First published on the Fatdrop Feedback Loop – As the evolving internet continues to redefine the music business landscape, the fight for listeners attention is ever intensifying. In 2016, streaming overtook digital music download sales in the US, and services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer are growing — with revenues finally on the rise.
Spotify is currently the biggest player in the streaming game, with over 60 million paid subscribers, 140 million active users, and 30 million songs.
There are myriad ways to leverage this giant of a platform to promote music — and to stay in the game, labels and artists need to take a multipronged approach. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to promoting your music on Spotify.
Verifying your accounts is absolutely essential. Having that eye-catching seal of authenticity goes a long way in bringing attention to your tracks and playlists. Not only does it let fans know they’re connecting with the real source of the music, but it lets Spotify know too, which is necessary to get access to Spotify for Artists, as well as advanced playlist features and to get recognised and selected by the algorithms.
Spotify has made the verification process a little easier and no longer requires new accounts to have 250 followers, so if your account is new — or you’ve got a new label — you can do it right away, but be prepared to wait a while for confirmation.
There are myriad ways to leverage this giant of a platform to promote music — and to stay in the game, labels and artists need to take a multipronged approach
Spotify for Artists
Labels can manage a verified user account, but if you’re managing a verified artist account, you can track their data with the Spotify for Artists app. Information about listeners and followers from all over the world can be gleaned and used to see how, when and where your music is being listened to, along with profile customisation and advanced options for playlist curating.
Playlists and Curators
There’s a trend in music streaming toward promoting music in playlists categorised under moods and vibes for various occasions. This has ushered in a whole new channel of music promotion: playlist curating.
“Curators use a combination of taste, data, research, and trends to create playlists” said Ben, from Spotify Support. “The best way to be considered for Spotify playlists is to make your music as visible as possible and maintain an active presence on Spotify.”
Spotify’s support is quick and reliable, but the team won’t give out any tips that are not already already stated in their guide on promotion — for example, embedding a Spotify follow button and music player on your website, and sharing songs and playlists on social media.
While Sony, Warner and Universal don’t have much trouble getting on the phone with the playlist curators at Spotify, many labels and artists are met with an unpromising looking contact page. And with the major labels already running the major playlists — think Sony Filtr, Warner’s Digster and Universal’s Topsify — getting a spot on a big playlist is no mean feat.
“Playlist curation is the biggest marketing tool [in streaming], and it’s amazing the amount of people who don’t have stuff up yet,” said Liam Nolan, Head of Digital at EPM, a digital music distributor, record label, PR, and publishing company with offices in Maastricht, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles. EPM uses the latest data and analysis to curate playlists and find the right tastemakers to pitch tracks.
The digital terrain, however, is still a relatively uncharted territory and there’s no exact science to successful playlist promotion. “Everything is changing… and you really need to experiment and see what works — there’s no set rule,” said Nolan.
“Playlist curation is the biggest marketing tool in streaming”
In fact, Spotify’s curating team refers to playlists in construction as “hypotheses.” Curating and growing playlists — and testing your own hypotheses — is key to being featured on a popular playlist because curators and algorithms use data about your playlist to determine if a song would work in one of theirs. The performance of the playlist as a whole — as well as the activity of individual songs in the playlist — is closely analysed to make predictions and selections. The number of plays, skips and saves along with listener demographic information is all processed in applications used by Spotify’s curators.
Experiment with curating playlists that represent your label and include other artists you support and feel deserve attention — especially artists that you think will bring attention to your tracks. According to Nolan, the ratio should be about 50:50.
Fifty songs is a good number of tracks for one playlist (the number which Spotify’s playlists usually keep to — just enough to keep listeners entertained and returning, but without being overwhelming or meaningless).
Genre themed playlists are often saturated with ignorant titles and run-of-the-mill songs, especially in dance music. Follow the situation/mood theme — like Kompakt’s Office Tracks, for example — or curate an entire playlist devoted to an event or party. “Festival and event playlists are some of the most successful playlists, and tend to be much more effective than just having a ‘house’ or ‘techno’ one, especially over shorter timeframes” said Nolan. The success of your playlist starts with the creativity and idea behind its title.
Curation takes time, but if you need to create a playlist in a pinch, My Best Of can automatically set up a playlist of your music and get it up and running instantly, saving you quite a bit of time clicking around on Spotify. You can also set a playlist to collaborate mode on Spotify and curate a playlist together with colleagues and friends on social media.
Sharing on Social Media
Spotify playlists are powerful in part because they can be easily shared on social media and embedded in blogs and websites. Don’t let your playlist languish alone in Spotify — get it out there on as many relevant platforms and social media as possible.
“Twitter is one of the most effective ways to share a playlist,” said Nolan. “You can tag artists, other labels or festivals, and they’re likely to share it as well so there’s a lot more reach than if you’re just sharing a single song from one artist.” Don’t forget to hashtag: with Twitter’s updated character limit of 280 you can label all the delicate grooves and moods featured in the playlist.
There’s no harm in getting the word out about a new playlist on Facebook or an email newsletter, but don’t use these outlets share updates to the playlists as things can quickly get spammy.
“Twitter is one of the most effective ways to share a playlist”
Pitching To Playlist Curators
One way of getting a release picked up by a popular playlist is identifying the playlists that best fit your release, and pitching to the curators themselves. This requires spending some time following different playlists and finding a good match — it will also require time digging around for contact links. If your research looks a little like social media stalking, then you’re doing it right.
To compete with the majors, you need to play like they do — that is, with the latest and a largest data sets.
Chartmetric is a music monitoring application that gives you up-to-date rankings of playlists, curators and in-depth artist profiles. Soundcharts offers real-time and historical data about airplay, charts, playlists and social media. And Pandora’s Next Big Sound provides another powerful suite of analytics tools
Identify playlists that best fit your release, and pitch to the curators themselves. Accessing these kind of platforms, however, will set you back a hefty sum each month, which is why it often makes sense to work with a distribution company who can do this kind of specialist legwork.
As a distributor, EPM works with such services alongside Spotify’s analytical tools. All that data gets fed into their own systems, which are specially developed to provide accurate reports and playlist data to their labels and artists. “This all ties in with our experienced PR team and their work with radio and DJ promo,” said Nolan. “We have a strong process in place, thanks to these tools and the curators we find and work with.”
Once you’ve found the playlists you want your release to appear on, follow them and try to get in touch with the curator. You can no longer message other profiles on Spotify like you used to (though in other streaming services like Deezer, you can).
A pitch to a playlist curator from a label should be like a pitch from an artist to a label manager. “You might find that this guy who’s creating a random Berlin techno playlist is actually a music writer or they work with a label,” said Nolan. “It’s just a matter of reaching out to them via whatever means you can find, and at the moment it’s all you can really do.”
Building a relationship is vital. Maybe a certain release isn’t entirely in sync with the curator’s idea of the playlist, but they really like the overall sound of the label and would be happy to listen to future releases. Keep following their playlists and don’t be afraid to contact them again if you think another release would better fit the groove.
A pitch to a playlist curator from a label should be like a pitch from an artist to a label manager. Music Ally recently reported on the trends of playlist pitching discussed at their Sandbox Summit in London. Panel members all agreed on the importance of building real relationships with third party playlist curators rather than hoping to land a major in-house playlist. Nolan told us that his label has had the most success reaching out to new employees of various streaming services working in new offices.
In our digital era, it’s easy to forget how effective is it to engage with people face to face. Don’t miss the opportunity to make connections with tastemakers at music conferences, events and festivals.
The business of playlist curation can sometimes feel reminiscent of a 21st century payola — a phenomenon from the analogue days when popular radio personalities would take bribes from big labels and give illegally sponsored songs special airtime. Today, many playlist curators are now charging labels and artists, too — though it started out as a generally non-commercial activity.
There are many companies that provide services for securing a spot on a playlist of their own. Playlist Pump will work with you to find where your track would fit in among many of their diverse playlists. Indie Mono will do the same, as well as offering to build and manage entire playlists of songs for you. SoundPlate, too. However, check out the data behind these playlists before you hand over any money.
Watch out for companies that will sell you plays. Artificial plays don’t seem to really generate much momentum around a track and are slow and terribly costly (see Steampot) — not to mention entirely defeating the purpose of producing music in the first place.
Spotify AdStudio is a new service that allows you to make customisable audio advertisements for a selected audience. Spotify’s ads for non-premium users are notoriously cringe-worthy and AdStudio could provide a means of presenting quality crafted audio spots for new listeners and followers alike. AdStudio is currently in it’s beta phase (US only) and you can sign up for the waiting list here.
Send and Sell Some Vinyl
Spotify curator Athena Koumis, who curates Fresh Finds, said she’s loves getting vinyl. Sending a shiny 12-inch can help get your foot in the door and begin a relationship.
Spotify can actually be used in conjunction with vinyl sales. They teamed up with Merchbar to allow artists to include product links right on their Spotify account. Partnerships with Merchbar are selective and roll out in waves though, so you have to keep an eye out for the next one coming (and fill out a Google form).
Sending a shiny 12-inch can help get your foot in the door and begin a relationship
“Nowadays, so many people who buy vinyl are using these streaming sites as they offer full previews — whereas download stores limit theirs to short snippets. So more and more vinyl-focused labels are putting up releases on streaming sites on the same date as the vinyl release comes out, often ahead of the digital download date.” concluded Nolan. “It’s emerging as a valuable tool that can be used in conjunction with pushing vinyl effectively, without compromising sales or integrity.”
Spotify may be the mightiest right now, but it’s important to publish your music on all major streaming services. Many music subscribers prefer one service to the other for aesthetic or usability reasons and most premium subscribers won’t subscribe to more than one service.
Some points to remember
- Verify your accounts and use the in-house analytics app, like Spotify for Artists.
- Embed a Spotify follow button and music player in your website to attract more listeners and turn followers.
- Curate a range of different playlists. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Track your music and identify industry trends with the power of data monitoring programs or the help of a savvy distro.
- Research and find the right tastemakers to pitch your tracks to. Don’t wait to get on a major playlist, instead, pursue relatively popular user playlists that fit your music.
- Think outside the box about ways you can network with curators and don’t stop actively seeking press for your music; playlist curators still read blogs and music reviews to find music. Snail-mailing some vinyl goes a long way.
- Sell vinyl and merch.
- Watch out for quick and easy playlist solutions and don’t bother buying streams.
- Publish and stream your music on all the major streaming services.