Turn Playlist Passion into a Career: Music Curation 101

May 20, 2024

You’ve probably heard the terms music curation, playlist curator, or a music curator - and if not, no worries. We’ll get into it in a minute. Music, for many, has been a dream way for them to make money - but if all you’ve got is a streaming service, like Spotify, and some good taste, earning cash from the music industry might seem like more of a pipe dream.

In the last few years, there has been a rise in music curation, first as a hobby and then as a side hustle or full-time income. It’s a little like being a radio DJ - but just about as modern as you can get.

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What does a music curator do?

It is a role that pretty much does what you might think - curates music to share with others. The origins of the role go back to the radio, when a curation expert would select the playlist for the listeners. Or they were led by the charts - either way; there are musical taste-makers in the mix.

Now, people curate playlists for internet radio and streaming platforms like Spotify.

Having an ear for specific sounds, melodies, and a feel for certain aspects of the music will mean the entire playlist will be cohesive. From start to finish, each track will seamlessly work - even when, at first glance, a listener might feel it wouldn’t.

For those who have a lot of playlists, go and take a look and see how you’ve put them together. Is there a theme? A specific instrument type? Your playlists are curated, too - even if you didn’t realize it.

And with the right mix of social engagement and good taste, you could be making a living (or, at the very least, a side income from it) by making more playlists.

But there is a space between where it is now and where it began.

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The Vinyl Collectors

Long before you could organize your digital tracks, vinyl collectors and record stores were curating your (and their) day. Because records were costly, they had to be selected to fit in, and now, the right collection is worth a fortune. And, while there is a resurgence of vinyl and vinyl collectors, it can be more expensive when pitched against the simplicity of digital music curation.

Algorithms

Big music streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify use their carefully created algorithms to analyze your listening data and give you a generated (and still curated) playlist. Spotify’s Daylist, Daily Mix 1-6, Discover Weekly, and Release Radar offer you more of what you love. Digital curation, while humans build the algorithm, the playlists don’t have a human touch - it doesn’t mean they are bad, far from it - it means they are perfect for you… But are people really listening?

Modern Music Curation

There is a balance to be found - and money to be made, when it comes to modern-day music curation. You don’t need an extensive and obscure taste in music to become a music curator, but it helps if you have a little time on your hands and love music.

Modern music curation is unique because you are at the forefront of where new artists and new music become popular—listening and selecting new music and mixing it in with other music that maybe isn’t so new.

Playlists created by curators are ‘living’ things, and they will be updated and preened often, and over time, more and more followers will join. They are giving real visibility to the new artists that have been included.

How do you make money from curating Spotify Playlists?

Almost everything in the music world is a business, which means money is to be made across multiple angles - including music curation. Music promotion platforms bridge the gap between artists and curators. Curators earn money by listening to undiscovered artists, adding tracks to playlists, and even writing reviews. Artists who submit their music get that exposure that is so important in the industry.

In this article, you can read more about Spotify playlist submission.

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How can you be good at music curation?

Keep your ears open and your tastes eclectic so that you can continually discover new artists - and always work on building your network on social media, with new musicians and artists, and with other curators.

Where else can I make money with music curation?

Artists, independent record labels, mainstream labels, management, promoters, etc. Any cross-section of the music industry that requires visibility will pay for it - but you need to have the right followers and supporters on your playlists - so it’s a work in progress.

How do you get started as a music curator?

To start as a music curator:

  1. Make your playlists on Spotify or Apple Music.
  2. Make different lists of versatile genres you like and keep adding new songs.
  3. Connect with other people who make lists and work together on projects.

Put effort and time into sharing your written reviews, going to live gigs, reaching out to musicians and indie labels, and keeping your playlists fresh! Start building a solid social media following on popular platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.

Collaborating with brands and artists to help promote their products or services can increase your credibility. Have playlists across multiple streaming services, and go for the big ones like Deezer, TIDAL, Spotify, and Apple Music. And don’t discount YouTube as an excellent space for building video playlists. The one thing that isn’t time-consuming here is using FreeYourMusic to make sure all of your playlists are synced up across all of your platforms.

How to get a bigger audience as a music curator

To make more money as a curator:

  1. Use the right words in your playlist titles and descriptions to get more clicks.
  2. Connect with your audience by joining the conversation and responding to comments and discussions.
  3. Work together with other playlist creators or popular personalities to share playlists with each other's followers so you can reach more people and get paid by sponsors.
  4. Use social networks and YouTube to show your playlists to more people and reach a larger audience.

Becoming a music curator isn’t just about building some playlists; it is becoming part of the story of an artist and helping them get more visibility – while completely indulging in what you love (and getting paid for it) – music.

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