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10 Jan 2019

Subatomic: A Chat With Mike Warner, the Man Who (Literally) Wrote the Book on Playlists

Written by 
Mike Warner. Mike Warner.

It’s 2019, and the way we listen to music has changed. We moved from vinyl to cassette, then from CDs to MP3s and now streaming. How we enjoy music has evolved—and not only is it easier to find music to listen to than ever before; it’s easy to share it with others as well.

I recently spoke with streaming music consultant, strategist and curator Mike Warner about the ins and outs of the modern era of digital streaming via services like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music. He’s had a front-row seat to watch this evolution over 15-plus years in the music business.

The main difference I’ve noticed with these newer services, especially Spotify, is the addition of playlists—specially curated lists that feature artists both popular and unknown. Warner curates playlists via Spotify, Apple Music and other services, and these playlists range from “Wine Bar Grooves” to “Funky and Nu Disco Jams.” He handpicks all of the tracks—which reach tens of thousands of his followers each week.

Beyond this curation, Warner works with artists and labels to find playlists for their music. Most of his work is done through personal networking—a breath of fresh air in this often-distant digital era.

“My primary function, really, in 2019, is education,” he said. “I just want to get out there and educate as many artists as I can.”

This education involves sharing tips with artists to help them better promote their releases. “The more people that become successful, the better,” Warner said.

Warner published an e-book last year called Work Hard Playlist Hard. It details some of the best practices people can use to distribute their own music.

“The stuff that I preach, I’ve done myself, and I continue to do,” he said.

I asked what inspired him to write the book. “It got to the point where I was writing so many emails and sharing the same information again and again that I went, ‘You know what? Maybe I should just write this down one time and put it in a book,’” he said.

Warner also works with commercial clients, including labels.

“Labels see importance in independent playlists and third-party curators just as much as the indie artists do,” he said. “… A lot of the labels are doing the same thing you’re doing now, (so) they’re actually reaching out to independent curators, too.”

Warner himself is an artist; he’s a third of the popular Australian trio Date Night. Warner and bandmates Sharif Darmansjah and Anders Magnusson produce fantastic music; while Warner is now based in the United States, and his bandmates remain in Australia, that hasn’t slowed them down. The year 2018 was big for them, especially regarding the streaming numbers, with a total stream count in the millions.

Work Hard Playlist Hard is available via on Amazon, Apple Books, Gumroad and other providers. If you purchase it via Gumroad or Apple, you will get automatic updates whenever Warner updates the e-book.

Visit www.workhardplaylisthard.com for links to purchase his book, submit music, listen to his podcast and more. If you’re looking to catch me live,  find me Thursday nights at Landmark Lounge, and Friday and Saturday nights at Big Rock Pub. Visit my website at www.alexharrington.co for more information.

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