Not all songs nor playlists are created equal.
If you’re a Monica Geller like me, the sheer thought of organising your Spotify playlist would excite you but also leave you with a lot of anxiety. How do you decide which songs are good enough to go into your Saved Music vs. Playlist? Where do you place newly discovered songs you want to play on repeat? Across genres, songs for specific moods, beats per minute, and even when you discovered that song, there is no fixed way to decide which songs go where.
Here’s a five-minute guide that outlines a simple and effective way to declutter your Spotify library and organise your music playlists. You may also want to skip ahead to the flow chart below. You’re welcome.
1. Create a temporary playlist for all newly discovered songs
Obviously rename it, but for ease of explanation, the Playlist Dump is a temporary, interim playlist that houses all new songs that you’ve discovered, would probably like to listen again sometime and/or play on repeat.
As a rule of thumb, never have more than a 150 songs in this playlist.
The Playlist Dump is supposed to feature new music you’ve bookmarked, aid discovery and familiarisation. With more than 150 songs in the list, it may be challenging to resurface all songs equally. Unless you’re adding 10 new songs a day, this playlist should last you a solid few months. Personally, I update this playlist on a quarterly to bi-yearly basis.
2. Selectively phase out songs from the temporary playlist, over time
Similar to Marie Kondo’s KonMari method, when the songs in this playlist no longer spark joy, be grateful and then decide if each song:
- is one that’s worth going into your Playlist Library (we’ll touch on this shortly)
- is to be unfortunately discarded into the abyss (because you simply got sick of it)
- is something you can’t get enough of, and you want to carry it forward, into the next Playlist Dump
3. Establish main playlists
If you’re neurotic like me and have issues sleeping knowing a stone’s out there unturned, I’d recommend keeping two parallel groups of playlists, sorted by When You Discovered It and by Mood/Setting (the emotion it evokes). Else, regular folks may want to just sort it by Mood/Setting, which I believe would be the more common way to sort playlists.
Playlists based on When You Discovered It
This is a really powerful organisational method because it helps to group up your favourite songs chronologically by when you first heard it, or fell in love with that piece of music.
As human beings, our hearts will always keep better time than a clock. Our most vivid memories are imprinted when there is a strong emotional undercurrent, an unforgettable moment — not mere dates and numbers.
“Now the links between emotion, memory, and music are being plumbed by scientists, specifically Signy Sheldon and Julia Donahue of McGill University in Montreal. Their paper on Memory and Cognition — admirably titled “More than a feeling: Emotional cues impact the access and experience of autobiographical memories” — finds that the “arousal” (or tempo) and valence (or mood) of music provides different cues to random access memories.”
Playlists based on Mood, Setting or Emotion
Music sets the mood, and can amplify emotions. An upbeat dance track can compel us to put on our running shoes and go for a run. Slower, ambient songs would be the perfect background music for good company, paired with wine. Not to mention, melancholic or gut-wrenching songs for when we deal with a bad break-up.
By organising Spotify playlists based on mood, setting or emotion, we are setting our playlists up to most appropriately suit the occasion. Some questions that can help prompt these categories:
- What kind of emotions do these songs evoke?
- How do you feel when listening to the songs on this playlist?
- What kind of mood do you want to set or achieve, with this playlist?
Nuance: Mood, setting and emotion share a lot of commonalities and overlaps, and as such, it wouldn’t make sense to split playlists further into each vertical. Technically, you can, but you shouldn’t bother — especially if you want playlists to be multi-purpose and not 90% copies of each other.
- Good vibes only (a.k.a. party playlist)
- Songs in the shower (ballads, songs for singing your heart out)
- Acoustic & chill
- Work mode
- Emo potato
- Feeling fierce – i.e. for workouts
Ever you need some playlist name inspiration? Head over here.
Song Overlaps in Playlists are Unavoidable
For both approaches of music playlist organisation, song overlaps exist. In fact, there is upside in adding one song into multiple playlists, as this means it gets resurfaced whenever you’re picking a playlist for a mood or particular setting, or when you want to take a trip down memory lane.
Visualising the Music Organisation Process
For those who operate better with visuals, here’s a flowchart to help visualise the music organisation process:
Organise Your Music Playlists with Spotify PlaylistMachinery
Not many people may know this — Spotify offers free tools that can help musicophiles go as in-depth as categorising music by beats per minute (bpm) and other metrics. Here are the two that are particularly useful:
Organize your Spotify music by any of a wide range of musical attributes including genre, mood, decade of release and more.
What this tool essentially does is it breaks down the music you like based on two attributes. You get to pick which two out of 13 track properties, and these go into the X and Y axis respectively). After which, you’ll see your music come to life in a plot graph.
These are the 13 different track properties Spotify allows you to drill down to:
Sort your Spotify playlists by any of a wide range of musical attributes such as tempo, loudness, valence, energy, danceability, popularity and more. Now with Filters!
If you’re a lover of Excel or Google Sheets because of its sorting and filtering functions, imagine that and on your Spotify playlists. Incredible, amirite?
Check out PlaylistMachinery here.
- Create a temporary playlist for all newly discovered music.
- Periodically, clean the temporary playlist up by deciding if the songs go into main playlists. Your temporary playlist should not have more than 150 songs.
- Establish main playlists based on (a) when it was discovered and (b) the mood, setting or emotion it evokes. Overlaps in playlists are unavoidable.
Disclaimer: By no means is this post sponsored or endorsed by Spotify. I am an independent writer and all opinions featured in this article are my own.