The Art of Music Curation

Part 1: Going Beyond Demographics

I wanted to talk a little bit about music curation strategy and why it’s important to YOU and your business. Offering the right sound and overall mood or “feel” for an environment entails more than just researching what’s popular or what a certain segment of the population is most familiar with. It’s… well, kind of an art!

Music Curation

Most people will put a lot of thought into the décor, furnishings and wall color of a room. It’s been well documented that the color scheme of a room can have certain psychological effects on most people.  So too, the sound of a room can do just that. It can make people feel welcome, excited, relaxed, motivated and a whole host of other emotions. Simply put, the sound signature of your business environment is equally as important!

Before making a decision about this for your business, I’d suggest that you look at HOW a company creates its music curation strategy. Pay particular attention to how they implement subjective music characteristics into that strategy. Assigning subjective characteristics to music can be a very slippery slope if you’re not careful. I’ll explain.

Most people understand what Tempo is. It’s the actual time signature of a piece of music. Most people would call this the “beat” or “rhythm”. Most people understand what slower and faster tempos are. However, what if I asked you what makes a certain song “cool”? What then? This is an example of a subjective term based on a person’s personal taste and what their musical pallet has been exposed to in their lifetime. In short, it’s NOT an effective parameter to use in curation strategy when the goal is to appeal to a larger group of people because other people will not share the same view of that assigned subjective characteristic. The same is true of a small group of people in your peer group for example. The same might be true of certain regions of your state, or the country. Social peer groups, age, and a whole HOST of other factors influence such subjective data.

I once had a neighbor who is about my age tell me during a discussion about music some years ago that “all of the good music was on vinyl”. She was equating the medium and era in relation to what was “good” (a subjective term based on personal perspective). I personally know a whole lot of people who would disagree with that opinion.

I’ve also talked to a number of people over the years who have said that music made with electronics is not “real music” (again “real” being a subjective term based on perspective). When I ask them what “real” music is I’d get a variety of responses. Some would say Rock, a music that would not be in its present day form without Les Paul and the electronic amplification of the guitar (electronics).  I could probably fill an entire book with examples of this but I’m sure you get the idea.

My point is this: using subjective characteristic data without first establishing a baseline reference as to why the commonalities that will make that data important or having a large research pool of data to draw the information from will only be giving you the opinion of one person or a very small group of people and is not an effective way to implement a music curation strategy for your business. Again, it can be a very slippery slope. Finding common characteristics in music and sound needs to be approached with a methodology that goes beyond demographic data but is rooted in a reasonable curation philosophy when applying other more potentially subjective characteristics.

In my next post I’ll talk a bit more about the art of the music curation process, a practical approach to Sound Design and how to find the best fit for your business environment.