An algorithmic playlist is one created by a computer using information about your favorite songs, artists, and genres, as well as data about your listening habits. Pandora and Spotify are two examples of algorithmic playlists. The more information and data the user provides, the more personalized the playlist becomes.
A human-curated playlist is one that was put together by a person based on your suggestions for artists, genres, and songs. In the world of digital music providers, algorithmic playlists are similar to commercial radio in that you get what you get with little to no input, whereas human-curated playlists are similar to having your own DJ spinning tunes that flow seamlessly from one song to the next to create a specific mood or theme.
The Advantages of Curated Playlists
Despite their popularity, algorithmic playlists are very consistent. The services that provide these playlists draw from a small catalog of music and frequently repeat the same songs every few hours. If you tell the playlist provider that you want a playlist based on a popular old-school country music song, for example, you’ll most likely get the same handful of songs that the software easily recognizes as belonging in that genre. Because providers recognize that this can become tedious, they will frequently try to spice things up, with or without your input.
Algorithmic music providers will solicit your feedback on songs you like or dislike. If you choose to interact, you can unintentionally change the entire tone of the playlist. Even if you don’t use the software, algorithmic providers will occasionally throw you a curve ball to break up the monotony. You may prefer an old school country music playlist, but the algorithmic playlist will occasionally try to sneak in a new country hit to see if you like it. If you don’t provide feedback and tell the software that the song it chose was inappropriate, the playlist’s tone may shift dramatically over time.
Human-curated playlists don’t leave much room for chance. When you tell a playlist creation service that you want a playlist of adult alternative music that creates a mellow mood, the expert in charge will scour their catalog for all the songs that fit your criteria and arrange them in an ear-friendly manner. There are no abrupt genre changes, no abrupt changes in tempo or speed, and nothing that might strike listeners as odd or out of place.
Human-curated playlists allow you to screen for content as well. A human curated playlist, for example, can screen out songs with lyrics that would shock those sensitive to profanity, violence, sexually suggestive subject matter, and other elements inappropriate for a public setting if you want to broadcast rock or hip hop throughout your store.
The Price of Algorithmic vs. Curated Playlists
You might be tempted to use an algorithmic playlist because it appears to be less expensive than having a custom playlist created by a human. A monthly subscription to an algorithmic playlist provider can be as low as $10. A human-created tracklist is slightly more expensive up front, but there are a few compelling reasons why paying a little more for a carefully curated list of songs is worthwhile:
Commercial licenses are available from only a few algorithmic playlist providers. When you play music in your store, you must have the appropriate licenses to play that music in a commercial setting. You may need up to three licenses for each song, or you may face fines of several thousand dollars per song. The majority of algorithmic playlist providers only offer their services for personal use. Using them in your store could get you in trouble at best and bankrupt at worst.
With a human-curated playlist created by a professional service, you can be confident that every song you play is properly licensed for commercial use. For example, at Retail Radio, we work with a catalog of songs that have already been licensed. Each song we add to your list is approved for use in your store, removing the possibility of costly lawsuits and court battles over song selection.
A human-curated playlist is more valuable. A deal isn’t a good deal if you don’t get exactly what you want. Because algorithmic tracklists rely on a limited catalog of songs and may occasionally insert unexpected music choices into your playlist, you are never guaranteed to achieve the exact mood you desire for your store.
A human-curated playlist provides you with the exact mood and songs you want, with carefully selected choices that reflect the ambiance you’re attempting to create. You’ll get exactly the songs you need for your store, which is a better deal than crossing your fingers and hoping the algorithmic playlist software gets it right.
Algorithmic playlists are not always accurate representations of your brand. You could start with an adult alternative playlist and end up with a track that features more punk rock than anything else due to their tendency to go off the rails in terms of music selection.
When you buy human curated tracklisting, you’re getting a high-quality service that accurately represents your brand. If you buy a classic rock playlist, you’ll get a classic rock playlist. Every year, untold millions of dollars are spent on branding. Spending a little more money up front on a human-curated playlist to reflect your specific brand can save you money by eliminating the need to re-evaluate your music selection on a regular basis.
Why Should You Use Prefer A Curated Playlist?
Human-curated playlists clearly outperform algorithmic playlists. It not only protects you from costly and time-consuming lawsuits, but it also takes the guesswork out of choosing the right music. When you choose a human-curated list, you’ll get exactly the music you want without any unexpected tempo or genre shifts, any suggestive content or explicit lyrics will be filtered out, and your song rotation will be appropriate for customers of all ages and sensibilities.
A human-curated playlist may cost a little more upfront than a commercial algorithmic playlist subscription, but it’s worth it to protect your brand, protect your public image, and create the exact impression you want.