Written by Kyle Kraft of Krafty Entertainment
Krafty Entertainment is a music business development coaching company dedicated to providing guidance to musicians (and their teams) on how best to nurture supporters and profit from doing so. Krafty Entertainment’s founder Kyle Kraft has over 20 years experience in assisting both developing and established artists in substantially growing their net income from their music. Interested in working with us? Let’s talk!
Spotify is now the largest digital music revenue source for most established musicians, and also a huge means of music discovery for a lot of people. As such, the importance of building engagement on the platform can’t be overstated. Here’s some suggestions to help you further your engagement on Spotify:
Build social proof
Social proof is an important psychological tool both to gain the interest of potential fans as well as to create opportunities to further an artist’s career. Artists having low play numbers on Spotify makes it less likely that potential fans will play their music, decreases the likelihood of their music getting added to curated playlists that can expose their music to new listeners, and of getting support for their music in general.
Artists with limited engagement would be wise to put their top 5 tracks into a private playlist on Spotify, put the playlist on repeat, and run it on a nonstop loop. Depending on the length of the tracks, doing this for a full day should generate several hundred plays per day per account. Artists can also ask their supporters do to the same. Spotify doesn’t frown upon this since it basically just looks like a “super fan” playing the artist’s music on repeat.
You should NOT use services that offer to increase your streams by a specific amount in exchange for payment. Most of those services use “bots” or “click-farms”, which is not a good thing. Having a large increase in your plays without a corresponding increase in followers doesn’t look good to people in the know. Nether does having your top 5 cities (which can be viewed publicly in the “About” section of your artist profile on the desktop computer version of the Spotify application) include random towns that don’t make sense (which is often the case with those services). Most importantly having low engagement (followers, saves, downloads, etc) relative to a large number of “listeners” actually hurts your ability to get as much support as is possible from Spotify’s algorithmic playlists (Discover Weekly, Release Radar, etc).
Pitch a song to user-generated playlists
Once you have a decent number of plays showing for your top tracks (Its wise to ensure the numbers of all of the tracks in your top 5 songs have strong numbers), you have the social proof so it makes sense to pitch your best recent track to stylistically appropriate user generated playlists using sites such as www.submithub.com , www.soundplate.com , and www.indiemono.com. Be sure to focus on only pitching one track at a time, as enough plays of a track will unlock algorithmic playlist support (more on that below).
Some of those user-generated playlist curators are willing to add quality music to their playlists because they support it, and some want to be paid. For the latter if you are considering paying for a feature on their playlist be sure to carefully weigh out the amount of listeners you are likely to get from the feature (which can in some cases be determined by researching the playlist using a free Chartmetric account) relative to the amount of income you are likely to generate from being featured on the playlist (roughly 0.4 cents per stream). Also be cautious to ensure that the top 5 cities (which can also be viewed in the “About” section of their artist page) of some of the less established artists featured on those playlists don’t have small towns not located near where they live, if they do that’s a good indication that the “listeners” driving those playlists may be bots and not real people and should therefore be avoided.
There are playlist promotion services you can hire who focus on pitching music mostly to user-generated playlists. Generally those services cost more than the income they generate for most artists, and regardless most of the playlists you may get featured on via these services result in very little conversion of listeners to fans so you would be wise focusing your resources elsewhere.
Engage algorithmic playlists
Spotify’s customized algorithmic Discover Weekly playlist kicks in and shares your music with more people depending on the amount of plays you’re getting from other playlists featuring similar music, so features on the right user-generated playlists helps make that happen. With the above in mind it’s far more beneficial to focus on getting plays from playlists that feature similar music, as opposed to playlists that will feature random music regardless of genre or style because they are paid to do so.
With enough plays of a track from playlists featuring similar music the Discover Weekly algorithm will kick in and start featuring your music in the Discover Weekly playlists of people who have never heard your music before. This is a great way to expose your music to new listeners who like stylistically similar music, and therefore a good opportunity to grow your fan base. Spotify does this because they want to provide as much value to their users as is possible as a music discovery tool, which is great for artists as most other kinds of exposure to the right audience cost money.
Spotify’s customized algorithmic Release Radar playlist features your music to people who have previously followed, saved, or otherwise engaged with your music recently. For that reason it is very important to ensure you are focused on maximizing the engagement of your music as opposed to being focused on getting the amount of listeners and plays your music is getting up.
Distrokid (a digital distributor that allows you to get your music on streaming services) offers a Spotify “pre-save” feature that allows you to share a link to a song you haven’t released yet (for users who aren't on their least expensive payment plan, since that doesn't allow you to set future release dates for your music) for people to save so that it shows up in their library when it’s released. That pre-save feature includes a “hyper-follow” option so that when someone clicks on the pre-save link it also results in them following you as an artist on Spotify with the same click on the day the music they pre-saved goes live. Growing your follower base goes a long way to increasing the amount of plays you get from the music you release in the future via Release Radar.
Maximizing the amount of plays, shares, and saves to playlists you get the first day the song is released is a wise idea to maximize the impact the engagement of the song has with Spotify’s algorithmic playlists, so encouraging your supporters to do so the day the song is released is a smart move.
Spotify staff-curated playlists
Playlists that are curated by Spotify staff members (as opposed to their algorithmic playlists) are usually the hardest playlists to get featured on for most artists. They not only require their staff liking your music, but their bigger playlists usually also require you having a substantial amount of legitimate engagement of your music on Spotify before you stand a chance of being featured on them.
Regardless, even if you don’t have a lot of engagement on Spotify yet you can pitch for curated playlists using the submission form in your Spotify for Artists analytics system. They encourage you to do so at least 7 days in advance (which means you should really distribute a track at least 2 weeks before the intended release date as it can sometimes take several business days for the track to be registered in the Spotify database as an upcoming release) to get the track on Release Radar. I recommend aiming to do so even further in advance to maximize the likelihood of getting on curated playlists, as they used to request at least 2 weeks notice before the submission form was available via the Spotify for Artists system. I also recommend ensuring that your Spotify artist profile has an up to date bio, photos, and links to your socials on it before you submit, as their curators do look at that stuff as they consider music to feature on their playlists. You can edit your artist profile using the Spotify for Artists system; if you don’t already have access to it you can request it at https://artists.spotify.com/c/access
Start creating awareness for a track only once you have a pre-save link to share
Far too many artists make the mistake of attempting to fulfill their desire for instant gratification by announcing a song, sharing artwork, etc sooner than they should. The best time to start creating awareness for a track is when you have the pre-save link available to share. That way you will maximize the amount of saves and follows you get for the track, and therefore the amount of listeners you will get via Spotify’s playlists.
Focus on sending listeners to Spotify instead of competing platforms
If you don’t already have a strong following on SoundCloud or YouTube, it doesn’t make any sense to be sending listeners to those platforms to listen to your music. Spotify pays more per stream than either of those platforms, and their algorithmic playlists (which aren’t available via those other platforms) can do to A LOT of good in building your fan base. Spotify is not yet operational in all countries, so if you have a large amount of supporters in some Asian or African countries than it may make sense to also use YouTube to get your music to people in those countries. Spotify does operate in most major countries though, so for most developing artists based in the western world it makes sense to focus on sending potential listeners to listen is Spotify.
While other audio-only streaming services like Apple Music and Tidal do pay more per stream, Spotify has so many more users that it results in more streams and income than any other platform for most artists. Furthermore, Spotify’s free tier allows people to listen to music without having to pay to sign up, which is something that Apple Music and Tidal do not offer. Part of the reason Spotify has the most users is because of its free tier that allows people to try it out, and then some of those people convert to paying subscribers. Giving people the opportunity to listen to your music before asking them to pay anything is the best way to get as many people as is possible checking it out; you need to show them value before asking them to pay!
Release videos only once your songs are available on Spotify
If you are going to release a promotional video for a song, you would be wise to do so after you’ve released the song via Spotify and promoted it. That way your supporters will be more inclined to listen to the song on Spotify first as opposed to just hearing it when they watch your video on the lesser-paying platform that also doesn’t offer algorithmic playlist support. At the very least ensure you release the video when the song is live on streaming platforms, not before.
Maximize the benefits of having an established guest artist
If you have a featured guest appearance from an established artist on your song and have written permission to do so (ideally as part of a contract for the collaboration which some distributors require before allowing use of a track with an established artist), you would be wise to list that artist as a primary collaborator on the song when you are distributing it as opposed to just listing them as just a featured guest. That way the song (and you as an artist) will also benefit by getting plays from the other artist’s Release Radar listeners as well as having the track featured at the top of their artist page (until a new song is released that they are also a primary collaborator on). Also check out the article on maximizing the benefit of collaborations I wrote here.
Release singles, not EPs or albums
The best way to maintain growth and momentum on streaming music platforms is by releasing singles regularly. Whether you release one song or 10 at the same time, artists with limited engagement are only likely to get one song featured in a curated playlist (or getting much of anyone's time) so you are better off focusing on releasing singles instead of albums or EPs until you have a lot of engagement.
Don’t release or pitch singles too frequently
With support from the Release Radar playlist lasting up to 4 Fridays and sometimes not starting until several days after a single is released, artists with limited resources to create and market their music would be wise to not release a single any more often than once every 28 days.
Artists that do get curated playlist support from Spotify staff often find that their previous featured song is replaced if their new song is added to a curated playlist they’re already featured on, so there is no rush to release new music if you’re featured on a playlist that you’re hoping to get a new song on other than a New Music Friday playlist which is completely updated each week.
Really keep in mind that you are asking a real person (who is hit up to support an insane amount of music) to spend their time considering supporting you, so regardless of past support don’t disrespect their time by submitting a new track every week. Showing Spotify staff that a specific single is a priority to you more so than other music you’re releasing (with promotional videos, extensive campaigns to create awareness, etc) is going to increase the likelihood of them taking your submission more seriously.
Recognize that it takes time to build engagement
Building an audience on Spotify is often a marathon, not a sprint. Follow the recommendations I’ve outlined and over time you should have a substantial increase in your listeners and followers, and in the income you’re able to generate both online and offline.
This information was compiled by Kyle Kraft of Krafty Entertainment. Whether you are an artist who is in the early stages of building your career and have next to no money to invest into it looking for the best paths to generating income, are an artist that has established a following and are interested in getting assistance with securing tens of thousands of dollars in funding to further your career, or are an artist or collective with an extensive fan base that would like assistance with increasing the efficiency of your business development, we can help you.
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