Music Marketing Guide

Spotify Promotion in 2020: The Definitive Guide

Grow Spotify Followers and Get Playlisted

This is the ultimate guide to Spotify Promotion in 2020. Since 2008, Spotify has been transforming how artists make and market music but now the game has changed. It's time to increase streams, go behind the algorithms, and take advantage of 240 million listeners around the globe.

Warning: This is not your average “Spotify Marketing” post.

We'll teach you:
✓ how to get more followers on Spotify and build a loyal following
✓ how to get on Spotify Playlists like Release Radar and Discover Weekly
✓ how to improve your odds in the Spotify Playlist submission process
✓ how ToneDen's Spotify Growth Playbook helps you get more Spotify followers

Ready to grow your Spotify following? You'll love this new guide.
The 4 Ways to Grow on Spotify (Excluding Organic Growth)
How to Get on Spotify’s Algorithmic Playlists & the Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers
Going from 800 to 2,400 Spotify Followers in 30 Days: the Lili Kendall Case Study
How to Create ToneDen's Spotify Growth Playbook

The 4 Ways to Grow on Spotify (Excluding Organic Growth)

How do I grow on Spotify? Where do I get real followers? And could my followers go from hundreds to thousands in a few months? Those are the questions artists are asking right now as the time fans spend streaming music soars. 200 million people use Spotify, which means more than 200 million people are your potential followers. 

Believe it: In 90 days, you can go from 800 to 10,000 followers. But how?
Going from 800 to 10,000 Spotify Followers in 90 Days
Spotify has become the world’s most popular music portal. It’s the place where artists of all genres develop their fanbase, their image, and, of course, their career. That last part—developing a career—is linked to demonstrating solid growth on Spotify, and right now there are four ways to do that. 

Spotify Editorial Playlists 
Independent Playlists
Influencer/Viral Marketing
Algorithmic Playlists 

In this article, we’ll break down four paths to growing on Spotify, weighing the pros and cons of each:
Spotify Editorial Playlists
New Music Friday. Rap Caviar. You tune into these playlists all the time and so do millions of other Spotify users around the world. If you go to the browse section on Spotify and search for a genre’s playlists, most of them will be owned and operated by Spotify. These playlists—all 3000 of them, curated by Spotify’s editorial team—are premium playlist real estate.

There are definite pros to landing on Spotify Editorial Playlists. In a word: clout. Getting a single on New Music Friday is a shortcut to cultural relevance. Plus, you’re guaranteed lots of streams in a short period of time–upwards of 25,000 streams a day. 

The main con to pinning your hopes on Spotify Editorial Playlists? One word: placement. With 40,000 new songs being released on Spotify each day, competition for space on editorial playlists is fierce. Every single person at every major label and large independent label group is vying for those spots. For the artist without a major label sales team on hand, the submission portal can feel a little like a black hole. Let’s face it: Spotify has only got so much inventory. They can't make everyone happy. 

Another downside to gunning for Spotify Editorial Playlist success is that it's difficult to repeat. Your first song might end up on an editorial playlist, but maybe your follow-up efforts won't—and that can be demoralizing.

Don’t look for great fan conversion either. That’s the final downside to Editorial Playlists: The streams you get often come from people who listen to a single without following you. The incremental streams that add value to your catalog don’t always translate into new followers.

Independent Playlists
Independent playlists are playlists curated by humans that are not employees at Spotify, humans who have a significant following. Examples of independent playlists include MrSuicideSheepFavourites, Trap Nation, and La Belle Musique. There are also promotional services like PlaylistPush that offer to get you in front of these playlist curators, albeit for a fee. Anyone who’s concerned about growing on Spotify will probably have a hot take on this topic, which has become an internet obsession. (Google “Spotify Playlist Submission” and click on a few ads—you’ll get the gist.)

Independent playlists come with pros. Getting on one of these playlists is occasionally free, which means there are some really good playlists that will promote your music free. Proximity is a great example of a playlist that's built a devoted following of loyal listeners.

If you don’t have shame about playola, paid placement on independent playlists is a real opportunity, too. Talk to anyone in the music industry and they’ll tell you how much palm-greasing goes on behind-the-streams. 

In the short-term, getting onto an independent playlist can yield major streams. And if you want to break even on a song ASAP, if you’re itching to get it to a quarter million to a million plays within the first month or two of release, this route could get you there. The customer acquisition costs are low—at least to start. 

If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Spotify is cracking down on the pay-to-playlist game–because of course the most data-driven streaming company around knows where your streams come from. If they find your song on a playlist that runs on playola, you risk tarnishing your relationship with Spotify. This can be especially damaging to emerging artists who aren’t yet backed by a major label and lack the connections to avoid getting banned.

Influencer/Viral Marketing
Doja Cat is to TikTok what Michael Jordan was to Nike. Influencer/viral marketing is what happens when you make the next “Say So” or have a song go viral through a TikTok Challenge (especially one sponsored by a TikToker). 

Influencer/viral marketing benefits come fast and furious. If your song goes viral on TikTok, representatives from major labels will be clamoring to sign you. That virality translates into Spotify streams, obviously–often an impossible number of them in a short period of time.

The con of influencer/viral marketing is its sheer unpredictability. It's difficult to control the zeitgeist. 
If you go viral once, there's no guarantee you'll see that success again. Virality is all about flukes. 

“Oh ... that song!” You’ve probably overheard tons of songs that were catchy and everywhere—that you’ve totally forgotten. An unfortunate quirk of virality is that the connection between the song and the artist gets fractured. It’s one-hit wonder syndrome: People know the song without knowing the artist. Your song is all over TikTok—but you’re not getting commensurate Spotify followers. 

Algorithmic Playlists
Algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar are owned and operated by Spotify. Unlike Spotify’s Editorial Playlists, the songs that appear in these playlists aren't determined by humans but by a variety of algorithms. Because their behind-the-scenes machine learning is learnable, they’re the most scalable method for growing on Spotify. 

Algorithmic playlists come with many upsides. First, getting placement in them is easy, relative to the other types of playlists: you have better chances of track placement on Release Radar than on Rap Caviar. And getting that placement is repeatable, too, which means growing on algorithmic playlists is scalable. Increasing your placement in Discover Weekly playlists is far safer–and simpler–than going after independent playlists. 

Spotify curates 3,000 editorial playlists; their algorithms create 200 million discover weekly playlists and 200 million release radar playlists.

In the long-term, algorithmic playlists have the lowest customer acquisition costs. In terms of finding new fans, there are net benefits to appearing in algorithmic playlists. The listeners who stream your music become stickier—i.e., more dedicated—followers.

As they shift from editorial playlists and work to optimize user experience, Spotify is creating more and more opportunities for its algorithmic playlists. From a listener's perspective, the best user experience boils down to how many songs in a row you can listen to and enjoy. It's a music recommendation issue.  Spotify knows that the only way to handle music recommendation at scale—a scale of 200 million users in 70 different countries—is by relying on algorithms and user activity. 

The downside to algorithmic playlists? Breaking onto them can take time and followers. Fortunately, the process isn’t such a mystery any more.

Algorithmic playlists are your best bet to growing on Spotify and building a following in a predictable, sustainable, and affordable fashion. We’ve laid out the different types of algorithmic playlists in our next section and explain how to increase your placement on them.


How to Get on Spotify’s Algorithmic Playlists & the Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers

What if there were someone who found you new fans while you sleep? If with every release you could reliably grow Spotify followers? Spotify’s Algorithmic Playlists make all that happen. 

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

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.
How the Spotify Algorithm Works
The first is 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. 

The second is 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.

The final component that we know plays a role in Spotify’s Discover Weekly Algorithm is 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 end up saving it? That’s a 20% Saves-to-Listeners Ratio. 

But there’s another factor—often overlooked—in the algorithmic playlist conversation, and that’s 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. 
How the Spotify Popularity Index Works
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. 

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:
Spotify Artist Profile vs. Song/Album Page
• 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 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.
The Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers
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. Because your songs have recent streaming activity, your Spotify Popularity Index Ranking goes up relative to other artists on the platform.

3. The increase in your Spotify Popularity Index Ranking gets you placed in Discover Weekly Playlists and Release Radar Playlists. The increase in followers means you get featured in more Release Radar playlists when you release new music after they’ve followed you.

4. The increase in placement that you receive on Release Radar and Discover Weekly exposes you to new fans, who, in turn, follow you, in addition to listening to and saving your songs.

5. This further increases your Spotify Popularity Index ranking, allowing you to get more placement on Discover Weekly and Release Radar. The cycle continues! 

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! 


Going from 800 to 2,400 Spotify Followers in 30 Days: the Lili Kendall Case Study

Artist Lili Kendall
Want to triple your Spotify followers in 30 days? Talk to Lili Kendall.

A native of Brisbane, Australia, Kendall released her full-length album “love, herself” this spring. Kendall’s music is poppy and soulful, feminine, empowered.

In March 2020, Kendall took ToneDen’s Spotify Growth Playbook for a thirty-day ride. She discovered that she could increase her exposure in Discover Weekly and other algorithmic playlists by promoting her Spotify profile through powerful Instagram Story ads.
Swipe Up Instagram Story Ads
After launching the playbook, Kendall’s daily streams jumped from 400 to 1500—then to 3000 by the end of the month (a 650% increase). She went from getting 0% of her streams from Spotify algorithmic playlists to 15%.

She rapidly accelerated the virtuous cycle of Spotify Followers. Thirty days of sustained promotion through Instagram Stories sent people to Lili Kendall’s Spotify artist profile, led to increased placement on Discover Weekly and Release Radar, and caused a huge uptick in her streams.

How did Kendall monitor her progress? How any artist in 2020 monitors their progress on Spotify: with the Spotify for Artists tool. It's a must. 

The audience tab on the Spotify for Artists dashboard shows you follower growth, daily stream growth, and where your streams are coming from. Lili and her team saw that using ToneDen led to a significant increase in her overall followers, as well as the number of streams and listeners she gained each day:
Lili Kendall's 650% Increase in Streams
The source of those streams is valuable information. Spotify for Artist breaks out the sources like this:
Source of Streams via Spotify for Artists Dashboard
Your profile and catalog
These streams come from listeners who go directly to your artist profile or specific song/album pages. This is about as “direct” as you can get when it comes to streams.

Listener's own playlists and library
These streams come from listeners saving and creating their own playlists. When a fan plays one of your songs in the Liked Songs section of their library, that song is counted toward this category, which also covers any playlists that fan creates. If a fan included your song on their gym playlist “Workout Bangers,” listening to that song on that playlist would be accounted for here. 

Other listeners playlists
These streams come from human-curated playlists compiled by influencers or non-Spotify organizations. 

Spotify algorithmic playlists
These streams come from non-human curated playlists owned by Spotify: Discover Weekly, Release Radar, Daily Mix, Spotify Radio, and more.

Spotify editorial playlists
These streams are self-explanatory.

These streams come from smart devices like TVs, wearables, and smart speaker products like Amazon’s Alexa.

Monitoring how the percentage of streams you get from Spotify algorithmic playlists grows over time lets you see if you're getting increased placement in algorithmic playlists. Lili Kendall knew the strategy was working when she went from 0% to 15% without doing any other kind of promotion.

Of all these sources, what artists need to pay the most attention to is Listener's own playlists and library. This is where an artist stands to get the most incremental streams. 

Say one fan streams your song ten times. While that first stream comes from discovering the song on a particular playlist, streams two through ten come from “Liked Songs.” That means someone heard your song in a playlist, went to their Liked Songs, hit Shuffle Play, or sought out the song directly there. This is a perfect example of the exponential power of getting streams from algorithmic playlists—and Lili Kendall’s stats reflect it.

Spending $5-$10/day on Instagram advertising to promote algorithmic playlisting, Lili Kendall got:

2.9k streams on Discover Weekly
785 streams on Spotify Radio
600 streams on Daily Mix
Nearly 200 streams on Release Radar

For independent playlisting to yield comparable results would take hours and hours—and a significant cash investment. With algorithmic playlists, none of that trouble, time, or effort is required. Lili Kendall gets to focus on making music—not marketing it. 

In this swiftly-shifting streaming era, growing on Spotify means taking advantage of the platform’s internal distribution networks—in other words, algorithmic playlists and the Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers. Ready to grab the reins and see these kinds of results for yourself? Read on to learn how ToneDen enters the equation.


How to Create ToneDen's Spotify Growth Playbook

ToneDen’s Spotify Growth Playbook was designed to help artists see results. With the SG Playbook, we propel the number of followers you get on Spotify, igniting the Virtuous Cycle of Spotify Followers, which leads to more placement on playlists. The more playlists your songs are placed on, the more streams you get from new fans who love your music. It’s a recipe for success. 
ToneDen's Spotify Growth Playbook – Campaign Insights
In this article, you'll learn how to use one of the most powerful artist growth tools on the market. First we’ll go behind the scenes, examining the reasons why ToneDen’s Spotify Growth Playbook works.

Reason 1: Instagram Stories — The Medium is the Message
It all starts with Instagram Stories. Dynamic, accessible, this medium is perfect for any artist or creator. Why? Instagram Stories are sensory feasts of audio and video. When a person sees an ad for you on Instagram Stories, they get a taste of who you are as an artist. By swiping up, that person is sent to your Spotify artist profile, where your entire product catalog awaits. And conveniently, Instagram Stories ads let you target individuals when they’re on their mobile phones—where they likely use Spotify as well. 

Reason 2: Artistic Brilliance — Your Creative, Your Spotify Artist’s Profile
What should you include in an Instagram Stories ad? Your song name is important, as well as a 10-15 second video that’s tailored to Instagram Stories specs. Where do fans go when they swipe up? Your Spotify artist profile, of course. When someone ends up at your Spotify artist profile, they’ll have a sense of what track to check out first because of the song you mentioned in your creative. Furthermore, the call to action to Follow is significantly larger on your Spotify artist profile than it is on your song or album pages. This means you get more bang for your buck when you run ToneDen’s Spotify Growth Playbook. You get a follow, a stream, and—more often than not—a save too!

Fun fact: Our clients using this playbook have seen off-the-charts Saves-to-Listeners ratios for the songs they’re promoting in these ads.

The industry average for Spotify Saves: 7-10%.
Spotify Growth Playbook average Spotify Saves: 30%.

If three out of ten people check out your song and end up saving it, you get more than three streams: those three people lead to incremental streams, boosting your Spotify popularity index ranking. 

Reason 3: Multiple Audiences x Budget Allocation = Growth on Steroids
ToneDen’s Spotify Growth Playbook delivers major results due to its powerful budget allocation and audience targeting tools. Whether your marketing budget is $5/day or $100/day, we create different target audiences on Facebook for you within our platform. As your campaign runs, we shift that budget towards the best-performing audiences—the ones with greatest reach and lowest cost-per-click—to stretch your budget further than it would go in native Facebook Ads Manager. 

Reason 4: Global Impact 
Two important notes about our target audiences: They’re global and they focus on targeting actual Spotify users in those markets. Spotify’s users span 77 countries. Going global is especially important because it allows us to tap into Spotify’s 240 million listeners for worldwide, affordable engagement. Labels and artist managers who only promote their music in the US, the UK, and Australia, where royalty rates are high, miss out. Spotify’s algorithm doesn’t put a premium on streams from the US over streams from Turkey: user engagement is valued equally. Less expensive user engagement gets you on algorithmic playlists just the same as more expensive user engagement.

It’s ironic but the pathway to getting onto more playlists in countries with better royalty rates is by advertising to the entire world, not just one or two countries.

Let’s Do This.
ToneDen makes it easy to measure these metrics, and that’s more important than ever before. In today’s streaming environment, an artist needs to think like an eCommerce company or an event promoter. As management guru Peter Drucker put it: “What gets measured gets managed.” By measuring and managing those results—i.e., analyzing them—you can improve your marketing efforts. 

Let’s walk through creating the Spotify Growth Playbook. 
1. Create an account on ToneDen here.

2. In your dashboard, explore new Playbooks in the music section. Find the Spotify Growth Playbook and press New Campaign.

3. Enter your Facebook Ad account, choosing the Facebook page and Instagram account.

4. Schedule your campaign. With these campaigns, the amount of money you're spending is less important than the consistency of your streams. To crank up that Spotify Popularity Index Ranking, you need to show consistent growth and recent streams. We recommend running the Spotify Growth Playbook for 30-60 days for $5/day to $10/day. This creates a nice opportunity for you to get more streams every week because you should be included in more playlists on Monday (via Discover Weekly) or Friday (via Release Radar).

5. Input your Spotify artist's name so we can measure your follower growth over time.

6. Enter similar artists on Spotify to target so we can build your targeted list of artists. When you input an artist name, ToneDen goes to the Fans Also Like section in Spotify, pulls these artists, and looks for a matching core interest in Facebook Ads Manager. This yields a high-quality target audience.

(Note: Using Spotify to leverage this target Facebook audience means as you run the playbook you'll see your Fans Also Like section start resembling the artists you've been targeting on Facebook. This has great incremental potential. If a person ends up coming across, say, Kristoff's profile, and you’re an artist who resembles Kristoff, soon your songs will appear in Kristoff’s Spotify Radio Playlists section.)

We recommend including broad interests, too. If you're an aspiring pop artist, choose three large artists like Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Ariana Grande, as well as at least two broad genre categories like “Pop Music” and “Indie Pop.”

7. Select target audience locations—and think international. (Reminder: Targeting a global audience results in more organic streams from the US or Canada than by advertising to them directly.)

8. Get a budget. Start at $5-$10/day, but feel free to go as high as $100/day if you want to grow aggressively. And steady does it: Better to spend consistently month-over-month than to release a song and spend $500 in a week. Why? Once again, it goes back to the Spotify Popularity Ranking Index. Recent streams outweigh aggregate streams.

9. Be creative. What works well for Instagram Stories is eye-catching video that contains artist name, song name, and the Spotify logo with 'Swipe Up' copy so your new followers know to take action. Dimensions: 1080 pixels wide and 1920 pixels high.

Even if you only have a few songs in your catalog, it’s never too early to shape your Spotify destiny. Gain followers. Drive streams. Improve your Spotify Popularity Ranking. Get playlist placement. ToneDen makes music marketing quick and easy. And the quicker and easier music marketing is, the more time you get to keep making music. 


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