Marc Hogan has an excellent article in Pitchfork on the rise of the online mixtape. Here's an excerpt:
Along with professional curation, user-generated playlists are another central feature of the current streaming landscape. Half of Spotify users stream from other users' playlists at least monthly, according to the company. To get a sense for what makes these amateur playlist makers tick, I got in touch with a few of the Swedish streaming giant's power users, who ended up being as different and similar as any music fans.
There's Jonathan Good, a 37-year-old business manager near Glasgow who has about 2,000 followers on Spotify and says his "obsession" started after a positive review for one of his playlists on another site. One of his most successful playlists, "If Darth Was a DJ," is based on what he imagined the Star Wars villain would play behind the decks….
Then there's Soundofus, aka Gerard, a retired school director from the suburbs of Paris with almost 20,000 Spotify followers who asks me not to publish his age or full name (but says he has seen the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Who all perform live). He runs a music review website and got a big break when a playlist he researched and compiled with songs from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London ended up going viral.
Diestro, aka Cristian Garcia, an unemployed 25-year-old from southern Spain with 18,000 followers, says he made his first playlist to organize music that he likes, such as Dire Straits and Queen, but since then has made more than 200 more across different genres and styles. He tells me in an email that while Apple and others hire paid playlist makers, it's amateurs like him that are often more effective.
"Each user is also curating the entire history of music," Apple's Scott Plagenhoef tells Hogan. "They're naturally doing that through the limitlessness of choice and the limitlessness of being able to manipulate that choice."
You should read the rest here. If you want to visit an earlier era of online playlist-swapping, you can also check out this piece I wrote back in 2006 for the Radio Business Report. And if you want to go back to prehistoric times, I suppose I should plug this book too.