Why Playlists Are More Important Than Ever

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

In 2017, the playlist has become an integral part of not just music but our culture at large. While radioplay and the blogosphere still have the power to bring attention to an artist, playlists are becoming a steadfast way for more and more listeners to discover and consume music. This isn’t exactly breaking news for those readers who’ve been making serious music over the past decade, but the fact is that playlists are shaping the musical landscape more than ever before, and if you don’t release your music with that in mind and plan accordingly, you’ll risk missing out on some potentially huge opportunities.

The New Listening Landscape

Remember that snobby record store clerk you used to get your music recommendations from? Or maybe it was your cool older sister. Well, either way, playlists featuring every genre of music you can conceive of are introducing listeners to new artists in way measured by literally billions of songs, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

But probably more important than the way listeners are discovering music is the way they’re now listening to it. Listeners are now relying on playlists big and small to guide their unique listening experiences. Why?

Put yourself in the shoes of a non-musician for a second. Unless you’re particularly interested in discovering and listening to new and interesting music, you most likely won’t have the time or patience to wade through hours of music to find songs that actually resonate with you. Enter an army of new expertly curated playlists, specifically designed to convey an array of nuanced moods that cater to a wide variety of different music fans.

Like indie rap? There’s tens of thousands of playlists out there for you. Looking for electronic jazz/rock fusion for stepdads? Actually, I have no idea if that playlist exists or not, but you get what I mean.

Engaging new and old listeners on this relatively new playing field is becoming more and more important for career musicians, but don’t take my word for it.

Let’s look at the data.

The Data Behind Playlists

On average, Spotify’s 4,500 curated playlists generate over a billion streams per week. Their Discover Weekly feature has connected well over 40 million music listeners to about 5 billion new songs. Love it or loathe it, Spotify is doing something massively important for new artists, and figuring out how to get your music featured on Spotify is worth looking into, even if the chances of your music being selected by one of Spotify’s notoriously picky playlist curators is slim.

But while Spotify is a major resource for listeners when it comes to finding and consuming music, YouTube is an even bigger player. Though the stats are controversial, complicated and difficult to understand, some music industry analysts believe YouTube accounts for 40% of all music listening.

I released a single recently and was surprised to learn that a dude with a playlist I’d never heard of had shared my new song on a YouTube playlist with over 188,000 subscribers. My release performed pretty well on Spotify, but the numbers were nothing compared to the exposure I got from being featured on that one Youtube playlist.

Make music regularly enough and you’ll sometimes get lucky and have your songs featured on decent-sized playlists, but reaching out to playlist curators and asking for your songs to be considered is vital if you’re just starting out and new to the playlist game.

Pitching Your Music to Playlist Curators and Digital Music Stores

Taking the time to submit your music through TuneCore’s feature submission form is an easy way to pitch your music to digital music retailers like iTunes, but if you’re interested in getting playlist curators to consider your songs, you’ll have to do some research.

Take some time to find out what playlists are out there that feature music that’s similar to yours. Rather than gunning for the big, heavily followed tastemakers, I recommend starting small and pitching your music to playlists with smaller followings.

Similar to how you’d pitch your music to blogs, take some time following different playlists and getting a feel for the kind of music their curators like to feature.

Craft a short email explaining who you are, what your music sounds like and why you think it fits on the playlist you’re inquiring about. Yes, you’ll most likely get your fair share of no’s and unanswered emails, but with how much potential there is out there for finding new fans through playlists, getting serious about playlists is becoming a mandatory task if you’re intent on being a successful musician.

November Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Adds More Artist Friendly Features


As “Spotify For Artists” evolves and continues to set the tone for streaming platforms and how they allow artists to control their profiles, this month marked another update that most who distribute their music there should be happy about. Spotify introduced “Artist’s Pick”, a new feature aimed at allowing artists to control the music that sits on top of their profile – they can pick any album, track, or playlist they prefer to highlight, and even include a message about why they dig it so much.

In addition to “Artist’s Pick”, artists who distribute their music to Spotify can now add custom images and share geotargeted tour dates. Previously, artists were limited to their profile image when it came to these sort of uploads/customizations – now they can add photos from on the road, album art, or hey, even a fun selfie for the heck of it. As far as tour dates are concerned, this new feature actually coincides with the “Artist’s Pick” feature, as they can choose to make their geotargeted tour date the main focus of a user’s attention up top! Both of these go a long way in offering free tools that allow indie artists to engage and connect with their fans via an increasingly popular streaming platform. We’ll be sure to keep you updated month to month as all the stores/services we help you distribute to make announcements like this!

YouTube Announces Partnership with TicketMaster


Remember last year when Spotify partnered with Ticketmaster to integrate local tour dates into artists’ profiles? Well, YouTube is getting in on the fun! The video streaming giant owned by Google announced in November that they’d begin featuring “hundreds of artist’s upcoming US tour dates on their YouTube videos.

When it comes to music – love it or hate it – a LOT of music fans rely on YouTube to stream their favorite music these days. It remains to be seen what differences lie among those who use YouTube to stream versus those who prefer services like Deezer, Spotify or Apple – specifically in how these users engage with their favorite artists or how often they’d pay to go see them live in concert. But this certainly signals a shift in YouTube’s strategy for additional revenue streams, or at least an attempt to diversify from their main source of dough: advertising.

If you’re an independent artist and you distribute your music to all platforms available, this only increases the access your fans – whether they’ve been with you from the beginning or are just discovering your tunes – have to your upcoming live dates.

Google Assistant Adds Song Recognition Feature


It’s unlikely at this point that you haven’t been hearing a lot more about Google Assistant. The tech behemoth has been making cool updates to their voice-controlled feature available on Google and Android driven devices, and it’s latest involves music.

Eerily similar to the process that helped put Shazam (which TuneCore distributes to) on the map, users with Google Assistant can now instantly get more information about the music being played in their surroundings.

By holding down a home button (to trigger Google Assistant) and asking your device what song is playing, you’ll immediately be served with a song title, the artist and a sample of the song’s lyrics (where applicable). But of course, that’s not all you’ll get: in typical Google fashion, links to Google Play, YouTube and search (for more information) are also offered up with each response.

While it’s not an incredibly revolutionary addition, it’s important to remember that this action no longer requires a music fan to have additional apps they may not have previously considered downloading to get instant access to the new music they’re hearing. That stands to impact artists of all career levels when it comes to how quickly discovery can lead to fandom.

Deezer Announces New “Community” Feature


While the messaging/sharing and social networking elements of streaming services have been explored, blown up, and in some cases completely dialed back, Deezer has decided to open up the conversation…among its users, of course. In November the streaming platform announced that its subscribers can access the Deezer Community feature in order to share new tunes with their friends on the platform, receive Deezer news and updates, and join fellow music lovers on their message board-like system in order to find support, share tips, or act as a leader in conversations about artists and genres.

While it may seem less relevant in 2017, one must not forget about the power of message boards and forums among diehard music fans. They’ve long been a refuge for those active listeners looking to share new deep cuts, discover underground singles, and participate in deep topic conversations with like-minded folks. In the same way that vinyl and cassettes are still being purchased by some, these forums and communities too are populated with vocal and fervent music fans, (don’t believe us? Just check out indie hip hop label Stones Throw’s boards for yourself!)

We’re psyched to see the European streamer get its toes wet in the social game, because after all, when it comes to independent music, word of mouth can be everything.

October Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Adds Playlist Pitching Options, Partners With Google & Launches New App


October was a busy month for Spotify! They’ve announced some recent updates that impact fans, labels and artists. For music fans who use Google and Android smart devices, an advanced partnership now allows Spotify subscribers to use voice command control of the app using  Google Assistant. Formerly relegated to Google Home smart-speakers, this marks a move towards Google’s acceptance of Spotify’s high subscription rate and putting it front-of-mind when updating its mobile offerings. While Andorid users can rejoice in their ability to say “OK Google, Play Spotify”, Music Ally points out that the tech giant may still be leaning toward YouTube being the lead music brand for Google going forward, as it merges with Google Play.”

For independent labels, pitching for slots on playlists and Spotify’s ‘Browse’ section can be as difficult for those without representation. There also remains an internal struggle between the promotion of label playlists and Spotify’s own in-house playlists. As such, Spotify has moved to offer a new system for indie labels aimed at giving their artists a better shot at making it onto playlists while also (ideally) giving labels’ playlists “a better chance of building an audience on Spotify.” Read more about the pitching system here, and as indie artists, keep your eyes out for more transparent pitching opportunities in the future!

Finally, as creators are concerned, Spotify launched it’s “Spotify For Artists” app on iOS. We’ve talked about the “Spotify For Artists” app on the Blog before, so it’s exciting to see such a helpful tool being offered to artists right in their pocket. An Android version is soon to follow, but for now, indie artists with iOS devices can edit their bios and their ‘artist’s pick’, as well as update their playlists and keep an eye on their listener analytics.

2017 On-Demand Streams Soar in the U.S.


We know, even though it feels like time is flying, the year isn’t over yet. But as a digital music distributor serving independent artists with the opportunity to make their music available on dozens and dozens of digital streaming platforms, we can’t help but get excited about figures like this: on-demand audio and video streams are up 40.5% in the U.S. so far in 2017

At 442.44 billion streams so far, MusicAlly once again provides a helpful comparison that shows that this year, eight tracks have already toppled last year’s most-streamed track, “Panda” by Desiigner, in the comparative window of time.

While the top artists being streamed are no doubt most of the big-timers you’d expect to see leading the way, it’s important as ever to look at these types of figures as an overall shift toward the trend of streaming. Once a consumption method for the ‘active’ music listener, more and more subscribers means more and more music discovery. With direct access to these platforms, it puts independent artists in a good position to be marketing their releases across fans’ preferred channels for streaming.

BandsInTown Announces “Big Break” Platform For Emerging Artists


BandsInTown – if you don’t already know (and you should) – is a popular app aimed at helping artists promote their concerts/tour dates and helping fans keep track of when all their favorite performers will be playing locally. In addition to helping fans discover new artists by offering concert dates for bands they don’t already follow on Facebook via a “listen-if-you-like” style algorithm, BandsInTown is launching their “Big Break” platform in an effort to promote new independent artists.

The new feature “highlights everything you need to know about the fresh faces turning the industry upside down. From the secrets behind their viral tracks to their big plans for the future…”, supported by a series on their blog. BandsInTown will select 50 artists in order to grow their ‘trackers’ following from 500 to 5,000.
This is a very cool step towards further connecting indie artists with new and potential fans. The app is already right up any diehard music fan’s alley in terms of keeping up with their favorite acts’ performing schedules – even for local artists. Head on over to their blog to learn more about the platform and how to keep up with the opportunities coming from the app down the road.

iTunes Holiday 2017 Delays & Closures – Plan Ahead!

You read that right, folks! We’re already approaching the holiday season, and once again we’re here to remind you that it’s imperative to be prepared if you’re planning on distributing music during November and December. Like many of us, our pals at iTunes and other digital store partners take time off during the holiday, resulting in potential delays.

See below for some guidelines that’ll ensure you have a successful release just in time for the holidays:

  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Friday, November 17th and Friday, December 1st you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, November 7th.
  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Saturday, December 2nd and Friday, December 8th you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, November 14th.
  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Saturday, December 9th and Friday, December 22nd you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, November 28th.
  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Saturday, December 23rd and Sunday, January 7th you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, December 12th.

In order to make sure that you don’t miss the release date for your song or album, plan ahead and distribute your new music as soon as you can to avoid getting caught in holiday closings/delays. The earlier you get your new music on iTunes and other stores, the more time your fans will have to buy it!

If you’re not ready to release that album just yet, we always recommend releasing a single early to garner some excitement!

If you are planning on submitting your new release via the TuneCore Feature Submissions Page:

  • To be considered for a feature for Friday December 1st, you must fill out and send your Feature Submissions Form by Friday, November 3rd.
  • To be considered for a feature for Friday December 8th, you must fill out and send your Feature Submissions Form by no later than Friday, November 10th.

Regardless of how your fans celebrate the holidays, give them the chance to use your music as a soundtrack – distribute your holiday music today!

September Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Expands Video Features, Partners With Hulu


It’s rare that a month goes by without some sort of news around the music streaming platform Spotify’s latest ventures. Last month, we reported on Spotify extending a test to U.S. customers that added videos to their playlists, specifically within its wildly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist.

This past month, Spotify rolled the feature out globally. The expansion was highlight by an exclusively-shot video for pop star Sam Smith’s latest ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ single. Included in 40 popular international playlists, this quick development one month from its initial testing shows that the company is feeling confident in the feature’s reception from fans. As MusicAlly points out, the expansion of this feature is notable as it highlights Spotify’s video strategy shifting towards playlists as opposed to original shows.

Speaking of original shows, Spotify has also expanded its marketing of premium subscriptions by partnering with another likeminded and innovative player in the media space, Hulu. The two industry disrupters have teamed up much to the delight of college students heading back to campus this semester by offering a bundled subscription package: just $4.99/month for Spotify Premium and Hulu’s on-demand streaming plan. Spotify already offers a $4.99 student special, but this bundling deal is sure to sweeten the offering for a lot of tempted college kids looking for entertainment on the cheap!

Between finding new ways to entice paying subscribers and expanding artist-friendly creative features that we’re seeing in their video strategy, all signs point to Spotify staying on course as an innovative leader in a space in which indie artists can earn more revenue. We already know that music videos continue to be a big part of artists’ marketing strategies, and this combined with college campuses being a breeding ground for new music fans gives artists all the more motivation to get creative in this space.

 

RIAA Reports Strong Growth in Music Industry Thanks to Streaming


The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) dropped it’s 2017 mid year music industry review in September, and it turns out everything is coming up streaming! Not a huge surprise to most, obviously, but the numbers are definitely encouraging overall.

Comprising 62% of U.S. industry revenue in 2017 so far, paid streaming is now the largest contributor to the industry, a slice of the pie once dominated by digital downloads. In fact in just two years, that number jumped up from 33% in 2015 – while digital downloads accounted for 22% less this year, down to 19% from 41% in 2015.

Another less surprising point from this report is Spotify and Apple Music remaining ahead of the pack in terms of paid subscribers; but it’s important to note that paid music subscriptions overall grew in the U.S. to 30.4 million – a 50% jump.

Music to investors in the space’s ears? Probably. But the big takeaway for TuneCore and the indie artist community we support: streaming continues to grow among music lovers, giving artists more and more opportunities to get their music heard and discovered on the platforms we distribute to.

 

Australia’s Music Market Emboldened by Indies


A joint report by Deloitte and AIR (Australian Independent Record Label Association) dropped this month, revealing that Australia’s independent labels account for 30% of the country’s $400 million music market.

Always known for some its legendary independent labels and innovative music, Australia ranks #6 in the world music market share. Streaming accounted for 55.9% of digital revenues in 2016, up almost 30% from 2014-15.

While some indie artists may overlook the continent’s power in terms of music discovery, we here at TuneCore are celebrating the figures in this report – because whether it was an indie label or directly through distributors like TuneCore, this shows an encouraging trend towards independent music’s popularity.
Additionally, it’s a helpful reminder that when you distribute your releases worldwide, territories you might not personally visit or tour in can be viable when it comes to revenue and building a fanbase. Read the whole report here.

August Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Begins Testing Videos Within Playlists


It’s amazing to think about the progress that streaming platforms have made over recent years. Streaming itself was and is a groundbreaking way to listen to music digitally, but one can even point to the amazing influential powers of playlists as an example of how quickly the way fans discover music and engage with their favorite artist changes. Any independent artist who has been added to a higher profile playlist will likely be able to tell you about the positive impact it has on their career, too.

This month, Spotify – which also announced that it has surpassed 60 million subscribers – officially rolled out the inclusion of videos within its incredibly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist (it began testing this feature in March, as reported by MusicAlly). While this is only available in the U.S. for now, it marks another impressive step towards integrating new forms of content for fans to geek-out on. One could say this move also shows video giants like YouTube that Spotify can keep up with the demand.

Outside the realm of traditional music videos, this will be exclusive video content from various artists aimed at engaging fans in a less traditional manner: Spotify claims fans will be able to see everything “from 2 Chainz visiting Dr. Miami to assist him with a butt-lift surgery to Sza hanging out in the woods and talking about her rise to fame, or Wale getting a gourmet meal from a five-star weed chef”.

As this feature is sure to be rolled out further in the coming year, independent artists can see this continued commitment to playlisting as a positive. Getting placed on a playlist can be a powerful way to market your music to new fans, and the opportunity to include video content down the road only sweetens the deal. TuneCore always offers artists the opportunity to be considered for feature placements (with no guarantees, of course), and this facet of marketing and promotion should be implemented into their upcoming releases.

 

Nielsen Report Shows Interesting Millennial Music Consumption Trends


Tired of reading reports and headlines about how ‘millennials’ are eating, drinking, ruining industries, and interacting with the world around them? Too bad! But hey, at least this recent report by Nielsen actually pertains to folks – millennial or otherwise – making music and distributing to digital platforms.

Millennial music fans display “Lots of Love, Lack of Loyalty”, Nielsen says. The report touches on a lot, but when it comes to music, it appears as though fans in the 18-34 range are using multiple platforms to tune in with little regard for the brands fueling them. 57% of millennials are using two or more apps to stream music, compared to only 39% of those streamers over the age 35.

While it’s commonplace to bemoan the decline of terrestrial (and even digital) radio listening among this generation, figures around how much radio they’re dialed into have barely dropped since last year (10 hours and 14 minutes per week down from 11 hours and 17 minutes per week). An interesting thing to note, though, is that millennials are “21%more likely to frequently choose songs than to let the music play without making changes” – an obviously different listening experience from what broadcast radio offers.

As mentioned above – if you’re an artist distributing to popular streaming platforms, this is some must-read stuff. The report concludes that loyalty to platforms aside, “the reality of today’s media scenario is that the addition of new offerings has actually inspired increased consumption.”

 

YouTube Begins Offering In-App Messaging & Sharing


Tired of reading what those animals in the YouTube video comment sections have to say? Yeah, we all are. The good news is that YouTube has launched an exciting new way for fans to share their favorite content with their friends and chat about it without ever leaving the app. As streaming services like Spotify scale back their messaging offerings, YouTube hopes to inspire more sharing, discovering and private conversation while keeping folks in-app.

YouTube Product Manager Benoit de Boursetty says, “We think it’ll make sharing easier, faster and more fun on your phone… These shared videos all live in a brand new tab on your YouTube mobile app, making it easier than ever to catch up on videos your friends have shared or to show them a few of your own favourites.”

The demand for music on YouTube continues, and thankfully independent artists are offered a way to not only distribute properly but also collect sound recording revenue from the Google-owned giant. It’s not hard to believe that we’ll see a spike in sharing among dedicated users who might shy away from music-first platforms such as Apple Music, Deezer or Spotify. As an app that attracts less-than-active music listeners at higher rates, YouTube’s new features stand to make it a friendlier place for artists to share their new releases.