The Reimagined DJ

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Written by the editors of Cool Hunting

I hope we never stop reimagining, as change is the only constant we can rely on!” – Michael Smith of @PlaylistGen

Ushering in a significant shift in the digital realm, DJ-turned-entrepreneur Michael Smith puts a new spin on music sharing. Hooked on DJ-ing from an early age, Smith went from road-tripping events to mixing for fashion brands and choreographing orchestras for fashion shows. Smith has also performed with the music industry’s top musical acts along with making appearances at venues ranging from awards shows to sporting events.

In 2005, Smith launched The Playlist Generation, a web-based music branding company that brings music-minded ingenuity to corporate culture identity. Using innovative technology, The Playlist Generation strategically creates custom playlists for clients to develop a unique background atmosphere. Each list is based on a series of studies that jointly look at customer behavior and business patterns, vetted by social media feedback and testing. Smith, a pioneer in sonic branding, The Playlist Generation’s fan base is as diverse as its music sets, from curating sounds for boutique hotels to coordinating tracks for global luxury stores.

Merging science with a fine tuned ear for music selection, The Playlist Generation paves a new way for the future of music.

What were your musical influences growing up?

I grew up in Detroit, so I was exposed to so much great music: Motown, funk, soul, early punk rock, hip hop, techno. Detroit has been a nearly unmatchable hotbed of creative musical output. I really had no idea at the time why, but I remember loving the strange psychedelic parts, breakdowns and complicated harmonies.

What inspired the concept behind The Playlist Generation, and who are some of the DJs and musicians that make up the company?

The company was spawned from my approach to DJ-ing events. Whereas most DJs wanted to be a hero and rocking the party, I was much more interested in creating interesting and relevant music experiences that were unique to each event. When business owners experienced it, they would come to me and ask for unique music for their stores. The Playlist Generation was founded out of the idea that all businesses are unique and should have their own Sonic Identity. We put everything into working closely with our clients to learn as much as we can about them, the traffic and business patterns of their stores, the psychographics of their customers. We utilize that intelligence to create their sound.

What do you think are some changes in the music industry that have led to retailers’ increasing interest in sonic identities? 

When we started eight years ago, music was in a very different place. Digital music retailers really dominated and there was a hodgepodge of other players percolating. With the rise of social media and innovative streaming music services that tap into the social sphere, music is everywhere and the audience is excited to weigh in on what they think. The retail world is getting incredibly competitive and brands are expected to have every part of their experience on point. We help brands get and maintain that edge.

What would you like to do with marketing and technology in the future?

In the future, as we can better harness real-time analytic data and get feedback, we will look to build a better background music product that more accurately adapts to the actual life of the business and be able to add relevant intelligence to our programming that will better simulate what a top DJ would do in certain environments and situations.

What does the word “reimagine” mean to you and how has it influenced the philosophy behind The Playlist Generation?

“Reimagine” is taking something that exists and applying a new thought paradigm for learned evolution. When we started eight years ago, businesses were forced to choose from pretty generic channels of music. Every company had its unique logo, interior design and corporate culture. Why wouldn’t they have a unique sound? The concept of sonic identity was solidified. We now utilize research, AB testing in stores with playlists, social feedback tools and are constantly adapting to better engender and embrace the rapid momentum of pop culture and how it affects the music of the companies we work with. I hope we never stop reimagining as change is the only constant we can rely on!


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