collect the 25 best love songs of the last 25 years right alongside a list of every song played during a car chase in a Fast and Furious film. Invite musicians, industry professionals, actors, and anyone else of interest to create playlists for your audience, and use those playlists to promote any coverage of that artist person you have on your site.
In an age where the options for consuming news and entertainment are endless the best tactic for reaching consumers is to play into their own interests and behaviors. People are more likely to start their day with music than a quick search of your latest blog posts, so take your brand and focus to them through the streaming playlist curation. If you can establish yourself as a great playlist curator people will seek out your other work. You can even add links to the description that promotes specific content on your site.
It has never been easier to showcase your taste than it is now, so quit hoping you 1000-word discovery of the week essay will get a million reads and build me a list of every song and artist my life is missing.
James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Haulix. He is also the Film Editor for Substream Magazine and the host of the Inside Music Podcast. If you enjoyed the words above James would like you to follow him on Twitter.