In the time that I have spent as a streaming radio show host, attraction marketing lover, and writer in the independent artist scene, I’ve learned that there are gaps in marketing for independent artists. These are challenges that artists signed to the majors don’t have to bridge. One of those struggles centers around getting new ears to hear and falling in love with your music. Playlisting is a small part of the answer here, but with so much information on playlisting, how it works, and how to catch a big break on a massive list, it’s hard to differentiate between what’s true and what’s lip service. Have you ever asked yourself how to get featured on Spotify playlists?
In this article, we walk through the basics of playlisting, why it’s an ideal way to grow your following on streaming platforms (*cough cough* Spotify), the main types of playlists that you want to get on, and how to determine if a playlist or curator is any good. Lastly, I will show you how to start getting your music on playlists for FREE all by yourself. Of course, if you don’t have the time or energy to comb through all the resources and pitch or submit your music through these avenues, there is always my Playlist Concierge Submission Service.
The Basics of Playlisting
If you’ve never heard about playlisting (BAYBEE…. let’s catch you up), the idea of playlisting is simple. As a listener, you can make a playlist – a collection of songs or tracks to fit a specific theme, mood, or event. Create a collection of songs for any purpose, but the real magic happens when listeners discover new music similar to their existing sonic tastes.
Purpose and Intent of Playlisting
Why, as an independent musician, should you consider playlisting as a form of marketing and new listener acquisition? Every musician wants new listeners to discover their music, and playlisting is a seamless way to have new people hear your sound. One of the reasons playlisting is so successful at converting non-fans and non-followers into listeners, followers, and fans is that when done correctly, playlisting puts your music right in the sonic pathway of people who will like what you do.
Well-constructed playlists mix your music with commercially popular or independently successful tracks OF THE SAME GENRE or subgenre. When listeners discover your music this way, they aren’t reaching far out of their musical comfort zone when giving your new song (or old song) a try.
The Main Types of Playlists
There are as many types of playlists in existence as there are listeners. I will focus on three broad categories of playlists, why they are vital to your streaming platform growth, and how you, as an artist, can start to use them to your advantage.
Editorial playlists are created and managed by playlist editors and music curators. While Spotify’s Editorial playlist pitching service is a viable option for many independent artists and likely the most well-known editorial playlist placement tool, the nuances of getting placement through the service make it challenging for artists. Because of the guidelines for Spotify pitching and the statistical success rate of Spotify Editorial playlist pitching (Spotify sites just 20% placement rate), independent musicians and artists often find third-party music curators to be a fast and frictionless avenue to placement in comparison.
A word of caution here, when working with third-party curators and playlisters, be cautious. Never pay for placement. The practice of charging for playlist placement is not allowed on Spotify, and those caught charging for playlisting may have their accounts removed from the platform. Vet playlisters and curators. Make sure that their listeners and streams from those listens come from real people and not robots or streaming farms. As a musician, you can have your music removed from streaming platforms by your distributor if used in a way that seems unethical or resembles the use of bots to increase your streams. Keep yourself out of trouble here and err on the side of either knowledge or caution.
Algorithmic playlists are pretty rad. They are music collections curated to the listener, typically provided by the streaming service, based on listener preferences, artists they follow, and their existing playlists. Think of those Friday “Release Radar” playlists Spotify sends out every week and how those recent midnight releases sometimes land there. How do you increase your chances of getting your music on a list like this?
The five main algorithmic playlists Spotify uses include Release Radar, Discovery Weekly, Daily Mix, On Repeat, and Repeat Rewind. Listeners are served these lists regularly (weekly or daily) based on algorithmic data and listening preferences. The best way to increase your chances of getting your music on these lists is to campaign for your existing fan base to FOLLOW you on Spotify, not just like or add a song. When a listener or fan follows an artist, it lets Spotify’s algorithm know that the listener enjoys the artist’s music. The listener is more likely to be served up future tracks from that artist (hopefully YOU) on algorithmic playlists.
Listener-generated playlists come from regular listeners like you and me. These personalized playlists are valuable because they can affect future content recommended to the listener through the streaming platform. According to Spotify, when fans save music to their playlists, it provides Spotify with data and information about what that particular listener likes and what to recommend in the future. Listener-generated playlists also offer influencer appeal. What I mean by influencer appeal is that if placed on a listener-generated playlist, a person is listening to your music. If other people hear your music from that list, even in passing, there is an increased awareness of you and your music organically with a high level of trust.
Get Featured on Spotify Playlists by Pitching!
If you are trying to get on a Spotify editorial playlist keep a few things in mind. Plan to pitch the song to editors well before the release date. The sooner you can prepare for the release and submit your pitch to Spotify, the better. Right now, you can only pitch one track from any given project for editorial placement through Spotify, and it can not be a previously released song. Check out Spotify’s article on pitching music to playlist editors and follow the step-by-step plan.
I recommend doing this early and for every release. Increase your chances of placement by being thorough in your description and having your marketing plan for the project available so you can provide that information when completing the pitch. It is important to note that Spotify has verified if you pitch a song at least seven days before the release date, it will appear on your followers’ Release Radar playlists.
For third-party curators, check out my previous article on how to get your music featured for a detailed look at contacting, interacting, and building traction for your music in magazines, blogs, and media outlets that you can apply to playlisting. For an email and outreach format, look at my article on how to write emails that get opened. Consider implementing some of the mentioned techniques when reaching out to playlist curators.
Free Playlist Submission
Given my caution about third-party curators and doing your due diligence to ensure their listeners and followers are real people (not robots), it is critical to know with whom you are working. The following options are just that, options. For those looking to gain more traction on Spotify playlists outside of their editorial and algorithmic lists, there are several places you can submit your music for placement on collaborative or curated playlists through third parties.
Yes, here! Independent and unsigned artists may submit their songs through the website for free placement on my playlists. Submission does not guarantee placement, but I listen to every placement request weekly and build my lists based on alignment with a song’s genre and sound quality.
Daily Playlists is one of my favorite services for both artists and curators. The site is a massive network of curators, artists, and musicians, and it’s a great place to connect with other creatives. Artists can submit their songs (new or old) to curators or playlists based on genre, subgenre, and other filtering options. There are some limitations on how often and how many lists you can submit for free in a certain period. There are options to pay for more access, but I have never needed to pay and have been happily growing my playlists and networking through this website for many years.
While I find this service to be CRAZY complicated, I have clients who use boost collective for marketing and media with a little playlisting sprinkled in too.
In the past, I used the following free resources for playlisting. While they may not all be up to date or accept music at the time you read this article, that could change at any time, so I am sharing here with you for reference and research.
- The Static Drive
- For the Love of Bands
- Simon Field
- Howard Zhu
- Find Music Box
- Xune Mag
In addition to the thousands of playlist curators who make it tricky to connect with them, there are equally as many who provide their email addresses in the playlist description. When you open Spotify, search “@gmail.com” (or any other email ending) in the playlist search field and a massive collection of playlists will appear…including the email address of the curator who runs the list! Reach out with your best manners, pitching skills, and outreach techniques in that “how to write emails that get opened” article.
Good luck! Share your wins in the comments and stay connected. Follow @photobombshellmedia for regular updates and artist tips!