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Artist Interviews

Spotify Playlist Curator – Jesea Lee

Photograph of the blog post author, Music Gateway Team

Music Gateway Team


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Jesea Lee from Cleveland, OH played in punk bands most of his life before getting into the business side of music in 2013 when he started working at Tragic Hero Records and then launching his own media company High Road Publicity in 2015. We sat down to talk more about his career so far!

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How did you get into Spotify playlist curation?

I wanted to start helping underground bands I really believed in getting more exposure, so I figured putting together playlists with a lot of well-known bands and the newer ones sprinkled in, would help. I was already making private playlists for my own personal use, so I just started sharing them on my socials. At first, I was going real hard on creating content on IG that incorporated the playlists. Like a cooking playlist and I’d share a recipe along with it…and it all kinda flopped. Once I hopped on TikTok in 2020, things started moving upward.

How do you create and maintain a successful playlist & how much time does it take?

It takes so much more time than most might think, ha. It’s sort of like a radio station, you can’t ONLY put on the stuff you like. Depending on the playlist, you have to make sure it fits within the theme/genre, find songs that are trending upwards, tracks are on the rise on other platforms like TikTok, etc. Keeping it up to date can be time-consuming too, you don’t usually want too many songs on there, so you have to do a lot of rotating.

Is there anything you think Spotify could do to improve from a curator’s perspective?

Having more insight on our playlist metrics would be fantastic. Being able to know what songs are being streamed the most, so that we keep them on for longer.

It would be great if we were able to have some contact with our followers, or even see who they are at all. Like if I have 20K followers on a playlist, it’s just a number, I don’t see any names or faces. I should be able to send them all an email or some kind of notification like “hey, new songs added” or something similar. A social media function with the playlists would be killer as well. Like a chat section on each playlist where people can talk about the music on the playlist and interact with the curator.

I also think the top curators should be compensated for their playlists in some way. Again, just like a radio station, those DJs are paid, so why not pay the top curators? I think that would help weed out some of the payola that’s happening with playlists.

What are some of your favourite playlists from other curators?

I love New Punk Tracks by Spotify, Weekly Wire by Loudwire, Best of Pop Punk by Hopeless, This Is Not A Phase by Doug Heiser, Next Gen Pop Punk by George Powell, there’s a ton more. Of course, all the Мusic Gateway ones.

Do you think the future of independent music lies within streaming?

I don’t think it’s the future, I think it’s the current. I don’t know anyone buying physical media anymore except maybe for vinyl. I think the future might shift though, things tend to ebb and flow and be cyclical and we might see a new version of physical media takeover. I don’t think buying CDs will ever be a thing again, but maybe something new, similar to NFTs, but something more people will be able to understand.

What is your stance on artificial streaming?

I’m against it. It doesn’t help artists make real fans and unless you plan on doing it for every release forever, it’s not sustainable. I’m not sure what the argument “for it” would even be.

Don’t forget to check out Jesea’s Spotify here!

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