Does anyone truly knows what a playlist is? I mean, is it an album? Or just a collage of songs? Maybe it’s a mixtape, who knows! What we do know, is that where ever you see one – pay attention! The “Playlist” has crept in through the backdoor of the music industry to revolutionize the way music will be released by artists, as an effect of how fans consume music. These types of music ‘revolutions’ are not new, happening when vinyl turned to cassettes, to CD’s, to now – the mp3; so in order to fully understand what’s on the verge of the coming decade, we must take a trip to the past.
15-20 years in the past to be exact, starting with the iconic DJ’s who happen to pioneer the mixtape revolution, such as Funkmaster Flex, DJ Clue, DJ Screw, & DJ Envy. These pioneers were among the few who understood the power behind gathering different artists, with varying sounds(some similar), onto one project to create a sonic film.These projects would later represent the connection each artist had with each others ‘music universe’. It what synergized the sound of a region, and allowed the fans to understand the vision of where these artists were headed. Funkmaster Flex gave rap one of its first mixtapes with “Mix Tape Vol. 1” in 1995. Working with artists such as: Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z, Lil Kim, Method Man, and Eminem, were all part of the reason the ‘mixtape’ was finally able to make its way to light in the late 90’s. DJ Screw brought the mixtape game to the south. Without DJ Screw tapes, you don’t get the sound, aesthetic, vibe, aura, culture – whatever you want to call it – of the south. His tapes were so powerful, that lean culture is prevalent ‘till this day unfortunately. DJ Clue & DJ Envy used their mixtapes to curate culture in the early 2000’s.
Then came the internet, where DJ’s became apart of the artist’s universe, instead of connecting different artists wave together. The mixtape was the playlist before internet. With the internet making music consumption more convenient, needing a DJ to guide you on the sonic’s of the city became less necessary. This opened the door for artists to skip the DJ all together, and release mixtapes on their own. A DJ who happen to be ahead of the curve, was Dr.Dre.
Geared by understanding the nature of the mixtape era from the 90’s, with his legendary skill for creating culture, Dr.Dre partnered up with Jimmy Iovine to create Beats Music. In Apple’s acquirement of this venture between Dre & Iovine, apart of their ‘sells pitch’ was the fact that curated playlist from high-ranking industry insiders would generate a nice amount of revenue. Look at Apple today, revolutionizing the industry with the release of Drake’s “More Life” playlist, and hosting many more playlists that have catapulted the careers of artists like Cardi B. People read over the fact that it took superb insight and marketing from industry insider Carl Chery, who was able to place Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” on differing playlists, which contributed to the single going #1 on the Billboard charts. You think Carl Chery got lucky? In 2017, on “Everyday Struggle”, he predicted that a streaming platform (i.e Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify) would help take a record to #1 – this happened with Drake’s “God’s Plan”, smashing a handful of Spotify streaming records in his wake. This is not for nothing, as Spotify also understands the wave.Through strategic playlist marketing tactics, Spotify was able to push Danny Ocean and his single “Me Rehuso” to a quarter billion streams on their platform, and a record deal with Warner Music. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as to what’s inside Spotify’s bag, and with news that they’re testing a new playlist based app – expect major changes when it comes to music consumption this year. If Spotify has enough confidence to create a new platform purely for it’s playlist interest, just know that these playlists, mixtapes, albums – whatever you want to call it – are here to stay, and generating money.
Looking back on it, who would’ve thought a collage of throwaway singles, practice verses, and sonic ideas put together onto a project by Drake, would turn out to be a premonition to what’s next to revolutionize the music industry. The “Playlist”. Did Drake know something we didn’t know, or did it take Drake attaching this term to his project, to steamroll the start of the revolution? Know one knows, what we do know is that “More Life” had over 1 billion streams (equivalent to a half a million albums sold). See, this is where the future of the “playlist” gets interesting. Since Drake has proven that the term doesn’t sway consumers away, will we now be seeing playlist projects on the shelves? Playlist curated tours? Playlist based merch? Time will tell.