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An individual, recently furloughed, is forced to work from home. No longer at the mercy of the office radio, they scroll Spotify, exercising their new found freedom. Chill hip hop beats to study and work from home to? Don’t mind if I do. The speaker jumps into life, and their ears are blessed with the sound of an aspiring artist. An artist who’s realised playlists are the new line ups, curators are the new gig organisers, and the audiences are bigger than ever.  

Is your music ready to reach thousands? 

Having a song featured on a Spotify playlist is an amazing way to quickly rack up streams, gain huge exposure and earn some of that much elusive revenue. With official and unofficial playlist curators being reciprocal to submissions, these days independent or DIY artists can now take more control of their releases, saving time and money avoiding the ‘traditional’ route. Although you can still pay a PR expert to utilise their contacts and pitch your music to playlists on your behalf.  

But be warned, not all playlists are created equal. Many PR companies or experts may offer exposure to hundreds of curators in exchange for a fee, although bear in mind many of these playlists may offer very little plays, the pitches may be lacklustre or the PR may have a poor relationship with the curators. Avoid being lured in with the quantity, a few strong pitches by a capable, well connected professional to a few high listener traffic playlists will garner the best results.  

Before money changes hands or time is wasted, it’s always worth keeping budget in mind and whether the money could be better spent elsewhere on your music project. As a general rule of thumb, one thousand Spotify streams will earn the artist between two and four pounds, so keep this in mind when deciding on how much to spend on PR. A new valuable service which can help gauge if a playlist is worthwhile is ‘Is It A Good Playlist?’, Is It a Good Playlist (IIGP) uses analytics and data gathered from across streaming platforms to summarise the performance of a playlist. Does it have a lot of monthly listeners? Do songs generally perform well on it? Or is it full of payola songs, using fake listeners, with an unresponsive editor? IIGP is a great resource for researching the right playlists for you.  

Top tips for maximising your playlist success 

Spotify do their best to de-mystify the process and here, Spotify Q&A, answer various questions on the subject. It’s well worth a read for further research or to learn more on how the editors work. Below is a list of curated Spotify playlists which take submissions to get you started. 

Spotify Playlists 

Indie Mono 

Genre: Everything judged by merit  

Sound Plate  

Genre: A wide range of individually curated playlists 

Musicto  

Genre: Multiple playlists categorised on moods rather than genres 

For The Love Of Bands  

Genre: Indie/alternative/guitar 

Spotify  

Genre: Anything and everything  

Submit Hub  

Genre: A variety, dependent on individual curators  

Soave Records  

Genre: Electronic/House/Pop 

Daily Playlists  

Genre: Everything and anything 

My Sphera  

Genre: Pretty much anything you can think of 

VGM And R  

Genre: New Music 

Song Pickr  

Genre: Warm, vintage, organic 

This-List (Rock-Out)  

Genre: Rock (although more genres are covered on the site) 

Drop Track  

Genre: Various 

I-musician  

Genre: Everything, even niche styles like neo-classical or K-pop 

Analog Collective  

Genre: Helps independent artists, supplying free and paid for playlists of all genres  

Howard Zhu  

Genre: Pop/RnB/Club 

To find out more, check out our courses here.

Spotify is the largest subscription music streaming service which allows any artist to get their music in front of fans and new audiences. Music streaming is one of the many ways artists can earn royalties. This is money owed to an artist, writer or rights holder when their music is performed, downloaded or streamed. When a user on any of the streaming platforms (Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Play, etc.) listens to your music, you earn money. Simple.

Well, let’s look into it a bit more and answer these 3 questions:

It’s time to uncover some of the mystery shrouding the illusive royalty payouts on Spotify…

How Spotify calculates your royalty split

In April 2020, Spotify set out to explain how royalties are split and why they vary from artist to artist, and around the world. Contrary to popular belief, Spotify doesn’t pay an artist a set amount every time their track is streamed. In fact, many of the major streaming services don’t have a pay-per-stream rate. Instead, Spotify works out a ‘stream share’.

Spotify makes money through subscription fees and advertising. From there it figures out the artist’s stream share. The stream share determines your cut of the revenue. To break it down, Spotify works out this stream share by tallying up the total number of streams on Spotify in any given month, in any given country, and figures out what proportion of those streams were people listening to your music. You are then paid royalties accordingly.

After Spotify calculates stream share, the money gets divided up in 2 ways:

Of course, Spotify also takes a cut to keep business booming.

How much can you expect to earn

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of conclusive data to explain exactly how much of the revenue split an individual artist will earn in 2020. Much of the data that is bandied around online is taken from prior years and repackaged. Furthermore, many of these studies haven’t considered the many variables that affect an individual artist’s experience of stream share.

Here are some figures from statista.com from the end of 2019:

Number of music streams needed for artists to earn the U.S.

monthly minimum wage in the United States in 2019

Spotify Graph

However, broadbandchoices.co.uk claims that in order to earn a bare minimum living off your music through streaming alone, you’re going to need millions of streams.

How to increase your streams

There are many ways you can take action to increase your music streams, and they all centre around promotion. Letting more people know about your music, sharing with others and getting eyes (and ears) on your music is the aim of the game.

Share on social media platforms

Make sure your social media platforms are up to date and you are engaging with your followers. When you have a new release, let all your fans across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, etc. know about it and nudge them over to Spotify to check it out! If you’re having a lull in your content creation, re-share nostalgic tracks from when you started out, or links to your most popular anthems.

Submit your releases in advance of their release dates

Make sure you submit your releases well in advance of the release date. Spotify suggests submitting tracks at least 7 days in advance of their release date but be aware that distributors may have different systems set up to get your releases onto the platforms. Submitting tracks well in advance allows streaming services enough time to consider your tracks for playlists such as Spotify’s Release Radar.

Apply to be included in curated playlists

You can pitch your songs for Spotify’s playlists through Spotify for Artists as long as they are unreleased. High production value is one of many factors needed for playlist consideration.

Reach out to people with user playlists

User playlists can carry huge influence and there are a lot out there. Find playlists that carry the genre of music you create and ask to be considered for inclusion.

Paid promotion

Sometimes it costs money to make money. Look into social media ads and Spotify’s tailored audio ads to reach more people that could be your next greatest fans.

Sponsored recommendations

Spotify is currently testing a sponsored recommendations features which allows artists to pay to get their releases in front of users. According to techcrunch.com these ads are charged on a pay-per-click basis.

Embed your tracks into your website

If you have a website, make sure you embed the Spotify player and the Spotify follow button into your website. This gives website visitors an easy way to stream your songs and follow you as an artist.

Don’t rely solely on music streaming

Think of the money you make from streaming services as a piece of a much larger pie. In 2020, artists can make money from music in a multitude of ways. Even with some concern over the future of gigging and touring, we are seeing many artists finding creative ways to connect with their fans and continue to make money. Offer live online gigs with a donations pot via Paypal, create and sell special merchandise, and put out additional content on social media platforms or Patreon.

Getting your music on Spotify playlists is an increasingly popular way of generating plays for your releases. This means DIY artists can pitch their music to both official and unofficial playlist curators without needing to go down the more ‘traditional’ route. This can save a lot of time and money and will give you more control over your releases. Alternatively, you can pay for someone to do your online PR. They will draw upon their own contacts and knowledge of the streaming world, and pitch to playlists on your behalf.

Securing those playlist slots is now a fundamental part of artist promotion. But it’s not necessarily plain sailing, there’s always the chance that it won’t work in your favour. So, remember to assess a curator’s intentions and the potential value to your career.

How important are streaming statistics?

Like any PR you or your band go for, pitching to playlists does not necessarily equal plays. Any PR service can offer you the opportunity to have your music pitched to hundreds of playlists, so try not to get drawn in by that. What’s important is the quality of their relationships with playlist curators and their understanding of the landscape. It’s a possibility that you’ll only land a small percentage of those pitches.

Now, as a hypothetical question; ‘If you have 10,000 plays on Spotify yet you struggle to fill a small venue in your hometown, are you a successful original artist?'

This is not to say that 10,000 plays aren’t positive, however it’s good to keep in mind that Spotify playlisting is just one aspect in an artist’s overall career. Let's say £1000 buys you an online PR campaign that includes creating and distributing a press release, playlist pitching, and blog pitching. There is undoubtedly value in the service, but always consider where your career is at, and whether that money can serve you in a smarter way at that moment in time.

Some practical tips

With the warnings and guidance out of the way, let’s move onto some practical tips for playlist success…

Update your Spotify bio and profile

Make sure you have up-to-date high-resolution photos, a well-written bio and an actively updated profile. This creates an air of professionalism and if you take yourself seriously, it’s likely the playlist curators will as well.

Then, when emailing curators – send your press release along with links to your Spotify. Check out this blog on how to write your press release.

Minimise your overheads and PR spend

PR can start running into the thousands so if you are DIY, you need to consider the ‘cost to benefit’ ratio. If you can do a job yourself – do it, save the cash and spend it on recording, new gear or your tour support. You can do very well simply by doing your research and essentially creating your own ‘little black book’. See how other bands and artists you admire are doing it if they’re at a similar level to you. Get creative with it.

Be organised

If you do decide to do your first wave of pitching to playlists – I salute you. Below are links to support you through that journey. A word to the wise however, keep it organised. A spreadsheet for your contacts will allow you to prevent repeating yourself and help you keep track of who you’ve contacted in those initial campaigns.

If you are feeling ready, here are links to curated playlists you can submit your music to - good luck!

Spotify playlists

Indie Mono

Genre: Everything judged by merit.

Soundplate

Genre: A wide range of individually curated playlists.

Workhard Playlist

Genre: Multiple independent playlists covering a variety of genres.

Musicto

Genre: Multiple genres categorised on moods rather than genre.

For the Love of Bands

Genre: Indie/alternative/guitars.

Spotify

Genre: Everything and anything.

SubmitHub

Genres: A variety dependant on individual curators.

Soave Records

Genres: Electronic/house/pop.

Daily Playlists

Genres: Everything and anything.

MySphera

Genre: Pretty much anything you can think of!

VGM & R

Genre: New music.

SongPickr

Genre: Warm, vintage, organic.

The List (Rock-Out)

Genre: Rock (although other genres are on the main site).

Drop Track

Genre: Various

For a lot of musicians starting out and for small indie label owners, Spotify can be seen as one of those double-edged swords. Whether you see it as, the big corporation with too much control or the revolutionary tech company that has made it easy for artists to get their music to a wide audience across the world, Spotify is here to stay.

We’ve all heard about the small amounts of money that artists & indie labels receive for each stream on Spotify and a lot of people are frustrated by the low level of payment. What’s the point of being on the platform if you are making a percentage of a penny from each stream?.  The good news is that things are getting better for artists. As of 31 December 2018, Spotify had 116 million ad-supported users and 96 million subscribers and it had paid out a record £8.8bn (70% of its revenue) to rights holders. So, there is money being made and the traditional split of revenue between the major labels is slowly fragmenting with small indie labels and DIY artists carving out their share of the pie.

For artists and bands starting out, Spotify is not going to pay the bills in the short term but as a promotional tool it is an important one if you want to take your music to the next level. It can be very useful for getting your music in front of new audiences and it can be used as an effective tool as part of your single, E.P or album launch plan (important tip: if you are starting out, only release singles and build a campaign around each release). The reality is, for promoters, festival bookers etc to take you seriously you will need to have a professional Spotify profile.

Similar to our previous blogs on festival applications and submitting your music to music blogs our advice is always to consider Spotify as one element as part of a wider release plan. Your release plan needs to include at its core your best songs. Before you consider putting your music out to the wider world, spend time developing your songwriting, collaborate with a quality producer and invest time in your craft.  Be resilient, learn, collaborate and develop.

 Spotify - the basics

1. Claim your Spotify profile and upload a high-quality profile picture.

2. Include a brief but engaging bio. A lot of artists starting out do not have PR budgets so print out the bios of other acts that you view as being a few steps ahead of you in your scene. How do they word and structure their bio?. The reality is most of them have written it themselves with a PR advisor or they have a friend who is a good wordsmith. Did they get a review from a local magazine or blog? If so, send your music to that blog or magazine and get a review that you can use on your Spotify profile (refer to last weeks blog for tips on how to prepare your Electronic Press Kit.

3. The next stage is to upload one of your best songs (Don’t rush this stage. Spend time on your craft and only upload music when you have a release plan in place).

Growing your followers from Zero to 250 in a few weeks

1.Reach out to friends & family

If you have little or no followers then you need to proactively work on growing this number.  Once you have your new music uploaded this is a good opportunity to reach out to family, friends and social media followers with a link to your new tracks on Spotify. Be frank with them and explain that you are looking to increase your presence on Spotify and that every follower helps. If you are in a band with 4 other musicians, each of you should set a target to get 25 followers in the first few days.

2. Artist playlists and artists picks

The key priority for an artist on Spotify is to keep fans engaged and to encourage them to come back regularly to stream your music. The artist playlist feature displays to followers what you are listening to and the music that has influenced your sound. The playlist is also a good opportunity to show a bit of love to your local music scene. Share the playlist on FB, Twitter, Instagram etc and encourage the artists you tag to share it with their followers. Share this idea with other bands and get them to add you to their playlists. Collaboration is a key part of the music journey.

The artist’s pick is an album, or an individual song which can be pinned to the top of your artist profile playlist. You can use both of these tools to highlight your latest release or to just share with your fans what music has inspired your sound.

3. Gig listings & artist insights

Make sure to list your live shows through SongKick and they will automatically update on your Spotify gig listing. If you have a website, it makes sense to also use SongKick for the event listing here too so it saves you duplicating your listings (Note: The other good listing site is Bandsintown which doesn’t link to Spotify but has a good reach). The Spotify gig listing feature is one of the valuable elements of Spotify as it helps drive awareness to your followers about your upcoming shows.

The artists insights feature links nicely with the gig listing as it as it displays which cities/countries your listeners are coming from. These valuable insights will help you with tour planning.

4. Direct all social & web activity to Spotify – your call-to-action

If you are building up to your debut single, E.P or album release you will need to include your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter followers in the journey. In the weeks coming up to and after your release make sure to include a short url link to your Spotify profile, in all posts, particularly when you post on Facebook and Instagram. If you have a pro website copy the Spotify Followers button code into your site so that the call to action from your site will be for people to follow you on Spotify.

 

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