Behind the Playlists: Your Questions Answered by Our Playlist Editors

July 23, 2020

This piece is part of our ongoing mission to create a greater sense of understanding around playlisting.

We know Spotify playlisting is important to you and that you have a ton of questions around the song pitching process, what goes on behind the scenes, and general best practices. And we want to make sure to get you the answers. To that end we recently reached out to our followers on Instagram, asking you what you want to know. We then sent a selection off to some of our playlist editors to get you the answers straight from the source.

Beyond their responses below, we’ll continue to provide the information you need around playlists going forward in our Behind the Playlists series. For instance, last month we interviewed an R&B playlist editor so she could explain more about her day-to-day and what she’s looking for when editing the playlists in her remit. We also have our video series How They Made It where we profile artists and their teams who have successfully pitched their music to editors via Spotify for Artists, charting the knock-on effect this song placement has had on their career. Additionally there’s our monthly Playlists at Work editorial series, where we’ve interviewed artists such as Shura, Georgia, Caamp, Conner Youngblood, Leila Pari, and many more, to find out how the pitching process worked for them.

For all the info on how to pitch your music to editors click here, or watch our Game Plan episodes How to Get Playlisted and How Playlists Work, which explain a little more about the difference between editorial and algorithmic playlists. Now, let’s get to your questions!

@itskeireasterbrook: Are blog write ups or radio play essential in getting playlisted?

Although we take all available factors into account, blog write ups and radio play are not at all essential in piquing the interest of our editors. The information you give us when you pitch is the essential connector between your release and us!

@trueking_99: Do I need a specific amount of followers or monthly listeners on Spotify to get playlisted?

Not at all. Followers and monthly listeners don’t factor into our decisions. We listen to a song and independently do our best to find the right home for it within our playlists (although accommodating all pitched songs is unfortunately not possible).

@jnjmusic87: If placed on a Spotify playlist, how long does the song stay active on the playlist?

This depends on a bunch of things—the update schedule of the playlist, the type of playlist, the playlist’s audience, and the performance of the song within the playlist. Some playlists like #ThrowbackThursday and New Music Friday update each week with a full slate of new content. Others, like POLLEN, may update at different cadences depending on the type of playlist they are and what’s best for the experience within that type of playlist (mood versus workout, etc.).

@h3ggem: How do you get into more editorial playlists after release?

While you can’t pitch your music to us through Spotify for Artists post-release, our editors are definitely looking at signals from our data for songs that are resonating on our platform. Try and continue to build momentum for your tracks and engage with your audience—you can track how it’s doing in multiple spaces with our analytics tools within Spotify for Artists. Pay attention to your audience stats: who they are, where they live, and engage with those people on your socials. (Watch this Game Plan video on How to Read Your Data for more info.)

@janmetternich: Is there actually a playlist for newcomers?

We make it a goal to incorporate new or smaller artists into a variety of playlists across different moods, activities, and genres that we think listeners will like, while also aiming to develop emerging artists. We have dedicated playlists like our Fresh Finds series which covers a range of genres from hip hop to indie to Latin, not to mention Fresh Finds: The Wave which focuses on new R&B and soul, plus country-specific Fresh Finds playlists focusing on new music from the Philippines and Indonesia and other countries. There’s tons! Additionally, we recently launched the On Our Radar playlist whose sole purpose is highlighting emerging, up-and-coming artists.

Since launching playlist pitching in 2018, as of February 2020, we've playlisted 72,000 artists and playlisted 20% of pitches. And remember that when you pitch your track to our editors through Spotify for Artists at least seven days before the release date, that track will automatically be eligible to land on Release Radar—a personalized playlist for fans that features new releases from artists they follow, similar artists they’ve listened to, and music we think they’d like. This in turn helps the algorithm. So, no matter what stage you are in your career, encourage your fans to follow you on Spotify and your music will hit their Release Radars when it’s live!

@98shwe_tay: How do you support artists who don’t have a label?

All artists have equal opportunities to pitch their music via our playlist pitching tool within Spotify for Artists and we consider all artists for playlisting. Many of our playlists support a wide variety of artists, regardless of whether they are signed or unsigned. In addition, we also have playlists, such as Fresh Finds, specifically aimed at supporting unsigned artists.

@synchrodisco: Does paying for user curated playlist promotion look bad?

First things first, you cannot pay to get on an official Spotify playlist. If someone or a third party company is offering placement on a playlist in exchange for money, this is a streaming manipulation service that goes against Spotify’s guidelines for music promotion. The following is not permitted for any reason whatsoever: Selling a user account or playlist, or otherwise accepting or offering to accept any compensation, financial or otherwise, to influence the name of an account or playlist or the content included on an account or playlist. Additionally we routinely remove user-generated playlists that claim to offer this, so it won’t benefit you in the long run. Our editors and algorithms are there to get your music in front of the most receptive audiences—those other playlists aren’t!

To give your track the best chance of getting playlisted—either editorially or algorithmically—we recommend pitching your song at least a week in advance of it being released. More details on how to do this can be found here. For more tips and best practices for filling pitching read on.

@iambluejay: How can you better your chances of being playlisted? Do Spotify curators have any tips?

We’re always looking to curate more music and artists in our playlists, so we really value the time you give and spend sharing your stories and songs with us when you pitch your music. Beyond providing us with context about your music and the particular track you’re submitting, make sure you submit your track at least a week in advance of its release, and fill in every part of the submission form as accurately as possible—the questions you answer about your track's mood and genre are incredibly helpful in surfacing your music to editors.

@haleyjonay: Tips on filling out the editorial playlist submission?

When you’re pitching to us bear in mind that editors love to learn about context and community. (For more details on how to do this click here.) Give us the who, what, why, when, where, and how of your song. Who made it with you? Why did you make it? When was it made? Where did you make it? If there’s an interesting story around you and/or the song, please let us know. The music is key but context is also extremely helpful to us. Whatever you do, we encourage you to NOT leave the note blank! The more information we have about the song that you’ve worked so hard on, the better. In addition, beyond knowing what your song is about, it is also especially helpful to us to include any press, music video plans, release schedules, and promotions, as well as the social media accounts linked in your artist profile.

@austinselfmusic: How do I contact a curator?

Anyone can pitch music through Spotify for Artists, that’s the place where ALL editors go to look for new music—it’s your line to contacting our editors.

@diazgrimm77 Best way to create relationships with major playlist curators?

I'm so glad you asked, because it’s important to us that people know that getting your song on a playlist is in no way whatsoever influenced by creating relationships with editors. Having a relationship with anyone at Spotify is never a leg up for playlisting. Our listeners are our top priority—we want to playlist a variety of artists and types of music that our users will love. We’re also inspired by your work and dedication – uncovering new artists is absolutely one of the most exciting aspects of our job.

Beyond pitching your music to editors and applying the best practices listed out in the answers above, there are other Spotify for Artists tools you can utilize to help get your music traction. For instance, this Game Plan episode details how you can use your data to build a media campaign around releases. There’s also more info on how to read and use your data here. Plus there’s also a bunch of helpful videos in our Co.Lab series where industry experts weigh in on everything from converting your audience data into business deals, to tactics when it comes to trying to land a sync, to Nashville-based alt-R&B artist R.LUM.R deep-diving on how he preps for a release.

@young.rsa: How does an individual get placed on algorithmic playlists and how long are they placed for?

Algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar are updated weekly. For Release Radar, an artist’s new release is eligible to appear in the playlist up to 28 days after it’s been released. You can only have one song in Release Radar at a time, so if you’re releasing multiple tracks over the month keep this in mind! There is nothing specific you can do to get on an algotorial playlist.

@weareastera: How long can you stay on a playlist for?

How long you stay on a playlist depends on a bunch of things—the update schedule of the playlist, the type of playlist, the playlist’s audience, and the performance of the song within the playlist. Some playlists like New Music Friday update each week with a full slate of new content. Others may update at different cadences depending on the type of playlist they are and what’s best for the experience within that type of playlist (mood versus workout, etc.).

@varun_rawal: What if my music is genre-fluid?_ Our goal is to program all kinds of tracks across a variety of playlists, moods, activities, and genres that we think listeners will enjoy. There are specific playlists, such as POLLEN and Lorem that we curate to support multiple genres and artists who are “genre-fluid” all in one space. Additionally, many of our moods and moments-based playlists are catered to surfacing a wide variety of musical styles, genres and artists and work well to introduce varied music and artists to wider audiences.

@ashesofmathieu: Does pitching to a playlist pitch it to your countries curators globally?

Yes! All pitches made through our tool in Spotify for Artists are made available to our entire global editorial team. If you get specific about your location and cultural sound in your pitches it’ll help the right local team discover your music.

@jacobsawley: Is there any qualitative data that is factored into the playlisting process?

Absolutely. Music speaks to us in more ways than numbers. We put listening first. And, we also look at what is happening in culture, artists pushing the boundaries, and always consider a myriad of music characteristics when curating (from bpm and tempo to song structure and key signature). For instance for Juneteenth our regular New Music Friday playlist was made up of entirely Black artists and we feature local artists in our New York City playlists.

@cmnd_z.official: How do editors / the algorithm evaluate explicit language?

We always try and tag when a song is explicit within a playlist. There are also some playlists and audiences where we won't include explicit tracks such as the Coffee Shop Vibes playlist, such as in our Spotify Kids programming, and so forth.

@jepicspics: Can you please send feedback to artists that never get on a playlist just so we can improve.

Although we understand how important feedback is to your journey and growth as an artist, it is simply impossible for us as we get too many pitches to respond to each one individually—it would take time away from our focus on listening to and curating as many songs from as many artists as possible. As a benchmark, around 20% of tracks pitched through Spotify for Artists are placed on at least one playlist.

@brokeroyals: Do Spotify editors look at third party playlists for inspiration?

Each of our editors are unique and work differently, but they all constantly seek inspiration from different music publications and cultural moments as well as what artists are highlighting on their own artist pages and playlists.

@Raitila.rajasthan: As a folk music band that only does performances, can we pitch live recordings?

Yes, we welcome you to pitch any type of recording, studio or live as long as it’s delivered to Spotify. You’ll see an option to specify what type of recording your release is in the pitching process.

@thoughttheorymusic: Do you have to go through Spotify’s preferred distributors to get on a playlist?

No! We don't look at distribution information when listening to new pitches. You can use the distributor of your choosing—we don’t discriminate. For a complete list of all the distributors we work with, check out our provider directory.

@rajiv_3: Does a song need to be a specific length to be playlisted?

Not at all. Songs can be added to playlists regardless of their length, however we recommend putting your best foot when pitching by sharing your best track.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions via Instagram. We’ll continue to do AMAs and more playlist-related content in the future so please follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more info!

-Spotify for Artists & Spotify Editors

Spotify for Artists helps you to develop the fanbase you need to reach your goals.

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