Spotify Playlists 101

Why Playlists Matter

There was a time in history when the only known use of the word “playlist” was in relation to a DJ at a radio station. It simply meant the lineup of tracks they had spun or planned to spin on a given program. As tech evolved and consumer music consumption went digital, the ability to ‘build’ playlists was handed over.

It was a pretty cool, and quite frankly underrated, feature of iTunes and other media players that allowed fans and would-be DJs with a great collection of music to play at a party, or program to their iPod (remember those?) to use at the gym.

Then came the streaming platforms!

Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, YouTube – all digital store partners of TuneCore, all capable of providing their subscribers top of the line, masterfully curated playlists of new music that gets released each week. If you’re reading this, you probably already know about the seemingly overnight thwart of playlists into the spotlight. Suddenly it seems like some curators – official and independent – have the power to break bands in the same fashion that popular blogs did just a year before, or like radio did a few years before that.

As playlists like Spotify’s “Rap Caviar” became household names, it only makes sense that all types of artists seek out that sort of real estate within their distributed streaming platforms. All genres have their playlists – some reaching only a few hundred fans, others reaching upwards of the millions! – and they’ve become major tastemakers. Plus, with the ease of simply ‘saving’ or clicking on an artist to learn more within the platform, fans can take discovery to the next level.

Countless independent artists who use TuneCore to distribute their music have witnessed their platform followings, social followings, and most importantly, their streams all skyrocket overnight with the right (and often random) placement on a playlist. What they lack in the personalization of a blog write up or interview, playlists more than make up for in revenue. As such, pitching to playlist curators has become an essential part of artists’ and labels’ marketing strategies.

How Do I Pitch To Playlist Curators?

So you want to pitch to playlist curators at platforms like Spotify? Whether it’s ‘Viva Latino!’, ‘All New Indie’ or ‘Hot Country’, Spotify has decided on a centralized method of letting artists pitch their new releases directly. While we’d all love to be roommates or relatives with one of these playlist curators, at the end of the day these folks are bombarded with new tunes. Just like a music director at a radio station or the editor of a trendy music blog, there needs to be a system in place. Also just like those professionals, these professionals need a proper amount of lead time to sift through it all.

If you’re distributing your music using TuneCore, make sure to give yourself a release date of at least three weeks out from the day you submit it. While Spotify only needs a week, there are some other stores that prefer more time. Once you’ve distributed, you can claim your artist profile on Spotify using their ‘Spotify For Artists’ platform. A pretty easy process once you’re in, you can lock in a profile for fans to learn more about you and your music. Not only that, you’re also ready to use their submission process to be considered across their official playlists! (Note: Spotify will indicate when they own a playlist on the platform. Try having a scroll through the “Home” page of your Spotify app.)

Pitch Preparation

If you want to pitch to Spotify playlists, you’ll first need to do some homework, and then a lot of legwork.

Start by getting a firm understanding of the Spotify playlist landscape. Scope out goals for yourself in terms of big, verified playlists that you hope to appear on one day. And also make a big list of unofficial Spotify playlists and the people who curate for them. Obviously, you’re hoping to be discovered and immediately put on the biggest playlist streaming on Spotify, but odds are that you’ll need to smart smaller than that. That’s totally OK and normal, and you should embrace it.

When doing this research, keep a close eye on genre, mood, and the styles of music that these playlists promote to ensure that you are within their line of sight. Keyword searches can help you find playlists that you might have not known about before. It might even be helpful to create a spreadsheet that helps you keep track of the playlist name, the link, the follower count, the playlist’s owner, and contact info.

Additionally, keep an eye on other bands or artists who you think sound like you. What does their Spotify presence look like? What playlists are they on? It stands to reason that any playlist hosting a similar artist would be open to including your music as well.

Now that you have done your homework and have a good list of unofficial playlists and aspirational official playlists, it’s time to start making sure that your Spotify exposure is as conducive as possible to getting noticed and getting promoted. It’s extremely important to know that, in order to be considered by some of the bigger Spotify playlist curators, you’ll most likely need to have a robust presence on the platform.

Don’t stop at getting an artist picture and a bio up on your page. You should make sure that every representation of your music on the internet links to your Spotify page. It’s also extremely important to have a solid social media game. This should be the case in general, but it could also entice curators to share your songs if they believe you have extensive social influence. Put your Spotify details in your social media profile and regularly send followers and fans to your page. Strategize your social media sharing with new and unique content around your music to build your follower base and increase your attraction to curators.

Another aspect of this social hustle is publicly supporting Spotify playlists on which you hope your music to appear. Sending your social followers to smaller, unofficial playlists is a smart way to gain the attention and appreciation of some playlist curators, and it just might help sway them to feature your music.

Shoot Your Shot

Although many Spotify playlist curators can be hard to get a hold of, there are plenty of avenues out there to find and contact the gatekeepers.

Many curators have their Spotify accounts linked up to their Facebook pages. Other social networks like Twitter or Instagram are great ways of finding the same usernames or ways to direct message the curators. There’s also good, old-fashioned Google searching.

Once you have contact information for curators, you need to craft your message. It’s in your best interest to strategize how to build a relationship with a curator, rather than simply sending out scatter-shot, copy/paste emails out there. Your messages should be tailored to each curator individually. You should try to connect with them by complimenting their playlist, asking how they find the music they choose, and just generally build a rapport. They are probably used to receiving daily, generic emails, so it’s important to stand out. And don’t forget, they are people as well, so be sure to treat them with respect.

It’s probably a smart approach to pitch your music only after the initial connection has been made and a dialog has begun. Curators are definitely always on the lookout for new music, and so it’s important to remember that you are offering them something they’re looking for. The creation of a relationship between pitching and a curator is symbiotic, you both need each other. So look at pitching as a way to make valuable contacts that will benefit both people.

Not only is it harmless to follow up if you don’t hear back, we heartily recommend it. As long as the follow up message is respectful and not intrusive, there’s nothing wrong with trying to stay on a curator’s radar.

After you get your music on a playlist, be sure to return the favor by making it public on social media, linking to the playlist and tagging the curator. Talk the playlist and the curator up, and let everyone know how appreciative you are for the exposure. That’s a great way to let the curator know that you’re supporting them and it also lets future curators know that if they scratch your back, you’re likely to scratch theirs.

Once you’ve been accepted into a few unofficial, or smaller, playlists, you can begin to leverage that into pitching to bigger playlists, and that’s how you can build momentum.

Be Careful Out There

Just as there are many people out there who would potentially promote your music, there are also many scams out there willing to tell you what you want to hear for a price.

Paying for plays is a very classic and very dark part of the music industry. If you are being very vocal and public about wanting to be included in Spotify playlists, you’re most likely sure to be noticed by many scammers out there who say they can get your music heard as long as you pay them enough. Don’t be shy about asking questions when approached with opportunities, especially if they reach out to you first. Keep track of all the agreements you make and always read the fine print.

There’s an old rule of thumb that applies to this as much as it applies to anything else: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Keep Pitching and Don’t Get Discouraged

Unfortunately, there are no hacks or shortcuts when it comes to pitching to playlists on your favorite streaming platforms. Getting your music seen by as many people as possible on streaming platforms often comes down to good ol’ fashioned hard work. You need to put in the hours if you want to see the results.

But along with hard work, you’ll also need to understand that the playlist landscape is constantly changing, so your tactics may have to change with it.

Spotify playlists weren’t a huge factor in creating a lasting, successful music career five years ago, and it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that something new will dominate the landscape in the months and years to come. It’s not only important to keep pushing out those pitches as much as you can, it’s also vital to keep up on all of the new opportunities that emerge for you to spread the world about your music.

Staying on top of trends in the music industry will ensure that you won’t be late to the party and may actually give you a headstart on relatively unknown avenues to promote your music.

Most importantly, no matter what, don’t get discouraged. The process to find the success you want to see in your music can take a long time and it can feel like even longer. It can be exhausting work that may very well feel demoralizing from time to time. Your pitches will most likely be ignored and they will mostly likely be rejected before anyone even hears your music. That’s all part of the process as well.

It’s important to enter into pitching your music to playlists, fully with the expectation that pitching your albums and songs may take a while before anyone even hears them. That’s totally okay. The most important thing you can do is not stop believing in your work and don’t let the process wear you down.

This is also where TuneCore comes in. We want to be a partner in this process that always has your back and provides you with the services you need to make the most of your music. We not only make distribution easy and affordable, we also regularly bring new and valuable advice to our artists on our blog and in our guides.

We’re confident that our artists, with the help of TuneCore, can find the success they hope to see in their music. So don’t give up, and good luck!