Playlists at Work: Leila Pari

Leila Pari, Photo by Scott Borerro
Leila Pari, Photo by Scott Borerro

The indie-pop artist talks about her singles-centric release strategy and the wonder of knowing that statistics represent actual human beings.


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.

Los Angeles-based Leila Pari makes hypnotic, beat-forward pop that complements focused work days as well as it does chilled-out afternoons. Her singles like the woozy "Even Better" and the pulsing "All or Nothing" have hit big on Spotify because of their inclusion on playlists like Chill Hits and Brand New Chill—an achievement that's even more impressive because of Pari's self-distribution strategy.

We spoke with her about being included on editorial playlists, finding her audience as an independent artist, and using her song-at-a-time release strategy to find new listeners and collaborators.

Spotify for Artists: When did you first pitch a song for playlist consideration?

Leila Pari: It was in 2018—I think it was within a month of when the Spotify for Artists pitching portal had launched. I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, this is such an opportunity," because prior to Spotify, an independent artist had really no chance. Especially if you don't have a budget, as an independent artist, there's no chance that you can get your music heard by a lot of people without putting in a ton of money for marketing.

So I uploaded "Even Better" to the portal. That day, it landed on a bunch of New Music Friday playlists, especially European ones. My assumption is that just getting on those playlists really gave the song a good chance to get picked up by the algorithm, and that ended up landing it on Chill Hits. That's an editorial playlist, and it fricking changed my life, I swear. It's pretty unheard of for any artist to get almost a million streams on a song with nothing behind it. [Being included on Chill Hits] gave me so much credibility. Even on a day-to-day level, it's given me something to use as a point of leverage in meetings.

How did you find out that "Even Better" was on Chill Hits?

All of a sudden, I started getting a huge uptick in my daily listeners. Every independent artist could probably say this, but I definitely check my Spotify for Artists portal every day. It gives me all the information I could possibly want, and more.

It was so surreal. It's such a huge playlist. At one point last year—and this is already over a year after the song came out—I was getting 100,000 monthly listeners, which I couldn't even wrap my head around.

I noticed a song of yours had been included on another European playlist, Poppia työpäivään, which is a Finnish playlist for people to listen to while working.

I know exactly what playlist you're talking about. I didn't even know that that was a Spotify editorial playlist, but that's really cool. Spotify always tells me that my top markets are Norway and Finland and Sweden—places like that. And I freaking love those cultures, so I'm excited about it. But I don't know how that happened.

Do you think that you'll go there to perform?

It's definitely a dream of mine. I think it's really special—if you realize that all of these streams are human beings, that's actually really significant. As an artist, I can visualize and see what those streams actually mean, and who those people actually are, and where they're listening to their music, and what those rooms are like. That music through an online platform can actually have that much reach—it's so beautiful.

What happened when your song was included on This Is Martin Jensen?

I actually remember that morning. I got an email saying that I was added to that playlist, and the first thing I did was call my mom and be like, "Oh my God!" Obviously, his music is amazing. And that happened before the pitching service even came out on Spotify. To this day, I'm like, "How the heck did that happen? Who is the person at Spotify that did that?"

I'm an independent artist with no budget to put behind my music, and the fact that I have multiple songs that have crossed over the 100,000-stream threshold is so significant to me. It really goes to prove that Spotify has invested in having teams to curate special and unique playlists.

Your release strategy has been very song-centric. Is that a response to the way people consume music on Spotify?

Yeah. The entirety of my release strategy is 100% based on the Spotify pitching tool, and the fact that the pitching tool allows you to release one song at a time. I thought, "I'm going to try to separate these releases, so that I can submit each one individually through the pitching portal and see if there's any traction that comes up."

People hate on the changes in the music industry, but I actually think that they're really empowering and beautiful. Instead of having to hold on to a million songs and hope that five of them are perfect enough to release as an EP or an album, you can write a song, record it, and submit it, and technically a week later it could come out. It's freedom as an artist to do whatever you want. It's really special to be able to release songs on an ongoing basis, and really describe the way you're currently feeling.

It's kind of like a chart of your year. You can track how you've grown not just as an artist but also as a person, not to mention how you've brought collaborators into the mix.

Yeah. It's cool the way it circulates: I'll put a song into the universe, and then I'll use Instagram to try to promote the song, and then an artist or DJ or producer will DM me on Instagram, and that ends up leading to another song on Spotify. My recent song "Otherside" is with Bangladeshi artist Tahsan Khan. He just DMed me on Instagram and was like, "I heard your music," which obviously must have come through a playlist because he would have no other way of finding it.

It's also interesting, because Spotify tells you which artists your listeners listen to the most. Because of that, I'm in conversation with some of those artists. If our listeners are listening to both of us, then why don't we try to collaborate?

Can you talk a little bit about your All Time Faves playlist?

Anytime a song really resonates with me, I add it to that playlist. That's my happy place. I honestly don't even know if people listen to it or not. But for me I just thought, "Instead of trying to catch all the trends and just scalp the hot songs of [right now], I'm just going to wait till songs strike me." It's a really eclectic playlist, but I love it. As humans, we're influenced by so many things.

—Maura Johnston