Spotify, the once new kid on the block that changed the way we consume music and the go-to for artists worldwide to get their music heard.
Though there’s still a lot of controversy over how much musicians are paid – it’s still the top music streaming service – though the competition has heated up over the years with rivals looking to take the streaming crown.
More recently though, there’s been some big changes afoot where we’re seeing Spotify turning into a social media platform too.
Though interactions between users are still pretty limited, the introduction of video podcasts and a story function is bridging the gap between streaming and social media.
Like all social media platforms, they all want the same thing, consistency and frequency of use. They want their content creators to keep users on the platform for as long as possible. Because the longer you’re using it, the more chance they have to throw ads at you.
Musicians that can keep listeners glued to their channel naturally get rewarded by the Spotify algorithm with more traffic and visibility to other users.
This can be anything from having a track listened to, liked, added to a playlist or shared on social media. It’s almost like a points system, where the more points you collect, the higher up the ranks you go.
Spotify tracks all of this activity. Just like every other platform, they want to show relevant content to users. So they collect this data from you and the users and marries the best matched data together.
The time somebody spends listening to you and browsing your profile matters. You need to treat your Spotify like you do any other channel.
Keep your profile updated regularly and push content consistently to keep the algorithm happy so it knows you’re an active user that it should care about.
Getting on playlists has become the modern version of getting on the radio. It’s a super effective way to get your music in front of a large global audience.
You can achieve this by getting your music used by content creators on social media with large following too, of course. But the genius thing about Spotify is that you have your profile on the platform which makes it easy for anybody who’s discovered you to find a lot more – directly.
This way you get your streaming numbers increased – which is one of your revenue streams – so it’s a win-win situation.
I will tell you something before we get stuck in and I cannot stress this enough… Do not buy playlist placement!
If you’re thinking about paying to get playlisted or featured. DON’T DO IT. Here’s why:
Many of the playlists you pay to get on are fake and run by bots – not actual music lovers
Spotify hates bots (just like Instagram hates it too) and you will be punished virtually by having bans or visibility stripped
In Spotify’s own words:
“If someone or a third party company is offering placement on a playlist in exchange for money, this is a streaming manipulation service that goes against Spotify’s guidelines for music promotion”.
Fix Your Incomplete Profile on Spotify
Whenever I check out an artist that I start working with, almost every time I see that they have an incomplete or amateur looking artist profile on Spotify. Social media platforms despise messy, incomplete profiles/channels.
Take LinkedIn for example, they use a progress bar so you can see how far along you are to an acceptably filled out profile.
Of course, it’s the algorithms at play here and you want to keep the clever little robots happy if you want to ‘hack’ the system for optimum growth and exposure.
Also, make sure you’re signed up for Spotify for Artists. This means you’re not just an average user and will get access to metrics and options like the blue tick verification. That blue tick makes a huge difference in both the algorithm and the general public’s perception of you.
Let’s head over to Diplo’s Spotify profile and see what he’s got there:
Immediately you notice the large banner image dominating the space. Lots of musicians like to use lots of colour as it helps to draw more attention from the eye. It’s wise to show yourself in the image too (unless you’re a super cool avante garde techno artist, then fine, you do you).
This will be your first impression to new visitors so you want to make sure it’s something that’s relatable to you and makes it easy for them to connect and/or relate to you
If you’ve got merchandise then make sure you add this to Spotify too (yes, it’s a thing) – make it easier to sell your items as your products are shown whilst people listen to your music.
You can make good use of the playlists on your profile too. Use them to show your inspirations, host a weekly playlist with a different theme or the music you’d play in a DJ set. Get creative here but try not to fill it with your own music as that’s already available elsewhere on your profile.
For some more help with this, check out my video:
It’s a good idea to add a track to the Artist’s Pick section too and update it frequently. You want to make sure return visitors always have something different to look forward to. It’ll also keep the algorithm happy too.
Now let’s move over to the About Me section. The area that so many musicians completely overly look whilst it’s probably one of the most important.
If somebody discovers your music on a playlist, they enjoy it, they head to your profile, listen to your music and want to know more so head to the About Me. If it’s empty, it’s a strong possibility that you lost a long term fan. People love to know about artists.
This is a piece of real estate on your profile you should take full advantage of. Even other musicians looking for collaboration projects will head straight to that section to find out more. If it’s not filled out, it’s less likely they’ll bother searching elsewhere to find out more.
If somebody has gone that far to look at your About Me then you have a good chance to convert them into a fan. Share your story, your purpose, what you’ve accomplished and what you plan to do. Be real and authentic.
Just take a look at Diplo’s bio:
He’s given you his full story, shares lots of personal details about himself and you feel like you really get to know all about him through the bio.
Not only that, you can add in lots of images of yourself here too. Which I recommend. Spotify allows you to do it, so you should take advantage of it. Give visitors a well-rounded view into who you are as a person and as an artist.
As I mentioned at the start, the platform is shifting into a social media contender, so you want to treat it as such.
Use high quality press images that you’d use in your press kit too. If you don’t have any then organise a photoshoot to get some nice ones in. Your fans will love it too.
Then there’s the social media linking capability. Make sure you’ve got your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even Wikipedia if you have one!
You want to set up these bridges over to your other sites so if people discover you, then it’s easy for them to see where you’re present elsewhere and hit the follow button and engage with you there.
Lastly, the Concert tab is super important too. I know we’re currently in the middle of a pandemic and they’re not looking likely too soon. But, when we’re back to gigging you should definitely keep this part updated with new dates and shows.
Once you’ve properly filled out your profile and you’re representing your brand at the highest level you can – you’re ready to get playlisted, baby!
2. Curate Your Own Playlist
Gone are the days of the top 40 dominating the charts, people are looking for something really specific.
DJ Sasha’s playlists each have a different value, such as his quarantine playlist Heads Down, Music Up. By gathering songs he felt were perfect corona-era listening, he’s uplifted, motivated and echoed the situation we’re all going through.
There’s a reason why Barack Obama kept releasing his top songs of the year. There was a hunger for it. People wanted to know his taste in music.
Your curated playlists should communicate your interests but try to refrain from using the channel to just talk about yourself, again. Give some value that’s not directly linked to you.
Sure, use some of your original songs here and there but you’ve got every other channel you use to showcase those. Make the playlist personal without feeling promotional. Let listeners feel the music without being sold anything directly.
You can for example make a playlist of all the songs, artists that inspired you or you sampled in your latest album. That way you are not only sharing the process of your album, you are sharing your expertise and identity as well. And you get to know the album on a different level. But the playlist is showing others music and not only yours.
Use your own curated playlists as a way to network with other artists. Just like you’re trying to do, other artists will want to have their music featured too. If you help them out, they’ll likely help you out too.
By sharing playlists consistently, you’re feeding the platform the content it wants and updating your profile with fresh things for visitors to check out.
You can share your playlists on your other social media channels too. Create some nice artwork and copy the link to share across the relevant platforms you use. Easy content that can be replicated again and again.
3. Make Use of Personal Playlists
Starting small and building yourself up in the name of the game in almost everything we do in life and it’s no different for playlists. Get in touch with family, friends or online fans and ask them to put your music into their private playlists. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Every single interaction on Spotify will feed the algorithm and help to bump you up some visibility or even a spot in one of Spotify’s auto generated playlists.
The more people that are spending time on your content, the better the rewards will be.
Heck, you could even do a mail-out to ask people to add your most recent track into their playlists too. Promo is promo!
Until you get featured on some larger playlists, you will need to start small.
By getting featured on these kinds of playlists, you’re telling Spotify that people are starting to take notice of your music. This is all tracked by the algorithm 24/7. If you keep getting it to happen consistently, Spotify will recognise you as an artist to watch.
Try to aim for a few playlists per week and slowly grow to more as time goes on. Do it too quickly and you run the risk of looking a bit spammy and fraudulent.
Every time you launch a new single, you should send your super-fans a DM or email presenting the song and asking directly for them to playlist it. Even telling them what kind of playlist it’d suit would be great too. You need to ask to receive.
On top of that, send your family and friends a similar message too. The more, the merrier.
Though you’ll get great play numbers when featured on a big playlist, it’s also great to show Spotify that individuals dig your sound by adding it to their personal playlists.
Remember you might get chosen to be featured on the Spotify playlists and suddenly end up all over the featured lists too. The more interactions on your music, the more visibility you’ll get.
An interaction is considered a play, a save, added to a playlist, etc. Every single thing counts and is counted by the algorithm.
4. Small Independently Curated Playlists
So moving on from private playlists we enter the realm of quality playlists run by music enthusiasts that know their sh*t. These are the kinds of playlists that are niche and perhaps haven’t been going for too long.
Catering to the masses is over and you need to know who your ‘tribe’ is. Who are the types of people that listen to your music and what else do they enjoy?
These playlists could be an influencers’, a small radio channel or a blog/magazine with a Spotify playlist. There are lots of them out there, it just takes a little digging to find the right ones.
For example, if you know your audience are snowboarders then it’s a good idea to start looking up snowboarding influencers who have playlists they share with their audience on social media.
If your audience is made up of mostly gamers, then start looking for influential gamers that curate playlists. Just how Twitch streamers play music while they’re playing games and streaming to their fans, they’re always on the lookout for new music to play. Strike up a relationship with them and compliment their selection. Then after a few back and forths in DMs, mention you’ve got something perfect for them to add to their playlist.
These playlists may be small but they’ve usually got a very engaged following that can be very powerful.
By understanding who your fans are you can then have a better idea of where they hang out online. Who do they follow and what playlists do they listen to? Once you know you can strategically place your music in front of them via playlists they like.
To get in touch with these people, they most likely have accounts on other social networks too. Begin creating a spreadsheet of potential contacts that are relevant to you and work your way through it.
You can search the major streaming platforms directly or use sites like playlists.net to find the niche playlists you’re suited to.
On your spreadsheet just fill in their social channels and link to them. This way you can easily go and interact with potential partners. You need to do this so you can keep track of who you’ve contacted, at what stage your conversations are at and whether they seem open to playlisting your track.
Don’t go straight in and ask them to do so in your first message. Build up a rapport and give them positive feedback. Tell them what your track means, what your story is, your passions and your plans. Then once you’ve established a connection with them, it’s time to drop the bomb.
Look out for emerging artists playlists where they can still have quite large followings. The curators here are always on the lookout for something new and exciting.
Start engaging with their content across all of their channels and get yourself noticed. Once you’re confident they’ve seen who you are, go ahead and message them directly.
You can use my template below if writing messages isn’t your strongpoint:
Hey [First Name],
I just want to let you know, I’m a huge fan of your work.
And I love your latest playlist [Playlist Name] .
It’s a great compilation of songs. Keep up the great work.
I look forward to checking out more content from you.
Compliment their playlists and tell them WHY you like it. Then after some weeks of building a relationship, you go in for the kill.
The message could be something like this:
Hey [First Name],
I noticed that you added one of my favorite songs on your latest playlist, [Playlist Name].
I actually have a new single that I am dropping next week that I think would fit great into your playlist. The song is [value 1], [value 2], and [value 3] which fits well with the type of music you usually put on your playlist, and i think your audience will love it as they tend to like [example 1], [example 2].
Want a heads up when it goes live?
P.S.: Let me know if there is anything I can help you with.
Of course, this will take some time. But if you approach it in this manner, these relationships will be solid and long term. And a long term relationship such as this can be utilised for every good quality release you put out.
Every week you should be adding prospective contacts to your spreadsheet and taking the time to reach out to people. Start building this now and your future distribution will become a breeze.
Once you do get playlisted, make sure you create some content around this on your social media’s too as this will make the playlist curator happy.
They also want the visibility and if you can push traffic to them, you are creating a win/win situation.
5. Large Editorial playlists (Label, Radio, Music Journalists)
Now these are the guys that are very competitive to get featured on. Just like getting signed to a huge label, these are the playlists that it takes some real hard graft and a little bit of luck to achieve success.
Their editors have their own unique ways of selecting music – digging on blogs, industry relationships, keeping a finger on the pulse of all new releases and tracking data for what’s getting traction on the platforms.
To contact these people requires a simple Google search where you’ll probably see their LinkedIn profiles at the top. They get so many messages daily.
So how do you get on the radar of the gold mines of playlists? Again, start small and reach out to the independent blogs and playlist curators that are credible. These are usually the areas the big dogs are keeping their eyes on.
Create leverage for yourself by having the presence on these smaller, respected blogs/playlists and continue growing it. This will give you leverage when you approach the big guys.
When it’s time to approach them, as always, create a mutual rapport that extends beyond asking for a favour to get listed.
These people do this for a living and they know why you’re approaching them so it’s best to try and create a relationship on their other channels. Work your way into their field of vision without being needy.
They have people approaching them every day so the best way to go about it is to stand out. But, stand out for legitimate reasons and don’t try to use shock factor. Give them a reason to want to know who you are.
Your pitch needs to be super smooth, to present your song, it’s message, your narrative and a strong understanding of who your audience is. Let them know why it’s going to benefit them and their audience too. Why should your song be added to their playlist? Be informative.
Share other press that you’ve had around the song, who you’ve collaborated with and why. Be specific but not overbearing in your communications. This isn’t a mass email you’re sending to thousands. It’s a singular person, with a singular goal and a singular ethic.
Even if they do not playlist you but you get a response – keep this dialogue going and the rapport strong and try again with your next big single launch.
These relationships take time and patience and work to establish.
6. Spotify Editorial Playlists
These playlists are owned and managed by Spotify. Submitting tracks to these can take up to four weeks for consideration – so ensure you’re allowing yourself enough time before your official release date to coincide with this time frame.
If you have a Spotify for Artists account its easy to submit a track for review. Spotify will then look at your analytics and see where you best fit a Spotify playlist.
You cannot pitch your music after it has been released. Get in there before with plenty of time.
Spotify launched its playlist pitching service in 2018 and since February of 2020 there have been over 72,000 artists featured with 20% of them being submissions.
Remember, if you pitch your track at least 7 days before the release date, it will be automatically eligible for Release Radar – the very popular, personalised playlist that each user has populated with tracks by artists similar to ones they already follow/play/liked.
Encourage your fans to follow you on Spotify so the algorithm can feature you on their Release Radar’s when your new tracks go live!
How to pitch your music to spotify playlist editors: https://artists.spotify.com/faq/popular#pitching-music-to-playlist-editors
The key here is to put context to your music. Give them the who, what, why, when, where, and how of your song. Who made it with you? Why did you make it? When was it made? Where did you make it?
If there’s an interesting story around you and/or the song, let them know about it. Also describe your context and community around your music. This will make it easier for the editors to place your song on the right playlists.
Fill in every part of the submission form as accurately as possible — the questions you answer about your track’s mood and genre are helpful in surfacing your music to editors.
7. Algorithm based playlists:
An algorithm is constantly learning and changing so there’s nothing specific you can do that will land you a spot on these playlists.
Of course if people visit your profile every day, play your songs, follow you and add you to their playlists – it’s a huge help. If you continue to grow and consistently feed the platform with quality music – this will help too.
There are weekly playlists curated by the algorithm every week such as: Fresh Finds, Discover Weekly and Release Radar.
For Release Radar, an artist’s new release is eligible to appear in the playlist up to 28 days after it’s been released. You can only have one song in Release Radar at a time, so if you’re releasing multiple tracks over the month keep this in mind.
Knowing the playlist landscape is essential for promoting your music in the right places. Spotify recently reported that there’s over 2 Billion(!) playlists on Spotify. You need to do your research – but work through your list slowly.
Sending mass emails with the same content won’t work and you should instead focus on contacting fewer, quality curators with a personal approach that’s personalised just for them – and mold these over time.
This is called networking and the more you do it, the better equipped you will become in your music career.
When it’s time to distribute your music, having a network of playlist curators, bloggers, influencers and journalists will be the difference between going big or going home.
Spend time every day, every week, building and growing this network. Be specific in your niche and be creative in your approach!