Getting Your Music Noticed: 3 Useful Questions About Playlists

Streaming killed the radio star is this era’s new motto. With over 400 million global streaming subscribers in the first quarter of 2020 alone, competition is saturated. As an artist, your goal is to get your music handpicked from the crowd and onto the main stage. But the how on earth do you manoeuvre the playlists world?

Is $50 really worth a placement on playlists?

Let’s start with the basics: algorithm vs human-curated playlists.

An algorithmic playlist is based on listening habits and patterns. Sometimes it provides great music finds, and sometimes it’s just a bunch of songs pulled from a limited catalogue (and for some reason, there’s always a random country song. Always.) It’s the cheapest option but not the most viable one (from both a listener and creator’s perspective).

A human-curated playlist, however, is like having a personal DJ. The songs are carefully selected according to the listener’s taste, there’s no out-of-place genre, and best of all, the chances of a listener discovering and (most importantly) liking a new song are exponentially higher. With that said, they take admin and staff time, and the price reflects that.

Considering that some artists pay $50 or higher to get their songs featured in such a playlist, asking ourselves whether the investment is worth a placement is really more of a question of how much money we’ll make from that placement. This is of course, important when we look at the figures, specifically the number of streams the artist will get from being listed.

And yup, we’re talking about ROI.

There’s no clear-cut way to determine that. Some playlists have thousands of followers but barely any listeners, some have a loyal following but lots of active listeners. Sites such as Chartmetric can help to track data and insights, including audience demographics and “track” playlist journeys.  

Paying for a human-curated playlist allows you to discover new music calibrated to your taste. Paying to get your song featured in a human-curated playlist is a slightly different story. Of course, it’s the best way to land a super-niche audience, but many view it as a backroom deal, and it can damage your reputation.

So, to the simple answer: paying $50 for a placement may not be such a good investment but being playlisted is definitely still important.

Is there a way around submitting songs for editorial playlists?

This is the golden question that has a simple answer: Nope. We know it sounds defeating. If you shouldn’t pay to be added into a playlist, then how on earth do you have a chance of being picked out of hundreds of submissions?

While there’s no magic trick for getting discovered by the music giants, there is rhyme and reason as to how the editors curate tracks. The team at Spotify revealed that the strategy is based on the playlist itself (from lyrics to melody, to the overall vibe and how well it will resonates with that playlist’s particular audience).

At the heart of it though, is how well artists use technology for self-promotion, including Spotify for Artists.

Forging a successful solo career may be daunting, but it’s not unachievable.

Obviously, there are more streaming services than just Spotify. Being featured on editorial playlists can range from your music hitting just the right notes (pun intended), to having a direct relationship with editors or simply doing your research and marketing yourself correctly.

In any event, you can always resort to the age-old idiom: if you want something done right, do it yourself”.

“The importance of playlists has never been greater for both music distributors and the audiences they’re aiming to reach. The changing nature of the way that music is discovered and consumed means that playlists have become one of the most effective methods of music discovery and promotion.”

Should you build your own playlist?

We know it sounds similar to liking your own picture on Facebook but hear us out: it all starts with building a loyal fanbase and working yourself up.

Start small, choosing a theme, a couple of songs, a creative description and keep it updated. Most importantly, work hard on promoting it (Toneden has excellent tools to support your campaigns).

Your aim is to create a conversation. Mix your music in with songs by similar artists who are already popular, without going overboard. A couple of your own songs should do.

Think of it as a musical journey dedicated to audiences with a zest for discovery. It’s also a fantastic way to assure your creative direction and to showcase your signature “style”, by promoting those who inspire you and whose sounds are like yours.   

Creating your own playlist will amplify your profile and raise the chances of it being seen by one of the platform’s curators. It’s a great way to engage with your early superfans, and it also helps build your audience with content gates.

playlists insights

The nature in which music is discovered and consumed is changing. It’s no longer about CDs and (particularly now) live gigs. Playlists are taking the forefront in the race for music distribution. Today’s typical consumer wants to discover music that’s been chosen directly for their tastes.  So don’t underestimate their importance: land yourself a spot in the right (playlist/playlists) at the right (listening) time, and it can change your career.