Part 1: The 4 Ways to Grow on Spotify (Excluding Organic Growth)

We describe the four most popular paths for Spotify Promotion.

How do I grow on Spotify? Where do I get real followers? And could my followers go from hundreds to thousands in a few months? Those are the questions artists are asking right now as the time fans spend streaming music soars. 200 million people use Spotify, which means you have 200 million potential followers. ‍

Believe it: In 90 days, you can go from 800 to 10,000 followers. But how?

Spotify has become the world’s most popular music portal. It’s the place where artists of all genres develop their fanbase, their image, and, of course, their career. That last part—developing a career—is linked to demonstrating solid growth on Spotify. Right now, there are four ways to do that:

  1. Spotify Editorial Playlists

  2. Independent Playlists

  3. Influencer/Viral Marketing

  4. Algorithmic Playlists

In this article, we’ll break down four paths to growing on Spotify, weighing the pros and cons of each:

Spotify Editorial Playlists: Pros & Cons [Method 1]

New Music Friday. Rap Caviar. You tune into these playlists all the time and so do millions of other Spotify users around the world. If you go to the browse section on Spotify and search for a genre’s playlists, most of them will be owned and operated by Spotify. These playlists—all 3000 of them, curated by Spotify’s editorial team—are premium playlist real estate. ‍ There are definite pros to landing on Spotify Editorial Playlists. In a word: clout. Getting a single on New Music Friday is a shortcut to cultural relevance. Plus, you’re guaranteed lots of streams in a short period of time–upwards of 25,000 streams a day. ‍ The main con to pinning your hopes on Spotify Editorial Playlists? With 40,000 new songs being released on Spotify each day, competition for space on editorial playlists is fierce. Every single person at every major label and large independent label group is vying for those spots. For the artist without a major label sales team on hand, the submission portal can feel a little like a black hole. Let’s face it: Spotify has only got so much inventory. They can't make everyone happy. ‍ Another downside to gunning for Spotify Editorial Playlist success is that it's difficult to repeat. Your first song might end up on an editorial playlist, but maybe your follow-up efforts won't—and that can be demoralizing. ‍ Don’t look for great fan conversion either. That’s the final downside to Editorial Playlists: The streams you get often come from people who listen to a single without following you. The incremental streams that add value to your catalog don’t always translate into new followers.

Independent Playlists: Pros & Cons [Method 2]

Independent playlists are playlists curated by humans who aren't Spotify employees, humans with a significant following. Examples of independent playlists include MrSuicideSheepFavourites, Trap Nation, and La Belle Musique. There are also promotional services like PlaylistPush that offer to get you in front of these playlist curators, albeit for a fee.

Anyone who’s concerned about growing on Spotify will probably have a hot take on this topic. It's become an internet obsession. (Google “Spotify Playlist Submission” and click on a few ads—you’ll get the gist.) So, here's the deal:

Independent playlists do come with pros. Getting on one of these playlists is occasionally free, which means there are some really good playlists that will promote your music free. Proximity is a great example of a playlist that's built a devoted following of loyal listeners. ‍ If you have no shame about playola, paid placement on independent playlists is a real opportunity, too. Anyone in the music industry will tell you how much palm-greasing goes on behind-the-streams. ‍ In the short-term, getting onto an independent playlist can yield major streams. And if you want to break even on a song ASAP, if you’re itching to hit a quarter-million to a million plays within the first month or two of release, this route could get you there. The customer acquisition costs are low—at least to start. ‍ If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Spotify is cracking down on the pay-to-playlist game–because of course the most data-driven streaming company around knows where your streams come from. If they find your song on a playlist that runs on playola, you risk tarnishing your relationship with Spotify. This can be especially damaging to emerging artists who aren’t yet backed by a major label and lack the connections to avoid getting banned.

Viral Marketing (i.e. TikTok): Pros & Cons [Method 3]

Doja Cat is to TikTok what Michael Jordan was to Nike. Influencer/viral marketing is what happens when you make the next “Say So” or have a song go viral through a TikTok Challenge (especially one sponsored by a TikToker). ‍ Influencer/viral marketing benefits come fast and furious. If your song goes viral on TikTok, representatives from major labels will be clamoring to sign you. That virality translates into Spotify streams, obviously–often an impossible number of them in a short period of time. ‍ The downside of influencer/viral marketing is its sheer unpredictability. It's difficult to control the zeitgeist. If you go viral once, there's no guarantee you'll see that success again. Virality is all about flukes. ‍ “Oh ... that song!” You’ve probably overheard tons of songs that were catchy and everywhere that you’ve totally forgotten. An unfortunate quirk of virality is that the connection between the song and the artist gets fractured. It’s one-hit wonder syndrome: People know the song without knowing the artist. Your song is all over TikTok—but you’re not getting commensurate Spotify followers.

Spotify Algorithmic Playlists: Pros & Cons [Method 4]

Algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar are owned and operated by Spotify. Unlike Spotify’s Editorial Playlists, the songs that appear in these playlists aren't determined by humans but by algorithms. Because their behind-the-scenes machine learning is learnable, they’re the most scalable method for growing on Spotify. ‍

Algorithmic playlists come with many upsides. First, getting placement in them is easy, relative to the other types of playlists: you have better chances of track placement on Release Radar than on Rap Caviar. And getting that placement is repeatable, too, which means growing on algorithmic playlists is scalable. Increasing your placement in Discover Weekly playlists is far safer–and simpler–than going after independent playlists. ‍

Spotify curates 3,000 editorial playlists; their algorithms create 200 million discover weekly playlists and 200 million release radar playlists. ‍

In the long-term, algorithmic playlists have the lowest customer acquisition costs. In terms of finding new fans, there are net benefits to appearing in algorithmic playlists. The listeners who stream your music become stickier—i.e., more dedicated—followers. ‍

As they shift from editorial playlists and work to optimize user experience, Spotify is creating more and more opportunities for its algorithmic playlists. From a listener's perspective, the best user experience boils down to how many songs in a row you can listen to and enjoy. It's a music recommendation issue. Spotify knows that the only way to handle music recommendation at scale—a scale of 200 million users in 70 different countries—is by relying on algorithms and user activity. ‍

The downside to algorithmic playlists? Getting on them takes time and followers. Fortunately, the process isn’t so difficult any more. ‍

Algorithmic playlists are your best bet to growing on Spotify and building a following in a predictable, sustainable, and affordable fashion. We lay out the different types of algorithmic playlists in our next section and explain how to increase your placement on them.

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