No, I kid. Maybe.
Consumption, distribution and creation have all changed — in regards to the world of streaming platforms — for consumers, us “tastemakers,” and of course, artists in the music ecosystem. Stumbling across a question that was posted on LinkedIn, I couldn’t think of a better topic to discuss.
The real question to ask is why is this feat of success so important for an artist? The main, and I think only reason would be this is how the majority of music lovers are accessing their music, or discovering new gems — playlists on streaming platforms. Getting your voice heard in one shot to a vast amount of people can truly be the break any artist desperately craves. Between Spotify and Apple, it is reported as of late that Apple is finally beating Spotify for paid users, and let’s just say the number of subscribers range from 50+ million worldwide, both having at least 20 million in America.
Regardless of your preference (which I’ll break down each in a later article), that’s a ton of people to expose your music to. Yet, for the sake of the question, I will dive into Spotify. Scanning through my Spotify account right now, I’m noting that RapCaviar has 10,685,220 followers, Are & Be racking up about 4.6 million and New Music Friday with 2.9 million.
This is all why.
Spotify have my favorite playlists and essentially won me over to become an avid premium member. Their selection, moods, and consistency have introduced me to many artists I wouldn’t have heard through the massive amount of emails thrown this way.
So, how do Playlists work in the first place?
On the Spotify for Artists platform they break down the type of playlists and how it works, stating their philosophy: “We’re focused on finding the right music for every moment and making sure it’s personalized for each listener on Spotify. The only outcome we’re looking for is that our listeners feel catered to, not promoted to. Every song is chosen, every playlist is made, and every decision is made strictly and specifically for Spotify listeners. Next, it’s important to understand the kinds of playlists on Spotify. All our playlists fall into three basic types: personalized, editorial, and listener playlists.”
Personalized is by a listener’s taste for each user (algorithmic), editorial are by teams on Spotify (which you can submit to be considered), and listeners are created by fans. This is the best of both worlds essentially — people and an algorithm — and three different types to get on.
Tom Ward broke down how songs end up on these playlists on Forbes and had some great points to share during his research and interviews. One being, you can’t buy a spot on a Playlist. Plain and simple.
According to Michael Sloane, of Streaming Promotions, “Pay for play has its roots in radio. Payola, the term for paying radio stations in exchange for spins, is a violation of FCC rules; which only applies to radio stations. Currently, there aren’t any regulations on Spotify. It’s still the Wild West out there. We have a good relationship with the folks at Spotify, who work in curation, and I can tell you that they’re not accepting money to get placement on one of their playlists. As far as the non-Spotify owned playlists go, it’s against the user agreement to sell real estate on the playlists. The playlists are actually owned by Spotify.”
Interesting tidbit noted that the playlists are owned by Spotify. In the back of my mind though we all know someone, possibly non-Spotify owned playlists, could’ve very well been paid to add a track to a list. In that case, what would happen?
Charles Alexander tells Ward on Forbes, “Even if someone got their song placed on a Spotify playlist, in a deceptive way, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the artist will gain traction or get paid. In order for a stream to count, someone has to listen to at least 30 seconds of a song. If a song is skipped at a high rate, that counts against the song. If this happens multiple times across multiple songs, that counts against the artist. If a playlist has a lot of songs with high skip rates, that counts against the playlist.”
If I have a popular playlist, I wouldn’t take the risk of accepting money for a track that will hinder the playlist’s growth. Thank u, next.
OK, then….what now?
This past July, Spotify had a beta feature in works to truly help artists pitch their music directly. As of October, this feature came out of beta mode and everyone may individually pitch unreleased songs for consideration via Spotify for Artists.
This is huge. The results boasted of a “1-in-7 chance” in being added. And according to Digital Music News, “Since the beta began, over 10,000 artists have been added to Spotify editorial playlists for the first time, connecting their music with thousands of new fans.”
And they have the success stories to prove it. See Gustavo Bertoni, whose track “Be Here Now” was added to Acoustic Morning and Fresh Folk. Complex has stated, “According to Spotify, Bertoni’s introduction to its editorial content resulted in a significant boost to his streaming numbers, going from 7,000 monthly streams to 617,000.”
This seems to be the most organic way with multiple benefits. If you’re not in that slotted bowl of chance, regardless you’ve already been submitted: turn those followers into fans. This might be a little weird to read, obviously if they’re following they must be a fan, right? Well, to an extent. Spotify states in their promotion to turn listeners to followers, well on this end that still doesn’t mean one is a fan.
I am guilty of listening to people I don’t even follow and I have no idea why, some being artists I thought I was a “fan” of their work. I also have artists I’m following that I don’t listen to anymore — they’re just there — but I will rediscover them in my personalized playlists.
Shanna Jade of Stem states: “By pitching through Spotify for Artists at least seven days prior to your release date ensures that all your Spotify followers receive your song in their Release Radar playlist. This means if you have 100 followers, pitching your song to Spotify’s editors on time will place it in 100 personalized playlists.”
And if you’ve kept up with me so far, you will understand that this will send a signal to Spotify’s algorithm and curators that a song has been added to multiple users. Not only that, you are having organic streams. This is what Spotify is looking for. They could easily pick up a track on a lower-tier playlist and “move it up the Playlist ladder.” A tip that Spotify does suggest when submitting music is to tag correctly. This will help editors select your track for the right playlist, as well as help the algorithm do its job.
While that is going on, during your pitches to music blogs and publications, note that you are also interested in playlist consideration. Everyone in the music industry is part of the ecosystem. A person’s (and brand’s) opinion truly sways an investment; human touch, er, influencer marketing.
Last year, Rolling Stone mentioned that it was good to have a friend with a popular playlist and that even big name artists have playlists. If you don’t have a friend with a popular playlist, you’re probably reading this and that article, so, thanks RS?
My suggestion is to make your own playlist as an artist. Add people in your scene, people you support, create themes, moods; connect on a human level to your followers and turn them into fans. You might find other like minded users who are into your suggestions and will check out your own music because they also love Kendrick and Father John Misty. And if your friends aren’t dicks, they will return the favor and add you to their playlists. Suddenly, that signal is once again sent and algorithms and curators are noticing your growth.
So, if we look back at it all. I never answered the question. I have no idea who you need to sleep with and I’m pretty sure this is a violation somewhere. GUM doesn’t even have a playlist, which further validates that I don’t know who to sleep with either (but we are connected to Hype Machine’s ‘Latest’ Playlist who has 3k followers which features tracks from HM’s blogs, ahem, us).
In the end, make good music to the best of your ability and share your friends’ tunes. Add your Spotify widget to your website. Add your newly created playlist on your social media and interact with your fans. Tell blogs if you could be featured, then share, because those curators are discovering music somehow. Even if you’re on a playlist and don’t share, what good is it to deaf ears? Finally, remember it truly takes time for sound to travel, don’t beat yourself up and work on your craft.
And despite these stats and 1,500 words of facts, I do want to spread Holiday cheer to my mom, so, you know…maybe she is the one?