Should Brands Make Playlists?

May 27, 2021

By Amanda Levine, Senior Director, TMA Music                                                [Header image credit: Canva]

We all have that friend that makes the perfect playlist, right? In my group, that’s me. I have always been the one who creates the soundtrack for any event, especially (pre-Covid) when it was time to get ready for a night on the town! So, for me, the importance of a good playlist is always top of mind. And since streaming services like Spotify make it easy to create playlists, this can be an effective marketing tool for brands as well – as long as you do it right. 

Why do we make playlists and why do we listen to them? At the core, playlists serve two key roles. For one, they provide a discovery engine that helps turn us on to artists and songs we may have never heard before. Second, playlists are great mood enhancers to whatever event we are engaging in from cooking to exercising, studying to dancing ­– you name it! Most activities, fast or slow, are made better with a good playlist.

If your brand actively targets Millennials and Gen Z, then you likely know the power music has for your audience. Music is their number one passion and streaming music is something nearly all of them do every day. Odds are you’ve explored advertising on platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and/or iHeart. All have advertising options such as purchasing ads on free tiers that are interspersed between listening sessions, just like traditional radio. They may also offer branded integrations into events, podcasts, and any number of new products they create regularly.

Another one that comes up often is the branded playlist, which might appear to be an attractive low-cost, even no-cost option. But if you do this, my recommendation is to take a moment to think about the why, what, and how of this idea.

  • Why are you doing a branded playlist?
  • What is the purpose, what do you want to achieve?
  • What is your own brand identity and how can that come to life through a branded playlist?
  • How does your identity match up with the consumer you’re trying to reach when they are listening to music?
  • How do you intend to build and maintain your playlists? Will you do this once or regularly?

The point of answering the above is to help determine whether or not this is the right strategy for your brand. If it is, then understanding how you will manage the process before you dive into it will be essential. Circling back to the title of this post, in my opinion, you should only build branded playlists if you are going to put the effort into creating them with purpose, updating them regularly, and do the required marketing to reach the people you want to impress. Your goal in creating playlists should be less about selling your product and more about showing your customers and potential customers that you appreciate music like they do and that you hope to make their lives better by giving them a great listening experience.

Assuming now that you are prepared to commit to the effort, here is some high-level advice based on our work building playlists with brands and some tips that Spotify has shared with us.

Be Relevant to Your Brand Attributes

You know your brand and what your brand stands for. Focus on that and combine those attributes with the mood you want to set for your customers’ listening needs. For example: If you are a health-conscious brand, curate music that supports people doing healthy lifestyle activities such as meditation or exercising. Or if you are a service brand, curate music that enhances the service you offer such as concentration, motivation, or education. You get the idea.

Brand the Mood More Than Yourself

When you name your playlist, correlate it with the mood you are setting more than the name of your product. Unless people are in love with everything you do, few will go out of their way to listen just because it’s you. When you name and describe your playlist based on the attribute you hope to inspire, more people are apt to give it a try. And keep it simple, there should be no confusion about what your playlist is all about.

Think Long Term

Just because you built a playlist doesn’t mean your work is finished; evergreen playlists can and should be regularly updated. If you want people to keep coming back, refresh your track listing periodically. And while building followers for one playlist can be easier than getting people to subscribe to additional ones, if you see your customers reacting well, consider building more. Some of our clients, even TMA ourselves, make a new playlist every week. For us, we solicit input from the whole agency which increases engagement and reminds people that our playlists are here. We also try to make these playlists topical like our recent Mother’s Day playlist.   

Support Your Playlists With Marketing Strategy

Use the outlets at your disposal such as your website, email, social channels, direct marketing, and even paid media when it makes sense. Spotify makes it easy to grab sharable links and embeddable codes and they will also happily show you how they can spend some of your money across their platform to promote your playlists. Also, if you want to put a scannable code to your playlist on packaging, advertising, or even your business cards, create a free code at And, if you have celebrity and influencer partners, perhaps they will share your playlists as well. 

Most of the above will cost you nothing but time. If you are going to do this, invest in doing it right by creating living and engaging playlists that are both honest to your brand and relevant to your customers’ lives. Music is something your customers care about and a good playlist is a relatively simple way to resonate with the people you most want to impress. 

Like I said at the beginning, I am a curator of music for my personal network, and if I see that a brand can provide for me what I provide for others, there is a good chance I’m going to share your playlists. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want any more advice or help with this, it’s what we do on the TMA Music team. Happy playlisting!