Music Business: How Playlists Have Become The New Secret Weapon For Exposure


Whether you manage a band or artist or you are the artist yourself, you’re probably after one thing: more exposure for your music.

spotify-playlistI was catching up with a friend of mine the other day who works at Warner Records here in Nashville. As we started talking about new music and discovering new artists he began telling me about one of the biggest channels of exposure is and what a big part of his job has become: getting the label’s artists on Spotify and Apple Music playlists. That’s right, a major record label, with it’s vast resources of radio stations, publicists, magazines and other avenues of exposure pays people a salary to get their artists on playlists. Not only that, major labels will pay just to have their artists’ songs on some of the most popular playlists.

Why? Because playlisting has become a huge part of how music fans find their new favorite artists on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, and more. It comes down to the fact that there is just so much music out there and so little time that listeners are increasingly relying on curators and trusted sources for new music.  In fact, there’s so much music that there’s an app called Forgotify that only streams music on Spotify that has never been streamed before…around 4 MILLION songs. Playlists have become attractive to listeners because songs on a curated playlist are selected and grouped together to appeal to a very specific audience. That means, instead of having your song floating out in the vast ocean of streaming music, listeners now have playlists they can go to where somebody has selected songs that fit the genre(s) they love. This not only helps you target your potential listeners, if also increases the chance of getting your music into the ears of music supervisors, many who listen to playlists as a way of finding the right songs for current TV and film productions. This has become such a huge avenue for exposure

So you may be wondering, who’s creating these playlists in the first place? Lot’s of people. The most obvious are music bloggers and music news geared websites, these are obviously the big target for labels since many of these playlists are the first stop for people looking for new music. While you may not be able to crack these lists right away, there are other playlists with a smaller, and sometimes very passionate listener-base that could propel your song’s exposure to higher levels–high enough to get noticed by the larger playlists.  Some other more accessible playlists are ones by non-music magazines, brands, authors, local radio stations, music fans and guess who? YOU.

Step One. Create Your Own Playlist

Creating your own playlist and grouping your songs others in a similar genre or mood begins linking your songs with theirs.  Do you have a song that sounds like it could be on a Foo Fighter’s album? Or one that you’re sure Wiz Khalifa’s fans would love?  Maybe your song sounds best when you’re in a thoughtful mood. Create a playlist with songs that you think would go with your songs, and add a FEW of your song in there (it has to be on the streaming service in the first place, of course). You don’t want to make this a playlists 90% your songs, 10% others, it has to be an even mix. To get you started, Spotify even has this guide to show you how to create playlists.

Collaborative playlists are also a great way to get your fans involved. And you can always team up with other artists to cross-promote your music: you put their songs on your playlist, and ask them to include a song of yours on their next playlist.  Last but not least, you have to TELL people about your playlist. Blast it out on social media: tell your fans, tell the other bands who’ve been included, and post it everywhere. You want as many people to listen and share these songs as possible.

Step Two. Approach other Playlists

So that was the easy part, now the hard part: getting your music on more popular playlists.  In order to get your music onto high-profile playlists, you’re going to need to essentially “pitch” your music to an influencer, curator, blogger, business, etc.  Keep in mind that these might get dozens of similar message and submissions a day, so be sure that your pitch communicates clearly how your music can benefit the person you’re contacting and that you’re a legitimate artist. One way is to make sure you’re actively posting on social media and building your base of followers. Sometimes this is a game of “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. Some playlist curators will fall in love with a song and put it on the list, regardless of how big the band is. But most of the time they want to see that you have a big fan base that will help their playlist gain exposure and listeners. Another way to show that the music is from a legitimate artist is to verify your artist profile on Spotify and Apple Music

As I mentioned before, playlist curators don’t always need to see that you’re already successful. Sometimes it really is just about the song. But, the more obvious it is that you have fans (and that those fans are active on the platform that hosts their playlists), the more obvious the benefit to them when they consider including one of your songs.

So be sure to share links to your Spotify and Apple Music profiles on social, on your website, and via email. Don’t be afraid to ask your fans to follow you on Spotify or Apple Music. Some of those fans that are casual listeners might not have known they could even stream your music in the first place.

No, how to contact these mysterious playlist curators? Time for some internet detective work. First, put together a list of your favorite playlists or popular ones play similar music. Next, follow them (from your band account) on the streaming platform and see if they also have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. and follow them there as well.

As I mentioned before, go after the playlists owned by local businesses, radio stations, clubs, meet-ups etc. Sure, you want to get placed on a big official Spotify playlist, but it might just be the momentum you get from a lot of smaller playlists that brings you to the attention of Spotify’s editorial team.

Make sure to keep your pitch brief, you want to be specific about why your song is perfect for the playlist. This could involve genre, theme, topic, instrumentation, something noteworthy in your music career, or any combination of those factors.

Last, but not least, when you do get that playlist placement, make sure to blast it out to all of your fans, friends and family on social media. This is a big deal, it means someone in-the-know thought your music was great and your fan base always likes to celebrate your successes with you.  Do these steps, rinse and repeat a few times, and you’re music will be exposed to many many more new listeners than you thought possible. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you on the Spotify Global Top 50 before long…

Dark Horse Institute

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