Today, we’re going to talk about 3 ways Spotify helps your music career. And because this is a music marketing podcast with bitesize, actionable strategies, I’ll also be providing ways you can jumpstart the process of leveraging Spotify to grow your fanbase.
So, why Spotify? If you’re a huge Radiohead fan like me, you might know that they’ve said that Spotify is the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” So, not too positive. And on the polar end, there’s artists like Ed Sheeran that share “they’re in the industry to play live” and Spotify is one of those tools that help him to do that. So, why the differences? And where should you stand?
The truth is, you can make opposing arguments for a lot of platforms, like Soundcloud, Youtube, or Pandora. But Spotify has proven uniquely different from all of these platforms, because it shifted the way music was consumed. Instead of a non-terrestrial digital radio station curated by tastes, you decide what to listen to – either at a premium or freemium level. Instead of streaming modified and low-quality streams from YouTube, you get higher quality listens from Spotify. And with Spotify, there’s definitely more listening traffic coming into the app versus Soundcloud. Overall, Spotify might seem to be the strongest candidate of the three when it comes to distributing your music and growing exposure.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider those other platforms. But this does mean you should consider how Spotify may be part of your overall marketing strategy. Outside of the platform comparison, Spotify is a place where people are revisiting favorites, discovering new artists, and expanding their musical tastes. In a PEW research by Mary Madden in 2010, she argued that “free music exploration online may increase demand for music purchases” because consumers are given freedom to sample different genres and artists they may never have before, and then develop new tastes. And that’s one of the reasons why we see cross-over genres becoming more and more popular.
On the other hand, streaming and piracy both challenge a consumer’s motivation to purchase music. Now, there are even free streaming services that grant consumers full customization and freedom to listen to almost anything on their computer devices. In fact, Nielson Soundscan has reported that Americans now spend a little over 32 hours a week listening to music. In 2016 it was 26.6 and in 2015, it was 23.5. On the other hand, the music industry has seen continued decline in album sales. So, back to Madden’s point, how exactly can this demand increase music purchases if album sales keep dropping?
What these two data points show is that demand is apparent, but the ways to monetize are different. This also means that creating a sustainable music career shouldn’t rely on the old models of distributing and marketing your music. Spotify has been a huge game player in the music industry shift. So, instead of fighting against it, how can you leverage it?
So, what does that mean for you? Here are 3 ways Spotify can help your career.
1.) It can increase your exposure.
This is a given. iTunes offers samples of songs for listeners before they make a purchase. But iTunes isn’t necessarily a platform for new artist discovery unless you’re part of their streaming services, which you have to pay $14.99 for. So, of course, a lot of traffic still goes to Spotify because of it’s freemium offer.
Spotify is a place for comfort listens and nostalgic listens, but it’s also a place for new discovery listens. This happens at least one of two ways: first, the “related artists” section can get you in a rabbit hole of discovery; second, curated playlists. If you happen to land one a big one, that’s huge traffic for you. How? Well, let’s say your ideal fan reads Pitchfork. Their account has over 100K in followers, which means you have the potential to reach that many potential fans. In Spotify’s general playlists there are millions of followers for their playlists like “Songs to Sing in the Shower” or “Mood Booster”.
Fans could be committed to a specific musician, but these playlists show that fans are also committed to types of moods to fit their lifestyle.
2.) Spotify can help your tour sales and merchandise sales.
Spotify has been in opposition with a lot of big name artists, but it’s been working hard to earn their trust by providing ways for musicians to engage with fans. While you can’t engage with fans like you would in social, you can by providing a bio, your own curated playlists, linking your tour dates (and ticket purchasing), data points (like listens by location) and merchandise sales. Spotify has partnered with MerchBar, which allows you to sell merchandise through Spotify. There is no set-up fee or monthly fee; however, they do charge commission on transactions facilitated on MerchBar.
3.) Using Spotify may improve your marketing efforts by streamlining and concentrating your efforts.
When you’re considering what playlists to target, you can’t just choose any playlist. You truly need to know your potential fan’s mood and lifestyle. For example, is your kind of the music that gets them pumped for the gym? Or is the kind they’d listen to at the end of a yoga session? What blogs might they be reading, and do those blogs have curated playlists for their fans? What artists are you similar to and what playlists are they on? Speaking of which, when you look at “Related Artists” on Spotify, those are actually artists that are automatically generated by algorithms. It looks at artists that are paired and played within a radio station or playlist. With that being said, there’s no way to manually change the “Related Artists”, but this means you need to be thoughtful with where your music is in playlists. Finally, where might your fans be located? Spotify provides this data and you can use this data whenever you plan to do Facebook marketing.
In addition, for all you marketing nerds like me out there, Spotify does offer data for artists, which is called their “analytics dashboard”. We already know that this includes the number of listens and where fans are located. The dashboard also shows which of those listeners are “true fans”. Plus, it shows which playlists are drawing attention to you. You do have to apply for access, though. You can do that here: https://artists.spotify.com/c/access/artist
So, where do you go from here?
First, if you haven’t identified your ideal fan or even have your first 1000 super fans, make sure to check out episode 11.
If you’re past that stage, the next thing I’d suggest you do is to identify at least 6 -10 playlists that your ideal fan would be listening to. Part of figuring this out includes knowing what moods they’d use playlists for, what artists they might already be listening to (and what playlists they’re on), and what blogs your fans might be reading.
So, do some research and maybe find at least 2 for each of those categories.
After you do this, you’ll need to send a genuine and not spammy e-mail of why your music would be a great addition to their playlist. Sometimes you’ll need to do some investigative work to identify the actual playlist curator before making the pitch.
And for some playlists, you can actually submit your tracks to paid services like Playlist Push to help you get listed in playlists.