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Why Human Music Curation Trumps Algorithms

In recent times there has been a lot of press about music curation being distilled down to a mathematical formula (an algorithm) which is then applied to select music in place of humans. Research into the subject reveals that this method of music programming will not get the best result for the client.

Algorithms are influenced by listener behaviour and when applied to the commercial use of music are extremely limited, causing the output to be predictable, repetitive and as conventional as commercial radio. Despite how advanced catalogues, metadata and algorithms become in the future, they will not easily adapt to the changing needs of a brand without human intervention. (Mitchell, 2016) Taste is a huge component of music and humans are better at picking out detail, e.g. humans pick out the best track out of a selection of tracks about the same story. (Thompson, 2015) 

Music causes an emotional and experiential response in humans and make a space come alive. Music professionals have a deep understanding of genre, trends, periods, emerging artists, context of music, and cultural impact. Which means human curation allows for a more strategic use of content. (Mitchell, 2016)  “Algorithms alone can’t do that emotional task. You need a human touch.”- Jimmy Iovine (Co-founder of Interscope Records) (Thompson, 2015)

Human curation can better meet a brand’s need in the following areas: creating a brand standard sound in line with demographic criteria and other brand elements, versatility in supporting specific brand campaigns, and developing more advanced playlists and music libraries reducing employee fatigue and increase new music discovery. (Mitchell, 2016) Human recognition of context and creativity is far superior to algorithms. (Thompson, 2015) 

“Yes, consumers want human filters. But they don’t want nameless human filters. They don’t want information workers,  ‘curating’ for them, they want real people, with voices and passions, and faces,  and personalities. They want Curators who drive a clear curation game plan and sign their work because they’re proud of it.” (Rosenbaum, 2015) SBA Music has a dedicated team of (human) music programmers curating playlists to the specifications of brands with whom we work closely. 


Mitchell, E. (5 January 2016). Algorithmic playlists vs. human curation: The Pros and Cons of Each. Retrieved from

Rosenbaum, S. (26 July 2015). The Curation Explosion, And Why Humans Still Trump Tech. Retrieved from

Thompson, B. (24 June 2015). Curation And Algorithms. Retrieved from