Curator Story

Jay Kothari

Specialist in: balearic, electronica, rare-world

Hailing from Manchester, Jay Kothari is the latest addition to our quickly growing team of curators. Now an avid collector, Jay first got into music thanks to his parents' vinyl records. In more recent times, Jay has developed an interest in the electronic music scene, which he's been growing alongside his production skills.

Case Study

"Music is a key part of our brand and Open Ear was crucial to delivering music across key touchpoints. We work very closely with them, and this gets us the best results. We would have employed more DJs but working with Open Ear means we don’t have to."

Paola FereginoMarketing Manager, Wahaca

"I think that music curation will always be a human endeavour, just like DJing or going to see live music or a film at the cinema. The complexity of a brief, the understanding of the human experience and just having a pair of ears and an emotional response to music, can't be replaced."

An interview with Jay

Let’s start from the beginning - please introduce yourself and give us a background to your life in music...

I've always loved old records from listening to my dad's varied collection of music compilation CDs on long car journeys. I used to love leafing through the vinyl collection of my parents and music has always been a big part of my family life. Growing up in Manchester, music was a big part of the culture.

I was part of an incredibly unsuccessful band in my teen years with friends, but it fostered a love for producing music and I always went to a wide variety of gigs. I have been an avid music collector from an early age and during my time at uni became particularly involved in the electronic music scene.

I did an MA in Film at Bristol, but spent most of my time making soundtracks in the music studios, and then got a job in music curation in London in 2019. I've never looked back.

Do you remember what music inspired you at an early age? And perhaps a few tracks that pushed you to start a career in music?

I always loved old soul records when I was young and continue to do so. Marvin Gaye's 'What's Happening Brother', 'Midnight Train to Georgia' by Gladys Knight and The Pips and Millie Jackson's version of Elvis' 'Loving Arms' really stuck with me. Not only because they're musically brilliant but they're also packed with heartbreaking stories, humour and atmosphere.

More recently, I've loved artists such as Jai Paul, SAULT and really got into Grace Jones. All three challenge traditional genre conventions and say something new about different communities.

Is there one area of music you specialise in, perhaps a genre or scene that you are particularly close to?

I'm particularly into electronic music, techno and garage. I've been loving recent releases from Adam Pits, Alex Kassian and Overmono, but the British post-punk era has always had a special place in my heart, and I love artists like the Cocteau Twins, Durutti Column, Echo and the Bunnymen, and (dare I say it) The Smiths.

What are your favourite places, sources, sites, radio shows or people to discover new music?

Recently, I've been really enjoying Luka Una's Worldwide show; Bandcamp Weekly is a really good place to find new music and their artist empowerment structure is refreshing; Charlie Bones' radio show is great for the kind of music I am into, and Spotify's Discover Weekly and Release Radar always throws a few nice things my way. I also use for some of the more obscure music briefs I deal with.

Talk to us about your approach to music playlist curation, do you have some key do’s and don'ts?

I think it's important to know a venue's client-base, to know how important music will be to them and the venue, and not be too scared to have fun with a playlist and express some personality. Throwing in an unusual edit, cover or remix of a classic recognisable track can always entertain customers and prick up their ears. I definitely think that using a bit of nostalgia can always be a great mood lifter.

How is playlisting for brands different from playlisting at home or for personal listening on the go?

When you're playlisting for brands you have to be more careful with the content of songs, you have to try and see how the client would listen to the music rather than yourself, and the message that music is getting across to the consumer. For instance, a brand like Dr Martens has a strong punk-rock musical identity. That is something you have to keep in mind when picking new music, and I question whether the same brand-identity and sentiment apply to these new tracks I'm adding? Over time you come to know what will work and what won't.

What are your thoughts on computer algorithms shaping the future of music curation?

I think that music curation will always be a human endeavour, just like DJing or going to see live music, or a film in the cinema. The complexity of a brief, the understanding of the human experience and just having a pair of ears and an emotional response to music, can't be replaced. Even a Spotify playlist that is the product of an extensive and complicated algorithm rarely throws up more than five out of 20 tracks I really love.

Jay also curates for

DF Tacos
Mothership Group