Julia Wolf is “making music for the girls that are too afraid to speak their minds,” drawing from her own experiences as a shy kid in a big Italian family, struggling to fit in and finding her escape – finding herself – through music.
Now with more than 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, the independent artist uses her own experiences to fuel her music, connecting with fans in a way that’s unique, radically authentic, and 100% her.
But it was a journey to get there. “Pursuing music as a career had a lot of trial and error involved, a lot of dead ends,” explains Wolf in the new episode of our How They Made It series. “It certainly wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Just getting the music right took years.”
“There were a lot of failed collaborations, a lot of people calling me nitpicky. Everyone was just trying to change the sound – a sound that was so simple to me in my head.”
Wolf, a singer-songwriter from Queens, NY, describes her sound as drawing from the hip-hop world and from indie music, combining the lyrical emphasis she loves from rap music with the natural indie sound of her voice. “I love adding the layers of harmonies, but ultimately it’s the lyrics. I just want to highlight the lyrics.”
“I realized very, very quickly in my songwriting career that I can only write on things I've lived through. I can't write on other people's experiences, because when I do it, it feels so unnatural.” One such song she’s written is “Falling in Love,” a new track that tells the true story of an interrupted night out with friends. As the first single released in the lead-up to her first EP, Girls in Purgatory, her team was strategic in how they approached the release, using Spotify for Artists data and insights, Canvas, and Marquee to promote the track and build an engaged audience ahead of the full debut.
Wolf explains that she and her team used their audience data to better understand who her fans were, and as a result, changed her social media messaging to reach more women. “Spotify [for Artists] has helped me understand more about who my target audience is, because in the beginning it was more of a male-dominant audience. But when we saw that, I just started gearing more of my conversation on social media to my girls, and then we saw the shift starting to happen. And now the female audience is the more dominant one, which is so cool.”
Her manager, Joseph Pineda, adds: “[On Spotify] we have access to data that five, 10 years ago we’d never be able to see. Now more than ever, especially for independent artists like Julia, we need to use all the tools at our disposal in order to try to break through and get some momentum.” That’s why they turned to Marquee, a full-screen, sponsored recommendation of a new release that’s displayed to Spotify listeners who have shown interest in an artist’s music.
“What’s great about the Marquee is there’s no extra step for our fans,” explains Pineda. “For our new song, ‘Falling in Love,’ when they see it they can literally listen to the song right away as a reminder that it’s out and it captures them in that moment.”
When the Marquee for "Falling in Love" launched in August 2021, more than 29% of listeners who saw it streamed the song – double the benchmark for the pop genre. More than 20% of listeners also saved the track to their personal libraries.
“Falling in Love,” like most Julia Wolf tracks, also has a Canvas – a short, looping visual for fans to watch as they listen to her music. She does the artwork herself, and says it’s something she’ll hold onto as long as she can. “It's definitely another form of self-expression, because when people see it, I want them to understand the brand. I want them to feel like they're in a different world – the Julia Wolf world. It's a reflection of who I am, so it's just as important as the music.”
“Spotify Canvas has really helped me add another element to the music, because instead of it just being the artwork, I now have the freedom to put another visual into people's minds and just help them understand [the music even more],” explains Wolf. “I love when I see my fans sharing the Canvases that I make, because it makes it more intriguing for other people to click on and be like, ‘okay, what's the music behind this?’”
In the three months following the release of “Falling in Love,” the track was saved more than 20,000 times and added to more than 25,000 playlists. Wolf’s Spotify following also grew by more than 20%, increasing the number of listeners who were ready and waiting to hear her extended EP, Girls in Purgatory (Full Moon Edition), when it dropped this week (Dec. 8).
Watch the full How They Made It episode below to learn more about the Julia Wolf world, then click here to explore the full series.