Getting on playlists can make or break the success of an artist’s release. If implemented correctly, playlists can generate exponential growth organically, allowing more listeners to discover their music. But done wrong, playlists can lead to less visibility and less engagement.
Finding new music can be difficult but playlists aim to change that. Playlists combine the personalised experience of discovering music with the ease of browsing. They are the foundation of Spotify, pairing eager listeners with talented artists.
Algorithm-generated playlists like ‘Discover Weekly’ and ‘New Music Friday’ are the most powerful tool for growth on Spotify. They alone can generate more streams than all the editorial playlists put together and allow for more sustained growth. Understanding the inner workings of Spotify’s recommender systems, which generate such playlists, can be invaluable for artists.
Spotify’s approach is very much rooted in data-driven insights paired with deep machine learning. Their success lies in the heavy implementation of ‘success metrics’ like user week-over-week retention and many other feedback loops within their models. Along with using specific theories like implicit matrix factorisation and logistical loss, Spotify’s collaborative filtering algorithms rely heavily on the choices of the community signalled through independently curated playlists. They pair this with content based algorithms that recognise individual choices like saves and skips.
Being on popular independent playlists on Spotify massively increases artists’ chances of being added to algorithm-generated playlists and recommended to listeners. I’ve seen this time and time again with my own clients, being added to ‘Discover Weekly’ within a few weeks of being added to mine. It does also appear that the algorithm favours certain playlists over others too – so find playlists you know work. This is where the power of playlists lies and why they are key to success on Spotify. It makes the generation of these playlists so ‘personal’. They give you something that originated from human music preferences and choices but amplified.
This amplification of community and individual signals can have adverse effects, if not done correctly. It’s not just about getting onto playlists but preferences those playlists signal to the algorithm. For example, getting on the wrong playlist can mean high skip rates within the first 30 seconds or less saves which will inevitably lead Spotify to show your song to less listeners.
It could also lead your song to be recommended to the wrong audience, which can lead to even higher skip rates and be pushed less as a result. Over the years, I have also seen a rise in illegitimate and bot-generated scam services who benefit off of how relatively unknown this niche is. As a result I stress that it is important artists work with reputable curators.
Effectively implementing streaming platforms like Spotify within marketing strategies can get Spotify to do all the leg work for you – pushing your music to audiences you couldn’t reach alone. But it is important to work with curators and strategists who understand the inner workings of the algorithms to make informed decisions. Used correctly, playlists can be a secret power for artists in this already-crowded space.
Written by Mishel Kazi