Part 2: How to Get on Spotify's Algorithmic Playlists and the Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers

We describe the different types of algorithmic playlists and the virtuous cycle of Spotify followers.

What if you could find new fans while you sleep? If every release led you to reliably grow Spotify followers? Spotify’s Algorithmic Playlists make that happen. ‍

The Five Key Types of Spotify Algorithmic Playlists

There are five key types of Spotify Algorithmic Playlists. Knowing what they are and how their algorithms work is the first step toward seizing this opportunity for growth. Let’s take a look:

Discover Weekly updates every Monday. Spotify introduces you to songs they think you’d like—based on what you’ve been listening to (and a few other factors).

Release Radar updates on Fridays. It shares DNA with back-in-the-day SoundCloud. If you follow the Release Radar playlist, new music from artists you follow will appear in your Release Radar, plus tracks from artists you haven't listened to yet.

Daily Mix is five playlists in one. It’s based on the different genres you listen to, plus what’s showing up on two other algorithmic playlists: On Repeat and Repeat Rewind.

Spotify’s newest algorithmic playlists, On Repeat and Repeat Rewind, collect the songs you listen to the most. On Repeat compiles songs you’ve played the most this month; Repeat Rewind compiles throwback faves, songs you played the most in months prior.

Spotify Radio creates a collection of songs based on any artist, album, playlist, or song of your choice. The more followers you gain, the more you’ll appear in the Spotify Radio playlists of artists they listen to.

Though On Repeat and Repeat Rewind are great for driving incremental streams and follower retention, you need to be discovered in the first place for them to be useful. That’s where Discover Weekly and Release Radar come in. These playlists have serious potential for exposing Spotify listeners to your music.

Algorithmic playlists are your best bet to growing on Spotify and building a following in a predictable, sustainable, and affordable fashion.

Breaking Down the Discover Weekly Algorithm

Cracking the code behind Spotify’s two most highly-trafficked algorithmic playlists is a hot topic, but fortunately the secret isn’t all that secret. Spotify’s blog and other reliable sources routinely cite three elements that guide the algorithm.

Here at the three factors behind the Discover Weekly algorithm:

  • Collaborative filtering, i.e., user activity. Spotify asks: What songs do you listen to? What songs do you like? Based on the answers, they’ll recommend more of the same, plus songs that users who act like you have listened to. ‍

  • Natural language processing, i.e., word-of-mouth in a digital setting. How often is an artist featured on blogs? Are they shared on social media? The way Google crawls search pages and indexes them, Spotify crawls artist mentions and searches on social media. Why? The more an artist is searched, the more likely that that artist is relevant and growing. ‍

  • Raw audio track analysis. Based on an audio file—i.e., how a song sounds—Spotify can recommend other songs that people listen to that sound like that particular track.

All these factors determine the algorithm behind Discover Weekly, but collaborative filtering—remember, that’s user activity—is worth breaking down. When individuals interact with your catalog, Spotify analyzes certain actions and stats: repeat listening, sharing a song with Spotify’s internal tools, number of complete streams on your songs (i.e., listening to a song for more than 30 seconds), number of skips/skip rate (i.e., percentage of people who don't finish your song), and number of saves/save rate (i.e., percentage of people who save your song to their collection).

When you end up on a playlist, what determines your ability to stay on that playlist on a week-by-week basis is how many individuals are listening to your song on that playlist. This is why the number of saves and the ratio of fans who save your track while listening matters—why it’s the most important of all these actions.

The algorithm wants to know people are listening to and liking your music. On Spotify, liking means pressing the ♡ button and saving a song to your collection. The Saves-to-Listeners Ratio exists to quantify these behaviors. One hundred people listen to your song and twenty save it? That’s a 20% Saves-to-Listeners Ratio.

The Spotify Popularity Index

Another dimension—often overlooked—in the algorithmic playlist conversation is the Spotify Popularity Index ranking. This 0-to-100 score ranks how popular an artist is relative to other artists on Spotify. If Spotify sees your ranking growing, you'll get placed in more playlists.

A Spotify Popularity Index ranking takes into account more than the aggregate number of streams on your songs. It values the frequency and recency of those streams. ‍

Imagine two artists, each with one song. Artist A’s one song was released a year ago: It has 1 million streams, but only 5,000 streams have occurred this past month. Artist B’s one song was released last month; it has 100K streams. Based on the Spotify Popularity Index, Artist B will be considered more popular than Artist A because Artist B’s song with 100K streams has more recent streams.

Understanding the Spotify Popularity Index is important for any artist trying to grow on Spotify because it shifts the paradigm of on-sale, on-cycle marketing.

How to Improve the Spotify Popularity Index Ranking: Send Fans to the Spotify Artist Profile

The best way to improve your Spotify Popularity Index ranking is to send fans to your Spotify artist profile. If artist popularity on Spotify is determined by the number of recent streams they've gotten across multiple tracks and their catalog, instead of sending individuals to a song, we should send them to their artist profile. The differences between sending a fan to your artist profile vs. sending a fan to a song/album page are subtle, but important:

When a fan is sent to the Spotify Artist Profile, that fan chooses whether or not to stream multiple songs from the catalog. Because your Spotify Popularity Index Ranking is influenced by streams across your entire catalog, you want fans to discover many songs from your catalog–not just one. When a fan gets sent to the artist profile, it's much easier for that fan to follow the artist. This is because the FOLLOW button is incredibly apparent. That FOLLOW button is nowhere to be found on the song/album pages. Fans do more than stream your music on your artist profile page: They follow you while they listen and save your songs.

The Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers

The result accelerates what we call the Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers, a process that leads to you getting more streams on Spotify via algorithmic playlists.

The Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers is the positive chain of events that results from a fan choosing to follow you on Spotify.

Here’s how it works (assuming you currently get 0% of streams from algorithmic playlists):

1.A fan discovers your Spotify artist profile and follows you. They listen to, and save, your songs.

2. This increase in activity causes your Spotify Popularity Index ranking to go up.

3a. The increase in your Spotify Popularity Index Ranking gets you into more playlists. These playlists are Discover Weekly & Release Radar.

3b. The increase in followers means you get featured in more Release Radar playlists too. More followers mean more initial streams for new songs from Release Radar.

4. The new fans who discover you in Release Radar and Discover Weekly listen to & save your music, and follow you.

5. This increase in activity causes your Spotify Popularity Index ranking to go up.

6. The cycle repeats!

This cycle happens organically, but it can be accelerated through smart marketing. That’s why we’ve developed the Spotify Growth Playbook to let you use ToneDen to create powerful Instagram Stories ads that help you get more Spotify followers and streams. ‍ We tested the process with Aussie artist Lili Kendall. Her results will floor you. Read on!

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