Believe it or not, there was a time where no one even knew the word Spotify and streaming was a thing that only happened in the context of radio stations playing your music across the airwaves. While it’s hard to imagine an era before Spotify became the promotional powerhouse it is today, there was a solid decade when blogs reigned supreme.I have to admit, there’s a bit of nostalgia around that time period for me, especially when you consider the data that was released on Spotify’s Loud and Clear website.
15% of tracks uploaded to Spotify generate 95% of its royalties.
80% of their streams from tracks that are more than five years old.
A quarter of music streams on Spotify last year (25%) were distributed by companies who were unaffiliated with the majors or Merlin. (MBW)
Okay – so the playing field is NOT as even as you thought is it? But that doesn’t stop the deluge of artists reaching for the brass ring when it comes to getting plays on Spotify.
It’s become a huge goal among musicians to rack up as many plays as possible. How many times do we see artists emphasizing that their song simply must have hundreds of thousands of streams? The problem is, most of the time, even if you do hit those goals, the streams don’t really do anything to advance your career. They don’t convert into fans (much less fans that will support you through tours, merch, and everything else), and so even when an artist is able to achieve the stream numbers they want, they’re still with about the same amount of fans they had before.
All of this to say, Spotify is a piece of the puzzle when it comes to your promotions strategy, but it isn’t the whole thing. In fact, a lot of times I see musicians making the same mistakes over and over. After years of working with our artists on strategic press and marketing plans that includes some Spotify playlisting, here are the 5 mistakes I see the most —and how to fix them.
Paying for What You Think Are Real Plays (But They Turn Out to be FAKE)
This happens so much more than you might think. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon that I see artists hiring companies that boast real plays on their playlists, only to find out that they’re actually fake. The worst part is this can even come from otherwise reputable companies that have great reviews. Meaning, you can go into it with the best of intentions and having done all your research and still get baited into paying for services that are fake.
Our suggestion for fixing this: Continue to do your research and look for reviews and first hand accounts that are recent. Sometimes companies will change tactics over time, but if you can find some examples of clients having used their service in the last few months with success, that’s a good sign what they’re doing is legit. Also, ask your friends or other bands who you admire who they might be using, and when they worked with them. Word of mouth will always be one of the best ways to find a good support team.
They Get Added to Bot-Driven Playlists – and Can’t Get Removed Easily
I knew an artist that worked with a company who had promised her real plays and non-botted playlists, only to then get added to exactly those. It happens more often than you’d think.
While the company ended up swearing up and down they weren’t fake, the evidence was pretty clear and she understandably began to freak out about the consequences. You’ve heard the stories—Spotify punishing artists for unknowingly being added to these playlists by kicking them off the platform and erasing their music. This is not a good look.
The good news is that’s not likely to happen to you. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. Getting removed from playlists that are bot-driven can be a nightmare. Even if you can find the curator’s contact information (and that’s a big if) you’re unlikely to hear back from them. It took my artist months to get her Spotify cleaned up, and she was lucky. So while it might feel tempting to just go for it and hope Spotify doesn’t notice, it’s not worth it. Especially when you consider those plays aren’t real fans and won’t yield any true results.
They Spend Too Much Time and Energy on Pre-Save Campaigns
This is one of the most surprising ones for musicians, because it’s been drilled into our heads that pre-save campaigns are *it* and there was a time this was the case. If you could get fans to pre-save and listen on release day, it felt like your odds of being added to a playlist were much higher. While there’s some truth to that, the volume you have to hit for the Spotify algorithm to take notice is much higher than one might hope, and for the most part, while pre-save campaigns are great, they’re not the only thing you should be focused on.
There’s a tendency to focus all your energy on getting people to pre-save, but if the people doing that aren’t actually regular Spotify users who are going to then listen to your song when it drops (and many, many times after) then it doesn’t really make sense.
Think about it, how many hours during a pre-release campaign are you spending pushing pre-save? Are the results worth it? Instead, spend some of that time on getting press or working on building your email list. Remember, you only have so much time and energy in a day and if you’re using all of it to push pre-saves, that means you’re not using it for things that could convert to actual (paying) fans.
Plays might initially feel more exciting, but —having strong quotes to add to your EPK or more real fans coming out to your shows go a long way when looking to achieve other goals like booking shows or signing to a label.
They Have No Strategy for Fan Retention
Speaking of strategy getting your stream count up on Spotify is not a good release strategy. At least, not by itself.
Remember what I just said about only having so much time and energy? Many times I find artists pouring all their energy into building up a presence on Spotify and getting on as many playlists as possible but there’s no plan beyond that. Even if they get on a ton of playlists (which, by now you now is a little trickier than it seems), then what? How do you reach your actual fans to tell them about a new song? How do you maximize that effort?
If all you have are 10,000 streams on a song and nothing to do with the people WHO streamed it, then what’s the end goal? Who’s supporting you at that point?
It’s crucial you have a strategy that goes well beyond Spotify. At least currently, Spotify doesn’t offer a way to see who your fans are or interact with them. Meaning, they may listen to your song, but you have absolutely no idea who they are or any way to cultivate the relationship after that. This is why Spotify and playlisting is just a piece of the puzzle and not the whole picture.
They Focus on Spotify and Nothing Else
I know, I’m really drilling it in here, but again, while Spotify plays have value in a strategic press and marketing campaign they are not everything. To focus only on streams is to ignore the basics of what makes you as an artist successful: your fans. Your community. Your ability to show your personality and connect with others.
The reason Spotify works so well for established artists is because we already know we love their music and love their song and so we want to hear it a million times (remember 80% of all songs played are more than 5+ years old) . If I’m just getting to know an artist, I need to fall in love with them before I can really fall in love with their song. That means seeing their personality (which Spotify can’t deeply provide) feeling part of their community (which Spotify doesn’t currently provide at all) and having a way to feel a part of the process (Sorry, Spotify doesn’t provide this either.)
Does this mean Spotify shouldn’t be part of your promotion strategy? Absolutely not, it’s here to stay and will always be a piece of the marketing puzzle. There’s a way to use it so that it becomes a strong aid in your promotion efforts, rather than the whole kit and kaboodle.
And honestly? You might like it better that way. After all, interacting with fans isn’t just how you’ll grow a stronger music career, it’s what makes this whole thing palpable and dare I say fun. Seeing the impact you’ve had on someone’s life most probably come from Spotify alone. Hearing it through a story they tell you or a comment they leave. For now, that means stepping away from Spotify so you can truly connect with your fans. Don’t worry, when they feel that connection and want to listen to your song, they’ll still head to Spotify to stream it or share it with a friend. That connection starts away from Spotify—but it can still end up creating the meaningful streams you’re after.
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