Forget about throwing together some songs before a workout or a Saturday night dinner party. Now, creating the perfect playlist could mean landing a dream job at a major music streaming site, like Spotify or Tidal.
That’s what happened to Carlos López Casany of Barcelona, Rolling Stone reported today. While studying to become a doctor in 2012, he posted a Spotify playlist of positive tunes entitled “Just smile, Happy Songs.” His list, which featured hits from artists like Vampire Weekend and Outkast, soon had more than 30,000 followers. When his next playlist, “Just cry, Sad Songs,” was shuffled through by 400,000 listeners, he decided to focus on becoming a professional curator.
Streaming services, including Apple Music, have been using curated playlists to stand out from each other. Not only can these playlists give listeners a valuable mix of tunes for specific occasions, but they’ve turned unknown artists into the next major revenue-generating streamer.
Napster’s Sean Parker, for instance, posted a Spotify playlist that helped Lorde break out. According to Spotify statistics, the New Zealand pop star now has close to 4,500,000 monthly listeners on the site. This means playlisters with a lot of followers like Casany have become more like “tastemakers” and streaming sites on up to record companies are interested in his musical opinions.
But, as he explained to Rolling Stone, Casany has integrity. Many labels, artists and managers trying to make a hit have asked him to play their song for monetary compensation. Each time, he has refused. This idea of “payola” or “pay to play” is not new, of course. It’s been around since the early days of radio, when promoters would slip disc jockeys a few bucks to keep spinning an artist’s record.
Just because playlisters are harder to bribe doesn’t mean they can’t be persuaded, though. Streaming Promotions of Nashville pitches independent artists to user-generated playlists with hopes that songs will either start to spread organically or that certain tastemakers will catch on.
It’s a gamble though, Rolling Stone concludes. Many streaming services are beginning to ditch user-generated playlists in order to focus on curation by experts like Casany. Although Casany has decided against raking in any money through payola, there’s a good chance a streaming site will hire him to make internal playlists. If not, he can always leave the fickle music business behind to become a doctor.