The Custom Channels Blog

Computers Versus Music Curators – Same Start, Different Outcome

Posted by John on November 17th, 2011

I read a blog about the curated playlist versus the computer generated algorithm. Some highlights:

So is curated radio dead? Will music directors be replaced by computers armed with 5 billion data points to decide what songs to play? … Creative music programming is an art, perhaps a dying art, but not a dead art. … A listener quickly becomes bored with a string of similarly sounding songs. She needs the right touch of variety. Something that surprises in a pleasant way. That’s the art that every good music director, every good nightclub DJ understands.

Read the blog here.  It got me thinking…

There’s so much music. How do you start a playlist?
It starts with a center sound or core artists, much like how Pandora uses a starting point to launch a personal playlist. Every playlist has a central core based around sound and artists. We build from there with humans making the choices in what to play.

At Custom Channels, we use sophisticated software to help us create our playlists. We’ve assigned some basic coding elements to each song in our huge song library – that helps us choose what songs go into creating a playlist. We don’t let the computer data choose the songs for us.

The computer software then helps us avoid repetition. It guides us to keep the same song from playing too often, keeps the same artist from playing too often, and keeps similar music styles from clumping (for example, it might be OK to have some blues on the playlist but we don’t want a string of three or four blues song in a row).

Algorithms might be good when a music service is creating millions of playlists at once, like Pandora.  But when a music service is handcrafted, like Custom Channels, human music curators are better.

Computers running algorithms

Jason Lucero, a Custom Channels music curator

We’re a music service that believes in music curators using music software to create the finest custom playlists. We still think there’s an art to selecting the song library and sequence of the playlist. Plus, we have a lot of fun doing it, so why turn it over to an algorithm!?

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