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Does Playlist Pitching Work? Sometimes.

playlistpitching

Yes, playlist pitching does work.

Sometimes.

Other times, it doesn’t.

You might pay a playlist pitching company $300 and see zero results. You might pay a playlist company $100 and see weird placements on foreign-language playlists that drive thousands of fake streams and end up getting your songs removed from Spotify. (This is why some intelligent people will throw out the blanket statement that you should never pay for playlist pitching – a take that isn’t completely unfair, but also isn’t nuanced.)

You might, when you work with the very worst companies (read: the scams), pay $500 via a smooth online form and then never hear a single word back.

As you can tell, there are a wide range of possible results.

I’m writing this article because I want to help you understand how to end up on the right side of that range – and because, again, I strongly believe that in good circumstances, playlist pitching does work.

And when it does work, I’ve found that it’s the most cost-effective way to get more streams of your music.

Quick backstory: Why I’m qualified to write about playlist pitching

Skip this if you just want my answers on playlist pitching. But if you want the background on why you should trust my answers, buckle up ha – it’s a bit of a story.

So, I run a PR firm called Two Story Media; the main thing we do for artists is drive press placements. But, let’s be real – pretty much every artist I work with also wants to drive more streams on Spotify. As a result, a few years ago, when one of my artists came to me looking for streams, we decided to run a Spotify promotion campaign with Omari MC.

If you’ve searched anything related to Spotify promotion or playlist pitching or visited the internet, you’ve almost certainly heard of Omari MC. The guy is everywhere. And, as I found out a few years ago, a large part of that is because his team knows what they’re doing.

My results from that first campaign were pretty good.

I don’t remember the exact numbers (we’ve since run follow-up campaigns and reviewed the results in more detail). But from what I could tell at the time, we got a lot of streams from the campaign and the streams were legitimate. The experience sold me on the whole idea of playlist pitching (like I’m guessing you are, I’d been kind of skeptical), and I decided to become an affiliate with Omari.

That was a turning point.

Soon after becoming an affiliate with Omari, I had John from the Two Story team write an article listing Omari and a few other playlist promo companies I knew about. We titled it “The 12 Best Spotify Promotion Companies“, added a bunch of caveats on how results from pitching aren’t guaranteed and how caution is needed, then posted it up.

That article went absolutely nuts.

It started ranking in Google search results pretty much right away. And almost immediately, I started getting a ton of comments on it.

To be honest, most of them were spam comments advocating for the mass purchase of generic medications from Russia (it turns out that ED meds are surprisingly affordable!).

But many were from real, live, angry people who had used one of the companies on the list and had a bad experience.

That sucked. It also gave me real moral misgivings about the article and left me feeling obligated to do more research. We started paring things down and removing companies that we heard bad things about.

And here’s where things got really interesting: I started getting a ton of emails from playlisting companies that were not on the list and wanted to be.

Most of these people reached out with something like this: “Hey, could you add our company to your article?” And I’d reply back with something like this: “Could we try your service?”

Long-story-short, I’ve now tried a bunch of these services.

As of this writing, I think I’ve worked with around 10 different companies to run trials. I’ve talked to the people running every company I’ve trialed (and people at a few companies I haven’t). I’ve also spent over a thousand of my own dollars across Omari, Playlist Push, and others companies trying to get results for my own clients. And I even briefly tried working up my own playlist pitching company before folding that offering into my standard PR campaigns.

It’s been a wild ride.

The bottom line is that I’ve seen pretty much all sides of the service – and I feel pretty confident in telling you whether or not playlist pitching companies work (and how they do so).

All right – that’s the backstory. Now, let’s get into the details of the what, why, and how of playlist pitching.

What is playlist pitching?

Playlist pitching is the act of reaching out to playlist curators with the goal of getting your track on a playlist.

The outreach can be done through any means, but the most popular channels tend to be email or DMs on Instagram, Tik Tok, and other social profiles.

Pretty straightforward, right? But for clarification’s sake, I want to point something out:

When I use the term “playlist pitching”, I’m referring to the act of pitching to third-party curators.

In other words, people who have accounts on Spotify (or Apple Music or another DSP) and have built public, popular playlists.

Third-party playlists are usually built through one of two ways:

  1. Lists are built by taking advantage of in-app traffic using Spotify’s search bar. These playlists are usually titled after popular search terms, like “Best Indie Rock 2022” or “[Insert Popular Movie] Soundtrack” – people find them by typing those phrases into Spotify.
  2. Lists are built by sending traffic to the playlist from other channels. The most common method for doing this is to run Instagram Stories ads to playlists. But any audience can drive playlist growth. For instance, at Two Story Melody, we have almost 400 followers of our main playlist. That’s not a ton, obviously, but they’ve all been sent there from our blog.

It’s worth noting that Spotify allows artists to pitch their tracks directly to the company’s editorial team for consideration in official Spotify editorial playlists. These are lists like Rap Caviar or Today’s Top Hits or Hot Country; many of them have millions of listeners and can blow your streams through the roof.

In those precious moments when your song has been delivered by your distributor but hasn’t yet been released, you can pitch Spotify’s team through your Spotify for Artists account, and there’s a chance a real person at Spotify will add it to one of these lists. And you absolutely should take advantage of this, because again, placements are potentially awesome, and it’s free so you have nothing to lose. Here’s Spotify’s article on how to pitch to their playlists.

But most often, indie artists don’t get placed in Spotify’s editorial playlists, which is part of the reason that the whole playlist pitching economy has grown up.

So, again: When I say “playlist pitching” in this article, I’m talking about about pitching to third-party curators who have built their own lists, not Spotify’s editorial team.

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How to spot fake playlists

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How do playlist pitching companies work?

Okay, now we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of playlist pitching. From what I’ve seen in trying a bunch of different pitching services (and trying to start my own), there are three potential models for delivering this service.

Here’s how songs are pitched:

Model 1: The playlist pitching company builds their own playlists and you pay to get placed on them.

Here’s how it works: Yes, this is basically payola. On the pitching company side, it’s incredibly lucrative. They can literally guarantee that your song will be placed on a list, and they can even guarantee exactly how many followers the lists you’ll be placed on will have – and they don’t have to spend time or money making those placements happen.

You should probably avoid these companies, though.

First (again), it’s basically payola. Second, companies that place songs in their own lists tend to have less engaged lists. They’re incentivized to add songs, not to make great lists. Listeners can tell the difference, and when the songs aren’t great – or great fits – they often stop listening.

Model 2: The playlist pitching company builds a network of curators that they pay to place songs.

Here’s how it works: The company searches for playlist curators, then offers to pay those curators to place specific songs.

On the pitching company side, this works because curators are incentivized to add the tracks that are sent to them. This makes it easier to guarantee results.

But on the artist side, you should avoid these companies, too. It’s basically payola with a middleman jacking up the price. If you’re going to use morally suspect methods of promoting your music, at least do so cost-efficiently, right?

(That’s a joke. In all seriousness, the right thing to do is just to avoid payola as much as you can.)

Model 3: The playlist pitching company builds a network of curators that they pay to review songs.

Here’s how it works: The company searches for playlist curators, then offers to pay them for each song they review, with the expectation that they’ll place the ones they like. Or, as an alternative, the company pays curators a flat rate – say, $50 each month – still with the expectation that they’ll review the songs they’re sent and place the ones they like.

As a playlist pitching company, you need a lot of volume to make this work, because your profit margins get thin quickly. It’s also hard to guarantee results, because you don’t have direct control over where songs get placed. As a result, you may end up giving refunds if you sell packages with certain numbers of promised streams and fall short on delivery.

But, as an artist, these are the companies you want to work with.

These pitching companies are incentivized to develop a strong curator network; if they don’t have a strong network, they won’t be able to deliver results. And the actual playlists tend to have more engaged listeners, because curators maintain more editorial control (so the lists are just better).

These companies are usually more expensive, but they’re the ones that get real results.

Does playlist pitching actually get real results?

Ah – I’ve kind of just answered that question.

Yes, playlist pitching can get real results, but it all depends on the companies you work with and the playlists you get placed on.

If you’re placed on a popular playlist with an engaged following – meaning a playlist with a large number of real listeners who really queue up the playlist while they’re living their real lives – then you will get real streams from it. Some of the people who stream your music will click over to your artist profile, and some of them will follow you.

You’re probably looking for real numbers here, so I’ll throw a few out:

From being placed on alexrainbird’s playlists (the guy is a top-notch curator for indie artists), my brother (Thomas Austin) has racked up hundreds of thousands of real streams.

Here’s an example where 15k streams for his newest song, “Hopeful”, came from a placement on an alexrainbird playlist.

With Playlist Push, we drove about 40,000 streams for the same track.

With YouGrow’s playlist pitching, we drove about 10,000 streams for another artist’s song thanks to placements on about ten playlists.

Our last campaign with Omari drove 500 streams. (A little disappointing, to be honest, but read the review for more nuance.)

An important note: The best result from playlist pitching is that your song continues to get plays after the pitching campaign ends.

There are two reasons this best-case scenario might happen.

First, listeners who find your song on playlists favorite it and listen to it again.

Second, if your song does well and gets engagement, Spotify will start showing it to other people via their algorithmic playlists. This is the key to long-term growth and consistent streaming numbers – and playlist pitching absolutely can make it happen.

Again, I’ve seen it firsthand.

But, if you get placed on bad / sketchy playlists, you will get bad results.

Sadly, I’ve seen this firsthand, too.

If you get placed on disengaged lists, you won’t get many streams, because not many people are listening to the music. If you get placed on bot-filled lists, you’ll get knocked even harder; nobody will click through to your profile and actually engage with your song, so Spotify’s algorithm will think you suck, and they won’t add you to other playlists. The worst case scenario is that you’ll get your song removed from Spotify.

Which leads me to my final point here…

How can you avoid playlist pitching scams?

Well, the best way to avoid playlist pitching scams is not to pay for any playlist pitching.

Just like the best way to avoid being in a car accident is to never leave your house.

But I think, if you have the budget and you want to drive Spotify streams, you should probably risk it.

Here’s how to do so safely:

In general, contact companies before paying them money.

Online forms where you pay for a service before hearing anything from the company can be sketchy. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of people who’ve sent hundreds of dollars into the ether of the internet, never to hear back.

Now, a lot of very legitimate companies allow you to pay upfront without any contact; many of the agencies on my list that I’ve personally vetted do this. But, still, if you can, reach out and get a confirmation that you’ll be working with an actual person. It’s nice for peace of mind.

If you can, ask the playlist pitching company a lot of questions.

The key thing you want to find out is: Do they have a good network of playlists?

 To get the answer, ask for examples of playlists you’ll be pitched to, then do a quick check on list engagement.

  • Are the songs on the lists actually getting plays? For example, if the list has 50,000 followers but the songs on it have less than 1,000 plays, it’s probably disengaged and not worth paying for.
  • If you click to see the list’s followers and all the profiles are gray circles (i.e. no profile pictures), it’s probably bots. Run away.
  • If you search for the list in Spotify’s search bar and can’t find it, be careful. It’s possible that it’s built with legitimate traffic from an outside source, but it’s also possible that the list is bad.

It’s also worth asking which model the company is using. Are they building their own lists, paying curators per placement, or paying per review? Again, companies using that third model are more likely to drive real results.

Finally, it’s worth asking how the company screens their curator network. The best companies have very robust processes to ensure that the curators they work with bring clean lists – and keep them clean.

All right, let’s wrap this up…

Final thoughts on playlist pitching

My hope is that this deep-dive into playlist pitching has been helpful as you consider whether the tactic is worth it to promote your own music.

There are a wide range of outcomes when you use a playlist pitching services. But if you take the steps above to avoid scams, you’ll give yourself a good chance of ending up on the good side of the range: the side where you get a ton of new streams and followers, many of whom stick around long-term.

Final note toward that end: My top-recommended playlist pitching companies in 2022 are:

  1. Indie Music Academy (Ryan’s the man, definitely trustworthy results from healthy lists)
  2. Playlist Push (no guaranteed results, but easy to use with the potential for very cost-effective campaigns)
  3. YouGrow (hands-on, growing agency with great communication)
  4. Omari MC (kind of the OG, definitely know what they’re doing, really efficient)
  5. Playlist Promotion (another hands-on, personalized option)

I’ve trialed / paid all of these agencies, and from what I’ve found, they do feature healthy curator networks that can drive real results. If you’re interested in more details on the best companies to work with for pitching promo, you can see the full list here.

The bottom line is that playlist pitching can work.

And whether you try it or not, here’s wishing you good luck as you create meaningful music.

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