What does it take for me to put together this weekly playlist? Well, lemme tell ya!
Themes - So each playlist doesn’t actually need a theme but I do like for there to be some cohesion amongst the songs. I’ve only recently started planning out themes ahead of time but up to now I’ve been sort of assessing what I’m feeling or thinking a lot about that week and start trying to put a theme together from that. Concentration was a huge one. That week I really felt like I simply couldn’t sit down and focus on a single task so I put together instrumentals to help encourage others to complete a task.
Photography - Once I have a theme or direction for the week’s playlist I can usually get an idea of what image I am looking for. I generally use high quality stock images I’ve found online for free. Except for this issue where I’m on the cover which was captured by Jarami Bond, and this one which I found on Pinterest after I created a mood board for a photoshoot (so it’s not that high quality). The cover of this post was shot by Joy Ofodu at a Facebook event. Oh! AND you may have noticed all the artwork I select focuses on people of color. We are so underrepresented in the mainstream that I feel it’s my duty to rep us on all my cover art. Also, moving forward, I plan to start crediting the photographers on my blog. So help keep me honesty on that part!
Artwork - At this point I have a template I use to pop the high quality stock photo into. But when I have time and (want to) feel like a designer, I like to play around with the fonts and overall layout. You may have noticed some changes along the way. I love the AVCY logo I’ve been using but prior to it’s debut in Volume 11, I’d simply been using bold type fonts. I’m still working on the fonts I feel best represent the brand. The artwork is then exported as both .png + .jpg files. I prefer .png files these days but Spotify doesn’t like this format so I end up exporting both. I also rename each file (a little SEO trick I learned) and rename the original stock photo which gets uploaded here to the archive.
Research - I generally do a bit of research even if I think I have all the answers, Sway! If the playlist is about BBQ’s then I’m looking up the best cookout music and adding that to my selections. If it’s about Black History Month, I’m making sure that my playlist is pretty far from anyone else’s on the same topic. This typically takes me a few hours and it spans out over the course of the week.
Playlist - I’m an Apple aficionado. It’s just my go-to. Fight me. So, I start the playlist in Apple Music. It gets a simple name: AVCY + Volume number and, by default, it’s set as private. I usually add a couple of songs at the top of the week (or as soon as I have an idea of the theme). I love starting the playlist as early as possible even if it’s only one or two songs. This way I can edit it throughout the week from my phone even though I do a bulk of the playlist work on my laptop.
The drive - On a good week, as I’m running errands I listen to the playlist several times in my car. This has always been a true test for me - the playback in the whip! How does it drive? Do you wanna skip a song? Did anything catch you off guard? Did anything irritate you? So, again, this is where my phone comes into play. I will edit while I’m on the go.
The chores - In an effort to cut down on screen time while I’m home with my son during the day, we listen to a lot of music! So this is my other litmus test. I keep an old iPhone connected to our speaker system (like an iPod) and blast the playlist a couple times during the week while we are playing, cooking, washing dishes, etc. I continue to see how I feel about it and edit as needed.
The email - I use SquareSpace for my newsletter. I love their templates and the interface. I type my opening blurb several times until it feels equally succinct and natural. I really want it to read the way I speak but sometimes I can be a lil wordy so… balance. I pop in the images, links and often play with layout, spacing, etc. Yo, the newsletter title gets me stumped EVERY week. And some weeks I care more than others. Haha! On a good week, I have the template set up and ready to go by Wednesday even if I’m still struggling with the actual playlist.
The test - So I send a test email to myself and my partner. We both make sure the links work, the copy reads well and makes sense. I’m a spelling and grammar junkie so I do my best to let myself be great and not apply too much pressure there. Also, worth noting, I try to run a check of the layout on my mobile device(s) and laptop.
Back to the Playlist - Now, I go back to the playlist and run through it again. This time I’m checking the order and the levels. Some songs are hella low and the song that follows is dumb loud! I hate that. So I work to make sure the tempo and levels match from song to song. And generally, you want it to flow. Tempo is one thing but the feel is another. I try to avoid placing a song that feels really vibrant next to a song that feels really relaxed, even if they’re the same tempo. When I’m finally finished with the playlist order, then I go to Spotify and duplicate the playlist. My good friend, Cathy, suggested there must be a tool for this (to avoid the manual labor) but I haven’t found anything. There are some tools that existed in previous years but once Spotify got rid of its “import playlist” feature those became null and void. If anyone has suggestions let me know! It’d save me a ton of time! I’d also like to start adding my playlist to YouTube (via the suggestion of a listener). That’s gonna take some time, too, but if anyone has a quick hack/tool for accomplishing this sooner… I’m all ears!
Send - So now, at this point it’s time to press send. I’ve found the images, created the artwork, curated and created the playlist on both platforms, given multiple listens and edits, been interrupted by my son like 5011 times, drafted the email, sent the test, changed the title again and now it’s time to press send… Except, without fail, doubt and fear overcome me and I have to have a whole talk with myself about why it’s time to let this go into the world whether it’s perfect or NOT. And I do… and then I press send.
I press send and I don’t listen to the playlist, or read the email, or check out the open/click rate, or look at the unsubscribes. For me, I’ve found the easiest way to get my work out into the world is to just let it go and act like it didn’t happen for a while. Also have a rule - I never EVER, under any circumstances - alter the work after it’s out. I don’t change the playlist order and I don’t change the artwork (although I’ve recently learned that sometimes Apple Music doesn’t save my cover art even though it appears saved on some of my devices - so in that case I do upload the same artwork again). After I press send I don’t even look at it for like two weeks just so I don’t fall into my old habits of beating myself up for not being perfect.
And that’s how you curate the perfect playlist.