The streaming revolution continues apace, to the point where streaming now rivals radio as the primary way to get exposure for your music; and, in spite of the notoriously low ‘pay-per-play’ rates, it can nonetheless in certain circumstances now provide a real income for independent artists.
Although the past few years have seen a big rise in the number of streaming services available, Spotify remains the market leader, and getting on the right Spotify playlist can generate a significant boost to an artist’s career. So, in this post, we provide some key tips on how to do just that.
The different types of Spotify playlists
Before looking at the strategies and tactics involved in getting on a Spotify playlist, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different types of playlists in existence.
Your own playlists
As you might expect, these are playlists created and curated by you.
Other people’s playlists
These are playlists created and run by any of the millions of of Spotify users out there: for example, a friend, an artist or a brand. The number of followers each will have for their playlist can vary massively: you could be talking about a mate with five people following his/her playlist, or a brand like Pitchfork with a playlist followed by thousands.
As the name suggests, these are playlists created automatically by Spotify’s algorithm.
The algorithm — a computer program, basically — takes note of how many people save your music to their Spotify libraries or playlists (as well as the number of followers you have), and uses this data to determine whether or not to place your songs on one of its algorithmically-generated playlists.
Important Spotify algorithmic playlists include:
Songs on Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist are included based on a user’s personal listening history and that of other Spotify users with the same taste in music.
Songs on Spotify’s ‘Daily Mix’ playlist are included based on the genres preferred by listeners — i.e., if you listen to a load of jazz, Spotify is more likely to include jazz tracks on your Daily Mix playlist.
Spotify’s ‘Release Radar’ playlist is updated every Friday with up to two hours of new or relevant tracks from artists that you’ve shown interest in.
These are playlists containing tracks chosen by Spotify’s in-house editorial team — you can identify these by a little Spotify logo in the top-left corner of the playlist’s cover image. These playlists can have millions of followers, and typically cover a genre (for example “R&B UK”) or showcase new music (a well-known example being the “New Music Friday” playlist).
The below video from Spotify does a good job of spelling out the differences between editorial and algorithmic playlists.
How to get on each Spotify playlist
As you can see from the above, each Spotify playlist is quite different in nature, and getting a track on them involves very different tactics.
Making the most of your own playlists
The easiest Spotify playlist to get on, of course, is your own playlist. It’s really easy to create your own playlist and insert your own tracks on it (you’ll find some instructions on how to do this here).
However, your own playlists only really have value to you as an artist if other people start following them (and in large numbers).
Now realistically, if you are an unsigned, independent artist with a small following, putting together a ‘greatest hits’ playlist of your own material is not usually going to generate that large following — not because your music isn’t good, but simply because you are not particularly well-known.
So instead, your best bet to get people to follow your playlists is to curate a really great playlist containing other artists’ tracks —and put one or two of your own band’s tracks into it. You can create your playlists around interesting themes; genres; moods and so on.
And when you’ve done that, you need to promote it. Start by inviting friends and family to subscribe to your playlist, and then think about wider groups of people. If you have a mailing list for your band, consider sending an e-newsletter to it specifically promoting the playlist; you could also mention the playlist in any press releases you’re sending out as part of a music PR campaign, or embed it on your website or blog.
Getting on other people’s playlists
Getting on a popular playlist curated by somebody else can be massively beneficial to your music career. Equally, getting on lots of less popular playlists can also be really helpful too (for reasons we’ll discuss in a moment).
Curated tastemaker playlists
There’s no way round it: getting your tracks on a popular curated ‘tastemaker’ playlist is hard — similar in many ways to getting playlisted on a radio station with a large listenership. Accordingly, you will have to put in quite a bit of work to achieve results in this area.
The key to success usually involves finding your niche — being really honest to yourself about what genre of music you’re making and only approaching the people who really like that sort of stuff.
It might be tempting to approach curators of really massive pop playlists with your jazz single…but realistically you’re wasting your time (and theirs!).
By contrast, if you can identify the appropriate tastemakers, and you’re making the right stuff for their playlists, you’re in with a chance. But in order to achieve results, you will need to:
do extensive research into who the most relevant curators are
put a great pitch together
be prepared to chase curators up (respectfully) until you get a yes or no to your request for addition.
If all this sounds like a lot of work, it is — so, budget permitting, you might consider hiring an agency to help you with this task. Music PR companies like Prescription PR are increasingly approaching Spotify playlist curators as part of their 360 degree music PR campaigns, and will already have a lot of the contacts and relationships you need for acceptance onto playlists in place. (Feel free to contact us for more info on all that).
Another way that you can potentially speed up the process is by bulk-submitting a track to playlists — there are quite a few sites that allow you to submit tracks to multiple curators at once. This is much more of a ‘spray and pray’ approach than hiring a specialist, and is usually less effective — but it can on occasion yield results. You’ll find a good list of playlist submission websites on the Sidekick Music site.
When bands think about getting onto other people’s playlists, they often think exclusively about the sort of curated tastemaker lists I’ve just discussed. But it’s really important to think in more ‘down to earth’ terms too, and encourage ordinary Spotify listeners to add your music to their lists too.
As I’ll explain in a moment, this drastically improves the odds of ending up on an algorithmic playlist, and it also has the potential to create an ongoing passive income stream (although, yes, usually a small one).
The easiest way to increase the number of people with your songs on playlists is to start with friends, family and colleagues — many will usually be more than happy to add your tracks to their playlists. Be systematic about this — make a list of every Spotify user you know (whom it is appropriate to ask!) and politely request an addition to a playlist. And, within reason, chase up until you get results.
Then, ask any fans of your act to add your tracks to their playlists.
This can be done
via your band mailing list
via social media
on your music website, Bandcamp page etc.
via Facebook ads
from the stage at gigs.
Be explicit about things — explain to your followers that it’s really important to your career, and that it’s a positive way that they can support your music.
As discussed above, when making a judgment as to whether or not to add you to an algorithmic playlist, Spotify looks at a lot of data associated with your music, including
how many people are playing it
what other music they like
how many followers you have
how many playlists you’re on (and what sort)
In other words, to get onto an algorithmic playlist, you’ve basically got to impress Spotify. And this involves taking the steps I’ve outlined above — reaching out to your friends, existing fanbase and relevant genre curators to maximise the number of track saves, playlist additions and follows.
To increase your chances of success on all these fronts, don’t forget the value of ‘embedded’ content: you can embed Spotify albums, playlists and ‘follow’ buttons on your website and other online presences and ask other website owners to do the same. For more information on how to do this, check out the ‘widgets’ information on the Spotify website.
Getting on a Spotify Editorial playlist
Getting on a Spotify editorial playlist is really difficult, but there are a couple of ways that you can end up on one.
Submitting your music to Spotify for consideration
The first method involves submitting your tracks directly to Spotify for playlist consideration. To do this,
register for the Spotify for Artists service
upload the song you’d like considered to your usual digital distributor (Tunecore etc.) — but importantly, several weeks before official release date (this gives the editorial team time to review it)
go to the Music > Upcoming section in Spotify for Artists where, a few days after your music has been sent to your digital distributor, you should see an option to submit your music to the playlist team.
How successful you will be with all this very much depends on luck, taste and how much time the Spotify editorial team has to go through the 20,000 or so submitted tracks per day!
The video below (from Spotify) gives a little bit more background on the process.
On the subject of Spotify videos, it’s worth noting that the Spotify for Artists team provides quite a lot of other videos to help you promote your music on the platform — check out the Spotify ‘Game Plan’ website to view these.
Raising your general profile
The other method of getting on a Spotify editorial playlist basically involves your act becoming more visible in the media, to the point where the Spotify editorial team notice your existence and reward you accordingly with a spot on a playlist. Reviews, features and interviews in the press can all help on this front.
Another thing that might draw the editorial team’s attention to you is a very noticeable jump in your Spotify play count (as a result of all the promo legwork you’ve put in after reading this article, for example!).
All tricky stuff to achieve, and then a matter of luck as to whether Spotify’s staff notice any of it, but the point I’m making is that your general approach to music promo, both online and offline, can end up attracting the attention of Spotify’s editorial team, with positive results. Just as a radio DJ might pick up on you as a result of reading a Pitchfork review of your record, so might a Spotify playlist editor.
We hope you’ve found this guide to getting playlisted on Spotify useful. To sum up, here are the key takeaways from the post:
There are four main types of playlist to consider on Spotify: your own, other people’s, algorithmic and editorial.
Adding your tracks to your own playlists can be surprisingly effective, so long as you create interesting, theme-based playlists that contain music from other bands — and promote them heavily.
When it comes to other people’s playlists, identify curators operating popular playlists in your niche and approach them systematically and professionally with your music (or commission a specialist to do so). As for playlists owned by regular Spotify users, use your mailing list, social media presence, website and word of mouth to maximise the number of Spotify listeners adding you. Be really proactive about this.
With algorithmic playlists, Spotify looks at track saves, play count, followers and the number of playlists you are added to determine whether or not to add your music to them. This means that how successful you are with the promo steps discussed above is really important.
Getting on an editorial playlist is very difficult — to maximise your chances of ending up on one, make sure you submit your music to Spotify via the Spotify for Artists service several weeks in advance of its release, and generally do everything you can from a music promo point of view to raise the media profile of your act.
Remember that Spotify provide a variety of widgets and tools to help you embed your content on other websites and online presences. They also provide video guides to making the most of the platform. Make use of these resources.
Good luck with getting playlisted, and if you have any queries about how we could help you with a music promo campaign, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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