There’s no arguing that people love and trust playlists for music discovery. With over 4 billion of them on Spotify alone, you have a great opportunity as an artist to connect with super-niche audiences who truly dig your music and want to support you.
Spotify-curated playlists are responsible for about a third of all listening time on the platform, and over half of those listens come from algorithmic playlists. Another third of listening time happens on user-generated playlists.
The most popular playlists (like RapCaviar) are curated by their in-house team, and are obviously the most coveted features. Other Spotify-owned playlists start with big data and are then sorted and perfected by Spotify employees.
Then there are the purely algorithm-driven, personalized playlists, like Discover Weekly and Release Radar. There are also branded playlists curated by record labels, companies, and influencers. And finally, we have user-created playlists, which anyone (including you!) can make.
What many artists may not realize is that Spotify not only tracks a myriad of metrics within the platform, but it also crawls hundreds of music blogs, keeps tabs on social media buzz, and measures it all against key tastemakers’ listening activity on Spotify. This is the engine behind playlists like Fresh Finds that can really move the needle on an independent artist’s career.
So, it makes sense to think about playlist features as one piece of a comprehensive strategy in which all of your efforts complement one another: press and social media mentions feed Spotify features, and vice versa.
6 ways to increase your chances of getting featured on a Spotify playlist
1. Get verified
Becoming a verified artist on Spotify is easy — this video will help with the steps.
That checkmark next to your name not only indicates that you’re legitimate, but also gives you control over your artist page, access to a wealth of stats and fan insights, and the ability to pitch your songs directly to Spotify’s editorial team for playlist consideration (more on that below).
2. Get active on Spotify
The more active you are on Spotify and the more your songs are added to playlists, the more likely you are to get noticed by both human curators and the algorithm.
Make sure that you’re regularly releasing new music, even if it’s just singles or EPs. Focus on promoting your artist page and building up your Spotify following to ensure that your new tracks appear in your followers’ Release Radar.
Especially when you’re first starting out, try to build up that social proof as much as you can so that you have a solid foundation for the long run. Be sure to link to your Spotify artist page from your website, share it on all your social media pages, and include it in the occasional email newsletter to your fans.
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3. Start small and work your way up
While getting featured on the big, official playlists is the dream for most artists, algorithmic playlists drive a staggering number of listens. So if you simultaneously work the algorithm and pitch independent curators in your niche, you’ll be much more likely to pick up steam and get noticed by some of the more influential curators, or even Spotify’s own editorial team.
First, set aside a chunk of time to do some listening and research. Find playlists that you think your music would genuinely be a perfect fit for. Once you’re feeling good about the list you have, make a note of which playlists are algorithmic and which are curated.
For the algorithmic playlists, your best bet is to build up as much buzz and as many followers as you can, both on and off Spotify. For the human-curated playlists, find out who created them (the username will be linked right at the top, under the playlist title and description) and whether they’re open to pitches.
4. Write a compelling, personalized pitch for each curator
If you’re on good terms with any sort of publicist, manager, label executive, or other industry person who knows a relevant curator, work those connections first. Otherwise, track down the contact info for the curators on your list who accept submissions, and write each of them a personalized pitch explaining why your song would be perfect for their playlist.
The guidelines for this are essentially the same as when you pitch music journalists, talent buyers, or anyone else. Put yourself in their shoes, and figure out why they should care about this particular email from an artist they don’t know, especially when they have an inbox chock-full of similar emails. It’s clear what the benefit is for you, but what’s the benefit for them?
Communicate your authenticity and that you’ve actually taken the time to listen to their playlist. Keep your message fairly brief, but be specific about what you’re asking, and make it as easy as possible for them to say “yes.”
5. Submit your new release directly to Spotify’s editorial team
With a verified Spotify for Artists account, you can go through Spotify’s formal (and free) process to submit your unreleased song for playlist consideration.
Spotify has playlisted 20% of pitches — about 72,000 artists — since launching the submission tool in 2018. And regardless of whether your song gets selected for an editorial playlist, submitting the form guarantees that it’ll get added to all of your followers’ Release Radar playlists, which in turn sends positive signals to the algorithm.
Here are some tips from Spotify on how to make your submission stand out:
The earlier, the better. Pitch your song at least one week ahead of its scheduled release date so that editors have a chance to listen.
High production value is a key factor.
Don’t leave anything blank. Fill in every part of the submission form as completely and accurately as possible. The questions about your track’s mood and genre are especially important for routing your submission to the right editors.
Focus on context and community. “Give us the who, what, why, when, where, and how of your song,” Spotify’s playlist editors explain. “If there’s an interesting story around you and/or the song, please let us know. The music is key but context is also extremely helpful to us.” In addition, they love when artists include “any press, music video plans, release schedules, and promotions, as well as the social media accounts linked in your artist profile.”
6. Keep up your online presence and broader PR efforts
If you do manage to snag a playlist feature, no matter how small, do everything you can to leverage it and keep that momentum going. Shout it from the rooftops on all your channels, and thank the curator to show them how much it means to you.
If you haven’t gotten any traction yet with playlist features, don’t panic or give up. It may seem like artists go viral overnight, but honing your craft and building real buzz takes time. Remember that playlisting is just one part of your strategy; maintaining your online presence and working on your big-picture PR efforts will all feed into Spotify’s algorithm.
Bonus: make your own playlists!
As you build your Spotify presence, don’t forget that you can also create your own public playlists and feature them on your verified artist page. It’s a great way to engage with your fans and also show support for fellow indie musicians.
You’ll want most of your playlists to feature other artists’ songs, with just a couple of your own tracks thrown into each. Spotify recommends aiming for about 25 songs, but no more than 100.
You can curate playlists around just about any theme, but we’d recommend starting simple (and searchable) with a genre, mood, or activity. You can even collaborate on playlists with other artists, and multiply your efforts by cross-promoting it to each other’s audiences. It’s a win-win all around!
Also check out: Streaming for Musicians: The Data That Matters Most
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