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Why are Spotify playlists important?

Screenshot of Rap Caviar Spotify Playlist

Spotify playlists are the new radio. In the past, the biggest shows were key to emerging artist success as they were where listeners first heard new songs. Today it’s playlists. A Spotify playlist can have literally millions of global subscribers, so they offer you the opportunity to be exposed to fans all over the world.

But it’s about more than just profile: playlists drive Spotify streams (two thirds of all Spotify listening time is spent listening to playlists). And you want Spotify plays: in 2020 over 83% of US music revenue came from streaming – and with over 345 million monthly active users, Spotify is the biggest of all streaming platforms.

So it’s clear: if you want success, playlists matter. But what are playlists and how can you get on them?

What is a Spotify playlist?

First thing’s first: don’t be intimidated by all the information here. Playlisting isn’t rocket science, and playlists on Spotify aren’t complicated. They’re just specific lists of Spotify songs. There are three types of playlist, created either by users, the Spotify editorial team, or Spotify’s algorithms.

Spotify Editorial Playlists

3 Spotify editorial playlists

Spotify Editorial playlists are curated by the Spotify editorial team and constitute around one third of all Spotify listening time. They are typically grouped together via genre, for example, Today’s Top Hits or Rap Caviar (26m+ and 13m+ followers, respectively) – or by context, like Songs to Sing in the Car (9m+).

Unsurprisingly, these have the most followers: 19 of the top 20 playlists in 2020 were created by Spotify playlist editors, totalling nearly 161.5 million followers (the only exception was the automatically-generated Global Top 50).

Here are all the official playlists created by the editorial team of Spotify. Getting featured on one of the best Spotify playlists is the jackpot of music marketing, helping you to reach more fans and get more revenue (more on this later). But don’t think that only mainstream acts get featured on these playlists. Musicians of all levels can get on playlists. In fact, Spotify has feeder playlists that help artists grow from niche to global. We can’t say which are the feeders (it’s a Spotify secret), but we have seen many iMusician musicians work their way up from regional to global playlists.

Spotify Algorithm-generated Playlists

3 Spotify algorithmic playlists

In addition to editor-generated playlists, Spotify also has automatically-generated playlists for users. For example, Release Radar is a personalized playlist on Spotify, featuring new music from the artists a user follows or listens to frequently. The Daily Mixes feature tracks and artists from related genres that users have saved. And Discover Weekly is a collection of artists and tracks that are similar to what they like but may not have heard.

There is almost no direct way to influence algorithmic playlists, but getting featured on popular Spotify curated and lots of independent playlists helps. The one list you can directly improve is the Release Radar. This is a list of all releases by artists you follow (not remixers – only original artists), and so the harder you work to build your followers, the greater the number of Release Radar playlists on which your releases will appear.

User-created playlists

3 Spotify user generated playlists

These are personalized playlists created by unofficial curators (you, fans, music bloggers etc.) and, like Editorial playlists, represent around one third of all Spotify listening hours. You can give them a name, a description, and artwork, and they can either be public or private (for those more questionable selections).

They’re often created around a theme or event: ‘The Best workout playlist on Spotify’; ‘Essential songs to cook pasta by’; ‘The blancmange-themed collaborative playlist Spotify doesn’t want you to know about’ – anything. And many restaurants, bars, and other public venues use them to tailor music for different times of day.

As a musician or label, a Spotify shared playlist is an important way to promote your music and build a musical connection with fans, and many user playlists have large followings. The biggest are often music bloggers, influencers, DJs, and artists, and can be highly effective for music promotion. Not only that, but good Spotify playlists like these can put you on the radar of official Spotify editors.

In the second part of this guide we will explore these types of playlists and their unofficial curators, look at some of the ways to pitch music to them, discuss whether it’s worth using a pitching tool, and more.

Now, before you begin pitching your music, it’s really important that you get your Spotify Artist Profile looking great. For more info on that, check our Spotify for Artists Guide. First impressions really matter!

Okay, let’s get started…

How to submit music for official Spotify playlists

Getting featured on an official curated playlist brings more exposure and more money, so you’ll want to know how to get into Spotify playlists. Step one? Submit music.

You can only submit one track per release for consideration on official playlists, whether it’s a 12 track album or a single-track single, so you must pitch the ‘big track’ (note: it must also be a previously unreleased song). This means you must consider your release strategy carefully. And since Labels can also pitch tracks on their label’s releases, you should communicate clearly with them, as if they pitch a track from your release first, then you won’t be able to pitch a different one – and vice versa. (In fact, you can also only pitch one track per artist, so if you have multiple releases on different labels in the pipeline, be sure to communicate this clearly with all parties!).

The classic model saw a band release one or two singles, then an album, but the music business has changed. Now it’s common to release 5, 6, or more singles – one every month or two – before finally dropping the album (with one last playlist submission). This allows many more shots at the big prize. (For more on strategy check our webinar, Spotify Promotion Guide, and proven release strategies article).

One thing it’s also worth noting, when choosing which track to submit, is that Spotify editors on some lists appear to favour originals over remixes. For example, at time of writing Techno Bunker featured only three remixes out of 60 songs.

Careful scheduling is very important for playlist submission. There are two key factors: the time it takes for your distributor to upload your music to Spotify (around two weeks) and the amount of lead time for Spotify playlist consideration (at least one week). You can’t submit music to Spotify playlist editors until it has been uploaded to Spotify, so we suggest you allow at least one month from submitting your release to your distributor to the release date, to be safe.

How to present your track

Once your distributor has uploaded your music to Spotify, you’ll see it in the “Upcoming” tab in the Music section on your Spotify for Artists profile. From here you can submit the track of your choice.

It is vital to correctly identify your track’s genre. Just because your dance track features an energetic fiddle solo doesn’t make it ‘Country’. You don’t choose the Spotify curated list, Spotify editors do, and genre tags direct your song to the right playlist editors. If the tags are off, it will land on the desk of the wrong – and unamused – editor… and you’d be better off trying to set fire to a river with a box of matches. At least that would offer fresh air and a screenbreak.

Do provide plenty of information about your track. Spotify playlist editors urge you to fill every part of the form. Remember, you’re not advertising marketing services here – you’re speaking to like-minded music-lovers. They want to know about the music, so give them the who, what, why, when, where, and how of your song. And you might also mention here two or three playlists you think would be a good fit.

It’s also vital to tell Spotify how hot you are, which is shorthand for: how fast your popularity is growing. So don’t tell them about how many total streams or followers you’ve had in the last month or two – tell them how many you have gained. And tell them about any other playlists (official and independent) you’ve featured on, or if your release is featured in a magazine or on a radio show.

And don’t panic if you realise you want to change something right after submitting – go back to your Upcoming Releases and you will see an option to edit your submission.

Next an editor will listen and decide whether to feature your track. If so, you’ll receive an email. Interestingly, Spotify may choose another track from your release, proving that when they like a playlist submission, editors dig deeper into your profile and releases. This underlines the importance of your Spotify Artist profile.

Don’t assume you will end up directly on a Spotify curated playlist – it usually takes time and a few releases. Playlist editors (and algorithms) take lots into consideration. It helps if you’re featured on a lot of unofficial playlists and music blogs, have a lot of followers, or a lot of fans have pre-saved the track. Happily there’s a clear progression: once you feature on a Spotify playlist, you’re much more likely to feature on it again.

One thing that’s not so widely known is that Spotify curates different levels of playlists. Smaller local lists often test new artists and tracks, then, based on their reception, tracks can rise through the playlist ranks, up to those huge global lists – you might start on French Caviar then earn your place on the global Rap Caviar. It’s a bit like working your way from local venues to global stadium tours.

For more tips on this, check our webinar. Spotify themselves offer a video guide, tips, insights, success stories, and even insightful interviews with curators. Be sure to absorb as much information as you can to give your music the best shot.

Now let’s take a look at those equally important unofficial lists from independent curators.

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