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Three Reasons Playlist Promotion Fails Indie Musicians.

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Independent artists know every stream on Spotify earns them money, so why wouldn't they play a playlister to guarantee streams? Here are three good reasons.

Three reasons why paying for playlist promotion is a terrible idea for independent artists
Three reasons why paying for playlist promotion is a terrible idea for independent artists
The problems of playlist promotion

1. Streams don't automatically mean fans.

Streams are important, after all, if nobody listens to your music you don't stand a chance, but it's what happens after the stream that is actually more important.

Success on Spotify occurs when you trigger a network effect. IE one stream, becomes multiple streams, a save, a playlist add, a playlist share, a friend recommendation. At this point, a listener becomes a fan, and this could result in a lifetime of value for the artist.

When you have a fanbase, they look forward to hearing your next track. As the word suggests, you have a 'base' of guaranteed listeners. If that base grows with every release the promotion costs tumbles, it's always cheaper to get an existing customer to buy again than to recruit a new listener from cold. But if you are attracting one-time listeners you will be stuck in a cycle where you always need to pay to recruit new listeners. That's not efficient and you are fooling yourself if you think you are furthering your career, these are nothing but vanity streams.

There is another way. Major Labl create thumb-stopping, social media ad campaigns to promote music. The ads they create sit on social media and drive people to a landing page, then on to Spotify. This crucial middle step removes the fake 'bot click' traffic and allows you to collect data that can be used to retarget engagers (which brings the cost down even further). The net effect is the people who like the ad, and choose to go to Spotify to listen are already warm prospects, this is a conscious choice. Unsurprisingly this approach delivers a save rate between 20-50%.

When people listen to tracks buried on a playlist, their attention is far lower, they literally pass through your track on route to the next one. Unsurprisingly research from Major Labl shows the save rate for playlist-promoted tracks to be just 7%!

2. Paid playlists screw up your audience targeting.

When you pay to add your music to a playlist, it often ends up on a playlist alongside a random assortment of music, some good, some terrible. The featured music is likely to be from a wide variety of genres. This isn't a playlist that has been editorially curated, it's a random collection of songs bought together by payment, not love.

These playlists can really mess up your audience targeting. You might be a folk singer with an audience that typically consists of 25-55yrs olds but the moment you pay to be on a playlist that is largely filled with R&B and Trap your audience starts to screw to 16-18 years old girls. On one hand, you might think this is good, isn't your music reaching new audiences? Well yes, but only if they actually listen, and as we discussed above there is no guarantee. In reality, they are just passing through. Now it's anyone's guess who your actual fans are? That makes future ad targeting nothing short of guesswork.

3. Fake streams result in account suspension or deletion.

Spotify agrees to pay artists for every stream, but if they suspect these streams are fake or generated by computers and bots they are less willing to pay! Spotify recently had a crackdown and deleted a ton of accounts where streams were suspected of being artificially inflated by paid playlists. So in short if you are paying for streams, you are playing with fire and if caught your account could be deleted.

How can you tell if the playlists are driven by bots? Make use of your Spotify stats and look at the number of listeners responsible for the streams. If you see 5 listeners and 10,000 streams all coming from one country, you have a problem.

Are you a musician looking for more help and support?

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Words Mark Knight


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