Step 3: Sequencing the album
Of all the parts of the process, Moskow is most hesitant to talk about his obsessive love of sequencing. "This is the part that usually makes people's eyes glaze over," he warns. But he swears that the right track-list order is the secret ingredient that has kept Now at the top of the compilation game for so long. He compares the song selection process to making a mixtape for someone: You want the songs to take the listener on a musical journey. This stuff matters so much to him, he says, that he's spent two days with his engineer discussing a quarter of a second between tracks.
But unlike most mixtapes, this one isn't supposed to be reflective of the creator's taste. Instead, the ideal Now record serves as a mirror to the culture that can include pop, hip-hop, country, or rock. (Moskow says if there's ever a big metal hit, he'd love to have it on Now.) That genre flexibility allows the compilation to cherry-pick the best songs from whatever trend happens to be hot in a given moment. Moskow cites Psy's "Gangnam Style" as the perfect example of a Now song: catchy, out of left field, and most important, enormously popular.
He won't even let his hatred for a song get in the way of Now inclusion. "The consumer has already voted with their ears," he says. "The consumer has already said this is a hit or this is researching well and getting played well. The consumer has already said if a song is a hit, and if it's a hit we want it on Now."
It's a rare thing in an era when anyone can make a playlist: curation without ego, taste without judgment. When he's off the clock, Moskow might prefer to relax with a Stevie Wonder record, an old Earth, Wind & Fire LP, or some Philly soul, but his job is to serve up what's most popular to the masses. Lucky for him, he has eclectic taste, but he's also a staunch defender of the songwriters, performers, and record-industry employees who create what some might dismiss as "pop crap."
"There are songwriters out here who are writing and crafting this music," he says. "It's being recorded by artists who generally believe in what they're doing and it's being marketed by record companies whose jobs are to market and to make hits, and it's being played on the radio and the consumer is engaging with it. And it's my job to compile it."