To say the streaming service Spotify changed the music industry is an understatement.
Spotify, with its 356 million users, essentially ended the dreaded peer-to-peer sharing that decimated the music business in the late '90s. It has also given musicians new ways to promote their music—most notably through Spotify playlists.
When you consider the enormous promotional potential of Spotify playlists, it should be obvious that landing on the right playlists should be a part of your album release plan. In this article, we'll show you how to get on Spotify playlists, including tips for landing coveted editorial playlists and more.
What are the benefits of being on Spotify playlists?
The biggest benefit of being on Spotify playlists is getting your music in front of new potential fans who otherwise might not have heard your music.
Millions of music lovers rely on Spotify playlists for discovering new music. Spotify promotes their New Music Weekly and Discover Weekly playlists in prominent locations on their homepage, and music journalists and influencers like NPR Music have their own playlists that boast thousands of subscribers. That’s a big opportunity for up-and-coming bands.
But what about the money? While Spotify does pay out music streaming royalties, making a lot of money shouldn’t be your goal with Spotify playlists. Spotify and other streaming services pay out only fractions of pennies per stream.
While that revenue can add up, the bigger benefit of ending up on Spotify playlists is the hope that people will discover your music, love it, and buy your records, merch, and concert tickets.
Can you pay to get on Spotify playlists?
Yes, you can pay to get on Spotify playlists. There are two options for paying to get on playlists: the right way and the wrong way. The right way is hiring a reputable agency or publicist who works directly with independent curators to find the best fits for your music. This way offers no guarantees, and is pricey, but when everything comes together, you can get your music to a wider audience.
The other way is the wrong way—paying fees for guaranteed playlist placements. Taking this route isn’t much better than throwing your money into a fire. While the playlists you might end up on are absolutely real, the value isn’t. These types of playlists won't provide you much benefit since mostly bots (if anyone at all) listen to those playlists. Fake listens aren't particularly lucrative and could get you banned from Spotify.
The 3 different styles of Spotify playlists
Before thinking about how to get on Spotify playlists, it’s important to understand the different types of Spotify playlists. That’s because there’s a different method for getting included on each type of Spotify playlist. One only accepts submissions at least three weeks before release, one is more flexible but less centralized, and the other finds you.
Algorithmic playlists are automatically-generated playlists that are customized based on the listening habits of each Spotify user. They’re found on a Spotify user’s home page under the “Made For” and “Uniquely You” sections and include a Discover Weekly playlist and various custom mixes.
These playlists hook users by featuring their most-played artists in the playlist art and description and tend to break playlists into loose genres. But these playlists aren’t dominated by music users have already listened to. Instead, they’re designed to attract someone’s unique tastes and keep them listening by exposing them to new music that is similar to music they already like.
The results of being featured on an algorithmic playlist can be impressive. Above, we can see that my Seattle-based band Sundae Crush appeared on several algorithmic playlists for various users, including Radio, Your Daily Mix, Release Radar, and Discover Weekly. The result is that we were heard by hundreds of new listeners.
Editorial playlists are built by Spotify employees and are divided into categories like genre (e.g., Rock, Pop, Latin), mood (e.g., relax, party, study), new music (their “Fresh Finds” playlists) and current events (e.g., Latin Pride for Pride Month).
User-generated playlists (aka curated playlists) are playlists made by users. Since any Spotify user can create a playlist, not all user-generated playlists have a lot of listeners, but playlists made by well-known and respected journalists, DJs, curators, and brands can be a big boost for your music.
How hard is it to get on a Spotify playlist?
It shouldn’t be too surprising that anyone can get on a Spotify playlist. After all, Spotify playlists are often user-created, which means anyone can create their own playlists.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to get on the most valuable Spotify playlists. The playlists with the most subscribers, as well as the algorithmic playlists and editorial playlists, have significant competition. Editorial playlists and user-generated playlists with thousands of subscribers regularly see thousands of submissions.
You should still shoot your shot for those competitive playlists. We like to believe that great music will always rise to the top, and you’ll never know how successful your music can be until you try.
Step #1: Distribute your music to Spotify
The first step to ending up on Spotify playlists is to distribute your music to Spotify. You can do this on your own through a service like DistroKid or Tunecore. You can and should also get verified on Spotify through your distributor, which can help with your playlist placement efforts.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any free options to upload your music to Spotify, but these services allow you to distribute your music to virtually every digital platform, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, and more.
Step #2: Build your Spotify Artist profile
The next step for landing on Spotify playlists is building out your Spotify Artist profile. Your Artist profile gives you access to advanced tools to help you grow your audience on Spotify, including the ability to submit your music to playlists.
First, make sure you have a user profile for Spotify as well; a free user account will work just fine.
Next, head over to artists.spotify.com and click “Get access” in the upper-right corner. Select “Artist or manager” on the following page, and log in using your Spotify user account.
Next, it’s time to request access to your artist page. If you already have music on Spotify, you should be able to search and find your artist account. If not, reach out to your label or distributor and ask them for your artist link or URI. It'll start with spotify.com/artist or spotify:artist.
If you’re using DistroKid, you can find this information on your own. Click “Goodies” in the navigation on your DistroKid dashboard and then click “Helpful When Needed” and click “Spotify URI Looker-Upper.”
From there, you can build out your Spotify artist profile with pictures, a biography, tour dates, and more.
Step #3: Fill out the official Spotify playlist submission form
Spotify’s editorial team takes a few weeks to curate each playlist—this means you need to fill out the official Spotify playlist submission form at least three weeks before your release goes live to be considered for Spotify’s editorial playlists.
Since it can take two weeks for your music to get from your distributor to Spotify, this means you should upload and schedule your music at least five weeks before your release date—ideally sooner so that the editorial team has more time to consider your music.
After uploading and scheduling your new album or single, check your Spotify artist portal until you see your new release under the “Upcoming Release” tab. There you can select a new song from a new release to submit.
You can only pitch one unreleased song at a time, so take the time to think about which song will be the most likely to connect with Spotify’s editors and listeners. You’ll also have to answer some questions about your song through the Spotify playlist submission form, including:
- Genre and subgenre
- Language lyrics are in
- Culture (if applicable)
- City with which you’re most associated (doesn’t have to be hometown)
You’ll also be asked to describe your song in your own words. This last part is your opportunity to talk about what inspired the song, what the song means to you and others, and anything else that you think could help your music stand out. You don’t have to answer every question, but answering more questions gives your music a better chance to land on a playlist.
From there, you wait. Since Spotify gets so many submissions, they can’t include every song that’s submitted, and they won’t provide any feedback on your pitch.
Step #4: Pitch your music to independent curators
While you can pitch to every Spotify editorial playlist at once, pitching your music to independent curators—also called user-created playlists—is a one-by-one process.
You need to find the curators you want to pitch your music to, then reach out to them individually.
Finding user-created playlists can be a time-consuming process. That’s a big reason more and more artists are hiring agencies to handle their Spotify promotion for them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it all on your own.
Instead of trying to submit your music to every popular Spotify playlist, take special care to find playlists with music similar to yours. This could be similar genres, similar moods or vibes, playlists highlighting your hometown, and more.
There are a few ways to search for relevant playlists:
- Use Google search to find lists of popular playlists in your genre (for example, “shoegaze Spotify playlists)
- Type your genre or a music descriptor that could apply to your band (for example, moods) into the Spotify search bar, and click “See all playlists” in the search results
- Visit a similar band’s Spotify profile and scroll to their “Discovered On” section to see which playlists they appear on
- Submit your music via submission sites that connect artists and curators, sometimes for a fee
- Searching Spotify for other online publications to see if they have their own playlists, like NPR Music
There are a few problems with manual searching for relevant playlists. One is that there isn’t a way to filter out playlists made for personal enjoyment—like someone’s personal running playlist—and playlists that are promoted by their creators and have followers. The other is that you’ll still have to find contact information, even after you have your list of playlists.
With that in mind, the easiest way to pitch to the most curators is through those submission sites that connect artists and the playlist curators. A few examples of those websites include:
- SubmitHub: Free to start, but you can buy premium credits for a better chance at having your music heard
- Soundplate: Free to submit to one of their existing playlists, or you can submit an entire playlist for $15
- ForTheLoveOfBands: You can submit music for free, for a donation, or in exchange for sharing the playlist
- Dailyplaylists: Free to submit in exchange for following playlists, though this honestly means most of the subscribers on this playlist are other hopeful musicians
Lots of music journalists are also playlist curators. For example, NPR Music has several popular playlists. When you’re putting your press list together for your EPK—which can be made with tools as simple as ConvertKit’s landing page builder—be sure to make a note of who also has a Spotify playlist so you can ask them to specifically consider you for playlist inclusion.
Step #5: Improve your chances to end up on algorithmic playlists
Even though popular playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar are algorithmic playlists (meaning computers decide what’s included rather than humans), there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of landing on these types of playlists.
Build your Spotify followers
Bands and performers with more followers are always going to be more attractive to Spotify’s algorithmic playlists. There are no quick tricks for building a valuable fanbase on Spotify—or anywhere—but asking your existing fans to follow you on Spotify is a strong start.
One way to encourage Spotify followers is to include the ask in your email campaigns. You can even dedicate a broadcast to increasing your Spotify numbers. If you let your fans know how important it is to do something as easy as giving you a follow, you might be surprised by how many go ahead and do you that favor.
On an ongoing basis, you can set up automations in ConvertKit to build your Spotify followers and overall online presence. For example, you could set up an automatic welcome email whenever someone subscribes to your email list encouraging them to follow you on Spotify.
Encourage organic playlist adds
Other than pitching your music to big-name playlists, you can encourage organic playlist adds from your fans. Appearing on other playlists in general can help you land on the big algorithmic playlists, because it shows that other people have deemed your music playlist-worthy.
Sharing playlists that have added you on social media might encourage fans to add you to their playlists. After all, everyone loves a good social media shout-out.
Building your own playlists is another way to encourage others to add you to their playlists. Bands can create playlists that are featured prominently on their artist pages and are a great way to share other bands with whom you’re friendly. You can even ask other bands to return the favor, which can give you all a nice boost.
Don’t rely only on Spotify for promotion
Though Spotify is the most well-known music streaming service, it’s not the only platform that has dedicated users and playlists. Other platforms like YouTube, Apple Music, Tidal, Napster, and Google Play all have their own playlist features and dedicated listeners. And don’t forget, every artist should also be building an email list so you can reach your fans directly.
Looking for more tips on promoting your music? Stay tuned for more articles about how to promote your music on Spotify and more.
While you’re here, check out our article about how to promote your album or single before the release date and learn how one band uses ConvertKit to reach more fans.