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.
The release of a band’s debut album is usually the most exciting—and scariest—moment of their career up to that point. Yet English quartet YONAKA exhibit nothing but confidence on the eve of unveiling their first full-length, the self-recorded and self-produced Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow. This may be because they already boast a robust and devoted fanbase that extends well beyond their hometown of Brighton. Many of these fans first heard YONAKA on a Spotify playlist after the band pitched their snarly, fist-pumping anthem “Fired Up” using Spotify for Artist’s playlist pitch tool. The band soon became the face of the Rocked playlist (now renamed The Rock List) and their career—just like their music—has picked up at a furious pace since. And they’re here to prove that rock is far from dead: Just ask the hundreds of thousands of listeners who have discovered YONAKA on other playlists like Rock This and Women of Rock.
When the four friends of YONAKA met at university in Brighton eight years ago, they never imagined they’d become future flag-bearers of rock. Guitarist George Edwards first heard vocalist Theresa Jarvis when he happened to walk past her window as she was belting out a song. He contacted her immediately. The two started writing together and eventually got Robert Mason to join on drums and Alex Crosby to step in on bass. Once the band found their footing, their sound began to solidify.
“It’s loud. It makes you wanna dance and throw yourself around,” Jarvis says. “It makes you feel empowered, and makes you want to shout. It’s a mix of electronic, hip-hop, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll.” YONAKA’s music isn’t straightforward rock music, but it’s got all the attitude, rawness, and—as Jarvis puts it—“kick-you-in-the-face bass lines and riffs,” to classify it as such. Because of this, they knew they’d resonate with rock audiences the most.
Your music, your story
“Spotify has been a big supporter of us, and a load of our fans have discovered us through a lot of the rock playlists,” Jarvis says. “It’s really useful to be able to properly tell editors what your track is all about.”
And this is exactly why the playlist pitch tool can be so effective. It allows artists to frame the story of their own music, well before an editor even gets their hands on it. YONAKA were able to convey the sound, mood, and feel of their music to help their tracks land on just the right mixes. They’ve since tested out their reach to get more songs spotlighted on playlists beyond the rock spectrum.
On the Walk Like a Badass playlist, YONAKA’s songs are cozied up next to tracks by The Black Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, The White Stripes, and other certified stadium heroes. On The Indie List, they’ve joined Mac DeMarco, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, and other sound innovators. Meanwhile on New Music Friday, YONAKA have shared prime real-estate space with artists as massive as Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen. Such placements have helped them reach a much wider audience, bringing in new fans attracted to their fiercer electronic and pop elements.
YONAKA have definitely seen the immediate impact a playlist placement can make. “Lots of our fans have discovered us through playlists, as well as seeing us play live,” Jarvis says. “We always get a lot of tags on Instagram from fans listening to our tunes on Spotify.” To show their appreciation, the band have also gifted their fans some handmade playlists of their own. “It literally just takes a click and we can share our own playlists of music we love and listen to. It’s super easy,” she says. Their TUNAAA playlist says it all: “The way these make us feel is the way we want YOU to feel when you hear our music.”
YONAKA’s growing fanbase has also pushed them to find their voice as a band, helping to bring out that youthful vibrancy and unabashed brashness that permeates their work. “Since we began to where we are now, the sound, the way we look, what we are saying, our confidence—everything has completely evolved,” Jarvis says. “In a sense I feel like we are just starting now. We just want to keep reaching new audiences. We want people to discover us in places no one would expect to find us.”