On Choosing a Track Order

Notebook with checklist

The way people listen to music has changed over the years. Vinyl gave us 2 sides (often treated like two separate-yet-related records), and CDs gave us everything in one long series. The digital age gives us another perspective, but it’s not a total game-changer, and many of the old rules still apply. But for a bunch of reasons, it’s important to take the time to actually think about your track order. Here are a few tips on making the most of it, whether you’ve got 3 songs or 30 songs (c’mon, that’s just silly).

  1. Hit hard. You have to remember that most listeners are very critical of first impressions, and this includes label execs and publishers who are even MORE critical than the rest. They don’t have time to listen to an entire album, and if the first 30 seconds of the record doesn’t hold their interest, they’ll never get to the rest. So if you have a single? Put it first. Have more? Keep going. Once you’ve wowed them with your hits, focus on the rest of the album.
  2. Avoid “same-ness. Vary the remaining tracks in a way that creates and maintains emotional interest. I have a couple of absolute favorite records that make the inexcusable error of putting two very similar songs right next to one another. It drives me nuts because I know that it has an effect on how I enjoy a beginning-to-end listen. My advice is to bring the mood up and down in interesting ways and keep the listener engaged. But remember (and this is important) to keep an “ace” up your sleeve.
  3. End strong. These days, if someone gets to the end of your record, it’s probably a good thing. There is something about what you do that held their interest, or at least didn’t turn them off. Believe it or not, the latter is the key to maintaining radio play in the bigger markets – but we’ll touch on that later. What you should try to remember is this. When you’re at the tail of the album, put one last interesting, compelling song as a book end to entice the listener to LISTEN AGAIN. If possible, pick a song that flows well going back into the first track. If it makes sense, you can get multiple listens in a single sitting.

Most of us write a variety of songs in a number of styles, and the best way to arrange them all in one album is not exactly self-evident. My hope is that these few tips will help you put it all together in a way that makes your listeners want to listen more. As always, Thanks for reading, and thank you all for your friendship, your interest, and your art.




Owen Sartori is a 35-year veteran in the music industry as a musician, songwriter, and producer. Currently, he is a co-owner of F5 SoundHouse in Minneapolis, MN and helps mentor, produce and write with/for artists wherever he is needed.

For more, visit f5soundhouse.com.