Reflections on the history and concept of staff picks, community picks, and featuring artists.
Regardless of who is submitting picks, the curator has had the ability to rearrange or remove picks. This has been the case for Staff Picks and would continue to be the case for Community Picks as it stands. The curator hasn’t had to inform anyone if or why a pick didn’t make the cut. Alternatively, when there aren’t enough submissions, the curator has to do most of the picking themselves. It also hasn’t been clearly stated who the curator is. Often it’s been me.
This isn’t much better than a restaurant putting out a submission box on a table asking for ideas of what to put on the menu for tonight. Maybe you drop in “spaghetti”, but ultimately it’s up to the chef whether spaghetti gets made and you won’t know until the menu is in front of you. And then they call it “our menu”. By some democratization standards, this isn’t even at the level of “participatory”.
If the final curator was elected by the community in question, that would be a step toward democratization. Or if the curator was elected each month perhaps. Nevertheless, I feel we’re trying to fix something which isn’t worth fixing.
The Staff Picks playlist was inherited from the original design of the player. It wasn’t so much something we decided we wanted, but rather something that existed which we had to make the best of. Since the old player had virtually zero music discovery tools, Staff Picks represented an opportunity to hand-pick songs that could help folks explore Resonate’s catalog. Work was already being done on Staff Picks so it found its way to the main page of the new player – creating a need to decide what to do with it going forward, to rework it, remove it, expand it, etc. That’s where we are.
When effort was put into maintaining Staff Picks again, there was a goal of making it diverse. Nevertheless, the number of submissions has always been extremely low, even after moving the submission process to the forum and naming it Community Picks. This idea of “users submitting songs, resulting in a diverse playlist” has always been a very rough attempt to make the best of a very limited situation and has generally been only an approximation of diversity or democracy. Yet it was the best we had and I’m glad we did it.
Few of the limitations exist anymore that created the need for this kind of playlist, so I hope we don’t continue to go down this pothole-filled road. It seems that most folks are on the same page here – desiring that we have a multiplicity of curators, playlists and roads for music discovery. Let’s do it! And if we end up featuring a playlists or artists, let’s just make those processes as transparent as possible.
Without regular updates, “featured” elements are harmful to the platform’s image. Seeing the featured artists or staff picks never change makes a platform feel dead, hence why we changed the main page of the new player to feature new releases instead. These are my primary concerns going forward: to make future featuring processes transparent and regular, to label curators as such, and to democratize curation roles or at least make knowable how they got appointed as such.