SPOTIFY FOR ARTISTS AND LABELS: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

4.0 UNDERSTANDING SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS AS AN ARTIST

Spotify made its name by harnessing the power of the playlist, setting itself apart from other streaming giants by diving deep into the data to give listeners more of what they want. But music fans aren’t the only ones loving playlist. Musicians and record labels love the fact that playlists are the new radio, allowing millions of listeners exposure to their tracks. In this chapter we’ll be explaining the difference between the three main forms of playlists, why playlists are so important for artists, and the best routes to getting your music featured. Essential reading.

4.1 WHAT IS A SPOTIFY PLAYLIST?

A Spotify playlist is simply a list of songs searchable via Spotify’s platform. There are three types of playlists: those created by a user, those created by the Spotify editorial team, and those created automatically by the algorithm. Playlists can have millions of subscribers and listeners. Having your music featured on one gives you the opportunity to be exposed to fans across the globe.

User-created playlists

These are playlists created by fans or unofficial curators. If you’re old enough to remember, think of playlists as mix tapes from back in the day. Playlists are a great way to set a mood or feeling with music. Many users create them around a theme or event: birthdays, gym sessions, studying — there’s a playlist for pretty much everything. Playlists can be given a name, a description, and artwork. These playlists can either be made public or private. So if you’re a little shy about your favorite guilty pleasure tracks, no need to worry.

Many users have large followings. The users with the biggest followings are often bloggers or unofficial playlist curators. As a musician, you should be creating playlists to help build a musical connection with your audience.

Spotify Editorial Playlists

These playlists are created by the Spotify editorial team — not the algorithm. They are typically grouped together via genre — such as the one below — or by mood or context, like chill out, studying, and more.

Spotify Algorithm-generated Playlists

In addition to the editor-generated playlists, Spotify also has playlists automatically generated for users. Release Radar is a personalized playlist of new music from the artists a user follows plus other artists they listen to frequently. The Daily Mixes are made of tracks and artists from a related genre that the user has saved plus similar artists and music. And the Discover Weekly is a collection of artists and tracks that are similar to what they like but may not have heard.

4.2 WHY ARE PLAYLISTS IMPORTANT FOR MUSICIANS

Playlists can be created by anybody. But let’s break down the difference between editor playlists and user playlists. When we say user, we are talking about daily listeners, fans, or influencers that like to create and promote their playlists. Why are they important for an artist? This could be how you get discovered! There are countless playlists out there and you can easily find some that fit with your style.

Here are all the official playlists created by the editorial team of Spotify (Rap Caviar, New Music Friday, Rock This, Peaceful Piano…). These playlists are shared with millions of users. Getting featured on one of these playlists is like hitting the jackpot, helping you to reach more fans and get more revenue.

Remember to check out playlists curated by users and blogs. If you gain traction on these playlists, not only do you get more streams, you’re more likely to get the attention of the editors.

iMusician has our own playlists for each genre. Discover some of our favorite upcoming electronic artists with our iM Electronic playlist. You can also submit your music to them here.

4.3 HOW TO GET MUSIC ON SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS

Landing on the right playlist can bring you more exposure and more money. But how do you get there? If you don’t already have an established fan base who will play, like, and save your music on release day, you’ll need to start small.

With each release, you are only allowed to submit one song. This means that, no matter whether the release is an album with 12 tracks or a one-track single, you can only send one track for consideration on the official playlists. Note that Spotify does not allow tracks that have been previously released or are from compilations. The exception: when it’s a new version of a previously released song. For example, in 2019 the Beatles remastered and re-released their full back catalogue. These tracks, because they were new audio files with new ISRCs, were able to be submitted to editors.

In Chapter 5, we’ll dive into how you can use this to your advantage when you plan your release calendar.

4.4 HOW TO SUBMIT MUSIC FOR OFFICIAL SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS

Yes, landing on one of the hundreds of Spotify playlists is a great way to reach millions of listeners — but how to start? As we mentioned, above, you can only submit one track per release for consideration. Also, remember that you can’t submit previously released tracks (unless they are new audio files with new ISRCs) or tracks from compilations.

Once your distributor has uploaded your music to Spotify, you’ll see it in the “Upcoming” tab in the music section on your Spotify for Artists profile. From there, you can submit the track to Spotify Editors at least two weeks before it gets released. Be sure to give them as much detail about the sound and mood of your song. They’ll then listen to your track and decide which list (if any) to put it on. Please note that it can take your distributor up to two weeks to upload your release to Spotify — so be sure to calculate this into your planning.

What do the editors take into consideration? First, it has to match the genre and the sound of their playlist. Second, if you’ve been featured on this list before, then it’s likely you’ll be featured again. If you’ve been added to a lot of unofficial playlists, have a lot of followers, or lots of fans have pre-saved the track, you’re more likely to get considered. It also doesn’t hurt to have several upcoming releases in the pipeline. It shows Spotify that something big is coming.

Other playlists, including Release Radar and Discover Weekly, are computer-generated. Any fans who have saved your profile will see your release in the Release Radar for a week, starting from the Friday your release comes out. Discover Weekly is based on any songs they’ve liked or similar artists that a user has saved.

4.5 HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO I NEED TO SUBMIT MY MUSIC FOR OFFICIAL PLAYLISTS

The Spotify editorial team recommends that you submit your releases to them at least two weeks before the release date. Bear in mind, however, that they get thousands of submissions every week, so the earlier you submit to them, the better. Because your distributor needs time to perform quality assurance tests and send your music to Spotify, you’ll need to factor in an additional week or two into your planning.

4.6 HOW TO FIND INDEPENDENT SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS FOR YOUR MUSIC

Many independent curators have playlists with thousands of listeners — so getting your song included is vital for a track’s success. Plus, the more playlists you are in — particularly well-followed playlists — the more your clout increases within the official Spotify playlists and the algorithm.

But how do you find these playlists? Do your research. If you already have previous releases, check your Spotify for Artists profile to find out which playlists are driving your streams. If you’re already on a playlist, it’s pretty easy to convince the playlist curator that your new track is also a good fit.

If you’re not playlisted yet, then look at related artists and see where they’re playlisted. If you have friends making similar music, see if they have any playlist contacts. You can also try sites like SubmitHub or Soundplate to find playlists and independent curators that might be a good fit.

FYI: We put together a list of 10 Spotify curators where you can submit your music for free — check it out. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty more where that came from, so get hunting.

4.7 HOW TO PITCH YOUR MUSIC FOR INDEPENDENT SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS

So you’ve found several playlists your music will be perfect for. What now?

First, get organized. Make a spreadsheet with all of the playlists that fit your sound. Make a column to make notes about similar artists or tracks. Make another column for the name and contact information of the curator. Congrats! You’re starting to build your own personal database for influencer outreach.

Now that the spreadsheet is set up, time to start hunting. Many curators list their email address, social media accounts, name, or blog in the description of their playlist. Some also have their Spotify connected to their Facebook account. Search for the blog, playlist name, or the curator’s name on LinkedIn or Twitter. Do a little research and you’re sure to find some good leads.

It always helps to put a little time into finding out what kind of music each curator likes, whether it’s new music, chart-topping tracks, or niche underground bangers. There’s not much point sending your deep-house heater to an old school hip hop fanatic — as always, know your audience, even when it comes to curators.

After you’ve found the people you want to connect with, send them a friendly introduction. Before reaching out, follow their playlists, play some of the tracks, and start by telling them what you like about their selections. Once the conversation is flowing, tell them about your project and why you think it would be a good fit. Be patient and don’t be pushy, give it some time and hopefully you’ll see your hard work pay off.

Each curator is different, so it may take a few pitches before it works out. And don’t take it personally if people don’t include you. It doesn’t mean your music’s bad. It just means it doesn’t fit the sound they are curating for their playlist.

4.8 USING SOUNDPLATE TO FIND AND SUBMIT MUSIC FOR PLAYLISTS

Soundplate is an easy way to find thousands of playlists and submit your music for free. It’s a service built to help artists reach independent curators. All they ask from you in return is to follow their profile and playlist — no fee involved. Remember to only send your tracks to playlists you feel are relevant for your style. Tailor your messages to the person you’re talking to — a personal touch can go a long way. Don’t send the same email to a hundred playlists, spamming will get you nowhere.

If you’re feeling bold, you can even launch your own playlists to promote yourself and your music. This is a good way to show fans what you’re into, what you recommend, or highlight a playlist your music’s been added to. It can also help build a closer connection with your fans, or catch the interest of similar artists.

4.9 BUILDING A PLAYLIST STRATEGY

Now you know the difference between different playlists and their creators, it’s time to build a strategy that will help you grow your fan base and listeners of your own playlists. Think of your playlists as a musical connection with your fans. The more regularly you post and update your playlists, the more likely your listeners are to interact. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, having a regular time that you update your playlists helps your listeners know when to check for their dose of new music.

You can tell a lot about a person from their musical taste, and it’s no different for artists. The music you share as an artist shows your fans who you are as an individual. Give your listeners a unique insight into your style with playlists based around your influences, current artists you admire, or even career-spanning highlights from your journey so far — it’s up to you.

You can use playlists to promote an upcoming release by sharing songs or artists that inspired you; promote a tour or a festival gig by sharing music from other artists on the lineup; or go deep into a mood or a season, for example, summer vacation vibes, workout rock, or anything you feel will connect with your listeners. If you’re also a DJ, you should be sharing playlists with songs in your set list. Not only will this help build your fan base, it could also make creative connections with the artists you’ve featured.

Top tip: As you start making playlists, set them up in "private" mode so that you have at least 15-20 tracks before you share them.

If you go to your account settings, you can uncheck "Automatically make new playlists public" and also "Show my recently played artists" — this will allow you to have your playlists at the first level on your page.

Remember to update your playlists regularly (at least once a month). If you do add your own tracks to your playlists, make sure they fit with the mood, theme, or feel of the playlist. You want it to feel organic. Think about your playlists as a radio show rather than a compilation of tracks.

Ideas for playlists:

  • Best new tracks / What I’m listening to
  • Album of the Week
  • By music genre (Jazz, Electro...)
  • My inspirations (A selection of your favorite artists ever)
  • By mood (Summer pool party, Chilled Sunday, etc.)
  • Per year (Best of 2019)
  • By event (Festivals, Tour, New Year...)

It’s also important to work on the description of your playlists. Give people a reason to subscribe to your playlists and profile. Create playlists that reflect your personality and artistic vision. They could revolve around new artists you admire, dream collaborations, or tracks you listen to on tour. This helps reveal a little more about the person behind the music.

For each playlist you create, Spotify generates a default mosaic from the covers of the first 4 tracks on your playlist. You can change this visual whenever you want.

By clicking on "Edit Details”, you can update your playlist visual, specify a name, or add a "call-to-action" to encourage people to follow your playlist or profile.

Top tip: You can use emoticons in your titles and descriptions

Once you have your playlist set up, you’ll want to add it to your artist profile. Go to your Spotify for Artist profile and click on edit “Artist Playlists”. You’ll be able to select any of your public playlists from your private account. Don’t forget to add one in your Artist Pick!