Written by 6:00 am Audiophile

How is an Anthology Different from a Playlist?

Steven Stone wonders if and why anthologies are still “a thing?”

AR-anthology3aCOVER225.jpgI subscribe to several premium streaming services including both Tidal and Qobuz, but I often use Roon as my primary playback app. Both streaming services offer something called “playlists” which are groups of songs that are put together because they are somehow related to one another, either by mood, idea, or creator. 

Tidal not only has “Popular playlists,” but also “Mixes,”” Origins,” “Pride,” “Master quality playlists,” “Featured playlists,” “Tidal rising,” “Rise and shine,” and “Video playlists.” I wonder if that’s sufficient. Qobuz is a bit less playlist crazy with six featured playlists near the top of their main page. Unlike Tidal, that’s Qobuz’ only playlist section unless you consider the curated “taste of Qobuz” farther down the page.


Every playlist found on Tidal could be called an anthology…because that is what they are, a bunch of curated (hopefully by a human) and selected songs assembled together into a group to be played sequentially. 

Qobuz may not have many playlists or anthologies on their main pages, but if you do a search for anthology and the choose albums, you will find a plethora of anthologies (I stopped counting after I passed 200). The only difference between an anthology and a playlist is that an “anthology” was released by an “official” record company while a playlist was created by someone other than a record company…

AR-anthology1a225.jpgThe question that comes to my mind is why bother with someone else’s anthologies when you can easily create your own, more personal and better focused anthologies?

How hard is it to do an artist search in either Tidal, Qobuz, or Roon, and then pick you own faves to make your own playlists from the available song lists? Does it take even five seconds to “heart” a selection and add it to a list?

To me playlists have more value than record companies’ anthologies – at least some playlists can deliver new music or let you into a particular artist’s personal tastes. The vast majority of record labels’ anthologies don’t offer anything more than “old wine in new bottles.” And in many cases that wine wasn’t so great first time around…

AR-anthology6a225.jpgWhat’s the difference between an anthology and a “Best of” release? Not a damn thing. Qubuz currently has many “Best of” albums in their catalog. Some, such as “Chill Out Music for Hotel Bar” is one of almost 200 releases from “The Best of Chill Out Lounge” which comes across as the new millennium’s equivalent of “Muzak.” Some things will never die.

Also, all the curators of these playlists are anonymous – they aren’t even from a particular label or artist, and – and while you may find a perfect mix among the options, there’s’ also an equally good chance that the creator bot’s tastes aren’t exactly like your own…

AR-anthology5a225.jpgThe optimist in me hopes that record labels will realize there is no point in releasing another “best of” or “anthology” unless it has something more to offer, such as an artist’s own song choices (and why they were chosen) as well as better documentation of the sessions (who played and perhaps why they were chosen for the session.) Unless record companies can add more value there’s no reason to listen to or purchase an “official” anthology versus one put together by an interested, well-informed third party.

Maybe, the only difference between a playlist and an anthology is the fact that everyone knows what a playlist is while anthology is just too pretentious a word for current-gen music lovers, and in this age of do-it-yourself, music lovers can make perfectly fine (if not better) anthologies or playlists all by themselves…


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