Playlists break artists in 2018. All major streaming platforms know the value of covering or landing on a playlist, regardless of tier. With the algorithm deciding who is popping and albums being forgone, the Spotify for Artists program, which allows artists to submit their music for editorial playlist placements, is an important tool for upcoming acts.
Per HITS Daily Double, the program has to date received submissions from 67,000 artists, with 10,000 songs being placed in editorial playlists. CEO Daniel Ek used the word “encouraged” to describe the volume of submissions the program has received.
While these numbers are exciting for indie acts, they're also a bit misleading. Assuming that each artist is submitting only one song, these are fantastic and empowering odds. However, it is more likely that an artist is submitting an average of two-to-three songs, or possibly an entire album worth of songs—so long as the individual tracks were released prior to the full body of work—which makes the prospect of a placement far less attainable.
While the program is undoubtedly an exciting step towards helping to level the playing field between independent and major label artists, we also must note that a majority of the editorial placements still feature and privilege music from major label acts.
On their website, Spotify for Artists explains how the entire playlisting system works:
To really understand how they work, you need to first understand our music programming philosophy: we’re focused on finding the right music for every moment and making sure it’s personalized for each listener on Spotify. The only outcome we’re looking for is that our listeners feel catered to, not promoted to. Every song is chosen, every playlist is made, and every decision is made strictly and specifically for Spotify listeners. Next, it’s important to understand the kinds of playlists on Spotify. All our playlists fall into three basic types: personalized, editorial, and listener playlists.
Certainly, major label music has the propensity to garner more plays than some indie music—bigger budgets tend to produce higher quality sounds and bigger names often attract more eyeballs—but let’s not forget the day Spotify made Drake the cover of every single editorial playlist, either. Despite their best efforts, it's unlikely a true balance will ever be achieved.
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