Everybody knows just how much playlists have come to dominate our industry. Over the past five years, playlists have risen to become the prime ‘digital real estate’ for songs, during that time effectively overtaking the album. As we stand, the industry must now evaluate just what a ‘post-album’ world might look like.
I like playlists as much as the next music fan, but I also feel they have commodified music somewhat. If the first port-of-call for music consumers is to hear songs on playlists, I fear a lot of context will be lost. Already, research has shown that listeners are hard pushed to recall song titles, let alone the albums those songs are taken from.
As playlists have become bigger, with more prominent placement on streaming service menus, they have also gotten to be longer, to the point now where they are really ‘presenterless radio’. If a playlist is 100 tracks and four hours long, well that’s longer than any radio show, so playlists are more radio than radio!
It looks to me like there is an opportunity to bring some context and personality back into playlisting. Mixtapes from the cassette age were lovingly curated, often with handwritten notes and sometimes even homemade cover art.
This is the idea behind the Song Sommelier. The Song Sommelier was created as a passion project to bring mixtape (and perhaps even vinyl) values, back to playlisting. Every playlist is created over weeks, months - sometimes actual years! Each playlist is accompanied by bespoke, characterful artwork by the Glaswegian artist Mick Clarke, and a reader or ‘digital sleevenotes’ by the playlist curator.
Song Sommelier playlists are eclectic, across all genres, or sometime based around a single theme or idea, like "Dark and Stormy Soul Valentine's Edition" for Valentine's Day, “Feel The Burns: The Scottish Indie Songbook” for Burns Night, or “Alternative Bond Themes”, which needs little explanation. We are thinking that if you are a music fan, there are better ways to discover any and all kinds of music.
We will be posting a new playlist via the blog every week, and we’ll look to feature something different than the usual playlist fare. As we progress the project, we’ll produce more playlists in collaboration with genre experts, artists, or with enthusiasts with a deep connection for whatever reason, to the playlist in question.
In some ways. We are part of the slow music movement. We hope that with the artwork, the sleevenotes and the level of TLC put into each and every playlist, will make fans and listeners listen to playlists like they do albums - paying more attention and noticing more throughout, hopefully connecting with the collection on a deeper and more emotional level.
The Song Sommelier site also uses the soundsgood playlist player - so the playlists can be played from any streaming service in the background: Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer or YouTube - much better than those widgets!