Born and raised in the greater Twin Cities area, I have always had the pleasure of calling Minnesota my home. I am currently a senior at Villanova University in Philadelphia and am pursuing a double major in Finance and Business Analytics.
I started curating playlists about six years ago when I first jumped onto the Spotify platform. At the outset, I only curated playlists for myself and my friends. I never expected my playlists to develop a large following, let alone earn me the title of “professional curator.” It wasn’t until late December of 2016 that I realized one of my playlists was gaining traction in the community (albeit there were still less than 1,000 followers at that point). The specific playlist was titled Freestyle Beats & Instrumentals and remains my largest playlist today with over 27,000 followers.
One of the things I decided very early on when my playlist was slowly growing is that I would not change how I curated my playlist to appease other people; this was going to be “my” playlist, and if people wanted to tag along with me, so be it. Believe it or not, I think this is one of the reasons the playlist has been so successful in the niche community of Spotify instrumentals. People seemed to enjoy my taste in music and left the dirty work that is discovering new music to me.
When it comes to discovering new music, that is one process that has changed for me over the years. At the outset of the playlist, I actively searched to find new music for myself and for the playlist. But over the years, as Spotify’s personalized algorithm-generated playlists (Discover Weekly, Release Radar, etc) have improved, I find myself having to do less active searching for new music. In addition to that, I receive anywhere between five to ten submissions a day from independent artists and record labels so that, combined with the Spotify generated playlists, usually provides me with enough new content to keep the playlist up to date. In fact, I believe this is another piece of the puzzle that has led to my success as a curator. I have always been open to discovering new genres and emerging independent artists, but have come to learn that most people are closed-minded in their music selection. Even in the world of streaming music, where (for the most part) every song, artist, and genre is available at your fingertips, people are still holding onto Billboard charts and radio hits to determine what they should listen to.
But unlike these uncultured people, I take my music discovery very seriously. In 2019, I listened to artists from 86 different countries (that’s 44% of countries in the world), streamed 1,737 new artists, and have listened to 314,833 minutes of music since 2015 (that’s 5,274 hours or 31 weeks of listening to music) - all from Spotify’s streaming platform alone.
One of the challenges I have faced in my music discovery is being able to share my new music findings with my followers without adding too many tracks at once or changing the vibe of the playlist. At one point my playlist had over 800 tracks in it, but I have since reduced that count to 300 (which is still large for a playlist by most curators’ standards). The reason for this is because the playlist is intended to be shuffled through, hence the motto “Shuffle. Rap. Repeat.”
When it comes to growing playlists in today’s streaming environment, it’s very important to make yourself and your playlist visible. Some people use social media as a means to get visibility while others use advertisements and websites. Whatever your approach might be, no curator will be successful if they are not genuine in their music taste. I personally have received a number of offers from record labels and independent artists alike to sell my playlist, but have declined the offer every time; the moment a curator sells their playlist (especially to a record label), that playlist loses all the value that was once established by the independent curator.
Even beyond the playlist losing its value, selling a playlist rids a curator of their ability to help independent artists make a name for themselves. Watching many of the artists I work with grow as a person and an artist is amazing and gives me the motivation to continue to do this kind of work. In fact, when I started working with HKMK and Garey Godson from ROU, both these artists had only a couple of thousand monthly listeners. Today, these artists have millions of streams and are performing on stages all across Europe. I truly am blessed to be in this role because it provides me with a unique opportunity to share good music with people all around the world. I am also really fortunate to be at the forefront of a rapidly changing music industry which now values playlists and independent artists more than ever before. As the technology and equipment needed to produce good music are becoming more readily available and artists are starting to make a name for themselves without record labels by their side, independent curators like myself are becoming increasingly important. In the end, it is my hope that my role as a curator can help talented artists get the exposure they deserve, and hopefully one day the opportunity to make a career out of the thing they love most - making music.
Of course, I must give credit to Hannes Schurig from ROU for opening my eyes to my role as a curator. It was not until I received a Facebook message from Hannes many years ago looking for music promotion that I realized how much influence I would have as a curator on Spotify. The ROU movement is special because it places value on independent artists who work hard and love what they do. I know this is just the beginning for ROU and I am excited to see where their hard work takes them.
Follow Freestyle Beats & Instrumentals: