It’s a bit of a paradox that, as playlist-making has become easier with just about every song in the history of recorded music at our fingertips, the art of building playlists has suffered. An abundance of options and the removal of technological barriers (like the limits on length for physical mixes) have led to a group of people content to throw everything at the wall, put it in shuffle mode and skip until you hit a song you like.
We owe ourselves, our fellow listeners, and our playlists more than that. It’s time to revitalize the well-crafted playlist. Check out our tips to create the perfect mix below.
Consider The Activity
We can’t stress this enough. This is probably the most important aspect of any playlist. Are you doing something high-energy (road-tripping, dancing, running) or low-key (eating dinner, reading)? Your playlist should match that. Father John Misty is great, but “Nancy From Now On” is more suited for a good book than a dancefloor.
Mix It Up
That isn’t to say that everything should sound the same. You can vary the speed, intensity, and genre of a playlist without completely derailing it. Stretch your legs a little bit. The only time a playlist that is all one artist or sound is acceptable is if you’re on your way to a concert (and even then, come on). With that in mind…
Sequencing Is Important
You have to ease into new sounds. Make a jump that’s too jarring and your playlist loses its flow. You can’t just go from a Bangerz cut to “Tujhe Dekha To.” Bridge the gap with some Selena Gomez to keep from confusing your friends.
Think About Length
This one ties into sequencing. If you plan to run for an hour, you need an hour-long playlist with the most intense songs saved for the moments when you know you’ll start to flag.
And if you’re going to be in the car for two hours, there’s no point in squandering a bunch of awesome tracks by burying them three hours into a mix.
Consider The Audience
This is the point where I throw everything out the window. If you’re making a playlist for yourself and don’t care about abrupt shifts (or can make a jump between two songs in your head that no others can make), then go ahead and jump around.
If you’re making a playlist for a group of not-yous, then you absolutely need to consider who you’re with. Will they be offended by certain selections? Are they musical deep-divers who can follow you down album-cut rabbit holes? Are they Top 40 belters who need a sprinkling of songs they know to stay turnt? Keep all of this in mind to keep from having to turn down your tunes in embarrassment or losing aux cord privileges.
Now that we’ve armed you with a strategy for making the perfect playlist, we want to hear what you come up with. In the comments below, drop a link to the best Spotify or SoundCloud playlist you’ve made, and what it was made for. And while you’re at it, learn more about the man who powers some of your favorite Pandora stations.