How to Get Streams and Followers on Spotify

Last week, I asked you two questions:

  1. What is the best way to grow your streams on Spotify?
  2. What is the best way to get more followers on Spotify?

Thanks to all who responded! Your answers were very relatable and sometimes slightly sad.

Here’s a sampling of what you said:

  • “My opinion is the same for both – get on a good playlist! One that is relevant to your style but reaches a large number of ears. Having first recorded something pretty damn good.”
  • “For my Spotify streams I usually use Indiemono or Submithub.”
  • “Regarding Spotify I really don’t have much of a clue. I pitch to editorial playlists, avoid the botted playlists and try and funnel people from social media in that direction. I believe that I won’t see any substantial growth until I start performing regularly.”
  • “I have no idea (other than advertising) but would love to hear what other artists and bands do!​”

And, probably my favorite:

  • “I, being a newb, have gone at this like a degenerate gambler. I took some bitcoin profits I had, and just threw it at Spotify playlist curators and playlist placement. I guess I will see how it works for me… so far, so good!”

Shoot haha. Degenerate gambler. When it comes to music marketing that is sadly relatable.

Anyway, here’s what I took away from your responses:

1. Virtually nobody has a go-to, well-defined Spotify strategy. Most artists are taking the “degenerate gambler” approach and just throwing spaghetti / Bitcoin profits at the wall to see what sticks. (And I think this is sadly true for most music promotion.)

2. Most artists are interested in paying for Spotify promo, but feel like the companies that do it operate inside of a black box with high scam potential. 

3. People tend to believe that getting on good playlists is the way to rack up streams.

You’re not wrong.

By that I mean that there are a bunch of bot-infested playlists and scammy Spotify promo companies out there – and, in spite of that, playlisting is still the best way to rack up streams.

Okay, let me give you my take.

1. The best way to grow your streams on Spotify is to get on playlists.

I’ve heard people say that playlists shouldn’t be your main Spotify strategy anymore. That’s like saying that football shouldn’t be your main Madden strategy. Dumb. The truth is, Spotify = Playlists.

The vast majority of streams on Spotify happen from playlists. Playlists are the framework that Spotify is built on.

If you want streams, you want to be on playlists.

​Okay, here’s a quick breakdown on the three types of playlists – editorial, algorithmic, and user-generated.

1. Editorial playlists are typically massive. I’ve been on a few; streams tend to explode for like a week, then drop off after the song is removed, although you’ll see residual impact from user saves.

All you can do to get on an editorial playlist is set a release date at least a month out with your distributor, then go through the very easy editorial submission process, then cross your fingers and hope you get picked.

You usually don’t.

2. Algorithmic placements are more common; these playlists are tailored to each user using Spotify’s AI. As you build momentum on Spotify (and get more saves and followers) you’ll start to trigger these pretty frequently. My brother Tom wrote a great article on how important these playlists – especially Discover Weekly and Release Radar – can be for artists.

3. User-generated playlists are made by users. These are the playlists that, when you pay a Spotify promo company, you’re paying them to pitch you to. They can be really impactful; Indiemono, for example, has multiple playlists with hundreds of thousands of followers.

2. You have the most control over user-generated playlist placements.

Yes, you should always submit to Spotify’s editorial team, and yes, you should aim to get on more algorithmic playlists over time. But you have the most control of your ability to get on user-generated playlists.

There are three ways you can do this:

Hardest: Find and reach out to playlist curators yourself.

This takes a lot of time, but other than that it’s cheap. And while you’ll get a lot of rejections / be ignored often, you will get placements if you stick to it, and you’ll be able to develop relationships with the people who place you, so it kind of builds over time.

Two great places to find curator contact info: Chartmetric (free) and MICCO ($10 per month).

Easier: Use SubmitHub.

You’ll get to choose the outlets / playlists you pitch to, and while the contact isn’t super personal, you can at least favorite the curators who accept you and pitch them again. You’ll want to pay for premium credits ($1 per credit, and each submission costs 1-3 credits). Spend $100 and, at the site’s average placement rate of 20ish percent, you’ll get 20ish placements. Streams will obviously vary greatly depending on which placements you get.

Easiest: Pay a promo company you trust.

They’ll do the legwork for you while you sit back and get placements. The cons are that you’ll pay, obviously, and you won’t develop a relationship with the curators who place you.

Also, please vet the company you choose thoroughly. We’ve all heard the horror stories; the risk isn’t only that you’ll pay for no placements, it’s also that you’ll pay for the wrong placements and get added to genre-irrelevant lists that screw up how Spotify’s algorithm perceives you.

So, ask about a company’s processes – how do they find curators? How do they tell playlists aren’t bot-filled? How do they submit your music?

One more note here: Spotify results, like press coverage, will build over time. The more placements you get, the more placements you’ll get. Because Spotify will be better at understanding what genre you’re in, what artists you’re similar to, and where you’ll get plays.

This takes time. Stick with it.

3. The best way to get more followers on Spotify is to grow your fanbase.

I’m not being banal here. Here’s what I mean: streaming a song is an act of apathy. Following someone on Spotify is an act of commitment. To get more followers, you need to get more committed fans.

As a (very) random illustration, look at the Spotify profiles of James TW and Foo Fighters.

We interviewed James TW for Two Story Melody a few years ago. He’s a nice guy and a relatively new artist whose biggest successes have come online. He’s got 400M Spotify streams on his top tracks. He has ~800,000 followers.

Foo Fighters – well, you probably know who Foo Fighters are. We haven’t interviewed them and I don’t know if they’re nice. Like James, they also have ~400M streams on their top tack. But they have ~8M followers.

Both of these artists have racked up playlist placements and streams. But 10x more people follow Foo Fighters than follow James TW because 10x more people care about Foo Fighters.

Nothing against James TW. I actually think he’s a really good songwriter. He has a career most of us would take in a heartbeat and his fanbase is still growing. But Foo Fighters have a way stronger fanbase.

There’s more to it than that, of course – there are tactics you can and should use to convert streams -> followers. But that principle is the core of it. If you want people to follow you on Spotify, you have to be able to get them to care about you and your music.

Final notes:

I didn’t cover ads here. They do work, but you have to run them correctly. If you have $100 to spend on a stream-boosting campaign, I’d go with playlists.

I also didn’t cover pre-saves here. If you already have something of a fanbase, Spotify pre-saves can be hugely helpful at triggering algorithmic playlists when your song is released. Another shout-out to Tom for this hugely helpful article on how to set them up.

Want to build a meaningful community around your music?

The Bundle

I’ve packaged years of experience running Two Story Melody (a top-ranked music blog) and Two Story Media (a music PR firm) into a book called How to Promote Indie Music.

It lays out a roadmap to better indie music promotion – promotion that doesn’t suck. You can check out the first chapter for free.