Senior Editor and Researcher
We all have our own ideas of what the perfect playlist should sound like. Ultimately, your ideal playlist will depend on several factors, from your musical preferences to the event you create a soundtrack for.
However, one particularly challenging question leaves many audiophiles stumped when building playlists: How long should it be?
In the past, physical music mediums like CDs, vinyl, tapes, and even MP3 players had specific limitations. You could only fit 60 minutes of music per side onto a cassette and about 90 minutes onto a CD.
However, today’s digital world has fewer restrictions.
Spotify even removed its 10,000-song cap on library sizes. That means you can create playlists that are hours, days, or even weeks long.
The question is, should you?
Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the correct length for your playlist.
How to Create the Perfect Playlist: Insights for Different Mediums
The first step in creating the perfect playlist is understanding the limitations of the platform you’re using.
While digital channels like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music don’t impose too many restrictions, there may still be guidelines to follow.
For instance, some online music libraries will only allow you to add so many songs to a playlist if you use a free account.
However, upgrading to a premium package can increase your playlist size.
Pandora YouTube music allows users to add up to 5,000 songs to a single playlist.
Deezer only allows 2,000 songs per playlist and up to 10,000 favorite tracks.
Alternatively, Amazon Music allows users to add up to 2,500 pieces to a playlist.
Here’s a quick rundown on your limits for the most popular apps:
- YouTube: 5,000 songs
- Apple Music: 100,000 songs
- Tidal: 10,000 songs
- Soundcloud: 500 songs
Previously, Spotify also had a limit for all playlists, allowing users to add no more than 10,000 songs to a library, as mentioned.
While the library cap has been removed, playlists can only have a maximum of 10,000 pieces. Notably, the way different platforms track limits can vary, too.
For instance, YouTube’s playlists track the liked songs and liked videos you add to your playlist.
So, even if you have two versions of the same song, they’ll each contribute to your playlist.
Playlists for Events: How to Choose the Right Length
Even if you’re using a platform like Soundcloud, which only allows for up to 500 songs on a playlist, you might not need to use all that space. Choosing the right length for the perfect playlist means considering the context carefully.
In other words, what is your soundtrack for?
If you’re bringing people together for a BBQ or boating trip, you’ll probably only need a few hundred songs at most.
Alternatively, if you’re planning a vacation playlist for you and your partner, you might want something much larger.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure you have about 15 to 20 songs for every hour of musical entertainment you want.
This is based on the idea that most commercial pieces are about three minutes long.
If you’re planning a wedding reception lasting about three hours, you’d want somewhere in the region of 60 songs (maybe a little more, just in case).
Alternatively, if you’re just listening to music in the shower, you might only need about 10 to 15 songs or around 30 minutes of musical content.
Tips for Creating the Perfect Playlist
Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to choosing the perfect radio station or finding the best album, there’s no concrete set of rules for building a playlist.
It all depends on your mood, the nature of the event, and your streaming or music service.
Here are some quick tips to get you on the right track.
Know the Duration of the Event
As mentioned above, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is the party’s duration.
Most playlist platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music, will allow you to view how long your playlist is.
This should give you a good idea of how much entertainment you’ll have.
It’s often a good idea to be generous when planning for time. Remember, even the simplest event can go over schedule, so have some extra songs on hand, just in case.
Choose the Right Platform
There are a few reasons why choosing the right platform for your playlist is essential.
First, the right platform will give you access to a wider variety of artists, music, and albums.
Different platforms also limit how many playlists you can create and how long those playlists can be, which might influence your decisions.
Notably, some channels will also require you to pay extra to skip ads or access music at a higher quality.
Suppose you want access to fully uninterrupted music. In that case, a free version of a platform like YouTube or Spotify might not be the best choice.
Match Your Playlist to Your Theme
One of the easiest ways to ensure your playlist is perfect for any event is to consider the theme.
If you’re planning a wedding, love songs and romantic ballads are an obvious choice, but some can be a little longer than your average pop song.
If you’re planning a party or informal get-together, think about your tastes, as well as the musical preferences of your guests.
For inspiration, you can always check out trending songs on YouTube, Apple Music, and Spotify.
Or you can ask your guests to request your playlist in advance. That way, you ensure everyone’s happy.
Get the Structure Right
For an informal event, hitting the shuffle button on your music library and waiting to see what comes up is fine.
However, if you’re planning something more specific, it’s best to plan your playlist with a particular structure.
You’ll notice professional DJs arrange songs in a specific order designed to get people dancing at the beginning of an event or help them wind down at the end.
Some playlists even include segments intended to break the ice or re-ignite excitement. Think about how the tempo of your songs and their genre fit together in the overall flow of the collection.
While you can always focus on a specific musical genre or theme with your playlist, having a little variety is a good idea.
A diverse playlist with songs from different artists and periods can ensure every guest feels happy and entertained.
Plus, it stops you from getting bored after you’ve listened to similar music for several hours.
Try to add only a handful of songs from one artist. Otherwise, you may as well just play their entire album.
It’s also a good idea to keep your playlists updated, particularly if you use them regularly for different events.
If you invite people over for a weekly BBQ, try to ensure they’re not just listening to the same chart-topping songs over and over.
Add the Occasional Crowd Pleaser
If you’re creating a playlist for more than just you to listen to, having a handful of crowd pleasers in the mix is a good idea.
We’re talking about the kind of songs everyone can’t help but sing along to. Although some might feel cliché, you’ll surely get everyone in a great mood with a few unforgettable hits.
You could even create a secondary Plan B playlist full of more widely recognized songs just in case your collection of experimental music doesn’t resonate with everyone in the same way.
After all, you want to keep everyone entertained!
Creating the Perfect Playlist
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for creating the perfect playlist. Remember that even though your playlists can be as long as you like in today’s digital world, they don’t need to be.
The chances are you’ll never get through 100,000 songs in a single playlist.
The better option is to create various playlists for different events, themes, and moods so you can mix and match whenever you like.
Remember to keep your playlists updated with new songs as they emerge, and have some fun with your music!