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The Art of Playlisting: 10 Tips to Create a Fantastic Playlist

Music is truly the key to one’s soul, and one’s music taste can reveal a lot about them. Especially in the streaming era of music, it is simpler than ever to make a collection of songs that represents YOU and all your specific tastes. These collections have come to be known as “playlists,” and although some people make playlists for their own personal listening, others want to share their music taste with the world. Since streaming platforms such as Spotify or Apple Music are practically mandatory for Western Gen Z listeners, the importance of a good music playlist can not be understated. Of course, you can make playlists however you want, but through my personal experience, my favorite playlists always take into consideration the ten following tips!

  1. Choose a creative name for your playlist!

Although tacky, it is true! The first thing that catches someone’s eye when they’re browsing playlists through their app of choice is the title! Try not to use titles that are boring or overused! Any playlist that has the word “vibes” or “type beat” in its title usually gets overlooked in my head, because they’re usually very unimaginative, and makes me feel like the song choices won’t be that good. Weirdly enough, a lot of the playlist names that catch my eye are the peculiar and specific ones: “Flowers from 1970,” “mean girls walking into school in an early 2000s film,”  or “rain-drenched summer nights.” These names offer a much better insight into what the playlist is about! Sometimes, even including a lyric from one of the songs in the playlist can give good insight! Either way, a good playlist should have a good title to top it off.

  1. Choose a fitting photo! (Colors are important!)

Almost as important as the title is the photo you use! Spotify defaults a playlist photo to the first four album covers on the playlist; this is tacky, ugly, and easily editable! I have found a lot of my favorite playlist photos by just browsing through Pinterest and Tumblr aesthetic boards. Looking up “autumn” in one of these websites will return so many beautiful photos of the fall weather! Also, if you’re creating a playlist that is less “vibey” and more suited for a light-hearted mood, or maybe even a playlist inspired by a TV show character, then do not shy away from memes! A funny meme will get someone interested in a playlist faster than anything else!

  1. Make sure your song choices have the same vibe: don’t jump around!

CONSISTENCY IS KEY! You can theoretically add whatever you want to one playlist, but it can give the listener a headache jumping from one extreme to another! Don’t put a heavy metal banger from the 80s right next to a slow indie pop song from the 2010s, it’s such a whiplash in mood! There should be some common thread between all your songs: even if they don’t SOUND similar, maybe they’re both about the same subject, or both relate to a specific time in your life! Of course, you might need to describe this in a playlist description, just so the listener isn’t out of the loop themselves.

  1. However, if they do jump around, make sure the order is somewhat consistent!

Ordering is an incredibly underrated skill when it comes to playlisting. The specific arrangement of certain songs can tell such a different story than if they were arranged in another way. Especially if your playlist covers a wide variety of genres, maybe you should arrange them in a certain order to ease that transition between songs. I’ve seen a playlist called “my slow descent into madness” where the songs started out relatively normal, and became much more extreme as the playlist progressed, but the order felt natural because nothing was out of place!

  1. Only add songs YOU love, not songs you force yourself to love!

This one took me a while to learn. Too often do I see people that add 30 songs to a playlist when they’ve never even heard 20 of them! Usually, this occurs when somebody adds a song they don’t necessarily like, but feel that they SHOULD like, because they enjoy many songs that are similar. You can almost feel it when somebody’s heart isn’t in the playlist, though. Even if your playlist doesn’t have songs that are critically acclaimed, it’s more specific to you! Put all the guilty pleasure songs you want; it’ll give that playlist a personal touch!

  1. There is no limit! …But sometimes, there should be.

No one is listening to a 500 song playlist, and if your playlist is really this long, I have to assume it’s either for data collection or because you haven’t actually listened to most of them and just add whatever you see. It is very rare that this many songs can fit under one umbrella, but if you do happen to find a common thread between them, good for you! I personally have a 200-song playlist called “to be played at 3 am ONLY” for songs that just hit different late at night, but because this is such a broad category, it works. You should be the one to determine how long your playlist is, but just remember that occasionally, less is indeed more.

  1. A nice blend of popularity is always fun!

Anti-mainstream culture is annoying. The amount of people that go around and shame others for listening to top 40 radio stations is way too high; obviously, people like the top hits for a reason! On the other hand, it’s always nice to discover a new artist who barely has 10,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and it can feel nice to appreciate that artist’s work by putting it in your playlist! Sometimes, I feel drawn to a playlist that employs this mentality: Reel me in with the popular songs I know and love, and get me interested in the songs I don’t know and want to discover. I find so much new talent just by browsing through playlists, so don’t be afraid to include a wide variety of popularity in your playlists!

  1. Break up singular artists in a playlist; don’t add an entire album with no breaks!

I’m not trying to listen to only one artist’s discography when I listen to a playlist, I want to hear a wide variety of artists! If I wanted to just listen to one act, I would simply press shuffle on the artist’s page! I’m not saying you should limit your playlists to one song per artist, because sometimes, one band has multiple songs that can apply to a certain situation, and including all these songs can enhance your playlist further! However, try not to put these songs back-to-back on your playlist. It can be much nicer to have a break in between.

  1. Don’t be afraid to venture out for more music to add!

Modern technology is crazy. It can tell you exactly what music you WOULD like just based on the music you’ve listened to in the past. Spotify specifically gives you multiple options to expand your music tastes, with their “Discover Weekly,” “Release Radar,” and “Daily Mix” playlists constantly recommending you new songs to try out. This step goes hand-in-hand with Step 5: you can find the songs you love by going out and looking for them! With all these means of discovery open to you, there’s no reason for you not to get out and try some new artists on for size!

  1. Lastly, have fun with it!

Cheesy last step, I know, but remember that these playlists are YOURS! All the other rules I’ve listed are simply suggestions. You can break all of these conventions as long as a listener can tell that you had FUN making it. As I’m writing this step, I’m listening to a 450-song playlist called “halloween vibes” with no consistency or thought put into ordering whatsoever, but I’m still enjoying it because I could tell the creator had fun! The great thing about music is that it could be funny, sad, serious, angry, or convey any of the human emotions one has ever felt! Therefore, you should be able to make a playlist specific to you, and it should turn out great as long as it’s true to yourself!

I am a Junior Statistics major and Computer Science minor at Adelphi University, but I've always had a passion for creative writing! I've always loved making short stories, poems, and as I've grown up, more critical and analytical pieces!
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