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  • Syed Shah

How I Learned to Make a Playlist



As someone who has always considered myself an avid music enthusiast, I always felt terrible at making playlists. Streaming music meant listening to my Liked Songs playlist on Spotify has nearly 2000 songs containing every imaginable genre. It was always thought of. “Oh, everything I like is already here; what's the point of consolidating it into its’ own area?” This all changed after my first semester at UIC Radio. Being a DJ with the hit program “NEET Radio,” I was finally put in the position where I had to have some sort of order and theme for my show, especially with having to share time with my wonderful co-host, Aaron.


One thing I found that revolutionized how I think about making a playlist for me was

using conceptual words. The idea came from observing how other hosts sequence their shows. A lot of what I witnessed was single words or ideas conceptualizing the entire show. Things such as feelings or experiences define what a playlist could be. My first real experience with this was making a fall playlist. We based this playlist around the direct idea of being "mellow.” Knowing I had a requirement to make a soft playlist really had me thinking, as I wanted to fit the vibe perfectly. As daunting as the task felt, having a word or concept made it so much easier to put music that fits together. Some songs, such as “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan, felt like such an easy

picks because the concept I was going for was staring straight at me. Other songs required a bit of more thinking, as I wouldn’t have it stare at me, and I would have to trust my heart and ears to make the right decision. The song “the ocean that ate new york” by Cottonwood Firing Squad felt like a pick I was driven to make, but I was unsure of how it would fit with how my cohost was planning his part of the segment. When it came to the show and I played it for the first time, really seemed to enjoy it, and I really felt a sense of accomplishment and pride as I finally

able to do something that I always felt I was bad at; I made a playlist that fit a vibe and people liked the show segment for what it was.


The moral of the story is that, as a host, if you are ever struggling with a show concept or if you think you suck at making playlists, just come up with a silly concept word in 30 seconds and dive headfirst into trying to fulfill what the concept means to you, because most of the time people will.

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