The Spotify playlist ecosystem is super sketchy.
You probably already know this; if you’ve spent five minutes researching how to get on Spotify playlists, I’ll bet you’ve already come across a world of fun phrases like…
- “Disengaged streams”
- “Botted lists”
- “Sure I’ll add your song to my playlist it only costs $90 here’s the PayPal link”
Yeah, all that stuff sucks.
I get it. Bad targeting, botted lists, payola – it’s all real. Playlists offer the promise of streams, but a lot of artists have found that the reality of trying to get placed on one is mostly kind of soul-crushing. It’s enough to make any moral, rational person second-guess the whole concept.
Which is too bad. Because, in spite of all the ugliness out there, I remain a firm believer that playlisting can be a really effective way to get a bunch of people to hear your music. I’ve just seen it work too many times to think otherwise.
And it makes sense, right? Playlists are literally the foundation of Spotify. Of course they can help get you more streams.
Now, there’s certainly nuance to this. If you want a more detailed breakdown of whether or not playlist pitching is worthwhile, you can check out an article I wrote earlier this year called “Does Playlist Pitching Work?” (and spoiler: my answer is “sometimes”).
But today, while I do want to acknowledge the potential sketchiness of playlists, I also want to move on from that first question – the question of whether playlists work – and get into the next question.
The next question is this:
Assuming it is worthwhile to get on a good playlist, how can I find good playlists?
Because I think knowing a few solid answers to that question goes a long way toward helping you navigate the ecosystem’s sketchiness – and a long way toward getting you results that actually fulfill the promise of playlists, rather than betraying it.
And with that lengthy intro, let’s get into it. Here are three ways to find playlists (and curators) worth pitching.
1. Use a tool.
This is probably the easiest way to find good playlists. The idea is that you pay for access to software that functions kind of like Google for playlists: You search for a keyword, the tool shows you results that match, and you click into the results to get the details and make your pitch.
From what I’ve seen, there are two versions of these tools.
One version is essentially a static database that’s manually curated with information on playlists and curators.
The second version is a search tool that pulls live data from Spotify’s API.
With the first version (a static database), you can get really detailed data – info like curator Twitter handles, SubmitHub profiles, associated websites, and more. The drawback is that the data can go out of date pretty fast.
Playlist Radar is an example of a tool that uses this approach.
With the second version (a live search tool), you get up-to-the-minute info, because you’re literally querying Spotify’s live API and churning through every playlist on the platform. This means you’ll see real-time follower growth curves and playlist engagement data – but it also means that you don’t get anything outside of Spotify’s API (like SubmitHub profiles, etc.). Any contact info these tools turn up is usually pulled right from playlists’ descriptions.
Artist Tools is an example of a tool that uses this approach.
Personally, I use Artist Tools when I run playlisting campaigns or do playlist research. (Relatedly, the link up there is an affiliate link.)
I like the live-query approach because it helps you evaluate the quality of a playlist immediately. Artist Tools, specifically, pulls up this little info box that gives a quick evaluation of a list’s quality, which I’ve found to be pretty helpful.
But there are plenty of other options, too. I just had a call last week with the team behind Playlist Supply, and I’ve used the free version of Playlist Map. From what I can tell, all of these seem like solid options, and really, the main functionality across all of them is pretty consistent.
One final note on using tools:
When you go this route, the structure of your search is everything. A lot of people search by genre to start out; that’s great, but it’s kind of limited, because most playlists are built for moods more than for genres.
If you use a tool, I’d recommend trying a few different approaches to expand the playlists you find. Don’t just search by genre; search by other factors, like mood or similar artists. You’ll get more results this way – and the longer your list of playlists to pitch, the better chance you have at getting placed.
Long-story-short, using a tool is a solid (and easy) option.
2. Find playlists through similar artists on Spotify.
If you don’t want to pay like $15 / month for a tool, no worries. You can find playlists yourself for free; it’ll just take a little more time.
In my experience, the best way to find new playlists yourself is to use what Kohrey from the Brand Man network calls the “About Section Strategy.”
Here’s the gist:
- You go to Spotify and use their search bar to find a playlist in the genre you’re targeting.
- You check to make sure the playlist is run by a third-party curator (i.e., not Spotify or some major brand like Topsify) and is high-quality (by plugging it into a free tool like isitagoodplaylist.com).
- You find an artist on that playlist who has fewer than 50,000 monthly listeners.
- You go to that artist’s profile and scroll through their “Discovered on” section.
- You add all of the playlists that seem like good fits to your list, then dig through the descriptions to find curator contact info.
- You use each new playlist as a starting point to find more artists and more playlists.
If that bullet list made the process seem confusing, I’m sorry. You might find it easier watching Kohrey explain it on video:
Crunch your keyboard for an hour with this strategy, and you’ll have a pretty extensive list of playlists that a) fit your genre and b) are open to placing smaller artists.
3. Reach out to the people who have playlisted you before.
This third concept requires that you have music on Spotify with some streaming traction already – so, if you haven’t released a song yet or if you have less than 1,000 streams, this isn’t for you.
But if you have been on Spotify for a couple years and you have ten thousand streams or more, this is an easy win.
Here’s the idea:
- Go to your Spotify for Artists portal.
- Go to Music -> Playlists.
- Set the date range to “Since 2015.”
- Scroll down to the Listener playlists and comb through to see playlists that have driven streams for you in the past.
- Pull up those playlists in Spotify and look for curator contact info.
- Reach out and ask the curators if they’d place your music again.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that my friend Joel is doing this for his upcoming release cycle. Joel has over 30M streams. So, sure, he has a lot of playlists to choose from when he does this, now – but he’s also proof that this approach works.
Bonus: Pay to use a playlist network.
Okay, fine, I’ll throw this one in: Last (and maybe least, depending on your perspective), I think it only makes sense to mention playlist networks as an option for finding curators.
By “playlist networks,” I’m basically referring to any platform that a) has collected and pre-verified a group of playlist curators, and b) gives you the opportunity to choose who your music is sent to.
In other words, I’m not talking about Playlist Push or Indie Music Academy or any service that submits your music for you, hands-off – but I am talking about options like SubmitHub, where you get to hand-pick curators yourself and send them your music.
A few of these include:
- SubmitHub (You can submit for free but if you want results, you’ve pretty much got to pay $1 – $3 per submission)
- SoundPlate (Free, but you have to follow curators / playlists to submit to them)
- Daily Playlists (Same concept as SoundPlate but you can pay for credits, too)
With these networks, the drawback is that most of the playlists they feature are small / not super impactful.
That’s because, if you’re a curator who’s built a big playlist and is considering joining a network, you’ll probably lean toward joining something like Playlist Push (where you’ll make $12 per song review) rather than joining something like Daily Playlists (where you’ll make next to nothing).
Still, the benefit of these networks is that they make the whole process of searching and submitting really easy – and hey, as long as they’ve got engaged followings, even small playlists can help.
Final thoughts on finding playlist curators
Three notes on strategy before I sign off:
1. This takes a long time and requires a lot of pitching.
Most often, you’ll get a two-to-five-percent placement rate. In other words, pitch 100 curators, and you’ll get two-to-five placements.
This undeniably sucks.
But it does get a bit easier over the long term – because if you get five placements for one release, you can pitch those curators again for your next one. As you keep putting music out, the placements will build.
But, yeah, it’s a grind.
2. You’re gonna get people asking for payola.
I’d say that about half of the playlists that look good at first blush turn out to require payment for placement. The curator will say something like, “Hey, love your song! I’d love to add it to our playlist. It costs $50.”
This scenario is tough.
You can absolutely report these people to Spotify. Traditionally, I’ve emailed Spotify to do this, but they now have a “Report” button baked in if you right-click on a playlist on desktop.
But curators might be able to finagle their way around Spotify’s Terms of Service by claiming that they own multiple playlists, and that your payment doesn’t guarantee placement on a specific list.
It’s tricky, and it’s made trickier by the fact that, often, it really would be worth $50 to be included on a person’s list.
In general, though, here’s what I’d recommend: When people respond to your pitch and ask for money – just ignore them. It saves you time and the trouble of dealing with people who are probably in it for a quick buck.
It takes some digging, but there are curators who will place your song on a playlist without requiring payment. You’ve just got to find them.
And that long, discouraging spiel brings me to this last point:
3. You don’t have to pitch playlists to get people to hear your music.
Look, there are other ways to find ears. The most important thing isn’t to get on playlists, anyway – it’s to make good music over a long period of time and build real relationships.
Yeah, the whole playlist ecosystem is sketchy. Yeah, the process of pitching is a grind. But I’ve spent the past several thousand words writing about it all because, if you want more streams, pitching playlists is one of the paths forward.
Playlists are just one way to get more streams on Spotify. They’re a means to an end.
Playlists are not less than that – but they definitely are not more than that, either. Don’t stress too much.
All right, that’s it for this article. I hope some of this has been helpful. Man, it’s a crazy world out there. As always, here’s wishing you good luck in it.