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Paid to Create Playlists

I’ve got an unusual gig between my gigs –says Phil Morrissey

I wasn’t particularly craving French food, but the faint hum of jazz drifting out through the arched windows persuaded me…

Everything was going well, great food, great wine, great company and great music.

Then the track was over, the jazz stopped, and Nirvana was turned on.

Then Nirvana was turned up.

Don’t get me wrong. Nirvana’s cool – but not with that food.

Just think about it: the type of music, the time of day and the type of place all combine to make a powerful impact on our souls.

An Unusual Gig

I’m a singer-songwriter who’s just picked up an interesting gig: creating music playlists for high-end businesses.

Yes, this type of work really is out there – people even take a university degree to get it.

In my case, like you, I’ve been listening to music for eons and creating my own playlists.

A couple of chance conversations and opportunities came along and * presto * = job.

I want to tell you something about this type of work and then I’ll make a few suggestions for how you just might get through the same front door.

The Psychology of Song 101

Music choice in restaurants, bars and shops broadly falls under the field of music psychology where one will study, among other things, the effects of music on customer behaviour.

Our emotional response to music is, after all, an important consideration when targeting customers.

It may be as straightforward as playing fast paced music in a restaurant that wants a quick turnover but slower paced music in a restaurant hoping to lure customers to linger over their meals –

– and consequently spend more on their bar bill.

Being able to identify the right music and knowing when to (and when not) to play different genres and styles is a skill –and an important marketing tool that is often overlooked by managers and owners.

However, a growing number of corporations and independent managers are realizing the “power of the playlist”.

Getting the Playlist Gig

A formal qualification in ‘Music Psychology’ could help you to get a foot in the door of this business.

This area of study gives you a fundamental understanding of peoples’ emotional response to music and the neurological mechanisms and processes at work.

However, I am first and foremost a singer-songwriter and have to confess to not having formally studied this formally.

Like so many things, this work can be had through your dogged attempts at networking.

You might start on a volunteer basis, offering to make a sample playlist for anyone, even if it is local supermarkets, cafes, shops or pubs.

With a little confidence you might then spend some time in some shops that orient themselves to a careful presentation; listen to what they are doing and make your “pitch” to enhance their sales.

This is basically what happened to me.

Now, when I am not concentrating on my own music I create playlists for restaurants and shops across London and Oxford.

Some of these include vintage clothing stores where I will generally create playlists featuring lesser known artists in order to complement the experience of a customer buying a unique item of clothing.

Remember, you must also have a passion for all musical styles and above all have a vast collection at your disposal.

You Can’t Lose

Whether or not you create playlists to enhance your own enjoyment of music, for parties, or for business, you can’t lose.

It’s a great way to surround yourself with different styles and genres of music – and this feeds into our singing, song writing and performing.

So, play with your lists.

Phil Morrissey is a singer songwriter based in London. He plays acoustic gigs across the UK and is also the lead singer for the band ‘The Alchemists Group’. His BA Hons in Anthropology and Music has broadened his interest to musical styles and genres from across different cultures. He also creates music playlists for commercial use across the UK. Check out Phil’s music.


  • Montecarlo71

    I think you are on to something.  In my band, Coupe de Ville out of Eugene, Oregon we have six pieces five of which either sing lead or backup.  The format is classic rock from 60-80’s.  Generally it rotates between four members to put together the set list for an upcoming gig.  It’s not only interesting how varied the lists are by each person but is also difficult coming up with a blend of songs that fit that perticular gig and also allows for each lead singer to have an equil time on lead vocal.  Maybe we should be spending more time blending the songs and less attention to egos.  Thanks for the input 

  • Krystal89

    This article was very insightful. I currently live in Atlanta and I strongly want to pursue this (as something to do aside from my full time job). I would love to target unique/vintage stores, small business owned restaurants and perhaps corporate events. I would love to know how you achieved this level of success step by step?