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Tips of the trade: how to get your song on playlists

Tip Published Wednesday 2 February 2022

New year, new music? We've got pro tips on how to get your music onto streaming playlists.

GYROstream's Viv Mellish shares honest advice on giving your song its best shot at reaching more music fans.

Read the dos and don'ts about scheduling, services on offer, how to pitch, what points to focus on and more.

How important is it to the success of your new single to get added to streaming playlists? How do you make your song stand out from all those other songs vying for attention?

Artists have been asking these questions for over a decade now, but the game is always changing. So, we enlisted our mates at GYROstream for insight on how to prepare and pitch your music for 2022.

Brisbane-based, Australian-owned GYROstream helps independent artists distribute their music to digital platforms around the globe. We asked Viv Mellish, GYROstream's Director - Marketing and Promotions to explain the latest trends and best practices.

1. How can a self-releasing artist pitch their music to digital music services?

Some distributors offer direct editorial pitching to key DSPs (Spotify, Apple, Amazon etc.) as part of their service, and for some like GYROstream you need to apply to be accepted as there are limited spots available and they book up quite far in advance (around 4-6 weeks). Others don't offer in-house editorial pitching at all e.g. TuneCore, DistroKid.

No matter who you go with, there are things you can do yourself to help increase your chances of getting on playlists — but please keep in mind there are 60,000 songs uploaded to streaming services EVERY DAY. Just because you don't get on an editorial playlist, it doesn't mean your track won't still be successful in other ways.

Our top tips if you're pitching your own music:

  • Ensure you claim your artist profile on all DSPs you can.
  • You can pitch a track to Amazon and Spotify (read their tips!) through their pitching forms. The pitching form is the absolute best way to get your song heard by playlist editors on those platforms.
  • Make sure your profiles are up to date on all streaming platforms BEFORE release. Read our blog post covering the A-Z of platforms. It's always good to do a digital audit of all platforms around 3-4 weeks before release day to update bios, profile images and make sure everything is a-okay.
  • Get your music in early so editors have time to listen. We recommend 2-3 weeks before your release date and at the very latest, seven days before release.

If you do have a direct email address for someone at a DSP and they are happy to receive pitches from you via email — it's important to clarify this before bombarding them — our advice would be to email them around 7-10 days before your release goes live but to not overload them with information.

Keep it simple and include:

  • a listening link
  • link to your main social media channel
  • link to your profile on the platform you are pitching to
  • link to your press image and/or press release if you have one (you should really have one!)
  • 3-5 pitching points — more on that in the next question

2. What are playlist editors looking for in a pitch and is there a suggested format for pitching? What are the three main points to include in a pitch?

It's very hard to say as it varies from artist to artist. From our experience, below are some tips and tricks and also some advice on what to write in the 'track description' part of your pitch.

The below information is intended for use mostly via Spotify for Artists pitching form as it's generally the most important platform for streaming revenue in New Zealand for independent artists, however, this information can be easily applied to any pitch you are writing.

NOTE: Not everything will work every time and it’s important the pitch is individualised to suit the artist.

First sentence is the most important one. Include:

  • Something about the song first and where you are from and if you identify as First Nations. If you are comfortable sharing that you identify with a cultural or minority group and are happy for this to be included, include this about yourself.

Next wind in accolades, achievements and upcoming plans, these could be:

  • A short sentence to paint a picture of what the song is about and if it's from a bigger release.
  • Who it was written with or produced by if notable and mention their other credits.
  • Then, include two to three accolades as separate sentences.
  • Future and promo plans last: what is coming up e.g. is this single part of a bigger EP or album release? Live shows? Marketing plans?
  • Big streaming numbers or monthly listeners e.g. if you have over a million streams+ on a song that's impressive!
  • Mention previous playlist wins and placements — if there's a lot, don't bother listing them all individually, just highlight one or two or give a figure e.g. 10 editorial playlists).
  • Notable previous radio and blog activity. Ideally, include media and platforms that are widely known in the artist’s primary market. If not, leave them out.
  • Only include award wins if they are National or International competitions.
  • Info about sold-out shows or tours. But don't dwell on it too much.
  • Mentioning live supports — if those artists aren't streaming more than about 50k monthly listeners on Spotify, don't include them.
  • High profile, national festivals you have played.
  • Are you working with a notable team? Have you signed a deal with a new manager or booking agent? Does that manager work with other artists of note? If so, include.
  • Share your own interesting story. Do you live in a van? Overcome an obstacle? Are you huge on TikTok? Do you have a special talent outside of music? Is Bruce Springsteen your dad? Do you do all your own production? Did you write the song in a cave? Anything that is unique and different should be included.

Fictional example with a lot of important information in one sentence:

'The Recipe' is a reconciliation anthem from Northern NSW First Nations hip-hop artist JK-47's upcoming debut album and was written with producer Kanye West.

When to talk about the song:

  • If you have limited, solid accolades (it's ok if you don't - everyone has to start somewhere) you can include more info about the song and its meaning/lyrics, especially if it’s pivotal to the story.

3. What other assets should be included in a pitch?

If you have the means to get your pitch directly to editors, you may be asked to supply an exclusive photo for potential playlist covers. Take a look at the playlist covers on the platform you are pitching to, generally, the shots they feature are tight, sometimes with a transparent or altered background and the face of the artist is clearly visible.

It's always good to get some photos as part of your press shoot that could be used for playlist covers. Visually interesting foregrounds with simple backgrounds are generally preferred.

4. How far out before release should you pitch your song? Or, how do you get a song playlisted AFTER release and after some traction on socials, radio, etc.?

It's VERY important to be prepared BEFORE release and pitch your track ahead of the song going live. It's very rare for a song to be playlisted retrospectively unless the buzz around it has been nationally significant e.g. charting on Shazam, playlisted on triple j, major radio adds, viral TikTok engagement.

If something exciting like this does happen to you post-release and you have also tried to pitch pre-release, it's always good to get in touch with your distributor and see whether they can pitch directly to the DSPs for you to update them on your success elsewhere. In saying that though, it's extremely rare for a DSP to pick up a track retrospectively and give it a solid run.

5. What about third-party playlists – is there a good source for finding those?

Third-party or 'independent' playlists are a really great way to bolster your streams, increase engagement and boost your streaming presence but you generally won't see meaningful traction on a song until it lands on both independent and editorial playlists and listeners start adding it to their own playlists — what we call 'active listening' vs 'passive listening'. Beware of pay-for-play independent playlisting services who say they can guarantee you streams for $$$. Spotify and other platforms are cracking down on fraudulent streaming and many of these services use bots to boost streams — read our blog post about this.

We always recommend doing your own research and building up your own contacts if you can. Many independent playlisters have their email address listed in the playlist description. There are also submission websites you can visit to submit directly to curators. Beware of playlists that have a lot of followers, sometimes they might look impressive but they have very little engagement.

Some websites that we recommend checking out include:

6. How can an Australian/NZ artist get onto global or other territory playlists?

Breaking out of the AU/NZ landscape is a huge win but just remember it's something everyone is trying to do. Some great ways we have seen this happen are:

  • Artists collaborating with another artist who already has some traction in another market.

    Example: an Aotearoa artist will feature on a Swedish artist's song and then be playlisted in Sweden, plus their audiences will cross-pollinate, leading to a rise in engagement from another territory. When the Australian artist releases their next track, they will have more chance of being playlisted in Sweden.
  • Artists being able to show they have a connection to a certain territory when pitching is important.

    You might have plans to tour there soon, you may have been played on a big radio station in another territory and found a champion there. Leaning on these connections is important when pitching.
  • Some distribution companies will offer pitching in specific markets...

    However, it's important to find out what their local priorities are and where you and your project sit within those they are pitching on a weekly basis. The best way to form a connection with a certain territory is to build a community there whether that be with other artists, media or industry. The more you have champions in a certain territory, the more success you will have there.
  • Some artists just get lucky and a tune catches an editor's ears and they will push it far and wide.

7. Any other words of advice?

It's a jungle out there. Don't be discouraged if you don't land on any playlists for a while. Keep trying, keep making good music, keep networking and remember, while playlisting is important, cultivating an engaged audience before, during, and after you land on playlists through engagement, quality social content and meeting your fans where they are is more important.

Music is about connection and you can land on all the playlists in the world but if your track doesn't connect, once it leaves those playlists, your streams will take a huge dive.

Keeping your audience and holding their attention through meaningful connection is key.