Insight into what’s trending on the music scene from iHeartRadio Chief Product Officer Chris Williams. 

Music is everywhere in life, and it’s powerful. The right playlist can set the scene at a party, provide motivation for a tough workout or even tell a story.

24Life wanted to find out what’s behind the creation of a great playlist and what’s hot now, so we spoke to Chris Williams, chief product officer at iHeartRadio, to get his take.

On playlists …

24Life: What makes a good playlist?

Chris Williams (CW): Magic and good luck. We can all relate to the experience of trying to create the perfect mix-tape or CD. There’s a story that it tells, and the energy has to be right, and the balance has to be there. The process of trying to tell a story, but doing it in a way that keeps the audience engaged is an art-form. You don’t want to tip it in one direction to be too predictable with too many hits, and you don’t want to take it in the other direction where there is not enough familiarity. There’s nothing worse than reading a book and feeling like you have to look up every other word, which is exhausting. And a playlist is the same.

“You need the audience to be able to experience it without feeling like they are being pulled out of it. Finding that balance is part of the excitement of programming.”

On hit songs …

24Life: How can you tell if a song is going to become a hit?

CW: The primary thing that you are listening for is authenticity. I think that people have some subconscious radar for when someone was deliberately trying to write a song that is catchy versus when somebody wrote something that was authentic, but accidently happened to be catchy. But that intersection of a genuine expression of emotion or feelings by a storyteller and lyricist — one that doesn’t feel like it was intended to manipulate you to sing along — when all those pieces come together, it’s a great song to you personally.

On new bands …

24Life: What are your favorite new artists on the horizon?

CW: The most impressed I’ve been from a new artist would be an indie band named Lucius out of Brooklyn, so I would recommend them. I also like the alternative band Kick the Robot from my hometown of Athens, Georgia and a soulful singer/songwriter out of the U.K. named Lawrence Taylor. One of my favorite artist discoveries from the past two years is Hiam. But I would say, even if she isn’t new, the best and most powerful live performer I’ve seen is Florence and the Machine — she really could be a star in any generation.

On iHeartRadio …

24Life: What is the most popular genre of music on iHeartRadio?

CW: By nature of its name, CHR Pop Radio Mix has the most mass-appeal broad-based audience among our live radio listeners. When you look at our custom artist stations (which is where you select an artist, and we create a station for you based around their hits as well as similar hits) is Drake. Then, when you look at the make-up of our company, we have 145 country stations, which is the most, but they are in smaller- to medium-sized markets. We have more of them in count, but the pop station has the largest audience.

24Life: What is your go-to workout playlist right now?

CW: The Spin Cycle station on iHeartRadio is what I use. It’s the first of its kind, featuring live deejays remixing hits 24/7, so it’s a great tempo station. The tempos help you run or lift in the gym.

On what’s hot for the summer …

24Life: In your opinion, what is the song of the summer for 2016?

“That’s the easiest question of them all. The song of the summer will always be “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince — until another song knocks it off its throne, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

Grab your headphones …

Looking for some great tunes? Here are two stations perfectly curated for a fun summer from the music experts at iHeartRadio.

Photo credit: – Pilin_Petunyia.