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What Are the Different Types of Spotify Playlists?

spotifyplaylists

There are three kinds of Spotify playlists.

1. Editorial playlists.
2. Algorithmic playlists.
3. User-created playlists.

If you want to grow on Spotify / get more streams, it’s pretty important to understand how each type of playlist works – and how to get on one.

First up:

Editorial playlists

Editorial playlists are the big ones. Like Rap Caviar (which has 14.5M followers), Fresh Finds (which has 1.1M followers), or Feel-Good Indie Rock (1.1M). Increasingly, Spotify is also pumping out mood-based lists, like Classic Road Trip Songs (4.6M) and Power Workout (3.9M).

These are curated by real, live people who work at Spotify in a maximum-security cavern 20,000 feet below Stockholm so that their identities are protected.

Just kidding. I think.

But, for real, these lists are made by real people, and you can pitch them your music.

There are two cool things about editorial playlists:

First, if you get on one, your song will basically blow up.

My most-streamed song, which I’ve referenced before and which I’d rather not show you, was placed on “New Music Friday Christian” (no it wasn’t CCM, it was cooler than that) where it racked up 100k streams in a week. And that was a smaller editorial playlist with only 240k followers.

I’ve seen indie-level artists notch millions of streams in weeks. These are powerful placements.

Second, submitting your song to these lists is free and pretty darn easy.

The only requirement is that you get your song distributed to Spotify a few weeks ahead of its release. Do that, then log into your Spotify for Artists account, then find your unreleased music (under the Music tab on desktop) and hit the button to pitch it.

(Note: Despite what you may hear, this submission process is the only way to get on editorial playlists. There is no agency that can guarantee an editorial placement.)

You’ll walk through a very basic wizard with song and genre info. Fill it out as accurately as you can, and then, boom – you’re up for consideration in Spotify’s editorial playlists.

…Alongside the 60,000 other songs that are uploaded to Spotify every day, so your chances aren’t great.

But you do have a chance, and that’s pretty cool.

Practical takeaway: Every time you release a song, you should submit it to editorial playlists. Then you should cross your fingers, throw salt over your left shoulder, and hope for a miracle.

Algorithmic playlists

Algorithmic playlists are created automatically, without direct intervention from the clumsy hands of human curators, by Spotify’s algorithm.

These lists are typically user-specific – meaning they’re populated differently for every listener.

We’re talking Radio, Discover Weekly, and Release Radar. And mixes like Pop Mix or 2010s Mix. And mood-based lists like Moody Mix and Romantic Mix. And activity-based lists like Daily Drive.

There are a ton of these things.

Again, each of these lists is specifically designed to fit the tastes of individual users, and no two users’ lists look the same.

(Although now there are also “blended” lists where you can merge your tastes with the tastes of other people. Kind of a cool idea that I’ve never actually tried.)

Here’s the important thing:

Long-term Spotify growth happens through placements on algorithmic playlists.

Getting on these playlists is what people mean when they say they’ve “cracked the Spotify algorithm”.

If you’re consistently, automatically getting shown to listeners – well, that’s awesome, and it’s a much more dependable source of streams than huge, one-shot editorial playlist results.

The truth is that there’s really only one way to “crack the Spotify algorithm”…

You’ve got to feed the algorithm good data.

The concept’s pretty simple: Spotify wants to show listeners music that they’ll probably like.

They have user-related data (i.e., “This person streams Christian music on Sundays,” or “This person’s most-streamed genre is underground hip hop,” or “In the evenings, this person streams a lot of instrumental jazz.”).

They have song-related data (i.e., “This song is 120 bpm,” or “This track is chill folk” or “This song is saved 2 times per 100 streams.”)

And they have artist-related data (i.e., “Followers of this artist tend to also like Ray Charles” or “This artist makes new-country music” or “This artist’s songs aren’t saved very often per 100 streams.”)

^Those are really basic examples. There are probably a gazillion data points, but the gist of it all is this: Spotify’s algorithm uses all of it to put your song into playlists that it thinks users will probably like.

And here’s the kicker: If you don’t have any data associated with your artistry – if Spotify doesn’t know what kind of music you make and who might like it – then they won’t show you to anyone.

Worse, if you have bad data associated with your artistry – if your songs have low engagement rates – Spotify will think your music is bad, and they won’t show you to anyone.

The takeaway: Algorithmic playlists are the key to long-term growth on Spotify, and growth is self-reinforcing. The more data you generate, the more likely Spotify will be to show you to listeners, and the more you’re shown to listeners, the more data you’ll generate.

Unfortunately, you have zero direct control over algorithmic placements. Which brings us to the third and final type of playlist…

User-created playlists

As the name suggests, these are playlists that Spotify users create. I’ve got one called “Random goodies”. And one called “In the shadow of the mountains.” And one called “Driving at night.”

They’re all very good, in case you’re wondering.

Now, here’s the interesting thing about user-created playlists – they can be set to “Public”, which means that other users can follow them, and they can show up in Spotify search results.

In fact, if you type “best indie rock” into the Spotify search bar and scroll down to the playlists results, you’ll see that the top playlist wasn’t created by Spotify.

It was created by someone with the handle “musiclover” (who apparently has no idea what the word “indie” means because they’ve used Coldplay in their playlist cover art).

And this is why user-created playlists are your best chance of driving streams:

You can contact users who curate playlists and ask them to include your music.

(If you want to dig up contact info and pitch curators yourself, I’d suggest using a database like Artist ToolsSonar, or PlaylistMap. Saves a ton of time.)

This is, essentially, what every “playlist promotion company” is doing.

They aren’t getting you through some backdoor onto editorial playlists or hacking Spotify’s code to put you in algorithmic playlists – they’re literally reaching out to users who have created popular playlists and asking for your song to be added (although they’ve done the work upfront of building a network of curator contacts).

This is a direct line to Spotify growth – both because it drives streams directly and because it can create good data so that Spotify’s algorithm starts working for you.

Unfortunately, things get very messy, very quickly.

I’m not going to get into all of the dirt here (I wrote an article a little while ago called “Does playlist pitching work?” where I do that in more detail), but I’ll spell out the simple version for you…

P-A-Y-O-L-A.

Right, that word again.

Popular user-created playlists drive streams. Good streams drive more data, which, again, leads to long-term, algorithmic playlist growth…

And all of this is very valuable.

  • And so some curators charge for inclusion on their playlists.
  • And some “playlist pitching companies” create their own playlists and then charge artists to get “pitched” to those lists (which is basically the same thing I said in the previous bullet, just with less transparency).
  • And some curators, to make their playlists seem more valuable, pay for sketchy followers / bot traffic.
  • ​And sometimes, because of all of this, artists get ripped off.
  • And sometimes, the world is a sad place.

Now, there are plenty of good playlist pitching companies out there, too. And there are ways that you can tell if a playlist is good or bad.

Actually, understanding what’s good and bad is important, because user-created playlists are the only placements you can consistently / directly impact.

But this article is starting to get too long, so I’ll point you to the resource below for that stuff – it’s a quick guide I’ve put together on how to spot fake streams before you’re placed on a playlist.

All right, that’s my brief on the three types of Spotify playlists.

Hope it’s helpful, and good luck!

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