12 Playlist Ideas For Breathing Life Into Your Back Catalog
Thanks to the magic of playlists and things like Spotify's discover weekly, musicians are now being given a chance to breath new life into their back-catalogues. Here we look at twelve ways artists can make this new trend work to their advantage.
Guest Post by Chris Robley on DIY Musician
Your songs don’t expire.
Every Monday I look forward to listening to Discover Weekly, a personalized playlist updated each week by Spotify with songs they think I’ll love based on my listening habits. They’re getting good at it.
Almost every week this happens: I fall in love with a song I’ve never heard before that sounds “classic.” A few clicks later and I find out whether it’s a current act that has a retro approach to writing or recording, or — more often — it’s an older song (sometimes by an artist I’ve never heard of before) that was released years or decades ago.
Think about how cool that is. Old songs, songs that were never hits, songs you’d NEVER hear today on oldies or classic rock or easy listening radio, get to have a whole new life.
[To learn a proven strategy for getting your songs onto more Spotify playlists, download our FREE guide “Getting Your Songs on Spotify Playlists.” It will take you through a series of achievable steps that will increase your chances of a high-profile playlist placement.]
In the old music industry, a song that didn’t become a hit after a few months was often pronounced dead for all eternity, and the stone was rolled in front of its tomb.
Same catalog. New context.
Today, unlimited digital shelf space means unlimited shelf life. And all it takes for an older tune to get revitalized is one listener hearing that song in some new context outside of its original release cycle.
It’s a big world, and unless you’ve achieved Drake stature, even your oldest songs will always be new to someone.
Playlists are the PERFECT mechanism for breathing new life into your back catalog. Playlists give you the opportunity to feature your songs in new contexts, shaped by the songs that precede or follow.
And on Spotify, once you’ve acquired 250 followers you can become a verified artist. At that point you have the ability to feature your playlists right on your artist discography page. If you aren’t verified yet, go HERE to read my tips on how to build your Spotify following.
There are so many possible themes for organizing music, your playlisting options are almost endless.
Here is just a short list of ideas…
Playlists can group songs based on:
1. Genre or sub-genre
This is an obvious starting place, and a way to attract fans of your style to YOUR music specifically — by placing one of your songs alongside lots of other great artists who create similar music. When you share your playlist on social, just be sure to use lots of genre-related hashtags.
2. The “scene”
Highlight your friends’ bands, bands you’ve toured with, bands you’ve opened for, etc. Maybe they’ll scratch your back too.
3. Your influences
Why do you make music? Share songs by your heroes and then include your own songs that might demonstrate that influence.
4. Place of origin
Music from the same city, state, province, region, nation, or continent.
6. A through-line
Diverse music can be linked by… something specific (the mention of a particular city, a featured guest artist, a certain time signature, etc.)
Music featuring the mellotron, pop songs with string quartets, etc.
Maybe you have one song with bagpipes? So did AC/DC. There’s the beginning of a playlist right there!
9. Lyrical focus
Your favorite song lyrics, together again for the very first time. Here’s mine. (Follow if you dig!)
You COULD create separate playlists for every set, but more manageable would be to make one playlist that changes every time you play a show. “Last Night’s Set List,” or something like that. The changing song list might entice people to follow the playlist and see what they missed each night.
You could also create a collaborative playlist where your fans make suggestions for upcoming shows.
Every song you’ve ever released, organized in reverse chronological order, so it plays from newest to oldest.
Whenever you release a new track on Spotify, share the PLAYLIST, not the individual song. This way, once the song is over, listeners will automatically hear more of your tunes.
12. Current Favorites
Give fans a “What I’m listening to now” glimpse into your life. Unless what you’re listening to now is terrible. Or consisting entirely of music from 50 years ago. But otherwise, we want to know what’s fueling your musical fire.
The “best practice” for playlists is usually to include only ONE song per artist. So for any of the playlist ideas above that aren’t based solely around your own music, pick the original song you feel fits the playlist best.
Have you created some interesting playlists? What are some possible themes I didn’t mention? Holler in the comments below.
Chris Robley is the Editor of CD Baby's DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songs that've been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.