How to Hack the Playlisting Game – Getting Heard
It’s probably no new news that playlists are a big deal. They are hard to avoid… and kind of just pop up everywhere. Music bloggers, music news sites, magazines, streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora), brands, radio stations and bands are common curators of such playlists (one of my favorites is the Indie Shuffle). Playlists are great for the listener: hitting play is mindlessly easy, and exposes the listener to unknown songs in a style they’ve already given the nod. For artists, they can also be a major game changer.
Take independent singer-songwriter Perrin Lamb, whose album hadn’t gained much traction up until a year after its release. One day he discovered one of his songs had gotten placed on an official Spotify playlist, gaining it more than 10,000,000 views. From zero to hero, by algorithmic magic. This is just an example of how a mindfully placed song can turn your song from unknown status into a hit just by association with songs of a similar genre. While Perrin Lamb may have been blessed with dumb luck, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of “getting lucky” and turning your song a playlist-worthy babe.
Curating Your Own Playlist
Before thinking about how to get your music on other people’s playlists, think about making your own. You have awesome music taste—that’s why you’re a musician. People surely are wondering what you’re listening to… right? Aggregate those songs in a public playlist.
Cross-promote your playlist with other musicians. Reach out to all the musicians whose songs are on your playlist, let them know you’re featuring them, and suggest some songs of yours they could feature on their playlist of they please. You could also make a collaborative playlist (for example, on Spotify, right click the playlist, and hit “collaborative playlist”) and encourage your fans to add their fave music to it (extra points for fan engagement!).
Now, tell everyone about your playlist. Update it regularly and promote the updates on FB, Insta, twitter, etc (making sure to tag the newly added artists and use lots of hashtags).
Guest Star on Someone Else’s Playlists
Lookin’ Fine Online
Before you do anything else, verify your artist profile on Spotify and Apple Connect (here). Make sure that your internet profile is on fleek: including website, social pages, bio, updated tour schedule, etc. Get as many people as possible to follow you on streaming sites by posting your profiles all over social media (some folks may not even know they could do so to begin with). You’re going to have to pitch your music to curators of influential blogs, and your online impression will make a big difference.
That being said, don’t panic if you don’t have a million (or even a hundred) followers. Your music doesn’t already have to be a hit. Sometimes bloggers want to find that “undiscovered” song. You know that feeling when you discover an awesome new song that has no views and you want to send it to everyone you know so that when it gets famous you can say “SHOWED YOU SO”… well, it’s kind of like that.
Make a List, and Check it Twice
Okay, time to target the playlists you want to join. Start with the playlists you listen to, and go from there. Search for artists similar to you on Spotify, go to the “about” tab, and then scroll to “discovered on.” BAM. There you’ll find the playlists you want to be part of. Get organized—make an excel sheet with info on the playlist & relevant information (this should be a living document that gets updated regularly).
Now comes time to casually dip your toes in the playlist pool and establish yourself as a fan first. Follow the playlist. Do they also have a twitter? Instagram? Follow there, too. Leave comments. Show appreciation. Re-post songs to your own playlists. While it may be tempting to circle the bigger blogs, you have a better shot at the smaller ones, so give those ones specific attention. Use this time to establish a relationship… get on their radar before they know you actually want something from them.
Making a Move
Once you’ve established yourself as a knowledgeable fan, time to make the first move. Here’s what Jørn Haanæs says in a MusicThinkTank article about Spotify Playlists:
“Everyone likes something fresh! Before your song goes public on the streaming platforms, send a personal note with a private link to the new track to your target playlist curators. Some of these may be tastemakers, media, or simply regular Joes who curate great lists. You can track them down through the platform OR research and send them an email.
For targeting playlists that are curated by the platform, research and find the “Artist Liaison” contacts for the streaming platforms in your region. Each streaming platform office has a few. Grab their contacts and reach out to them, asking for suggestions on who you can send your music to, to be considered for the playlist genre that best fits your music.
Send short and concise emails with clear links to the music, as well as info on what lists you are targeting. Give them some brief background on the band and where you’re going!”
The folks opening your emails are probably bombarded with similar emails, so make sure to be quick, clear, and cool. Also, approach them as if they are approachable. They’re probably doing what they’re doing because they’re also hard core music fans, and you truly do have something to offer them. If they say no, they say no. If they say nothing, they say nothing. If they say yes… THEY SAID YES!
Sealing the Deal
Finally, keep in touch. As an artist, you will grow alongside your music champions. You’ll want to keep up this relationship so that next time you release a track or album, you can reach out to them and get their support. Even invite them to shows when you’re in their area. Be friendly, sincere, and show your appreciation by repping their playlist on your social media sites.
Now that you know what to do, time to get started. Getting on a sweet playlist may seem like an outlandish goal, but start small and celebrate the little victories. You never know whose going to be on the other side of those playlists. With some luck it could be a music supervisor looking to place songs for TV shows and movies. It could be an artist wishing to collaborate. It could be a blogger wanting to repost your tunes. One thing always leads to another.
Play the game and the playlists will play you.