Independent singer-songwriter Perrin Lamb put out an album that wasn’t gaining much traction. More than a year passed with little to show for it in the way of streaming, radio, or YouTube activity.
Then seemingly out of the blue one of his songs got placed on an official Spotify playlist. That song now has more than 10,000,000 plays on Spotify and helped drive up the play-count for deeper cuts in his catalog too.
[To learn a proven strategy for getting your songs onto more Spotify playlists, download our FREE guide “Getting Your Songs on Spotify Playlists: a streaming success guide for DIY Musicians.” It will take you through a series of achievable steps that will increase your chances of a high-profile playlist placement.]
The power of digital music playlists is no secret. And it’s not just on Spotify.
Playlisting has become a huge part of how music fans find their new favorite artists on Apple Music, Rdio, Deezer, and more. Some playlisting services can even draw source audio from several services (Spotify, YouTube, Deezer) so the playlist is accessible across multiple platforms.
The songs on a curated playlist are grouped together to appeal to a very specific audience — and that means more listens, more shares, more revenue for rights holders, and the chance of getting your music into the ears of music supervisors, many of whom listen to playlists as a way of finding the right songs for current TV and film productions.
These opportunities are precisely why many labels PAY for prominent playlist placements, ranging from “$2,000 for a playlist with tens of thousands of fans to $10,000 for the more well-followed playlists.”
About now you might be wondering two things:
1) If Perrin Lamb’s placement was random, how can I possibly duplicate his success?
2) If playlist spots are so coveted that labels are shelling out huge sums to scoop them up, how do I stand a chance?
Well, here’s the answer to both questions: because of the number of playlists out there (and the fact that new songs are always being added to them), there are some simple steps you can take to increase your chances of getting a song onto a prominent playlist without dropping a dime.
Who’s creating playlists on music streaming services?
Everyone! (But that’s not very helpful in terms of knowing your options or coming up with a strategy to contact these playlist creators). So here’s a more focused list of streaming music playlist creators:
1. Music bloggers and music news websites —
“The Best Americana Tracks of 2015,” “Bowie in Berlin,” etc.
2. Magazines and weeklies —
“Songs from this Week’s Best Local Concert Artists,” “Maine Coastal Living: Relaxing Songs for Your Seaside Vacation,” etc.
3. Political figures —
“Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” “The Official White House Fitness Mix,” etc.
4. In-house curators at the streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) —
“Depeche Mode: Influences,” “Popular Songs that Were Never Hits,” “Coffeehouse Music for Studying,” “Undiscovered Indie-Pop,” etc.
5. Authors and poets —
Playlists that highlight the music that inspired or compliments their books (such as David Biespiel’s Spotify playlist for his latest poetry collection Charming Gardeners.)
6. Brands —
“Tea Time with Tazo,” “Fast Eddy’s Favorite Driving Songs,” etc.
7. Other bands —
Other bands might make playlists to showcase the music they’re listening to on tour, or songs by bands they’re playing with over the next six months, or musicians they admire in their own region.
8. Radio stations —
“Z101’s Most-Requested Songs This Week,” “KINK In-Studio: Acoustic Hits,” etc.
9. Music fans —
Perhaps the most obvious and most overlooked playlist creator: your average music enthusiast (there are literally millions of them making playlists across every genre and region).
10. You! —
Yes, I’m looking at you.
Before we talk about getting your music onto other people’s playlists…
… let’s tackle the obvious alternate solution: creating your own playlists. It’s relatively easy. Spotify even has this guide to show you how.
You can pick any theme and start compiling songs. The idea here is to work a few of your own tracks into the mix. Just a few, though. Be sure to spread the love to other artists so it’s truly a mix, not just a playlist of your greatest hits.
Collaborative playlists are also a great way to get your fans involved. And you can always team up with other artists to cross-promote your music: you put their songs on your playlist, and ask them to include a song of yours on their next playlist.
Oh, and here’s the really important part: be sure to tell people about your playlist. Tell your fans, tell the other bands who’ve been included, and post it on social. You want as many people as possible to listen and share these songs.
Getting your songs featured on prominent playlists
Okay, now for the part that takes a little more elbow grease.
In order to get your music onto high-profile playlists, you’re going to need to essentially “pitch” your music to an influencer, curator, blogger, business, etc.
BUT, keep in mind that these folks might be inundated with similar messages from hundreds or thousands of other artists, so be sure that your pitch communicates clearly how your music can benefit the person you’re contacting.
In other words, be human, be clear, be brief, be cool, be helpful, be real, and make it easy for ’em.
Verify your profiles with Spotify and Apple Connect
In-house curators are reluctant to feature anything by artists who’ve not verified their profiles on the streaming platforms. So be sure to:
Get as many of your fans as possible to follow you on their preferred streaming platform
Playlist curators don’t always need to see that you’re wildly successful and famous. Sometimes it really is just about the music. BUT, the more obvious it is that you have fans (and that those fans are active on the platform that hosts their playlists), the more obvious the benefit to them when they consider including one of your songs.
So be sure to share links to your Spotify and Apple Music profiles on social, on your website, and via email. Don’t be afraid to ask your fans to follow you on Spotify or Apple Music. Some of those fans that are casual and occasional music steamers might not have known they could even do so.
Get your whole digital house in order
Website. Social. Press photos. Artist bio. Tour calendar. Etc.
Make sure it’s all up-to-date and relevant.
The more of this stuff that’s in place, the better the impression you’ll create when a playlist curator finally investigates you and your music.
Leave yourself plenty of time
All of the things mentioned above take time. And time is usually scarce when you’re about to launch a new album or single. So give yourself some room and make sure to get things ready well in advance of your release date.
If you’re targeting an in-house playlist, they’re going to be more likely to include your stuff if it’s delivered to them a week or two ahead of time. That gives them the flexibility they need in terms of debuting a new track in conjunction with a playlist feature.
It’s similar with a popular music blog. They’re going to want to know about the single (and know that it’s going to be available on Spotify on such-and-such a date) in advance of the release. This will help them plan accordingly if they want to put your song in a playlist that’s time-sensitive, such as “This Week’s Best New Tracks.”
Find some playlists that you love and make an introduction
Time for some field research. Start putting together a list of playlists that you absolutely love, paying close attention to whether your song is appropriate for the playlist’s genre or theme. Follow them (from your band account) on the corresponding streaming platform, and see if they also have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. and follow them there as well.
Also, don’t neglect playlists created by local businesses, weeklies, radio stations, libraries, and such. Sure, you want to get placed on a big official Spotify playlist, but it might just be the momentum you get from a lot of smaller playlists that brings you to the attention of Spotify’s editorial team.
Once you’ve found and followed a number of great playlists, it’s time to show your appreciation. Leave comments. Get geeky. Demonstrate (casually) to the person who programs the playlist that you’re knowledgeable about their music choices.
Of course, don’t be a suck-up or sycophant. The idea is to begin an honest and low-pressure interaction with the “tastemaker” on the other end of the playlist. That shouldn’t be too difficult, though, considering you already LOVE the music they’re putting together, right?
Lastly, don’t pitch your music… yet.
Hold your horses, and just use this time to establish the relationship.
Okay, NOW contact the playlist curators
Once you’ve done the legwork and established yourself as a knowledgeable fan of the playlist (and not just another musician who wants a placement), it’s time to make your pitch.
Jørn Haanæs gives this advice in a MusicThinkTank article about Spotify Playlists:
Everyone likes something fresh! Before your song goes public on the streaming platforms, send a personal note with a private link to the new track to your target playlist curators. Some of these may be tastemakers, media, or simply regular Joes who curate great lists. You can track them down through the platform OR research and send them an email.
For targeting playlists that are curated by the platform, research and find the “Artist Liaison” contacts for the streaming platforms in your region. Each streaming platform office has a few. Grab their contacts and reach out to them, asking for suggestions on who you can send your music to, to be considered for the playlist genre that best fits your music.
Send short and concise emails with clear links to the music, as well as info on what lists you are targeting. Give them some brief background on the band and where you’re going!
In an effort to keep your pitch brief, you want to be specific from the start about why your song is perfect for the playlist. This could involve genre, theme, topic, instrumentation, something noteworthy in your music career, or any combination of those factors.
For instance, if you write to the guy who runs the “Covers of Electronic Classics” playlist, you could begin the email with something like, “I’d love for you to hear my new chiptune cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer Love.'”
Or write to the Maine Coastal Living folks and say “My newest single would be perfect for your playlist. It’s an ambient folk ballad that we actually recorded in Camden with the windows open, so you can hear the ocean gently rolling in the background.”
Okay, maybe I’m overselling it there with that last example, but you get the point: these people are busy, and they need to know in a matter of 5 seconds whether to check out your music or delete your message.
You got a placement on a playlist — so share the news (and the playlist)
Again, it’s all about driving plays, so share the playlist with everyone you can. Maybe even consider paid promotion on Facebook or Twitter (targeting both your existing fans, and people who follow the corresponding streaming platform, genre, etc.)
When you do share the playlist, be sure to tag the platform and playlist creator if possible so they can share the news as well.
Follow up, follow up, follow up
Jørn Haanæs, in that MusicThinkTank article I mentioned earlier, goes on to talk about maintaining the relationship with anyone who places your music in their playlist:
These champions of your music will grow alongside you for years to come. Stay in touch and make sure to engage with them each time you release a new track. Invite these people out to shows when you’re in their market and aim to build genuine relationships with them! Ask them for feedback on new material before it gets released and bring them into your band’s family.
Which leads us to one final point.
Always start with the assumption that playlist creators are APPROACHABLE
Most people who create playlists are diehard music fans, just like you. They want to find the best new tunes AND whatever great songs might’ve slipped through the cracks. They want to discover it, love it, share it, and help those artists find a larger audience.
Some curators make it clear (explicitly or implicitly) that their decision-making is a closed system. They don’t want inquiries and they don’t want pitches. If that’s the case, respect their wishes and leave ’em be.
But otherwise, you should assume that playlist curators are used to being contacted and have developed a system to field these messages. If those preferences have been made public, by all means, follow their instructions for submitting music for consideration.
If they haven’t stated either way, keep your pitch short, helpful, respectful, and go with the mindset that you’re actually helping them do their job. If you think of getting a song placed on a playlist like scaling a castle wall, you might never get out your grappling hook in the first place. Better to knock on the door expecting to be greeted (at the very least), and maybe, if you’re lucky, let inside.
Have you had success with playlisting? Which playlists? How did you get the placement? I’d love to hear your advice in the comments!
[Picture from Shutterstock.]