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How Much Do You Really Know About Playlists?

by Robert Flis / July 29, 2020

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the live music industry to a halt, artists are still writing and releasing new music - in some cases at an even faster rate than before. This week’s Indie Weekly episode hosted by Indie Week focuses on the do’s and don’ts of getting your music onto playlists in a time when competition is only increasing.

The Basics

Where do you even begin when it comes to playlists? Well, there are 3 general types of playlists – editorial, independent and algorithmic. Editorial playlists are curated by Spotify’s editorial staff members who sift through submissions and select the songs they feel are the best fit for a given playlist. Independent playlists are similar, but they are created by independent curators who are not affiliated with the platform. Finally, algorithmic playlists like “Discover Weekly” are automatically generated based on stats and analytics. Spotify’s algorithm looks at an artist’s listeners, followers, skip rate and other metrics, and assigns a popularity ranking which it compares with other artists and uses to place you in playlists that match your audience.

So which of these types of playlists do you want to get your music onto and how do you go about doing it? Ideally, you’ll want to get added to all 3, but doing that will take a lot of promo and hard work. Planning your releases well in advance is key and will give you the very best chance at landing your song on a popular playlist.

Planning Ahead

Considering that musicians and Spotify staff are all working from home right now, expect delays to happen. This means submitting your songs to distributors a minimum of 30 days before the release date to ensure that they have enough time to be placed. Last minute releases are almost guaranteed to flop out of the gate without sufficient time for curators and the algorithm to place your music. Remember, a song needs to be unreleased in order to get placed on an editorial playlist. Also, make sure that all the assets are ready well in advance, including artwork, credits and lyrics.

Authenticity is also important as you don’t want to submit your music to playlists where it won’t fit or feel genuine. A good release plan gives an artist at least one month to promo a song prior to release. A pre-save campaign is a great place to start building hype, and a post-release push is also great for keeping the momentum going.

Tips and Tricks

One of the best ways to prepare a release strategy is researching playlists beforehand. Listen to them to get a sense of the type of music that’s there and ask yourself if your songs really fit, or if they’d be better received elsewhere. Using tools like Chartmetric can help you identify smaller playlists that are easier to get on but might lead to your music being added to larger playlists as a result.

Consistency is also key when it comes to building a solid streaming audience. Industry professionals recommend having a new release every 2 to 3 months. A good way of ensuring a stream of fresh content is to prepare different versions of your songs and release them periodically. Record an instrumental, acoustic and rock version of the same song and give your audience even more of what they already love.

You may also discover after landing on a certain playlist that your music is being listened to in another country. Take this information into account when planning your social media promo strategy and schedule posts that align with the time zone you’re targeting so you can reach that audience and keep growing in that market.

Popular Myths

There are a certain number of myths that have gone around concerning music playlists and streaming. Some artists are under the impression that getting your song on a popular playlist is all it takes to succeed, which could not be farther from the truth. If you are lucky enough to land on a big playlist, that is the time when you should be boosting your promo the most. Don’t view it as an end goal but as an opportunity to move forward.

Playlists are just a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to promoting your music, and although they may not be as popular as editorial playlists, independent ones can be just as valuable under the right circumstances. Reaching out to independent curators may be easier and have a higher success rate than getting onto editorial playlists, and several small playlists may yield equal or better results than getting on a single editorial playlist.

Another common misconception is the idea that streaming generates little to no revenue. While it’s true that streaming won’t offer you a secure revenue stream, 10 million streams could still pay you $30,000. The problem is the financial and time investment required to get to that point. It takes considerable effort to build from the ground up and the results often take time to manifest, so view it as a long-term investment in building your brand.


Times are changing and the streaming landscape is changing as well. Luckily, many artists are well positioned to take advantage of the benefits that streaming services offer as people turn to Spotify more and more in the absence of live shows.

Since the pandemic hit, quarantine playlists have become a trend that many artists have taken advantage of. While it’s great to capitalize on timely trends, artists need to realize that they quickly get saturated and do not offer any long-term stability. Still, being aware of trends like this can provide a welcome boost to your streaming numbers and be incorporated into a larger strategy.

Wherever you’re at in your music career, the industry finds itself at a crossroads and will continue to shift until it finds its footing. Now is the time to embrace these changes and get your music heard. Streaming is no longer the future, it’s our reality, and the better prepared you are to take advantage of that, the more success you will find.


Sincop8ed Noize Foundation | We are a non-profit organization whose mission is to support, promote, and develop emerging musicians. Consider making a donation here.


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