You've spent countless hours writing and rehearsing Your songs. Another few hundred more in the studio recording them and just for good measure another hundred or so mixing it till it sounds just right. Now the album is soon to go for mastering and You're putting the finishing touches on the way the album is going to play out. Here are a few tips I found helpful when putting the final play list together.
1) Put Your lead single in the first 3 songs.
The reasoning behind this is that when people buy your album they will most probably buy it because they enjoy your lead single. This means that when they look at the playlist on the back of the CD one of their first thoughts is 'where's the single?' Now if they see it in the top three they would be more likely to listen to the two other songs in the top 3 as they'll be thinking 'well at least the lead single is only a song away so I might as well give this song a chance '.
Also if for example your lead single was song number 2 they will most likely end up listening to song number 3 because they are already in the 'groove' of your music and that would let the songs run. Having another solid song in the top 3 is also a plus as You make a great impression early on.
Another small addition is to make the silence at the end of the lead single and the silence at the beginning of the song after it particularly short so that the break between the lead single and the song after it is quick.
If the lead single was in the center of the album the situations are that the listener will skip directly to it and then end up listening to the consequent songs. This would mean a large chunk of material will be skipped in the first listen through.
2) Make the Song after Your lead Single a Solid Track.
After listening to your first single your listener will be in the mood for some more of your best material and so serve them with it! If they listen to two solid songs in a row that's when they will say 'wow, these guys must have a pretty solid album' and will be more open to listening to your more diverse songs.
Now when I write 'a solid track' I do not mean that it has to have the same energy or emotion as your lead single but it should have another dose of the 'you' that is in the lead single that they've grown to love so much.
3) Put 'Happier' / High Energy Songs at the Beginning and End of the Album.
When listening to an album nobody wants to leave the experience feeling 'bummed out' or overly introspective, that would most likely result in them not listening to the album again for a while or when they do being pensive when it gets to the final few tracks or in the case of the more (negatively) emotionally charged songs being at the beginning they would probably skip them entirely.
If the album starts out with high energy songs and then slowly drifts into the more introspective, emotionally charged songs in the center it will be easier to handle as the residual 'vibe' from the first songs will still be lingering and 'cushion' the blow of the more emotionally charged, introspective songs.
4) 'Trim The Fat'.
If You find two or more songs that sound like quite simply keep the best of the two and get rid of the latter. I do not mean complete scrap the song and destroy the final mix, simply save it for a later date.
When putting out a promo CD or a subsequent EP You could use the track that was left out of the full length album. The beauty of this is that when people are listening to the Promo or EP they would be reminded of the full length album so would link the good emotions they had listening to your full length album with the EP or promo.
5) Listen, Listen & Listen Again (after that … Listen Again).
The most important of all the tips would be to listen through the album as many times as possible. Get friends to listen to it, your producer to listen to it, ask your mastering engineers advice when they're going through the mastering process.
After that listen to it again and if anything even remotely sounds out of place then do not get it pressed. Wait until You've got the playlist so perfect that you could listen to the album through and want to start it again right then, that's when You know.
Lastly always remember that the buck stops with You. There is no one else in the world that can even begin to judge Your album but yourself. It's Your Music, Your Passion, Your Experiences, Your Sweat, Your tears on that record and so the last say is Yours. It is Your Child.
Always remember that, always.