What does a music curator actually do?

In this feature, we take a look inside the working lives of people whose job titles often warrant the question: 'but what do you actually do?' This week, we speak to Raymond Medhurst, head of music design and playlist creation at Mood Media Australia.

What do you actually do?

I listen to music, literally all day. I’m among the first to hear a new release as I get to work with all the major record labels as well as a number of independent record labels. We get to hear the latest from established and up and coming artists, and in my opinion it is one of the best jobs in the world.

My job is to choose or design the right music to curate playlists that enhance customer experiences which can help customers to linger longer and affect their spending. We create soundscapes for retailers, events and installations. We also create on-hold music, in-store branded radio, music playlists that mask confidential conversations, or customised playlists that set the mood for cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels.

Music is far more than just entertainment for customers – it can elicit emotions which affect decisions. I work with clients to create a soundtrack that reflects the brand values, personality and unique traits versus competitors.

What does a good working day look like?

My day starts with checking emails to see the latest releases we’ve been sent from record labels and promoters.

Then, when I’m working on a particular playlist I search for songs appropriate to the client’s brand and generally listen to a lot of music.

Not only do I need to weed out inappropriate songs (strong language, depressing themes, innuendo or inappropriate content) but I am selecting music that will set a mood and create an experience.

For example, the music selection can encourage shoppers to spend the optimum length of time in-store – faster pace to increase turnover, relaxed pace encouraging shoppers to browse, or providing a staff pick-me-up at 3pm.

The energy might need to change throughout the day and week, as well as during sales periods. To match these changes in energy, the tempo and styles of music change too. Playlists can also be adjusted seasonally, for example tracks with a tropical feel to them may be introduced if a tropical inspired range comes into store.

Every track on a playlist is thoroughly reviewed, an incredible amount of thought and insight goes into this marketing tool. For example, what should be the ratio of familiar songs with new releases, lesser known songs, and surprise tracks? How many Christmas songs should be in the mix during December? Should there be more female or male artists on this playlist? To answer these questions, we work with the brand to identify their ideal customer – plus, we use our extensive knowledge, research and data.

Wednesday mornings we have our music meeting to go through the latest releases and decide which tracks we can use where.

What does a bad working day look like?

Sometimes a client might want to make a major change to their playlist very quickly and we have to pull out all stops to make it happen.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

So much music and so little time. It’s necessary to sort through hundreds of songs to pick the ones that meet the brand’s brief. The more keyed in I can get to the brand, the better I can match songs to it.

What are your KPIs and how do you ensure you meet them?

We work to a schedule and have to deliver our playlists on time. We regularly review the playlists with the client to make sure they are on brand.

What’s your favourite part of your role?

Working with a great team of curators and getting to hear the latest releases and discovering new and developing artists, and being able to add them to a playlist. I’m keen on including Aussie artists and try to include them in appropriate playlists. Occasionally artists send messages of thanks via social media, which are always happily received.

How does your role keep you on your toes?

It’s important to be across the latest trends in music. Music is a constantly evolving, organic art-form, which is why I never get bored.

What are common misconceptions about your role?

People think I just get to listen to music I like all day, but I actually have to listen to a lot of music I don’t necessarily like. I need to understand the DNA of the brand and their customer demographics I’m curating music for, then select music to match.

What makes a good music curator?

A good music curator has a very broad knowledge of music and a passion for it. They advise a client on a music strategy after consulting with them and asking a lot of questions around the purpose of the music, ambience of the space, what buyer behaviour the music should encourage, customer demographics, foot traffic on different days/times, staff engagement considerations.

They also need to be objective. They should create a playlist that is directed at setting the right mood to optimise the customer’s experience. There is actually a lot of data and science involved.

Raymond Medhurst is head of music design and playlist creation at Mood Media Australia.


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