The secrets of Spotify playlist promotion companies
Today we’re going to talk about the inner-workings of Spotify playlist companies. These are the companies that offer playlist promotion in exchange for lump-sums of money.
Get your song on playlists with this many followers for X dollars
Get your song this many streams from playlists for X dollars
I’m not talking about places like SubmitHub or Playlist Push where placement is not guaranteed.
Before we dive in too deep though I want to say that if you have less than $1k to promote your song i’d put 100% into Facebook ads and skip playlist promo. At the end of this newsletter i’ll talk more about this…
Believe it or not, there are legit companies in this playlisting space that have very active playlists that can fit into a well rounded music marketing strategy.
However, there are a TON of scams in this industry.
On top of that, even if you use a legit company it’s very easy to use playlist promotion in the wrong way.
First, you have to understand that…
Spotify playlisting is BIG business
Of course most people with Spotify playlists are making $0/month, and many that are attempting to start a business in this space are not making a living off of it.
However there are companies out there making hundreds of thousands of dollars per month in this space.
Additionally it is often very hard to accurately determine the quality of the service. Whenever you have lots of money on the line for a service that is hard to measure, you’re going to have scams.
Here are some simple rules to minimize getting scammed:
Try to only use a service someone you know or trust has used
Always look up reviews, but keep in mind those can be faked either by the company or by a competitor
Look up the competition. If one service is dirt cheap compared to the rest, be careful
Test with a small dollar amount before jumping in with something big
If possible use Artist Tools or similar to look up the playlists prior to paying
You might be wondering how I know so much about playlisting companies when I don’t own one for myself, or generally utilize them. Well the answer is…
I have contacts that own Spotify playlist companies
Some of these contacts are friends, some are clients of mine and some of them are companies that allowed me to review their services.
In various cases i’ve:
Seen their ad accounts
Seen their customer service flow
Seen their backend portal for matching songs to playlist owners
Seen their revenue and profit margins
Received a detailed walkthrough of their business
Overall legit players are pretty open to their process. They know that even if they explain their entire business model most people would not be able to pull off what they’ve built. By the time they did, the industry would change.
Now that you have some context, lets talk about…
Spotify playlist company models
There are 3 general categories of playlist company models.
Owned playlists (legit)
Playlist networks (legit)
Bot playlists (fake)
Just for clarity when I say ‘legit’ in this newsletter all I mean is that the company in question is NOT using bots. This entire industry is a massive grey area from the eyes of Spotify.
The ‘owned playlists’ model is when the company owns the playlists it sells promotion from. They’re generally growing these Spotify playlists using a combination of SEO (search engine optimization) and ad traffic.
They make their playlist titles and descriptions based on what listeners are searching for. Some playlists may get Facebook ad budgets so they can climb the Spotify search ranks faster, others may be left to grow organically.
Often these companies are making hundreds or even thousands of playlists hoping a handful end up becoming popular.
Alternatively many companies simply choose to purchase the Spotify accounts of users who accidentally grew engaged playlists. They’ll scour the platform for playlists that appear to have grown organically over time and aren’t being utilized by the owner. Then they make them a cash offer.
Moonstrive Media is a legit playlist service that falls in this category. You can watch my review of them here:
I also did a blog post about them here.
The ‘playlist networks’ model is when the company has a database of contacts for people who own their own playlists. This is generally more common because it is very hard to own enough playlists yourself to make a viable business out of this.
They often have a spreadsheet that lists the Spotify playlist, the owner, the cost of getting on the playlist and the genre. Then when they have a customer they pitch the song to their list and pay off each individual playlist owner.
They make money as the middleman. Off your $300 order maybe they had to spend $150-$200 securing the playlist placements for your song. This profit is generally justified because they spent the time growing and vetting their network of contacts, and it does take work securing the placements.
You can watch my review of Indie Music Academy’s playlist service here:
I also did a blog review of them here. I’m in the process of reviewing Partnered Projects’ service so expect that within a month or so.
The ‘bot playlists’ model is where things get definitively scammy. Often these companies claim they have a network of or own their own engaged playlists. But on the back-end they’re just running bots on their playlists.
There are various companies that sell Spotify bot accounts that you can command to perform certain actions. These scammers will command the bots to stream their playlists at a certain volume to generate a specific amount of traffic.
Some of them sell their service at the same price as the legit playlisters to make a very high profit margin. Others will sell it for dirt cheap to attract more business from artists who can’t afford the legit companies.
You want to avoid these companies like the plague. You can use something like Artist Tools to vet playlists before you try and get on them.
The legit playlisters hate the bot companies because they steal business and ruin the reputation for the whole industry.
Follower vs Stream Pricing
There are two methods of selling playlist: follower based or stream based.
Follower based is when they guarantee a specific number of followers on the playlists they add you too. They might sell you a 100k follower package. To deliver on this order they get you on 3 playlists at 20k followers and 1 playlist at 40k followers for a total of 100k.
Stream based is when they guarantee a specific number of streams on the song you’re promoting. Even though this sounds like it would always be fake, it can be done in a legit way. They know roughly how many streams each playlist will get in a period of time, and they often have access to Spotify for Artists for multiple songs across every playlist to track that.
Scams are often sold with stream based pricing, but not all stream based pricing is a scam.
The downside of follower based pricing is that the followers don’t always matter that much. You can have a 100k follower playlist that only gets 100 listeners per week if its dead. But a 10k follower playlist might get 5k listeners per week.
The downside of stream based pricing is it tends to be more expensive because its harder for companies to ensure they deliver on what they promised you.
There are some interesting facts i’ve learned over time i’ll rattle off in bullet point fashion:
Stream based playlist promotion is generally priced at $0.02 to $0.03 per stream
Its a small industry, everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows who is fake and who is real.
This is a super competitive industry. Companies will report other company’s playlists to de-rank them and overtake them in the search results.
For companies with a network of playlist owners, some playlist owners charge per week vs month, others charge for playlist spot, some have flat monthly retainers, some do trades only.
Some companies will blend SEO, ads, owned playlists and playlist networks together for their service. Indie Music Academy has a network but generally their playlists are all SEO based.
Remember, this entire industry is a grey area.
How do you use playlists?
My general rule of thumb is if you’re using Spotify playlisting: don’t let it become more than 10-20% of your monthly stream count at most.
The vast majority of your streams should be coming from high engagement sources like Facebook ads or organic. These sources generally have save rates higher than 50% while playlisting is generally around 5%.
High quality streams will teach Spotify who actually likes your music. If all your streams are low engagement Spotify will have a tough time placing your music algorithmically, if at all.
I’d only start touching playlisting at all if your song is already starting to get traction algorithmically.
I found a pretty ridiculous Spotify playlist scam that is VERY likely using bots. Check out the video I made to learn more:
In case you don’t know, I have a podcast! Currently there are 42 episodes and it has about 20,000 downloads.
If you prefer the video version of the podcast, I uploaded an episode with Chaitha on how he grew to 250,000 Spotify monthly listeners in only 2 years. He grew a lot of his own playlists using Facebook ads to grow so fast.
Recently i’ve been posting some pretty detailed threads on Twitter, here’s one!
I released 4 albums that nobody heard.
When I started releasing music I thought "if you make great music, it will market itself".
But that was dead wrong.
— Andrew Southworth (@southwortha)
Jun 15, 2023
Here are some music industry news highlights from the past week.
TikTok is investing billions of dollars in Southeast Asia
Believe, Empire, Spotify, Amazon Music and more team up to try and eradicate streaming fraud
Spotify was fined $5.4M by Swedish privacy regulator
Meta released an AI music generator that was trained on 20,000 hours of licensed music
Spotify sells Soundtrap back to its founders
Quote of the Week
“We are comfortable planting seeds and waiting for them to grow into trees.”
Love or hate Jeff Bezos, you can’t deny he’s built an empire. As music artists every song you release is a seed you’re planting that will pay off for the rest of your life.
It is easy to get caught in the short term ups and downs, but the only thing that really matters is the long term. Most songs will run at a loss for a while before they break even - then everything after is pure profit if you own your masters.
Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:
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