Everything You Need To Know About Spotify Playlists | A Talk With Mike Warner
This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.
Joey: What’s up everyone, we are back with Mike Warner! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from our previous conversation since Spotify playlisting is something that interests a lot of artists right now. Mike actually wrote a book about it. I think he’s capable of adding a lot of value to your life.
Mike: Thank you, Joey. It’s great to be back!
Joey: It’s been a long time since we recorded the previous episode. I was wondering what has changed in the world of playlisting in the last couple of months?
Mike: Let’s focus on Spotify at first, and then we can talk about the other services as well. Spotify had some recent updates, one of them obviously being editorial playlists and also personalized editorial playlists. Personalized playlists change for each unique listener. So what that means is, I could send you a link to a playlist, and you would open it up, and the songs would be completely different from what my playlist.
What I like about the personalized editorial playlist is it’s more tailored to the individual listener. If you go to a weekend themed playlist, and you like house music, you’re more likely to hear tracks that have house music in that playlist, then Ed Sheeran. So it’s going to start catering to the individual listener – they actually switch between genres as well. It’s not just songs in the playlist, but like, completely different playlists.
Also, when you get added to a personalized editorial playlist from Spotify, as long as you’re registered with Spotify for artists, they will send you an email with a unique link. When you log in on Spotify for artists, it’s very simple. There’s a button to copy the URL, and if you share that link within the first seven days of being added, anyone that clicks that link will be directed to that playlist, and your song will be number one on that playlist.
The other feature about Spotify, which not many people are talking about, is this separate app called stations. It’s not in all countries yet. So if you’re listening and you can’t see it in the App Store, it may not be in your country, but I’ve had the opportunity to try it out. It’s basically a lighter version of Spotify that’s just focused on continuous music. As soon as you tap on an artist, it treats it as a radio station as if you’re in your car. As soon as you tap on another artist or another playlist, it changes immediately. So let’s say I listen to Joey Suki radio, and then I jump back, it will remember what point I was up to in that track. It feels like you’re actually switching live stations. It’s just a very clean looking interface. I recommend checking it out!
Joey: How can we influence playlists as an artist, and how can we maximize our success on Spotify?
Mike: The number one thing with Spotify is up to 24 or 48 hours after you’ve uploaded to your distributor, you should log into Spotify for artists and go to the editorial submission form. This is the number one thing for multiple reasons. The first one is it’s the only way for an artist to submit music to editorial, and make sure that they reach the right people in time. You can tag the song by genre, instruments, language, mood, etc. And then you can write some short pieces about the song as well, whether it’s the marketing plan or something really unique and creative. From there, as long as you hit that submit button at least seven days before that song is scheduled to go live, it will go into release radar for all of your followers.
Joey: I didn’t know that if you submitted it through, like the platform itself, that you are guaranteed to be in the release radar of your followers. That’s big!
Mike: Yeah, it’s huge. A lot of artists put so much time into growing their following in different ways. And why wouldn’t you want to then reach that following by just going through this process? The song is done, it’s up, it’s ready to go live. You need to do this with Spotify right now. The third party stuff can come after. The more opportunity the editorial team actually have to listen to your track, and potentially place it, the better. No one’s going to be mad if you submit a song four weeks before or six weeks before.
With regard to other platforms, Pandora recently updated its submission process as well for its artist marketing platform: amp.pandora.com. If you’re an independent artist, you can submit your tracking to Pandora. What’s fresh and unique about Pandora is that you can send a song that’s already been released. I did it with a previously released track and got an email back roughly one to two weeks later that it was placed. The numbers have been great, so definitely try that one out as well.
Joey: So we have editorial playlists, but there are also third party playlists. One of the things that I get a lot on my socials – but also from clients – is it’s so hard to get featured in those playlists because everyone’s fighting for that same spot. Have you noticed any trends that may have made it easier for you to get featured in those playlists, or it just luck?
Mike: I feel like the same way that you would collaborate on a song with another artist, people should also work on their playlist strategies.
If you have a small group of similar artists where you support each other, you start with your own playlist where you obviously place each other songs in the playlist, and then you start circulating that and growing the following. Even if it’s a few hundred followers, if they’re organic followers, people will want to be on it. One of them could be a lifelong fan; they could go to every one of you shows and purchase all your merchandise. What happens is people start reaching out and expanding, and your tracks would also start to get featured in other playlists.
Joey: That brings me to the next point. There are a lot of curators who are picky about their music. How do you handle curators which ask for money to get featured?
Mike: I wouldn’t do – it straight up. The response is going to come in a couple of different ways. One of them is you send them your track, and they’ll come back and say they love your track, but it’s going to cost you $200. And you go, well, I mean, if you like my song, wouldn’t you place it? I understand you don’t make money as a curator in any other way, but if you’re just blatantly taking payment, then the money is influencing your playlist. There’s no love. What’s worse is if they’ll add your song to a playlist for a given price without even listening. That’s just a massive alarm. I’ve seen playlists out there that are named after popular movies. It could be Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, and then they toss any song in there. What you get is just a cluster fuck of multiple genres. It’s not that the music is bad, but the curation is terrible. It’s safe to say that if there’s any streams or listeners being generated from that playlist, they’re either deaf, a robot, or there’s something else going on there.
Joey: How can I see which playlists are fake with bought followers/listeners? Do you have some tips for that?
Mike: The first thing is to check if the curation is terrible. If you go to that playlist, and it’s changing genres, the tracks are poorly mixed, etc. that should set off alarm bells for you. Worst case, there’s an entire album thrown in there together. If they asked for money, then that’s easy. Another good trick is to check if the top track of a playlist is getting a lot of plays while the second or third is not getting nearly as much. To check, click on that artist and go to the about tab in Spotify. What I find with some of these playlists is it’s only the song in the number one position that they’re pushing all the streams to, and all the other songs in there are getting pretty much zero.
Joey: That’s a really great tip! Now you can check and be 90% sure of the fact that the playlist that you’re trying to get into is legit.
Mike: Yeah, that’s it. Some people want to call out these playlists, but I always just say move on. If you find a good curator, help them out and share it! We’re never going to be able to shut down everyone, but we can promote the ones that are doing it the right way.
It’s the same with artists. Instead of saying, I don’t like the track – this is poorly mixed, mastered, I’m going to tell everyone. Find an artist that’s created the song that you love, and share that instead. Positivity is gonna win here.
There’s always going to be people that will be faking their career. Some people may want to inflate their numbers to make them look good. But for most artists, when you’re thinking long term, it’s more important to get it organic. That may mean that it takes one year, two years, five years, ten years… Whatever it takes to get to that level, it’s going to feel so much better when you get there than just having a short spike and dropping gradually.
Joey: We are in a weird moment in the music industry where it’s possible for artists to have millions of streams and still no shows. How do you convert your monthly listeners into actual fans?
Mike: I always say you’ve got to start things out by putting in the work yourself. Nobody is going to come to you and say, “I love your music, I want to sign you and become your manager and book you with 200 gigs a year” – that’s not how it happens. In reality, you are booking 15 gigs a month yourself, and then a manager comes along and helps take the load off of you. You want to keep creating music and playing shows. You’ve got access to this data now like Spotify for artists, Apple Music for artists, Pandora, etc. They all give you city level data, sometimes even the suburb depending on where you are in the world. You can then see where your audience is and hit up a local venue there. Make the data work for you.
The good thing is if you book a show, Spotify will send out emails from time to time to your followers. That doesn’t cost you anything. Also, MailChimp lets you segment by city based on recent IP addresses. So you could mail out to potentially 100 people that are fans of a specific city. A few weeks before the event, you should also put targeted ads on my social media.
Joey: This is the best time ever for artists in terms of data. I want to thank you again for the tips and tricks! I think people will come back again and say like, holy shit this guy gave me tons of value.
Mike: Of course! Quick plug, my book is in bookstores around the world! Thank you again for letting me speak with your audience.