Behind the Playlists: Fresh Finds

How Spotify's editors shine light on tracks from independent artists in multiple genres.


For listeners looking to liven up their libraries with cutting-edge sounds, Spotify has the perfect playlist hub: Fresh Finds. This curated suite of playlists takes a slightly different approach to music discovery, giving a wider platform to independent artists who’ve been making noise in their corners of the world.

"Fresh Finds is a brand that Spotify created about five years ago," explains one Spotify editor who looks at emerging artists and trends with a focus on indie. "It's an especially unique brand because it focuses on new-ish music—all the music that we feature in the playlist has been released at least a week prior. While New Music Friday and other playlists focus on music that's come out that week, Fresh Finds is combing blogs for patterns and paying attention to trendsetting users' listening behaviors."

Each week, Spotify’s Fresh Finds algorithm analyzes these patterns across different genres and regions, giving editors a list of "a thousand-ish tracks that we then comb through." Those songs—and ones pitched to Spotify’s editorial team—are then considered by editors for placement on the Fresh Finds playlist and its genre-specific subsets, which include rock, hip-hop, country, and Latin.

"The main thing tying together all of these artists is that they are independent," notes one editor. "The point of Fresh Finds is to serve a purpose and shine a light on small, independent artists that are showing some traction."

Another editor who focuses on Fresh Finds: Pop, relishes the chance to find new acts to feature each week. "We try to give as many shots as we can to as many independent artists as humanly possible," she explains. "It's exciting to see the songs we love the most connect with other people, too. It's really gratifying, and we hope it's super beneficial for the artists themselves."

To curate these playlists, the editorial team dive into the songs they're presented through Spotify’s algorithm, as well as songs their pitched through Spotify for Artists. They specifically seek out tracks from up-and-coming artists while reviewing internal metrics and other indicators like reports on the scenes they came from, social media buzz, and the artists' online presences. "We're deep in those submissions, using our ears and just trying to find things that we think are awesome," explains an editor. "I specifically focus on what I think is going to connect with the audience: really small artists or brand new artists that have a fresh sound."

"This is a really great area for editors around the world to use their ears and their gut to test something," adds another editor on the team.

Having artists pitch their songs has been particularly helpful for widening the Fresh Finds pool, allowing the editors to find even more musicians to highlight. "We didn't have these tools before. We were only able to get submissions from data curation, which has been amazing. But the pitching tool has given us the ability to dive even deeper and find things before they're released, allowing us to be at the forefront of giving these artists a platform. I don't know how I would be so passionate about this playlist on a weekly basis if I didn't have the pitching tool."

While the main Fresh Finds playlist is completely overhauled every week, tracks on the genre-specific playlists can stick around for about a month, offering them more exposure and giving the editorial team more data on how listeners engage with them. "We're trying to perfect a process where if artists are performing well in the main list or the genre lists, they will continue to grow through the system to the next level of playlists," one member of the team explains.

That includes the main Fresh Finds playlists as well as discovery-minded playlists like On Our Radar, a monthly spotlight of new artists and tracks by larger acts that are connecting with Spotify users. Salem ilese made her way from the world of Fresh Finds to July's On Our Radar playlist, while Fresh Finds Presents... Class of 2019 features a sizable number of artists who grew their audiences after being featured on the mixes, such as Lil Tecca and 100 gecs. A Fresh Finds placement also has reverberations outside Spotify. "A lot of people meet their manager, get signed to a label, or find their dream producer just because they're on this list. We've featured well over 20,000 artists since its inception, and since 2017, over 8,000 artists can call Fresh Finds their first-ever editorial playlist on Spotify."

This particular editorial team are serious about their mission of finding songs that might have been overlooked and making the many Fresh Finds playlists an always-changing proving ground for independent artists. "We have the privilege of being able to pick up on new sounds and new trends, and saying, 'Oh, wow, I've been hearing a lot of this. I never heard that before, but now it's popping up all the time. Maybe there's something there,'" explains on editor on the team. "Getting to feed that not just into our playlist ecosystem but to other editors is a pretty exciting part of our job."

—Maura Johnston