This guide will take you through ways to promote your music, optimize your artist profile, grow and understand your audience, and ultimately show you how to make money from Spotify. Nothing, of course, beats dedication to your musical craft, but by following a few important steps you can help your music find the audience and the success it deserves.
First up, we’ll look at tools and tips for promoting both releases and your artist profile using Spotify’s own in-built tools and ways to do this on social media and elsewhere.
Next, we’ll take a look under Spotify’s hood to help you understand how the platform works and how you can use it to grow your audience with those all important stats: plays, followers, and monthly listeners.
Lastly we’ll take you through how earning money from Spotify works. We’ll see that it’s not just a question of getting paid for streams but also using the platform to make revenue in the real world.
How to promote your releases and artist profile
When it comes to building a successful release strategy and growing your following as an artist, it’s important to remember that play count isn’t everything! The 3 big data points of followers, monthly listeners, and plays are important of course. But they are not the whole story. Whether you are looking to boost your artist profile or push a forthcoming release, there are plenty of other factors to consider.
Like so many of the online platforms we use every day, Spotify relies on an algorithm to determine what to show users each time they open the app. The algorithm is, simply, looking to serve the users what it thinks they want. How then can mere musical mortals hope to compete with big industry titans and pop superstars?
In a word, the answer is ‘engagement’.
Getting your users actively engaging with your material tells the algorithm that it is something people want to hear. Every time a user saves, playlists or shares a song or album it counts as ‘engaging’ with it - as opposed to the more “passive” activity of just playing it. When a listener hears a track and decides to follow you, that also counts as ‘engagement’.
You encounter this match-up between ‘playcount’ and ‘engagement’ every time you watch a YouTube video. A video might have a million plays, but if no one comments, shares, playlists, or likes (even dislikes!) the video, the YouTube algorithm will not regard it as favorably (size for size) as a similar video with a higher ‘engagement to view’ ratio. Ask any YouTuber out there and they will tell you that ‘engagement rate’ is key.
For Spotify, the same rule applies: If your material gets people fired up enough to interact with it in some way, it will be rewarded with attention. What we’re talking about here is not actually about the music itself - though do please try hard there too! This is about making sure your music and your online persona as an artist, both within Spotify and beyond, are as engaging as possible.
In this section, we’ll look at a few ways you can boost engagement by using Spotify’s built-in features, and how to use those features to powerfully connect your material to your social media channels.
Side note: For more on release strategies check our more in-depth article. At iMusician we offer several different release packages, the very same ones used by our Artist and Label Managers every day when speaking to established artists and record labels.
Promoting your music within Spotify
So let’s talk about promoting your release and your profile within Spotify itself.
These tips apply whether you’re an established artist with a strong following or releasing your very first music to the platform. As we’ve said, engagement is a critical factor, so our aim here is to find ways to get your audience hyped up about your releases and leave them wanting to know more about who you are.
Spotify Canvas is a way to really bring your releases to life and drive engagement with your artist profile. Canvases are short looping videos that play in the background when people listen to your tracks (mobile app only). As Spotify themselves say: “Iit’s album artwork for the digital age”.
You can upload either MP4 videos of 3 - 8 seconds, which loop continuously, or a still JPEG. Best of all you can add a different video or image for each individual track, not just for the album as a whole.
Since these are designed for the mobile app they need to be made in the aspect ratio 9:16 (just like Instagram Stories or TikTok videos), and these shouldn’t be any old video material or images you have lying around. Spotify boasts that well-made Canvases can massively increase your track shares, playlist adds and profile visits, so it’s worth consulting with a video editor to make the most out of this tool. An online video creation platform like Rotor is also a good place to start.
A powerful tool you can use before your music is even released, Spotify’s Pre-Save feature is the digital equivalent to pre-ordering a physical album. When a Spotify user pre-saves content, it gets immediately added to their saved songs or albums upon release. Not only is this a great way to build momentum, but it also helps feed the algorithm. Once your music is live, the Pre-Save converts to a favorite, thus showing that people are interested in the music.
At iMusician we offer both Pre-Saves, pre-orders, and instant gratification tracks.
Spotify Promo Cards
Spotify’s Promo Cards feature allows you to quickly create a custom image for your artist profile, album, or song that can then be shared directly to your social media channels. An added bonus is that you can choose image formats that correspond perfectly to different social platforms. For example, you could create a square Promo Card for sharing on Instagram, and then quickly repeat the process, making a landscape image that works for a Facebook post. Another nice touch is that you can download the image to use somewhere else.
You can think of the Promo Cards tool as having a graphic designer on hand to help customize how you share your material from Spotify. The design options are fairly limited, but if you are in the habit of posting your Spotify content regularly (which we recommend you do), this tool is a great way to keep your visual output looking fresh.
Since Spotify hosts ads in the same way that traditional radio stations do, you can promote a new release as an ad within Spotify itself. Happily, Spotify has its own built-in ad creation service called Ad Studio which gives you all the tools you need to create an ad — no need to look any further.
Ad Studio lets you choose between audio, video, and podcast ads, as well as ‘custom experiences’ like ‘sponsored playlists’ and ‘homepage takeovers’, which are handled on a bespoke basis with their ad team.
Like most digital ad platforms, it allows you to pick where the ad appears and what kind of user it will be served to (known as ‘targeting’). Pricing starts at $250 and costs depend on location, target audience, campaign duration, and demand from other advertisers at the time.
Promoting your music on social media
The more followers you have on your social media channels, the more people you will be able to direct to your Spotify profile. That’s a no-brainer. But like all creators in the modern age, musicians can thrive by working hard on their social media channels to create a following and in turn fans into Spotify followers.
Creating great content for your social channels could involve anything from live-streaming a jam session, uploading a sneak-peek video of a new project in your DAW, showcasing a music video, or anything and everything in between. We can’t go into all the details of how to make great social content for your music, but here are a few tips on how to make Spotify and your social channels ‘play nice’.
iMusician offers promotional tools to help you attract your fans to consume and save your music.
Use Spotify to ‘share’ your music
Whether it’s a brand new release, a podcast episode, a playlist, or your artist profile, it’s always wise to use Spotify to directly share your material to your social media channels. The built-in share function is found within the [kebab menu icon] menu next to every track, album, playlist, podcast, or artist page. In its simplest form, the share function gives you a link to share via Whatsapp or email, and also provides an embed code to add to any website. But there’s much more to it than that.
Where sharing from Spotify is most powerful, is when using it to connect the content directly to social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and as you’ll see from the menu to any other app you have on your device that allows sharing.
It’s so powerful because the share function is guaranteed to provide the best sharing experience on the social channel of choice. Want to create an Instagram story for your new release? That's just one click from the share menu. Perhaps a Facebook post or a new TikTok video? Using the in-built share options means you are sharing your music the way Spotify wants it to be shared and you will quickly see the benefits.
How to grow your audience on Spotify
We have looked at the importance of engagement with your audience and making sure your material has the best reach possible within Spotify and beyond. Ultimately, however, the aim must be to grow your audience and find ways to boost the three big metrics of plays, followers, and monthly listeners.
That’s because the bottom line is that more followers means more plays, and that’s how you turn your activity on Spotify into income. It’s widely known that making money from Spotify is a matter of getting paid a small amount each time a track is played - or ‘streamed’ as it’s technically known in the business of music finance.
We’ll be looking at the finer points of streaming revenue on Spotify later in this guide. But for now, we’ll focus simply on how to grow your audience. New followers doesn’t just mean more income, but it’s also a way to build a fanbase that will attend your shows and buy your merch. And the bigger your audience, the more likely you are to get the attention of playlist editors and the almighty algorithm.
Maintaining a strong artist profile
Let’s not forget that your Artist Profile page is the one place above all others where you get to tell your story as an artist.
There is some simple housekeeping to attend to: make sure you have a strong profile picture that reflects your carefully curated album artwork; a well-written bio is a must; add links to all important social channels so fans can find a way to connect outside of Spotify.
Use the Artist Pick feature, which is shown at the top of your profile, to control what song, album or playlist appears when people arrive at your profile. What a perfect place to announce your latest release!
By allowing you to add a custom image and any Spotify content, Artist Pick means you can tell all sorts of stories, such as showcasing music from other artists who inspire you or announcing tour dates, which Spotify says will automatically list shows that are happening near the user’s location.
Pitching to Playlists
Playlists, as you probably know, are one of Spotify’s most powerful and attractive features. Spotify offers users both algorithmically created and personally curated playlists, the latter having a powerful influence on what music becomes successful - like the top 40 charts did in days of yore.
Spotify offers artists ways to connect directly with playlist editors via Spotify for Artists. If you have an upcoming, unreleased song you can pitch the material directly to the editors, which also means they can add it to your followers’ Release Radar.
Spotify recommends pitching the new material at least one week before release and having some info about it ready to send them too. For more on this, take a look at their help pages on pitching to playlists editors and getting music on Release Radar.
Get to know the crowd - using analytics
Your Spotify for Artists profile gives you deep information about your audience. By looking at this data, you can see demographic information about your fans, like their age, location, gender. These analytics also give you the chance to deep-dive into your numbers: total streams, followers, most-played tracks, and playlists you’ve been added to. Understanding these numbers gives you an amazing insight into what it is that your fans like most about you, which could come in handy when you’re working on upcoming music.
Another useful trick is that you can see what other artists your fans like. This can prove extremely useful when building your audience. As you’ll see in the next section, these details can help you target similar audiences via paid advertising.
What is gated content? Basically, it’s content that requires users to fill in certain information to access. That content could be an unreleased or live track, a remix EP, or free merch. In exchange for this content, you can ask fans for a ‘follow’ or their email address. Giving your fans an incentive makes them more likely to interact with you as an artist.
In recent years, Spotify has invested heavily in Podcasts. Not only has it sought to optimise the app to unify the experience of consuming both music and podcasts, it has also put serious money into developing its own show. According to Statista, as of 2020, more podcasts are listened to on Spotify than any other platform.
Podcasts offer you a way to tell a different story from the one your music tells. Many members of the music industry are already producing their own podcasts: Questlove, Jessie Ware , Rick Rubin — the list goes on. So it’s well worth considering a venture into the realm of the spoken word as a fresh way to reach out to fans.
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