Or: How to stop worrying about playlists and learn to grow your followers

When it comes to a new release, Friday morning is a time of particular interest. Often even before we’ve had our morning cuppa, we start trawling Spotify (or for the time-efficient amongst us, use a platform like chartmetric) to see whether our new release has been added to a playlist. For many, weeks of work will boil down to this moment, and unfortunately more often than not we are disappointed to see that we have not been given the coveted #2 or #3 spot on New Music Friday. And in some cases it’s worse: we haven’t been added to any editorial playlists at all.

We’ve done everything right: we submitted our tracks to Spotify on time, we pitched it to the editorial teams through the Artist portal, we’ve chased the label or our distributor to make sure it’s a priority release for them, we’ve pledged cold hard cash in advertising on socials, we’ve even dropped a line to some of the editors directly, and yet we’re still not getting the desired results. So what gives?

This is when I want to shout from the rooftops that playlisting is not a marketing strategy. If you are banking all your efforts on getting your track on lists such as Peaceful Piano, RapCaviar, or New Music Friday, your strategy is flawed. There are too many elements out of your control and if you follow this strategy you are in a way putting your efforts into growing these playlists, not growing your artist profile. On top of that, ending up on popular lists can hurt you more than help you: skip rates on NMF are especially high and can hurt performance on the platform in the long run.

So my answer when it comes to playlisting is: Ask better questions. In this case, the question should be: “How do I gain more followers on Spotify?”

What does having more followers do?

Put bluntly, having more followers means that more people will be fed your music when it’s released through Release Radar. The more followers you have, the more potential listeners you have in that first month of release, making it more likely that Spotify’s algorithms kick in  and start seeding your track into playlists such as Discover Weekly or Radio. It also means that Spotify editors see that your music has traction, and that there is more potential for you to drive and keep your fans on the platform, conversely making it more tempting for them to add you to editorial playlists.

Focusing your strategy on growing your followers rather than getting a track onto a playlist or growing your amount of streams will also help you financially in the long run. There’s an old marketing rule of thumb that getting new customers can cost up to five times as much as retaining your current ones, and this holds true on DSPs as well, if not more so. When you focus on gaining followers, you’re spending time and energy (and in some cases money) on gaining listeners you get to keep, not on playlist streams that are more ephemeral than a soap bubble in a snowstorm.

So without further ado, here are ten things you can do to help grow your followers on Spotify.

1. Verify your artist profile.

Most of you will already have a verified artist profile, though it can come as a surprise how many times people wonder why they aren’t gaining any traction on the platform only to discover the artist isn’t verified. Besides having that lovely blue tick next to your artist name, being verified means you can update your profile to your own specifications, you can submit pitches for your unreleased music to Spotify’s editorial teams, add playlists to your artist profile, and add CANVAS to your release. So if you haven’t done it yet, verify your artist profile here.

2. Add a ‘follow me’ widget on your website

Assuming you have your own website (please have your own website), add a ‘follow me’ widget for Spotify as well as a button that leads to your artist profile. You can arguably state that people who have found their way to your website are interested in your music, so give them an easy way to make sure they don’t miss out on any of your new releases. There’s a step-by-step guide and embed code generator here

3. Direct people to your profile from your social media channels

This is in line with having a follow widget installed on your website – ask your fans to give you a follow on your socials. Don’t overdo it though – I would combine it when you’re messaging them about a new or upcoming release.

4. Make sure your About page is up to date – and play around with it

People who visit the About page like your music and are curious to know more about you. If that page is showing old press images and has a bio from four years ago, it’s not going to be very engaging. So this is where you can get a bit creative and use the platform to communicate with your followers on a deeper level. For example, you could use the bio section as a tour diary (or, at time of writing, a quarantine diary, a recording diary, etc); you could write stories about specific tracks; you can change the images to show album artwork or pictures from the studio. The world (or in this case the About page) is your oyster, so have fun with it.

5. Actively engage with the platform in all its possibilities

Create playlists (see point 6), add CANVAS to your releases, and use your Artist’s Pick to pin releases to the top of your artist profile. Your latest release as a primary artist will always show up at the top of your page, however tracks where you’re a featured artist or a remixer will only show up at the bottom under ‘Appears On’. Which can be less than ideal, especially if you feature on or remix tracks more than you release your own.

CANVAS – the 8-second looped video for tracks – is also a great way to create a more engaging experience for listeners on mobile and they will be more likely to visit your profile – and more likely to click that ‘follow’ button.

6. Create, maintain, and share playlists

Whenever I’ve gone in for meetings with artists with the teams at Spotify, this has been a core part of their advice in gaining followers: Create, maintain, and share playlists on the platform. These playlists can be anything you want them to be. The best advice is to have one static playlist, and at least one that’s updated regularly. The best playlists are between 25-30 tracks (or 2.5-3 hours long), and if you are going to update the list, do so regularly and let people know your schedule in the playlist description. Speaking about the description – you can also change this as often as you like, and use it as a way to speak to your followers more directly (And even add a CTA to get them to follow your artist profile). Same goes for the playlist image – you can change this as often as you like.

Once you’ve updated the playlist, share it on your socials, and tag other artists you’ve added to the list. A simple step that is often overlooked, despite the fact that it is a very effective way to reach audiences outside your own.

7. Collaborate with other artists

Whilst this is very much a creative decision, it’s one of the ways you can tap into new audiences. Collaborating with another artist, whether you feature on their track, they feature on yours, or with a remix, will mean that you are exposed to their followers as well as your own. This is especially helpful when you’re at the start of your career.

If the artist is featuring on your track, consider making them a ‘primary artist’ rather than a ‘featured artist’; this way the track will show up as a new release for them, they will be able to pitch the song through their Spotify Artist page, and the track is guaranteed to show up in their followers’ Release Radar as well as your own.

8. Advertise your profile

While there are no direct ways to advertise to get people to follow you, you are able to advertise your artist profile, which should, if you advertise to the right audiences, lead to more followers.

If you choose to run the ads yourself, take a look at the ‘Fans Also Like’ on your page to help you find the right audiences to advertise to. If you want more tailored advice on what the best way would be to run ads, drop us a line [INSERT EMAIL LINK].

9. Tit-for-tat

Back in 2017 Franz Ferdinand made waves in the music industry by giving away exclusive content in exchange for an album pre-save. And while you can adapt this strategy to gain more followers on Spotify, I would advise you to use this kind of tit-for-tat exchange with your fans sparingly and for something that has a little more value to you. Spotify followers are great; an email sign-up is better.

10. Buying followers

I had to add this to the list as there will be some people tempted to go down this road. Please don’t. Apart from the fact that this is expensive, there is no guarantee that your followers are actually real people who will listen to your music, which will screw up your algorithms and prove pretty cost-ineffective. You’ll have spent money that won’t show a return on investment.

It’s also pretty easy to identify whether you have bought / fake followers, and Spotify will come down on you like a ton of bricks when they find out. Their policy when they discover fake plays or fake followers ranges from suspending your profile and removing your entire catalog from the platform to suing the bejeezus out of you. It’s really not worth the risk.

This is not the get-rich-quick method to gain followers. Doing this takes effort, time, and creativity. But just like everything that’s slightly worthwhile doing: even if you’re only able to tackle part of these recommendations, you’ll be in a better place than you were before you started.

If you want to have a more in-depth conversation about gaining more followers, reach out to us on siofra@positivesubversion.com.