In an effort to, as the marketing guru bros say, “provide insane value,” I want to share a few of the brass tacks – stuff that you can actually implement for yourself to grow on Spotify.

So here we go. This is a hodgepodge of seven tactics and tips that I’ve seen working over the past year. 

First up, something basic…

1. You should look up similar artists.

If you’re trying to grow on Spotify, this might be the single best thing you can do to discover the right path.

Make a list of 5-10 artists who are putting out music that’s similar to yours. Preferably, focus on artists who are on your level or a couple of levels ahead of you (i.e., if you’re making piano pop covers, focus on Piano Project, not The Piano Guys.)

(I know, I know; depending on how niche you are – or how niche you think you are – you may find this difficult. But there are like a gazillion billion artists on Spotify. I guarantee you that you can find someone making music that’s at least in the same ballpark with what you’re doing.)

Go through the list and check out… 

  • The “Discovered on” playlists for similar artists.
  • The top cities and countries for your similar artists.
  • Similar artists’ “Fans also like” sections.

Make a spreadsheet of the data you find helpful, then start using it.

For example, if an artist is getting discovered on a user-created third-party playlist that might also make sense for your music, find the curator and reach out.

If a soundalike artist is huge in Brazil, maybe try incorporating that country into your ad campaigns.

If you want to get crazy, plug the similar artist into Chartmetric and see what their non-Spotify platforms look like. Are they blowing up on TikTok or Instagram? Are they getting a bunch of radio play? Can you translate any of their off-platform strategies to your own artistry?

But you really don’t have to dig that deep. Do a cursory scan of similar artists, and you’ll almost certainly come away with some ideas to implement in your own marketing efforts.

Don’t let comparison steal your joy, but don’t close yourself off to inspiration, either.

2. Track your top playlists and re-pitch to the people that have added you before.

I haven’t really heard anyone talk about this one, but if you’ve released music in the past, I think it’s kind of a no-brainer. The idea is simple:

Every time you release a track, pitch it to the playlist curators who have added your music before.

To find these folks, go to the “Music” tab in your Spotify for Artists portal, swing down to “Listener” playlists, and click through to their Spotify profiles.

Reach out to anyone who’s given you solid streams in the past.Sure, you won’t be able to reach every single curator on your list – but man, it’s such an easy way to continue relationships that you’ve already established.

Build a foundation of people who are willing to support you. It makes growth so much easier.

3. Don’t fall for fake playlists.

This one’s more of a downer, but it’s very important: Before you pitch a playlist curator, make sure that their playlist is legit.

Basically, steer clear of bots.

I discuss how to evaluate playlists and avoid bots in more depth in the course, but the quickest approach is to plug playlists into something like Chartmetric or Artist Tools and look at follower growth curves.

When followers spike down, that’s a dead giveaway of bots. In general, if you see weird chasms or sudden spikes in either direction, run the other way.

4. Build your own playlists.

I hear people throw this idea around a lot, but I don’t talk to too many artists who are actually doing it for themselves – which is a shame, because it’s pretty sweet.

Like, imagine if, when you released music next year, you could add it to 10 of your own, highly-relevant, decently popular playlists. You’d get a bunch more streams. Also, it’s a pretty fun way to connect with other artists.

I’m actually taking my own advice on this one; I’m just starting to grow a collection of indie folk playlists, and unsurprisingly, I’m stacking them with a bunch of songs from my friends. When I run ads to these lists and they grow, everyone wins – plus, we’re training Spotify on the type of artists we should be associated with.

Another cool thing with this strategy is that, typically, you can get lower results per click running ads to playlists rather than to your own music. That’s because you can often get name recognition from some of the bigger artists on your list to make clicks come more easily.

The downside of this is that your listeners won’t be clicking to hear your music, so your own engagement metrics will probably be pretty low.

Anyway, if this appeals to you, here’s your to-do: 

  • Brainstorm 5-10 moods, activities, or genres that your music regularly fits into.
  • Create a 50-song playlist for each one and pack it with similar artists.
  • If you’ve got the budget, run ads to the playlist you think will be most popular.
  • Listen to Andrew Southworth’s recent conversation with Chaitha for inspiration.

5. Run conversion ads to an asset.

The first time I tried running Facebook ads, I essentially lit $300 on fire. My mistake was two-fold: 1) I ran a traffic campaign to a poorly defined audience, and 2) I sent the traffic to a song rather than to an asset (i.e., a playlist or an artist profile page).

I felt dumb enough that I swore off of ads for a couple of years – but eventually, after seeing other people get great results with Facebook ads, I realized it was worth figuring out how to do them right.

Of course, even today, there’s plenty of debate about “how to do ads right.”

(As with all issues, you and I are on the right side of the debate. Don’t worry.)

You’ll hear people say that you can run a successful traffic campaign. You’ll also hear people say that it’s worthwhile to run ads to a single song (as opposed to a playlist or a profile), because you’ll achieve higher save rates this way. And yeah, these things can be done, and yeah, they can deliver value if they’re done correctly.

But if you’re just getting started and you want to avoid eating stupid amounts of your own money, I’d recommend running conversion ads to your artist profile or a playlist.

It’s harder to totally screw this method up. And shoot, it still works.

6. Err on the side of a broader target.

A lot of artists struggle when it comes time to pick the audience for their ad sets; they’ll say things like, “I can’t find any similar artists!” or “I sound nothing like Lil Yachty!” or “Rap is waaaaay too broad a term to categorize my classical-retro-synth-banjo-spoken-word-political rants!”

To which I say: “What the heck were you thinking when you went into the studio, Kevin?”

For real, though, I get that picking an audience can be a struggle. But the good news is that it’s not really your responsibility to pick the perfect audience – it’s Facebook’s. And from the data I’m seeing, they’re getting better and better at it.

In fact, I’ve recently run a couple of campaigns where ad sets with literally no interest targeting outperformed my highest-performing, interest-targeted ad sets at really solid CPCs that translated into solid streams.

This was crazy to me. I basically gave Facebook my wallet and asked them to spend my money on whatever made the most sense… and they nailed it.

I don’t necessarily recommend that you give Facebook your wallet. But in my experience, most artists go too narrow with their audience targeting rather than too broad. They choke the air out of their campaign by insisting ads only be shown to a small subset of the population, when in reality they don’t actually know with whom their music will best resonate.

You can always pare things down. In general, I say err on the side of a broader target and let the data be your guide.

7. Experiment with your creative.

All right, here’s the last tip that’s also related to ad campaigns: Focus on optimizing your creative – by which I mean the actual ad that you’re showing to people.

The ad you show people is always important, obviously, but it’s even more important if you take my last tip and run a campaign to a broader audience, because the creative will play an outsized role in honing your targeting.

Simple ads (think cover art with basic animation and the song playing in the background) still work well. But if you have a performance video or a music video, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least try it out in an ad campaign.

Load up whatever video assets you’ve got. Make a bunch of ads. Test a bunch of different clips from your song.

You’ll probably be surprised at what performs best.

Yeah, targeting definitely matters, but I think getting the ad itself right is the best way to reduce your cost per result. So work on getting your ads right.

Phew… you made it!

I know that was a hodgepodge of stuff, but I hope at least one of the items up there was helpful for you. And if you found some of the terminology a little confusing, that’s okay, too. (I mean, anything that merits the label of “terminology” is bound to be confusing.)