Earlier this year, Spotify showed us the true power of their playlists. Spotify-owned playlists are driving over a billion streams every week. With Spotify’s estimated 100 million active listeners, we can estimate that a single listener is playing 10 songs each week. At an average per-stream payout of $0.007, playlists are paying around $7,000,000 per week or $210M per month to artists and labels.

These numbers show a clear opportunity in leveraging Spotify playlists to get in front of millions of engaged listeners. The industry knows this well and is betting big on it…

We view playlists on streaming services as global radio stations — placement on a popular playlist is a great way to expose an artist to a new audience.” — J.T. Myers, mtheory

Here’s the problem. Today, Spotify owns and curates the majority of popular playlists on the service. You can see this by browsing any Spotify chart.

There are other playlists managed by third-party services like DigMark, Filtr, and Digster, but you’ll only see these listed far below Spotify’s own popular playlists. All together, they control the gates to Spotify playlist listeners and continue to grow more conservative in offering placement.

The reality is: you need to drive more streams on Spotify. However, getting placement in Spotify or third-party owned playlists demands an unsustainable amount of time and marketing resources. How can you engage more listeners, bypass Spotify’s walled garden of playlists, and do it for free?

Build your own engaged artist playlist.

Creating an engaged artist playlist starts by learning about your audience. Spotify’s own Discover Weekly is a testament to how understanding listening preferences can help construct actively-listened playlists. More than half of all Discover Weekly listeners stream at least 10 tracks from it each week and come back every following week to do the same.

Setting aside Spotify’s big data algorithms that underpin playlist curation, we can still draw lessons from their approach. Understanding your fans’ listening preferences will give you a better idea about the songs that will keep them coming back to your playlist. A little research on what your fans listen to on Spotify, playlists they follow, and songs that align with your own sound will help you curate a frequently-listened playlist.

Make playlists that speak to your audience

An artist playlist is an opportunity to connect with your fans personally. Creatively branding and curating your playlist around a mood or theme gives fans a way to listen to music with your brand in mind. A few awesome examples are Ryan Hemsworth’s “What I’m Listening To” and Leon Bridges’ “River Inspirations.” Fans naturally gravitate to something like this.

The best playlists are easy for fans to consume and navigate. Based on your playlist branding, a responsibly sized playlist can vary between 20–50 tracks. This also makes it viable for you to curate and manage.

Fans need to follow your playlist to easily access it for repeat listening. Aside from employing your own email and social marketing to get the word out, the most effective way to rapidly grow your playlist is to incentivize new and existing fans to follow your playlist.

A single free download campaign can add thousands of new followers to your playlist in a short time. This helps your playlist get discovered and encourages fans to share it on their socials, with their friends.

An example free download campaign

Follow Spotify’s Discover Weekly approach by refreshing the placement of songs often. Creating a habit of refreshing your playlist weekly makes it a repeat destination for fans. The goal is to nurture active listening. Align messaging in your marketing to encourage fans to revisit rotating playlists.

Remember, this playlist is designed to increase your own exposure so be generous: include your music throughout, especially near the top of the list where it’s easily consumable.

Your artist playlist now becomes an awesome marketing asset for releasing new music and driving streams. By encouraging your listeners to come back and engage with your playlist regularly, your Spotify presence will become a healthy source of streams.

More importantly, your playlist can be used as a key channel for breaking new music as an easy way to direct your active fans to newly released tracks. Increased early exposure for new music makes those songs prime candidates for popular playlist placement. This is great ammo for targeting Spotify editorial as well.

A successful playlisting strategy will significantly contribute to increasing your presence on Spotify. It’s clear that fans on Spotify love playlists, and the platform’s growth further emphasizes how playlists can open the door to a much wider listening audience. Building and growing your artist playlist gives you a powerful lever for accelerating your reach on Spotify and beyond.

At ToneDen we help thousands of creators, managers, and labels grow their audiences on platforms like Spotify. Our goal is to make it simple to build and engage your audience. If you have any questions on Spotify marketing or strategy, we’re always here to help. Shoot us an email at hello@toneden.io.