In this series, we talk to artists about their experiences pitching music for playlist consideration via Spotify For Artists (learn how right here), and how landing on them has affected their music career.
Once upon a time, an up-and-coming musician’s ultimate goal was to get the local radio DJ to play their single, to get heavy rotation on MTV, to get on the front cover of a magazine. Now, there are so many ways and platforms to get you and your songs exposure—a sync on a show, the luck of having an artist with a high profile cosign your music via social media, good old fashioned word of mouth—and yes of course a Spotify playlist is prime among them. One track, placed in just the right mix, can take a budding artist from their bedroom to the big time.
Conner Youngblood realized this potential when he pitched his single “Pizza Body" to Spotify’s playlist pitch tool. The track’s plush mix of dreamy folk and ambient instrumentation wakes and warms the soul and immediately stood out to the editors of the Mellow Morning playlist.
It’s a sound that’s evolved far beyond Youngblood’s middle school days playing the clarinet. “I honestly forget why or how I decided to write my first song,” he says, “but I was definitely listening to a lot of Elliott Smith at the time—and still am—and wanted to create something similar.” While his introspective songwriting certainly evokes a Smith-esque wistfulness, he washes it all in sumptuous layers of strums, trills, and rumbles that feel freshly plucked from mother nature—except it’s all meticulously manipulated in the studio.
“I spend a lot of time in the studio messing around and trying things out,” he says. “Usually it’s the mistakes that lead to the best recordings. For instance, if I’m playing a brass or woodwind instrument, I’ll do maybe 50 completely different takes, without any concrete plan, and then listen back through them and edit, reorganize, and manipulate them into something that makes me sound like I know what I am doing. I sometimes do similar things with my vocals as well.”
The Nashville-based artist felt that “Pizza Body” captured the sound and vibe of his 2018 debut album, Cheyenne. "I had a really dumb idea floating around in my head for a at least a couple of years about wanting to write a song about pizza, but just couldn’t find the right way to go about it. Luckily, when working on Cheyenne I was writing a song that was about self confidence, and wanting to 'be somebody,' and realized how much it sounded like 'Pizza Body' when I sang it. So I just went with it, and decided the words Pizza Body were a lot more interesting than be somebody. Plus, Kings of Leon already had that song covered."
He also knew that it had the power to resonate with fans clicking on playlists with a similar blissed-out feel, something like Mellow Morning. “I definitely make some pretty mellow tunes. Mornings can be rough, so why not try to make them as relaxing as possible?”
Expanding your reach exponentially
Listeners have certainly agreed. Since appearing on the Mellow Morning playlist, Youngblood has not only seen massive growth in monthly listeners and followers on Spotify, but also a noticeable boost in fans at his live shows all over the world. “It has helped me travel and reach new audiences that might not otherwise have known I existed,” he says.
He’s since been featured on other Spotify playlists, including Acoustic Hits and Indie Chillout, which boast over 1.5 million followers combined. His music has sat comfortably alongside tracks by Ed Sheeran, Ray LaMontagne, Iron & Wine, and more long-established singer-songwriters.
Of course, Youngblood knows that there’s much more to keeping fans happy than just landing on a playlist. Along with using the usual social media channels, he also keeps his followers in the know with some good old-fashioned snail mail. “I send out hundreds of postcards to fans. It’s something I just started, and it’s a pretty tedious process,” he says. While it doesn’t have the immediacy of the digital world, it’s a thoughtful touch that encourages a more intimate connection between artist and fan.
Still, to get his music out to a greater number of people, Youngblood believes that Spotify makes the process much more streamlined. “Having everything centralized on one platform makes things very accessible and convenient for fans. It’s even nicer to have it all on one page right when you go to an artist’s profile—newest release, nearest show, merch—the easier, the better.”
He’s also paying his Spotify success forward with a playlist of his own. His music I like mix compiles hundreds of his choice tracks which he’s made it public in order to share that music with friends and fans. It allows him to promote some of his own favorite artists, but, he admits, “most importantly, I actually listen to it all the time.”
Now Youngblood is focusing on his next step. Following a big 2018, he’s already working on his next album and plans to release a few new songs, as well as spending plenty of time on the road. He’s hoping to see even greater engagement with fans on Spotify and in person, and when asked about his next big goal, he remains wholly humble: “Honestly, as ironic as it sounds, probably getting on certain influential Spotify playlists.”
Read more about the playlist pitch tool and how to use it here.