Johannes' blog

Playlists Unplugged: Rethinking Music Curation

The problem: If you try to build the best playlist for cooking, running, partying, or just your all-time favorite music, you end up with playlists that never really make you happy or feel stale and outdated after a short period of time. What was once a great playlist for you, that you were happy to show your friends, now feels embarrassing and boring. To freshen them up, you throw in some new songs, and suddenly this playlist doesn't work at parties anymore, or during running, you'd rather listen to nothing.

How can this happen? Your taste is continuously changing; it's not the playlists that become boring or stale, but rather, there will always be new music that you and your people are more excited about than listening to the same old evergreen songs. Your music is arguably not up to date, and to maintain a playlist that reflects the current trends, the effort just seems way too high. Now the question becomes: How can you reduce the effort of having timely playlists?

How to fix this? The solution to improving your taste at zero extra effort is to take the mental effort out of creating playlists. Create monthly playlists that capture what you listen to in any given month. This will not only create a chronology of what you listened to, much like a diary or log of music which you can always revisit, but it also gives you the ability to start a new playlist each month from scratch without thinking much about the purpose and the music that goes in there. Each month, you just stick to that one playlist and try to make it work for you. On the first day of the new month, you create a new playlist (e.g., July 2023), and you go through the songs of the old month that you could still listen to and put them into existing music playlists.

Your existing playlists should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive to facilitate this categorizing step. My categories are based on moods: fast-chilling (sort of chilling that turns to a party), slow-chilling, feel-good fast (party), feel-good slow (cooking and activities), etc. But it really doesn't matter what categories you come up with, as now you will have more timely playlists.

Monthly playlists