Pro Music Curators Create Specialized Playlists for Listeners

The access to millions of songs on Spotify, Pandora and other online music streaming services has music fans feeling overwhelmed. Some fans are now turning to professional music curators to help them identify the best songs for their specific mood. Professional playlist makers typically do not compile mixes based on broad genres or decades, but instead, they create mixes for specific occasions or emotional states, such as a family road trip or a sad break-up.

The new demand for music curators follows the rise of streaming music services that use algorithms to match listeners with the perfect tracks. While these computer programs, such as the ones on Pandora or Amazon, have massive amounts of data to identify music listening patterns, disillusioned music fans still believe that there is too much repetition or bizarre combinations in computer-generated compilations.

Some companies are trying to find a balance between algorithms and human curated playlists. Songza uses playlists created by professionals, but uses algorithms to match those playlists with people who are in the middle of a workout or making dinner. Their algorithms also take into account the time of day and the user’s music listening history. In the future, the makers of Songza also hope to tailor playlists based on location.

Spotify also combines the two methods. The service allows users to make their own playlists, listen to playlists compiled by third-party experts such as Billboard or TuneWiki, or listen to radio streams powered by algorithms. In March, Spotify acquired music data supplier, Echo Nest, to perfect its algorithms.

Beats Music, a new streaming service from the makers of the popular headphones, has promised handmade playlists from professional music curators and celebrities alike. Slacker, an Internet radio service with 65 curators, discovered that music fans listen up to 20 percent longer on stations hosted by a person, so their stations now feature the curator’s discussion of music in between songs.

The Wall Street Journal asked three pros from Songza, Slacker and Beats Music to create mixes that they recommend listening to while reading the newspaper. Check out the eclectic results on WSJ; you may find them interesting.