This is a guest article written by TJ Jones, the Artist Relations Manager at Playlist Push. TJ has amassed over 75,000 profile followers and over 100,000 playlist followers amongst his top 20 playlists.
TJ first started by creating playlists to play while he worked as an Uber driver – now he works with Playlist Push, which has reached more than 25 million unique listeners.
Knowing how to properly create and manage playlists can be tremendously helpful in growing your project, and it can even become a strong source of income over time.
This article outlines the tips and tricks he’s learned that can help anyone grow a following on Spotify.
If you have a love for music, then making a great Spotify playlist isn’t hard. In fact, you’re already halfway there! If you are like me, you spend your free time organizing your immense music library and you never pass up the opportunity to choose the music at a party or in the car. If you want to create an amazing Spotify playlist and share it with the world however, you’ll have to put in the extra effort. And in order to build the best playlist in the world, you should take the time to learn what exactly you are up against.
Spotify is, at its heart, a tech company. Their extensive user-data collection detects and corroborates every user’s exact listening habits, and uses that data to give each user their own unique song and artist recommendations. Here’s how it works:
Spotify generates a “taste profile” based on songs you listen to and save. Spotify will then search through the billions of playlists and identify similar songs that appear alongside your taste profile on those playlists, also generating songs from other user’s playlists that you haven’t saved or listened. The more you listen and save, the more accurate of a taste profile you develop. And the more playlists are created, the more accurately Spotify can suggest new songs to you. This is the bedrock of the popular “Discover Weekly” playlist.
Those song and artist recommendations are not from Spotify itself, but rather from the other users data in the cloud. Essentially, the real magic of Spotify isn’t the fluidity of the app or the catalog of music – its the other people!
In addition to their algorithmically generated “mood” and “weekly” playlists, Spotify employs a team of human tastemakers to curate highly popular collections of songs and artists. These include the notable “Rap Caviar”, “Essential Indie”, “Funky Jams”, and many many more. In this game, Spotify has a home field advantage. They have already established a long list of market dominating song and artist curation. But playlisting is like gardening – it must be tended to and cared for, or the songs will get stale and the user’s, bored. New songs lose their relevancy and older songs return to glory in a seemingly unpredictable pattern.
But this unpredictability is exactly why any Spotify user can make a great playlist – the Major Label teams aren’t always going to get it right. The most popular playlists by follower count (like Today’s Top Hits, Rap Caviar, and Viva Latino) are all made by human beings, with emotion and love for their craft and effort and hard work. Put in a little organization, some hard work, and a love for music, and you could end up creating the next million-follower Spotify playlist.
Find Your Niche
Your niche is the specific and unique mood or overall vibe you want your playlist to invoke for listeners. There’s nothing inherently human or emotional about Spotify’s algorithms generating a list of songs based on data. There is something special about your personal & lived experience resonating with an artist or particular type of music. A great playlist has meaning to you! It will be helpful to create a purpose for your playlist and identify why you connect with specific songs. You should continue to add artists you relate to with that purpose in mind. Fans of an artist will go out of their way to discover new music that identifies with them. And if they can tell your playlist was built with intention, they will listen to it.
Also, make sure that you’re doing something unique with your playlist. If all you’re doing is adding a collection of your favorite Top 40 songs, you’ll be faced with a TON of competition.
Your Playlist Title, Photo, and Bio
Having these three assets prepared will convey as much information about your playlist as possible before a potential follower checks out the actual tracklist. An attention grabbing title is dependent upon your target audience, but generally it should be something descriptive and catchy (“Hand Picked Beets” or “Rap Caviar”) You can find inspiration for the name of your playlist by visiting the profiles of artists you added to the playlist, and browse their “discovered on” section. Include keywords people are searching for in your playlist’s bio. These can be the artist names, mood or setting based names (beach, hiking, relaxing) or highly niche genres like Preverb, Grave-wave and Christian Trap.
Using effective keywords in your titles are will maximize the chances of getting your playlist discovered. Spotify’s native playlists will rank higher than yours in the search, but dedicated fans of good musicians in your playlists will look for the independent playlists listed after Spotify’s. Remember that your desired audience should play a role in your selection of a playlist photo. Visualize the personality of someone who would listen to the artists on your playlists (yourself included) and find a photo that embodies that in one way or another; for example, the ‘Summer Party’ playlist has an image of a blonde girl in a sundress sitting by the pool. You can use your own original photos, but there are a few royalty free image websites that are great for playlist covers. Be sure to use images that are your own, or Spotify could delete your playlist for copyright infringement. Here are some websites that I search for royalty free photos:
Include keywords people are searching for in your playlist’s bio. These can be the artist names, mood or setting based names (beach, hiking, relaxing) or highly niche genres like Preverb, Grave-wave and Christian Trap. Using effective keywords in your titles are will maximize the chances of getting your playlist discovered.
Find a Common Theme
Fluidity is key in playlist creation, and so I would advise against stockpiling your entire music library into 1 playlist. A giant playlist with all of your favorite tunes may align with your personal listening habits, but if you want people to follow your playlist, you’ll need to categorize your tastes into seperate & cohesive playlists. I would also avoid generic pop playlists, as top 40 fans will likely gravitate towards the dozens of Spotify pop playlists. Your best chance for success is to choose something that you love but don’t see much of. You definitely want the genres of selected artists to be related, but your theme ought reflect a mood or a personality type. I would also advise that you listen to your playlist with a crossfade between track.
This will give you some insight into how well your playlist flows as a whole. Each track doesn’t have to seamlessly blend into the next, but a crossfade will highlight any particularly jarring differences in mood or personality between songs. (Death Grips into Beyonce) Most playlists are listened to on shuffle, so every song must work together in the collection. To sum up, you want to find a niche in your music knowledge that reflects a mood or personality, and choose music that caters directly to those fans to consistently grow your playlists.
Debut your new playlist with as few as 40 songs and steadily increase it to the 80-90 track range. The first 8 tracks in the playlist hold a disproportionate amount of weight in the playlist as a first impression. It is among these first 8 songs that users are most likely to choose the first song they listen to, so make sure they are the strongest choices. You can make a playlist with hundreds of songs and it could become extremely popular, but if you want to monetize your playlists you should keep your playlists between 50-90 tracks. A playlist with over 100 songs can overwhelm a potential follower looking to discover new music, while a playlist with under 40 songs may not appear to have enough potential for discovering a user’s next favorite artist. And by monetize your playlist, I am referring to using the audience your playlist has accumulated to benefit independent musicians through playlist servicing platforms like PlaylistPush.
Once you have a big enough following, you become an influencer – and that’s valuable to artists and musicians. Placement on your playlist might give an artist thousands of new streams and potential fans; many artists are willing to pay for that opportunity! By having your playlist service up on Playlist Push, you open the door to having artists contact you with offers.
Gaining Your First 100 Followers
You created an excellent playlist! Now, go get those followers.
Gaining your first 100 followers can be difficult, and potentially discouraging. Keep your playlist private, not public (you don’t want to leave visitors with a bad impression before you’re ready), and prepare a coordinated social media release to your most intimate and connected audience. Once your playlist is perfected, make it public and promote your playlist on your personal social accounts and ask friends and family to follow them to gather your first few followers. (A playlist with 5 followers will show up in a search before a playlist with zero, which will help people discover your playlist more easily early on). From there, you can join niche Facebook groups and post about your playlist in genre-specific subreddits. Spotify’s social aspect allows friends of users to see activity in their friends feed and your playlist can be discovered this way as well.
Another tip is to DM each of the artists that you have included on your playlist, or tag them in some sort of social post. You never know, they may just repost it! Your audience is out there and finding them is a matter of persistence and outside-the-box-thinking. Once your playlist has gained a little traction, you can search for independent artists looking to get on playlists (if they haven’t already come to you). How much traction you need depends on the size of artist you’re targeting; a good rule of thumb is that you’ll want to be able to expand their potential audience by at least 10%. A small artist with only 1000 followers would appreciate the opportunity to get in front of 100 new potential fans; an artist with over 1,000,000 followers might not care as much.
You can leverage a position on your playlist for a social share or even to make your playlist their “Artist Pick” on their Spotify artist page.
The “Artist Pick” is a playlist, chosen by the artist, located at the very top of that artists Spotify page. It is a highly desirable position, so anything you can do for the artist in exchange for this position will drive a ton of that artist traffic to your playlist. If the artist shares your playlist to their active fan base, the followers will stream in with little effort. Don’t ask artists to share your playlist until you’re sure it can gain streams and has a dedicated following (at least 100 followers).
You should never compromise the integrity of the playlist’s flow or mood to fit an artist in that promises large exposure.
This will likely come back to bite you as even one song can turn a listener away. By far the best way to share your great playlist with a large amount of people is by building rapport with musicians and mutually benefiting each other’s career.
You now have at least one successful playlist, an audience, and connections with independent artists. How do you maintain it?
It is more important to curate a playlist that has an engaged audience than a large audience. This means that using a service that brings your playlist non-organic followers is a vanity tactic. Search results in Spotify are ranked by how many listeners those playlists are gaining, or the growth of the audience. This is because most Spotify users won’t unfollow a playlist that they have stopped listening to. A playlist with 10,000 followers may look really good on paper and draw attention to your profile, but if your audience is not consistently listening then the future of your playlist is looking grim. Spotify will recognize that you aren’t growing, so they’ll stop ranking you as highly in search results. The quality of the music on your playlist will shine through and keep you afloat with an organic growth, especially if it is well tended-to. This means you must listen to your playlists regularly. If you come across a track that feels repetitive and stale, chances are your followers think so too.
Update your playlists regularly but don’t get too wild. People are following your playlists because they saw music that they enjoy. Rotate tracks in and out of your lineup gradually. The single worst thing you can do is a major rebranding of the vibe of the playlist by switching our the majority of the tracks and adding new ones all at once. This will result in a swift decline in playlist followers, because your existing fanbase will no longer have access to your original product: the collection of specific songs that drew them to follow you in the first place.
Spotify also has a new folder feature that encourages grouping playlists so users can follow a large amount but keep their sidebar organized. You’ll want to try and avoid having your playlist placed in a folder a user has made to hide the playlist, or to only refer to on special occasions. Outdated or generic playlists, and playlists with uninspiring names will be the first to be pushed into a sub-folder – keep your playlist fresh, and you’ll reduce your chances of being ignored.
Our Top Tips for Playlisting
- Don’t add more than 3 songs by the same artist to a single playlist. This forces you to be more creative in your song choice and will result in a more diversified and well-rounded playlist.
- It’s easy to fall into the cycle of listening to the same music, or same musician for months on end. When you’re feeling the urge to be inspired by new music, I recommend visiting everynoise.com for the ultimate music discovery experience. Everynoise is an algorithmically-generated scatter plot map of the musical genres on Spotify – it contains every genre, complete with examples for each. You never know if Japenese Jazztronica or Berlin Minimal Techno will inspire your next playlist.
- SpotOnTrack.com is a great tool for keeping track of follower growth and other important playlist stats. They have a 14-day free trial!
- When your playlist has reached 400 followers, you should sign up to become a curator on Playlist Push to start making money from your playlists and easily track your playlist activity.
- You should build multiple playlists at the same time that showcases the music you like. People who follow one will likely check out the others too.
- Including dozens of key terms in your bio can get really tacky, really quick. Keep your keywords limited and tasteful.
The operative word for playlisting is “patience”. If you want to make the next great Spotify playlist, you have to be committed for the long haul. Don’t expect your playlist to gain hundreds of followers overnight – You should expect a slow trickle of listeners.
The speed your playlist grows really comes down to two simple factors: How easily people searching can find it and whether or not it is good enough for people to share with their friends.
Stay on top of music trends and new releases from top artists on your playlists, and you’ll maintain and grow a successful playlisting career.