Every Kind of Playlist

This is a fair warning that what I’m about to write makes me sound genuinely insane. That’s probably not a surprise though is it?

I have hundreds of playlists. Maybe even over a thousand. That might seem unnecessary and downright silly to most people, and you would be more than correct. Years of curating a library that I’ve kept all the way from my iPod Nano days, retaining everything about my carefully curated library intact in the move to streaming and honing the types of playlists I make. If you want to be just like me, here are the playlists you need to start creating in your libraries.

ARTIST – Greatest Hits

The most obvious and boring starting point for any music library, Greatest Hits playlists are essential to how I consume music by specific artists. Yes I’ve dived into artists creating their own Greatest Hits ‘albums’ but a Hits playlist is a live and updating thing. If Dua Lipa drops another ‘Don’t Start Now’ level smash hit, it’s got to go on the hits playlist. And hit it has to be. This is absolutely not the place for that B-Side you absolutely love, or the underrated single that stalled on the charts. I want to see songs so inescapable that it makes Despacito seem like a ‘mild’ chart hit.

If I’m dealing with a huge artist, I’m very strict with these playlists, keep it to a nice round number 25 or 30 songs at a push, stick to the genuinely biggest and best hits and ditch anything else. If I hate a song, get rid of it entirely. Artists with less ‘commercial’ success I’m a bit more lenient, but this playlist is all about the hits.

And the most important thing to do is create some sort of flow. Avoid too many tracks from the same album together, end on a high note. A Beyoncé Greatest Hits? Why not end on Single Ladies or Formation like it’s the encore in the show. Group together some slower moments, but the most important rule DO NOT LEAVE SONGS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. A rule that leads nicely onto playlist number 2

ARTIST – Singles Collection

I can hear the screams of ‘Isn’t a Singles Collection the same as a Greatest Hits’? Not in my library. Singles Collection is very specifically every single released by an artist in chronological order of release. I include featured hits in this too, so yes Rihanna’s playlist ends up clocking in at well over 3 hours long. Upkeep is a bit of a nightmare given how prolific certain artists are, but I usually just update this playlist as and when I go to listen.

Occasionally I’ll listen to a Singles Collection playlist from start to finish, even my Madonna one that basically lasts a working day, but the main reason for having these is to listen on shuffle. Just the singles, but all of them.


Yet again, I realise how mad this makes me seem, but bear with me. Best Songs is as you guessed, the best songs by an artist. Here’s a playlist with the shuffle button in mind though. If I can listen to a song by an artist and think, I like that, in the playlist it goes. My Best Songs playlists can range from 20 to 200 songs, with deep cuts a plenty, even remixes making their way into these playlists.

Best Songs probably ends up being the type of playlist I make that I stick on when at a loose end. Genre based ‘Best Songs’ playlists are perfect too, although these can get even more out of hand very quickly.


I rarely make playlists of actual live gig setlists that I’ve been to, instead these playlists are an easy way to ‘prepare’ for an upcoming show that’s sat in the diary. Most of the time I like to go into live shows completely unaware of the setlist, but it doesn’t take much to have a general sense of what songs from the newest album and previous tracks will make an appearance. These playlists get heavy rotation in my library and then I never go near them again once the gig is over.

ARTIST – Remix/Live/B-Sides

Another set of playlists that are pretty self explanatory and for the most part only made on rare occasions where I want a very specific playlist for an artist. I like grouping Remixes by remixer sometimes too, I’ll get some Jamie xx or Calvin Harris playlists of tracks for other artist in there as well. Remix playlists are usually for the gym, which when I tell you they don’t get played enough I think it’s obvious why.

ARTIST/Year – Top 10/20/40 etc

I’m closing things out with one of the most important things to do in your music library, arbitrarily rank the music in it.I love to have definitive rankings of artists’ songs that end up changing every single time I go back and look at them.

Artist playlists are incredibly fluid, I’m constantly changing my mind, but Best of a Year? These playlists stay exactly the same as shared at the end of each year and I absolutely don’t go near the order or songs included. Yearly best of playlists are so prevalent in my library that they need folders to keep track of all of the permutations of both Album and Song rankings.

Of course I’ve just spent thousands of words explaining arbitrary rules and regulations that I set on myself when creating playlists that literally have no reason to exist, but it’s a process I stick to as much as I can. Who knows why? Maybe I need more friends. Maybe I need to get out of the house a bit more. But one thing I know for certain is that at least one other person reading Picky Bastards is going to have similar if not more crazy rules for their own music library. I surely can’t be the only one.

Words by Sam Atkins.

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