Behind Google, Apple and Spotify Music Curation
Curating music playlist never been that easy. It’s more of a feeling or instinct, and building an even better playlist is harder than it might seem. No algorithm yet to judge what song users want to sing while you are hit the gym, for example. In the meantime, the job has fallen to an elite class of veteran music nerds — fewer than 100 working full-time at either Apple, Google, or Spotify — who are responsible for assembling, naming, and updating nearly every commute, dinner party, or TGIF playlist on your phone.
Buzzfeed's Reggie Ugwu write that 50% of Spotify users globally (approximately 100 million) are listening to its human-curated playlists. And according to an industry estimate, 1 out of every 5 plays across all streaming services today happens inside of a playlist. And that number, fueled by prolific experts, is growing steadily.
Music curators whom began their careers as bloggers, DJs, or influencers, usually have their work went uncredited, yet impactful. They are usually can’t code, didn’t go to business school, but somehow within the silicon temples of Apple, Google, and Spotify, they are, in a literal sense, defenders of humanity, laboring to breathe intangible values into frictionless machines.
Music playlist curators shows us that not all our problems can be solved with codes, or algorithms. There’s something immeasurable but essential in the space between what is now called “discovery”. Apple Music rumored to introduce “Discovery Mix” to take on Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists which utilizing users’ taste through collaborative filtering algorithms. Those “discovery” playlists would bring the streamer’s overall man-machine calculation of finding and falling in love with a song in a way algorithms alone couldn’t decide.
“[...] I’m getting to a point where I’m so far ahead of things that I’m actually able to shift them. Instead of reacting to what’s happening, I have a hand in shaping what’s happening,” says Apple Music Curator Carl Cherry.