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  • Writer's pictureJon Charoenkul

How I Make Playlists: The Least Efficient Way Possible

Playlisting is integral to my enjoyment and exploration of music. But not many people know about the complicated way I go about making playlists on Spotify. For that reason, I decided to write about how unnecessarily complex my playlisting process is, in the case that someone might be interested to know or perhaps even committed (and crazy) enough to do the same. First, everyone who uses Spotify (sorry, Apple Music users) has probably used the "Liked Songs" feature, in which you can "like" songs that are then automatically put into a private playlist generated by Spotify for your account. There, you can find a collection of every song you’ve liked. This Liked Songs feature is the backbone of my playlisting process. That’s because every song that I like, I will also physically "like," and it ends up in that playlist. This includes new discoveries I really enjoyed, my favorite tracks from new albums, and—only sometimes—old favorites (more on that later). How does this result in playlists that I create on my own, though? That’s where things start to get weird, because the next step in my process is incredibly structured.

Spotify is able to tell you when a song was added to a playlist, including the Liked Songs playlist. By definition, that also means it’s able to say how long a song has been on the playlist. So whenever a song has been in the Liked Songs playlist for exactly one month, I will then "unlike" it. That gives me exactly one month to listen to each song individually in the Liked Songs playlist. No song stays in for longer than a month—even the most addicting of earworms. And any song that I get bored of isn’t worthy of "moving on" to the next stage of the process and is "unliked" before its one-month stay ends. What is the next stage? This is where it gets even more complex. On the 28th of every month (don’t ask why I picked the 28th), I take all of the songs in my Liked Songs playlist—the ones I got bored of already filtered out—and put them in a playlist of my own. Essentially, I manually copied and pasted the playlist. That way, even when a song is inevitably "unliked" after spending a month in the Liked Songs playlist, it’s still saved somewhere: in my Liked Songs collection, or "archive." Because this happens monthly, this has resulted in a private collection of playlists that I’ve built up, each reflecting the music, moods, and emotions of every month of my life since I started using this process last June. Of course, the one-month duration of the songs’ existences in the initial Liked Songs playlist varies depending on when I added them to it. This results in a flow of songs going in and out of the playlist, all of which I’m actively listening to and enjoying and which are occasionally and consistently "snapshotted" into monthly playlists.

Because this is a monthly thing, there has to be a way to keep those addicting favorites from appearing again and again in the Liked Songs archive. For that reason, if a song I really like might find its way into the initial Liked Songs playlist again, I don’t "let it in" until the last time it was there was at least six months ago. (That’s just an arbitrary duration that seems to work.) At this point, you might think I’m clinically insane, but we’re not done yet. In addition to these monthly playlists, I have other mood-influenced, situational, and otherwise themed playlists, among them "BRUTALIST," my workout playlist, "FANTASY," for when I’m feeling a bit lonely, "WANDERLUST," for foreign-language songs, and of course "AUX," which contains my music taste in a nutshell. But these playlists don’t just have any songs; the songs in them are always curated from my Liked Songs archive. After the monthly playlist has been created on the 28th of the month, I go through the entire playlist, examining every song and seeing where it would fit within the curated playlists. This ensures that any song that ends up in one or more of the curated playlists is one I will enjoy—no song I don’t like ends up in any playlist. Finally, after I’ve added these new songs, I’ll go through the final, curated playlists and remove some songs where artists have repeated themselves too much for my comfort. Otherwise, all my playlists might be littered with songs by Kendrick Lamar or Caroline Polachek. Since new songs are being added monthly, these curated playlists are always evolving and have been since I began this process in June 2022.

That’s the gist of my complex, convoluted, and unnecessary playlisting system. But before you decide that only someone as jobless as me could do this for nine whole months, I’ve found that this process is extremely effective in not only organizing my music but also exploring new songs and artists and curating my music taste. After nine months of this process, I’ve developed some pretty eclectic playlists, filled with songs from all kinds of artists, genres, and time periods. When I started out, the playlists were all pretty similar, but over time they have diversified. Each playlist has a collection of songs that I fully enjoy and features songs I have on repeat, those I’ve loved for years, recommendations from friends that I liked, new music, old music, and everything in between. And as for my Liked Songs archive, I now have a collection of playlists that represent exactly how I was feeling, thinking, and listening for each month of my life over the past nine months, so a trip down memory lane will be much easier for me. There are some downsides to the process, though. If a song in the final playlists gets cut, it’ll have to go through this entire process again, so I am careful with what I remove from them. Also, especially right before the 28th of every month, anyone who sees my curated playlists (and can’t see my initial Liked Songs playlist, as it can’t be made public) will see a one-month-outdated representation of my music taste. But, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the downsides. And perhaps I’m in too deep to change the way I make playlists anymore—but hey, it works!

If you want to see how my playlists look right now, and follow them as I inevitably continue this process, check out my Spotify. And make sure to tune into my show on UIC Radio — Newsic, streaming live Mondays from 4–5 p.m.!


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