6 Playlisting Tips: How to Land on More Playlists, More Often

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Today, more than ever, listeners are discovering music on DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music. For independent artists, however, navigating that discovery process is part of the battle to get music heard. How do you compete with the other 20-million-plus tracks on Spotify so your latest single reaches users’ ears?

Playlisting has quickly become a means of discovery that’s reaching massive numbers of listeners. In fact, Spotify users now spend half their time listening to playlists they create themselves, are algorithmically generated, or are curated by “tastemakers.” A spot on a playlist with a large following can help boost a track beyond just organic growth.

At AWAL, playlist pitching is an important part of our services — something we’ve cultivated via strong relationships with curators and DSPs. Last year, we shared four ways to close more playlist pitches. Recently, we took a look at DSP trends and found a few more helpful hints.

While there’s no surefire way to land on curated playlists, here are a few tips from our digital accounts team that have led to playlisting success. Also, because both curated and algorithmic playlists are important to the discovery process, many of these tips can translate to both areas, but we’ll also speak to each type individually below.

1. Build a social presence

Building your presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should be part of your overall marketing strategy, and it’s also important for editorial teams and curators. DSPs generally show favor to artists who are proactively growing their careers using “marketing drivers,” like social media, outside of the streaming world.

“Off-platform activity is integral,” says Nicki Shamel, Senior Director, US Digital Sales & Account Management. “Editorial teams want to be partof the plan, not the only plan. Very few things are successful in isolation, which is why it’s important for artists to build their careers off platform. Playlisting is an excellent way to expose your music, but it cannot be the only thing that drives consumption.”

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2. Engage with blogs and publications

Having a trusted blog back your sound is a vote of confidence that benefits you and your music in many ways. Blog and publication write-ups, reviews, and interviews can help raise your profile and can increase exposure, especially since most articles include an embed of whichever tracks you’re promoting at the moment.

Additionally, press can help drive followers to both your social and streaming profiles plus lead to adds on listeners’ own playlists if they like what they hear. Hopefully, your first piece of coverage from a particular outlet will foster a relationship with that writer and lead to more press — and exposure — down the line.

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3. Optimize your streaming profiles

In general, make sure you’re keeping your streaming profiles up to date with the most current and relevant info about latest releases, live dates, and anything else that might catch curators’ eyes. The key here is to make sure you’re always active and that your profiles convey that.

Start with these three things:

Get verified

Making sure your streaming profiles are verified is an important part of establishing your presence as an artist on Spotify and Apple Music. Follow our step-by-step guide to get verified.

Attract more followers

Just like you work on increasing your social following, you also want to grow your streaming audience. Try these tactics:

  • Ask fans to follow your artist profile on Spotify and Apple Music along with your socials. Follower counts are important to streaming services, because they see it as a potential to connect new listeners to the service.
  • Make sure your website and socials point back to your content on DSPs. Showing your support to these business partners is an important way of doing your part in marketing your own music.

Create your own playlists

While you’re angling to get onto playlists, start creating a few of your own. It’s a great way to not only show off your musical tastes, but generating your own playlists also:

  • shows the DSPs that you, yourself, are invested in crafting content on their platforms
  • provides your fans (and you!) with shareable, listenable content that’s easy to post each time you update
  • introduces new listeners to your music via genre-based playlists that include your tracks

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4. Help algorithmic playlists find you

Algorithmic playlists are auto-generated based on everything from listening history to trends to most-shared music.

Discover Weekly

In its first five months of life, Spotify’s weekly, personalized algorithmic playlist was streamed a whopping 1.7 billion times. Released each Monday, Discover Weekly looks at your playlist collection as well as users with similar listening habits and generates a playlist of music primarily made up of developing artists. Release Radar and Your Daily Mix function similarly.

So how do you make it on this popular playlist? “Release some awesome music, and get genuine music fans to share it, and it will end up in Discover Weekly,” according to Matthew Ogle, former Product Director at Spotify.

Fresh Finds

Fresh Finds playlists scour the internet for music shared on social media, in music blogs, and on non-Spotify-owned playlists curated by roughly 50,000 users the platforms singles out for their perceived taste or expertise in a genre.

Although they’re also algorithmically generated, this is where those blogs and social shares come into play, as they’re a great way to not only boost your music’s social presence and alert the algorithm but also catch the eye of users Spotify pools from.

5. Help user-curated tastemakers find you

Curated playlists are created by tastemakers who aren’t among a DSP’s in-house playlisting team. They’re independent, third-party playlisters with a high number of followers whose playlists the DSPs consider trusted sources for new, emerging music.

Reach out directly to a tastemaker by first following them on Spotify and then sharing your track with them. Include a note asking if they will consider adding your track to their influential playlist. Whether or not they read your note or — the ultimate goal — add your track depends largely on their taste (is your music aligned with what they like and playlist?) and is influenced by your social presence. If you have a sizable fanbase, offering to share that tastemaker’s playlist with your fans and followers can, in many cases, help close the deal.

6. Make sure your pitch is thorough

Regardless of whether you, yourself, are pitching your track for playlist inclusion or have a partner pitching on your behalf, you’ll want to make sure all relevant information is included. Some elements, like specific details about your song, will be cut-and-dry, but this is also where you should relate your vision and the story behind the song. What will spark a curator’s interest?

This is where those all-important marketing drivers come in. Be as thorough as you can when describing the overall campaign around your release — DSPs take into account everything from past streaming numbers to social stats to off-platform promotional plans when considering songs to playlist.

It’s also important to accurately describe your sound. “We ask clients to provide tags for mood and genre,” says Amelie Bonvalot, Senior Director, UK/EU Digital Sales & Account Management. “This is the kind of information we relay to the editors, so they know that a specific track would fit intentionally in [their playlists].”

There’s one universal factor that matters most when trying to get on playlists: making great music. If the songs you’re creating are gaining organic traction because listeners love them before they’re even playlisted, it’s going to be that much easier to feed into the points above and possibly catch the eye of an influential curator.

Remember that DSPs want to see a story, so ideally, each song and pitch should tell a larger narrative that you’re building around your releases. It’s crucial that you’re the one driving the streams with your marketing efforts on social media, blogs, and beyond in order to illustrate your story to the DSPs and editorial teams.