The right Spotify playlist can jump-start a career. But you’d better feed the beast right, or your slot could be short-lived.
Last time we checked, there were more than 2 billion playlists on Spotify alone, with roughly 2 million new ones are added daily. But only a tiny percentage of those playlists really matter, and truly have the power to change an artist’s career.
So what happens when your music, or music that you’ve been working, suddenly lands on a heavily-followed Spotify playlist? The answer is to take immediate action, or risk losing that slot as quickly as it was gained.
That’s the tough love coming from AWAL‘s Senior Director, Amelia Bonvalot, who described the simple mechanics that dictate playlist placement. “Tracks move up or down on playlists depending on their performance because [editors and curators] see that people are more likely to listen to something that is doing well,” Bonvalot said.
(By the way, if you’re still trying to get into a playlist, read this guide first).
That’s only part of the picture, however. In the murky back-dealings between Spotify’s editors, playlist slots are often horse-traded by influential labels and managers. There’s even strong evidence of outright ‘playlist payola,’ though random acts of playlist happiness certainly occur for trending artists.
Once that happens, the game plan is to keep the slot as long as possible. Basically, you are now serving the Spotify gods, and pushing as much targeted heat as possible towards their platform. That’s the game, though there are plenty of pitfalls and random accidents (both good and bad).
Here’s are a few pro tips to keep in mind:
Definitely don’t spam yourself — or do anything that could be considered spammy.
Vulfpeck famously told their fans to stream their silent album, Sleepify, non-stop while they slept while to help the band make money. The genius ploy worked, but it basically slammed that door for good for similar funny business. Try this stunt, either by corralling fans or doing it yourself, and you’ll probably lose your plum position fast.
But even accidental spam can kill you: just recently, Smokey and the Mirror got banned by Spotify after a local bookstore put their album on non-stop repeat. Others have similar war stories, including musician Ari Herstand.
So just be careful, and control what you can.
Share the playlist you’re in on social media.
Sharing on social media is one of the key factors in making sure your track not only remains in the playlist longer, but also how it ranks within it. So, sharing the news via social media, tagging the curator, and possibly even congratulating other artists on their placements will go a long way.
This news can also be shared via an email blast, Snapchat story, or Instagram story.
In addition, there’re a few playlists that don’t update nearly as often as others. For example, the New Music Friday playlist receives a total overhaul every Friday. If you receive more than one playlist add, spread the news at different times and through different platforms.
Direct your fans to stream the track within the playlist, not under your artist page.
According to AWAL’s Nicki Shamel, “The more you get your fans to engage with your music on-platform, the greater chance of increased exposure you’ll have.”
Ensure that your fans are streaming your track via the playlist and not through your artist page. Additionally, encourage your fans to add it to their own collections and playlists. “If there is an add to a collection or save from that playlist, that’s going to contribute to the performance of the track within the playlist,” states Bonvalot.
Getting onto a huge playlist doesn’t mean you have millions of fans. Quite the opposite.
All it means is that Spotify has put you into a big playlist. They’re betting that millions of people will probably enjoy your music. But those people may not care at all, much less remember your name. It’s sort of a test at first.
That’s not intended to be depressing, but it’s the reality of a streaming- and playlist-focused environment. This is very different from getting downloads or CD sales, which is the ultimate sign of fandom. “Consumer consumption no longer means fandom,” Nick Bobetsky of Red Light Management recently explained.
“It’s not hard to stream a song. And it’s not hard for a lot of people to stream a song [from] a popular playlist. That doesn’t mean that you have millions of fans — it means you have millions of people who happen to hear your song. Who knows if they even dug it.”
Make more ‘successful’ music.
Ask yourself: why was this song included on this huge playlist? Or similarly, why are songs of this variety getting added, and not the other ones?
The answer is simple: Spotify’s curators are including music that is testing well through data, or that they think will perform well within a playlist. If it stays there, it’s not by accident. That’s realtime market feedback, and an indicator of which creative direction to pursue
Of course, other testing grounds also exist. Comedians, for example, routinely test new material in front of smaller crowds to see what works. They don’t try experimental stuff out at Madison Square Garden. Musicians do the same thing.
So consider a plum Spotify playlist as more than a happy accident. In most cases, it’s good, solid market research. Use that data wisely.
Monitor other streaming platforms as well.
Of course, the streaming music world is a lot bigger than Spotify. Just this week, Apple Music surpassed Spotify in terms of US-based subscribers. But there are also millions of subscribers on other platforms, including Napster, Pandora, Tidal, Deezer, Sirius XM, and YouTube.
There are a few ways to monitor playlist adds, including chartmetric.io. And monitoring can pay off, especially since it pays to promote an add right when it appears to ensure its longer-term success.
And one last tip on this: in terms of royalties, competing platforms oftentimes pay more, especially paid-only platforms. YouTube is notorious for cut-rate royalties, but paid-only platforms are only dealing with higher-rent listeners, which means royalty rates aren’t diluted.
That also goes for emerging paid platforms like Pandora Premium, and smaller paid-only platforms like Napster, which typically offer better payouts. Here’s a lot more detail on streaming platform payouts.
Spotify just took a new playlist-related feature out of beta — and while doing so, revealed a few numbers attesting to the might of the playlists themselves. In June, the music-streaming service started allowing artists and labels to submit unreleased music directly to its editorial team for playlist consideration. On Wednesday, announcing that the playlist submission feature has been finalized, Spotify said that more than 67,000 artists and labels have submitted music through the tool and more than 10,000 artists have been added to Spotify editorial playlists for the first time
Such artists include Gustavo Bertoni, whose song “Be Here Now” shot from 7,000 monthly streams to 617,000 after it was slotted into two popular Spotify playlists, Acoustic Morning and Fresh Folk. British rock band Yonaka similarly went from 82,000 to 290,000 after being added to New Music Friday. Spotify’s announcement also quoted Belgian rapper Bryan Mg, who said he received concert booking requests, radio station invitations and a trove of new social media followers in the weeks after landing on the La Vida Loca playlist.
“I found out I was on the playlist and the streams started jumping. It was an insane, immediate reaction,” Jayden Bartels, a 13-year-old pop newcomer whose song “Can’t Help Me Now” tripled to 72,000 streams a month after it was added to New Music Friday, tells Rolling Stone. “I was not expecting those streaming numbers.”
Bartels says the playlist placement has changed the way she’ll think about her distribution strategy going forward. “It hasn’t changed how I’m making my songs or putting out music, but I have a new goal of always getting on these playlists and submitting my songs, because I realized how much exposure can be gained,” she says.
Musicians submit songs directly through the Spotify for Artists platform, which allows one unreleased song to be considered at a time for placement on one of Spotify’s official playlists (which can be distinguished from non-Spotify playlists by the company’s small green logo in the image corner). Spotify’s FAQ notes that “submitting a song doesn’t guarantee a place on an editorial playlist, but does give it the best chance,” and also that “it’s not possible to pay to increase your chances, nor can any external parties influence our editors.”
It’s a PR win-win: Artists get to put their music up for career-changing exposure and Spotify gets to counter any claims that its playlists might be too biased in favor of industry relationships. But the power of the service’s playlists — one that’s sure to grow now that Spotify is encouraging more artists to use the official submission feature — is also yet another threat to the traditional regime of distribution and promotion in the music business. Record stores used to look to record labels for posters and other promotional materials to highlight favored music; now, labels also look to the digital record store.
How much money will I make from that playlist placement?
A quick way to estimate how many spins you’ll get when your song appears on a Spotify playlist.
It can be tough to determine beforehand what it will be “worth” to get your song placed on a particular playlist.
Some playlists have tens of thousands of followers but hardly any active listeners.
Other playlists have a small, loyal following that actually engages with the music (sometimes even leaving the playlist on repeat).
And even within an individual playlist, there will be a difference in resulting streams based on where the song is placed on the list. Obviously that first track is gonna get played more than the 10th track, or the 20th track, and so on.
Here is a way to take an educated guess at how many streams a playlist placement will bring you on Spotify:
If the playlist in question appears there, you’ll also see how many streams resulted from that placement in the past 28 days. Now you have an idea of what to expect if you’re placed in the first position of that list.
If the playlist doesn’t appear on that list, you know that a first position track will probably result in LESS streams than the lowest performing playlist shown in the “Discovered On” section of the artist’s ABOUT page.
Now repeat this process for artists on that playlist whose tracks appear, say, in the third, tenth, or twentieth position. This will give you a more detailed impression — though it’s still just an impression — of the power of any particular playlist.
And results will also vary depending on how quickly your track shuffles down or off the list.
This method works best when looking at mid-level or indie artists’ music on indie-curated playlists
As I said above, it’s an inexact science, and these things become harder to measure when you’re looking at famous artists who might have hundreds of thousands of plays from official Spotify playlists. In that case, just because an indie playlist doesn’t appear in their “Discovered On” section, it doesn’t mean a certain playlist isn’t gonna generate significant streams for you (just that the famous artist is lucky enough to appear on playlists that perform even better).
Now, how much money will those streams generate?
There are a lot of different factors that go into how much you’ll earn from a stream:
But if you want to do some rough math on this, check out any of the trillion streaming-royalty calculators online