Branding goes far beyond mere logos and slogans. Everything you do with regards to your business is a reflection of the brand you’re cultivating. From the color of your store’s walls to the aroma customers notice when they walk through the doors, everything about your business should be carefully chosen and monitored to appeal to your target audience. The same principles of branding that govern your paint choices and store layout should also apply to the music you play in your shop. An algorithmic playlist might seem convenient at first, but opting instead for a human curated playlist can save you headaches in the long run.

What’s the Difference?

An algorithmic playlist is one put together by a computer, using input about your favorite songs, artists and genres, as well as by gathering and using data on your listening habits. Examples of algorithmic playlists include Pandora and Spotify. The more input and data the user gives, the more tailored the playlist becomes.

A human curated playlist is one put together by a person that’s based on your input on artists, genres and songs. In the world of digital music providers, algorithmic playlists are like commercial radio – you get what you get, with little to no input – whereas human curated playlists are similar to having your very own DJ spinning tunes that flow seamlessly from one song to the next to create a specific mood or theme.

The Benefits of Human Curated Playlists

Despite their popularity, algorithmic playlists have very little variation. The services that offer these playlists pull from a limited catalog of music and will often play the same songs every few hours. If you tell the playlist provider that you want a playlist based on a popular old school country music song, for example, you’ll probably end up with the same handful of songs that are easily identified by the software as fitting in that genre. Because providers recognize that this becomes monotonous, they’ll often take it upon themselves to try to spice things up, with or without your input.

Algorithmic music providers will ask for your input about songs you like or dislike. If you choose to engage, you can change the entire tone of the playlist, often unintentionally. Even without engaging in the software, algorithmic providers will, at times, throw you a curve ball to break up the monotony. You may want an old school country music playlist, but every so often the algorithmic playlist will try to sneak in a new country hit to test the waters and see if you like it. If you don’t offer your input and tell the software that the song it chose was inappropriate, the playlist may take on a very different tone over time.

Human curated playlists leave little room for chance. When you tell a playlist creation service that you’d like a playlist of adult alternative music that creates a mellow mood, the expert charged with creating your playlist will scour their catalog to find all the songs that fit your criteria and arrange them in a way that’s inoffensive to the ear. There’s no jarring genre changes, no sudden shift from tempo or speed and nothing that could strike listeners as odd or out of place.

Human curated playlists also allow you to screen for content. For example, if you’d like to broadcast rock or hip hop throughout your store, a human curated playlist can screen out songs with lyrics that would shock those sensitive to profanity, violence, sexually suggestive subject matter and other elements inappropriate for a public setting.

The Cost of Algorithmic Playlists Vs. Human Curated Playlists

You might be tempted to go with an algorithmic playlist simply on the basis that it seems less costly than having a custom playlist put together by a human. A subscription to an algorithmic playlist provider can cost as little as $10 a month. The upfront cost of a human created tracklist is slightly higher, but there are a few compelling reasons why spending a little more for a carefully curated list of songs is worth it:

Only a couple algorithmic playlist providers offer commercial licenses. When you play music in your store, you need the proper licenses to play that music in a business setting. You might need as many as three licenses for each song or you could face fines up to several thousand dollars per song. Most algorithmic playlist providers intend their services for personal use only. Using them in your store could land you in hot water at best and bankrupt you at worst.

A human curated playlist created by a professional service means you’ll be secure in the knowledge that every song you play has the correct licensure for commercial use. For example, at Retail Radio we work with a catalog of songs on which we’ve already obtained the proper licenses. Each song we add to your list is cleared for use in your store, eliminating the chance of costly lawsuits and court battles over song choices.

The value of a human curated playlist is greater. A deal is not really a good deal if you aren’t getting exactly what you want. Since algorithmic tracklists rely on a limited catalog of songs and sometimes insert unexpected music choices into your playlist, you aren’t ever guaranteed exactly the mood you want for your store.

A human curated playlist gives you exactly the mood you want and the songs you want, with carefully selected choices that reflect the ambiance you’re trying to create. You’ll get exactly the list of songs you need for your store – a better deal than crossing your fingers and hoping the software for an algorithmic playlist gets it right.

Algorithmic playlists don’t always accurately reflect your brand. Because of their tendency to go off the rails in terms of music selection, you could start with an adult alternative playlist and end up with a track featuring more punk rock than anything else.

When you purchase human curated tracklisting, you’re opting for a quality service that accurately reflects your brand. When you purchase a classic rock playlist, you’ll receive a classic rock playlist. Branding is an industry worth untold millions of dollars every year. Spending a little more upfront on a human curated playlist to reflect your particular brand can save you money by not having to re-evaluate your music selection on a periodic basis.

Why Choose a Human Curated Playlist?

Human curated playlists offer clear benefits over algorithmic playlists. Not only does it offer you protection against costly and time-consuming lawsuits, it also takes the guesswork out of selecting the right music. When you choose a human curated list, you’ll get exactly the music you want without surprise tempo or genre changes, any suggestive content or explicit lyrics will be filtered out and your song rotation will be suitable for customers of all ages and sensibilities.

Opting for a human curated playlist may cost a little more upfront than a subscription to a commercial algorithmic playlist, but it’s worth it to protect your brand, protect your public image and create exactly the impression you want.