Music Marketing

How to Get More Plays on Spotify – A Comprehensive Guide for 2020

By 44faced on May 10, 2020 in Music Marketing - 0 Comments

I get asked a lot whether I can help artists get more plays and followers on Spotify, and whether I can share any tips I have to do so. So instead of writing essays to each of you individually, I gathered notes I had from my own experience, and also looked up what others were saying about it online, and put together the following material about it, which is quite a comprehensive summary of the information about it online now in 2020.

Here is a list of everything I feel is necessary to know in terms of getting Spotify plays in 2020, and the post will follow with information in this order:

  1. Spot the Difference Between Genuine Spotify Plays and Fake Spotify Plays
  2. Understand How the Spotify Algorithm Works
  3. What are the 3 Different Kinds of Spotify Playlists and Which Ones You Should Target
  4. Strategies and Tactics to Get Your Music on the Spotify Playlists

Spot the Difference Between Genuine Spotify Plays and Fake Spotify Plays

You can consider this preliminary precautionary information that will save you time and money, and also, which can save your accounts being suspended or removed.

There are a lot of scam services around promising “Real Organic Spotify Plays by Real Humans!” Usually, whenever you hear the phrase—”Real Humans”—it’s a sign to stay away from that service.

These are like the “Get Rich Quick” schemes of the music industry, which exploit artists’ desires for fame and status in order to make themselves some fast money for a fast bot process they established, which doesn’t require much work on their behalf.

In a world where we respect the “millions of followers, likes, comments,” etc. as a sign of fame and respect, then many artists today want to reach those kinds of results ASAP, and they get turned off by genuine services that don’t show immediate massive growth in those numbers, and instead opt for the services that can provide dozens and hundreds of thousands of followers/likes/plays, etc. overnight or over a few days.

What many such artists don’t realize is that the fake nature of that growth is obvious to anybody with a trained eye in the industry, and it’s obvious also to the platforms themselves where they accumulate those fake bot numbers, including of course, Spotify.

Spotify can suspend or remove accounts that it spots as having such activity, and also, industry contacts who have a trained eye for these numbers, are generally unimpressed with those artists as it exposes their naivete—an ineffective characteristic for anyone who really wants to climb the ladder in this game. They’re more likely to pay attention to a newer artist with under 1,000 followers/plays, etc. as it already displays more authenticity on the artist’s behalf.

If this knowledge is already clear to you, then move on to the next point. If it’s still unclear, then I recommend taking the time to watch the following two videos by Adam Ivy and Maddy from Burstimo.

When To Buy Followers, Streams, and Likes

by Adam Ivy

How to Get Real Spotify Streams

by Maddy from Burstimo

Understand How the Spotify Algorithm Works

The keys to getting more Spotify plays is in understanding how the Spotify algorithm works, and then working with your music ultimately at the production stage, but if not at the production stage, then at least in the stages of marketing strategy, planning and execution, in order to target your music to hit all the right triggers in Spotify’s algorithm, and by doing so, let your music virally spread throughout Spotify.

At an overview, the Spotify algorithm defines three different aspects of the music that has been uploaded:

  • Natural Language Processing – Spotify defines the language of your vocals and lyrics, and knows to push it out to listeners of that language.
  • Raw Audio Analysis – Spotify defines a tempo range, beat type (i.e. whether a hip hop beat, a house beat, or a four-to-the-floor pop beat, etc.) and key signature of the music to help determine its mood, and send it to listeners who listen to music with those characteristics.
  • Collaborative Filtering – Spotify checks the play time of your song, the skip rate, the save rate, and the followers gained from your song.

At the production stage, you can influence the first two aspects of the Spotify algorithm, i.e., the natural language processing and the raw audio analysis. However, those are usually already embedded within your current style and not really expected to be influenced.

The third stage, however, can be heavily influenced both at the production stage, and also, at the marketing stage of your music.

At the production stage, it can be influenced by doing the following:

  • Make Great Music – First and foremost, your music needs to be great. It needs to be music that people will want to listen to it until the very end, and also to save it, and to follow you for more music because of how great it is. Although this is quite obvious, due to the ease of distributing music today, many artists put up music that is still unripe in one or many of its aspects, from singing/songwriting through production through mixing through mastering. It’s important to understand that your song needs to stand up to a test of greatness if it’s going to be played until the end, saved, shared, etc. In advance of sending your music to Spotify, you would be wise to send a private SoundCloud link of your music to online communities that like music similar to yours, and gain feedback from people there, or even better, from producers themselves to get input on any adjustments or changes they see in any aspect of the music. You really want to hone your craft before expecting it to start journeying through many Spotify users’ ears.
  • Make Short Songs – Considering most songs average around three minutes, if you make, for instance, a one-minute song, then you can consider in general that you potentially get three full plays of your song for every one full play of a normal three-minute song. Also, you lessen the time people have to skip your song, so Spotify will also recognize that your song will get more full plays. Of course, your creativity shouldn’t be compromised to make shorter songs only for the algorithm, but using this knowledge, you can definitely aim to create such a song or series of songs in order to test a Spotify hack for faster growth. Yon World elaborates on this tactic in the following video…

  • Target Your Music Creation at a Playlist Placement – While this isn’t a discussion on how to make your music great, there are some marketing aspects to consider to reach that greatness. One is that you specifically target a Spotify playlist placement before you even create your music. That is, you note the kind of music, artists, genres and moods that a certain playlist has, as well as tracking down the playlist curator, and you create your music with the aim of getting it onto that playlist. Finding such playlists doesn’t have to be done through Spotify itself either. You can look up, for instance, Instagram influencers, Twitch streamers, and YouTubers who promote their Spotify playlists to their audiences, and reach out to them—that you want to make a song for their playlist from scratch.

Maddy from Burstimo summarizes the general aspect of understanding Spotify’s algorithm in the following video…

With the understanding that we have the most influence on the collaborative filtering aspect of the Spotify algorithm, i.e., influencing the amount of plays and saves our music gets, as well as the amounts of followers, we can then proceed to developing marketing strategies and plans based on this knowledge.

Spotify playlists become an integral part of increasing plays and saves of your music, as many playlists are the gateways to significantly increased exposure of your music on Spotify.

There are three kinds of Spotify playlists, and understanding what they are and how they work is necessary to strategizing how to target your music toward them.

What are the 3 Different Kinds of Spotify Playlists and Which Ones You Should Target

Spotify’s playlist placements are a major aspect of getting your music more streams and plays on Spotify. I’ve added the above video by Thomas Anthony, who explains these three different kinds of playlists, and various ways to approach them.

The three kinds of playlists are:

  • User-Generated Playlists – Playlists that any Spotify users can create and promote.
  • Algorithmic Playlists – Playlists that Spotify creates per user according to the artists, genres and moods that they listen to. These playlists include, “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar.”
  • Editorial Playlists – Top-tier playlists curated by Spotify staff.

User-Generated Playlists

In addition to promoting your music directly, another effective way of promoting your music is by creating, running and promoting your own Spotify playlist. Then, whenever you have a release, you can make it the #1 song in your playlist.

Your own playlist can target your potential fans by connecting to them through:

  • Related Artists – Fill in the blank to the following sentence—”If you like [insert artist names here], then you’ll love my music“—and create a playlist with those artists. Find an umbrella phrase that connects all those songs together, e.g. a certain genre and/or mood of all the music, and use that as your playlist title. Then, insert your music as the #1 item in the playlist.
  • Genre and Mood – Create a certain playlist based on pinpointing a genre and mood that your music fits in, and place your music at the top of that playlist.

When you have your playlist ready for promotion, you can use a variety of methods to promote it, including:

  • Media Buying – Paid advertisements on sites like Facebook and Instagram, which aim to bring people to your playlist according to certain audience criteria. For example, if you do it based on related artists, you can target people who like those artists, write something like “If you like [insert artist names here], then here’s a playlist you don’t want to miss,” and by doing so, bring streams to your music at the top of that playlist. In addition, you can retarget advertisements of your own music to people who engaged with those ads.
  • Link Promotion – Promote your playlist as the main link in your social media bios, on your website’s home page, in your music store bios, and anywhere else you hold online real estate. There are various keywording tactics you can do here, which I won’t elaborate on (you can message me directly about them if you like), but in general, by gaining multiple links to your playlist, it gets better indexed in Google, and can gain additional reach by doing so.

Also, you can use your playlist to trade with other artists you network with by offering to place their songs on your playlist in exchange for them placing your songs on their playlists.

Algorithmic Playlists

Spotify’s algorithm is built in a way that tries to give Spotify’s users music they like, according to the artists, genres and moods of music they listen to.

They work in a viral way, where Spotify first tests your music out on an audience of 1,000 users, and it checks the amount of:

  • Plays
  • Skips
  • Saves

The gist is that the more people play your song, and play it ultimately till its end, or at least for a considerable portion of the song, as well as saving it, and doing other engagement actions, like using the sharing tools from your song to share it with their friends, or following you during or after playing it, then all these actions send triggers to Spotify that a user with a certain set of interests did such-and-such action/s, and then Spotify seeks to send it out to more Spotify users with similar sets of interests.

The more your song climbs up this Spotify algorithm ladder, the more it gets placed on algorithmic playlists.

Depending on how it performs at each stage, it can reach the ultimate Spotify algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar.

In addition, Spotify crawls the Internet to find out whether artists are being published on influential music blogs and other media, to see if they’re buzzing around the web, and use this information to see whether they should be “plugged” more on Spotify. The Indie Music Academy elaborates on this point in this video:

Contrary to much speculation, the Indie Music Academy states that if you think that articles and posts about your music are irrelevant to your Spotify growth, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Spotify looks for whether artists are being discussed in the industry, and uses this information to boost them on its own service. At this stage, I’ll give a plug to my own services, which currently specialize in creating articles, artist bios, press releases, and other write-ups and pitches of your music to music blogs (including my own). Here’s the link to my services if you want to pursue that further (feel free to message me there if you want to discuss something more custom-built).

Editorial Playlists

Editorial playlists are a function of your music’s success on algorithmic playlists. That is, if your song continues getting considerable plays and other engagement in the algorithmic playlists Spotify puts it on, then at a more refined stage of the Spotify algorithmic ladder, a Spotify editor is expected to pay attention to it, and use the music’s success data on Spotify to make the decision to place the music on an editorial playlist, which are considered the penultimate Spotify playlist placements.

How to Get on Algorithmic Spotify Playlists

Since climbing the rungs of Spotify’s algorithmic playlists holds the key to getting on the editorial playlists, and ultimately, to gaining the most amounts of targeted Spotify plays, then your releases should be planned in order to get on Spotify’s algorithmic playlists.

You want to get as many plays, saves and follows as possible on your music in the first 24 hours of its release, and then continue gaining more and more plays, saves and follows as possible afterward.

There are a number of strategies and tactics to do this. Below is an outline of a few of them, divided into three general stages:

  • Pre-Release Marketing
  • Release Marketing
  • Post-Release Marketing

Pre-Release Marketing Tactics

  • Update Your Spotify Profile – Make sure you have your Spotify profile updated with artist bio, social media links, a banner, and artist photos. Spotify takes this information into consideration as part of their algorithm to know whether to continue pushing your music out, or whether you need to still get yourself established. Damien Keyes goes into a lot of detail about using a major artist as a template for the info to add on your Spotify profile page in order to signal to Spotify that since you’re taking Spotify seriously, it should take you seriously.

  • Reach Out to Twitch Streamers – Twitch streamers have large followings, often have Spotify playlists, and often have music playing while they stream.
  • Collaborate With Other Artists Who Have Momentum – Find artists who are gaining momentum on Spotify playlists, and offer them payment to collaborate on a song, and then Spotify’s algorithm is more likely to notice how you have collaborated with a momentum-gaining artist, and thus push your music out more to similar audiences as that artist’s. Watch the following Burstimo video that gives more insights on the last two points…

  • Get Your Music on Music Blogs – aim to build traction on your release day by securing placements on various music blogs in advance of the release date. Note that getting blog placements is not only about gaining listeners and fans from the blogs themselves, which often have a relatively small amount of readers relative to the amounts that would satisfy you, but these placements are noticed by Spotify’s Internet crawlers, as they send triggers to Spotify that you’re music and artist presence is being discussed in the industry, and thus it’s worthwhile taking notice of you and promoting you on Spotify as well.
  • Write About Your Own Music – As a prelude to sending your music to music blogs, you need to have your EPK setup (including your artist bio, press release, artist photo/s, cover artwork and pitch), and in addition to your EPK, it’s good practice to write an article about your own music on your own blog, or on an article website like Medium.
  • Pitch Your Music to ‘Spotify for Artists’ – Once your song is in queue for release on Spotify, then in Spotify for Artists, you can pitch the song to Spotify editors. You should fill out the information in this pitch in order to better target a specific kind of Spotify editor. It’s recommended to do this four weeks in advance of your release, in order to give Spotify editors more time to actually get around to listening to your music and considering it.
  • Increase Your Spotify Followers – There are many tactics for this. One is to reach out to your social media following with a contest to take a screenshot following your Spotify account in exchange for something of value they would get if they win the contest. (Thanks to Burstimo for this tip.)
  • Increase Your Spotify Pre-Saves – There are many tactics also for this. One is to create and promote a video of yourself speaking on social media with a call-to-action asking people to pre-save the link, and also, increasing engagement by turning it into a contest.
  • Gain Pre-Saves to Your Upcoming Release – Most distributors give you a pre-save link. You can send this to your social media followers and email subscribers in order to gain pre-saves to your song with the aim of getting as many plays as possible in the first 24 hours of your release. If your distributors don’t provide this, then you can create a pre-save link using a paid account at show.co.
  • Prepare Your Release for Fridays – This is in order to increase your chances of getting on Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlist.

Release Marketing Tactics

  • Submit Your Music to Indiemono – Indiemono is a Spotify playlist curation service where it is free to submit your music. They promise to listen to all music submitted, and state that there is around a 15% rate of selection of music sent to them that is added to their playlists. To increase the speed of your music becoming noticed and placed on their playlists, they request a $3/month free through Patreon, and then promise to listen to your music within a 30-day period.
  • Use Hypeedit Download Gates – Hypeddit offers various music promotion tools, and their principle focus is on download gates. One way of using download gates is as a means to gain Spotify followers, i.e., by offering fans and potential fans the ability to download your music in exchange for some engagement on their behalf, including becoming your Spotify followers. The more you grow Spotify followers in such a way, the more your followers will be notified when your releases come out on Spotify. Therefore, use your releases to offer downloads in exchange for people becoming your Spotify followers, and then more people will become notified of your future releases. Below is a video of Hypeedit’s John Gold, who discusses how to grow your Spotify streams not with playlists, but by advertising directly to streams themselves, and using download gates in order to gain followers. The idea is that after you gain followers, then your streams for future releases will grow organically.

  • Make Your Release the #1 Song on Your Playlist – nothing much else to say on this one.
  • Exchange Your Song With Other Artists Who Own Playlists – develop a trade relationship with other artists, which would likely be those with similar follower and play numbers as yours, and who make music in the same genre, and ask them to place your song on their playlists in exchange for putting their song on your playlist.
  • DM Friends Who You Know Would Like Your Song – Don’t just spam all your friends, but pinpoint the ones who you know would genuinely like your song and appreciate the contact.
  • Use SubmitHub to Pitch Your Music to Playlist Curators – SubmitHub places Spotify playlist curators through a mild vetting process in order to make sure that their playlists are legitimate. SubmitHub’s model of charging a dollar to playlist curators and bloggers to consider tracks for review and playlist placement ensures that there are no fake stream incentives on behalf of the curators, so it’s a way of finding legitimate and genre-specific playlists to submit to. Placements on such playlists not only help in terms of streams, but also in terms of their genre-specificity, i.e., it helps Spotify’s algorithm understand that your music fits a certain genre, and thus Spotify is more likely to push your song out to listeners of that genre, which will increase your chances of reaching your target audiences who will listen to your music, not skip it, save it, follow you, etc.
  • Send Your Music to Spotify Playlist Curators – There are various tactics on how to find Spotify playlist curators. One is by finding them on Spotify itself, typing a related artist, seeing their “Discovered On” results, which are a list of playlists, and then searching for the playlist curators and writing to them either via social media or email. Another way is by finding playlists using Chartmetric.
  • Use Other Services to Pitch Your Music to Playlist Curators – There are various paid services that take care of pitching your music to playlist curators. While many are dodgy, some provide genuine pitching. The main thing with these is considering your return-on-investment. Off the bat, Tom DuPree III created a detailed video that showed what spending $1,000 on Spotify placement services got for his music. Ultimately, while he got over 100,000 streams and various playlist placements, he ended up with a loss of about $800+, and stated the main takeaway as being that if you’re planning on using such services, make sure your music is not in a border niche, but something that is mainstream and has potential to be played by a wider audience than the ephemeral music he was posting. These are the services he tested. It’s worth watching the video for more info on an ROI perspective of doing such an action and what to expect from it: SubmitHub | SpotiFLY | Soundplate | Indiemono | Klangspot

While there are more marketing strategies and tactics to get yourself more Spotify plays, this post covers many that I would consider necessary ones, as well as some additional. With some serious planning and execution, you should be able to hit it off and get your music setup for more Spotify plays. If, however, you still feel lost or that you want help in strategizing, planning and/or executing these items, then feel free to reach out to me at 44faced [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

Good luck!