How not to pitch for playlist support

    I wanted to post this email as I get a load of these and they are a really ineffective way to pitch a Spotify playlist curator for support and I wanted to explain why.

    First there’s the fact that this guy has put almost 100 email addresses in the “to” field so they’re visible to all recipients and therefore are bound to result in yet more spam. Sigh.

    But this guys’ biggest mistake is the complete lack of personalisation. In the email he says “I’ve listened to your playlist for some time now”. Great, what playlist? I have 50. Also we know there are 99 other people on this email so there’s that.

    It really isn’t hard to craft a good pitch email. Just basically do the opposite of this guy. But seriously, personalise it to the reader. If you’re asking for specific playlist support then name the playlist where you think your song will fit, and why you think it will fit. Tell the recipient a bit about yourself too and the song you’re pitching. That’s it, that’s all you need do.

    Introducing Humble Angel Dance

    It’s been almost a year to the day since I launched Humble Angel Records and we’ve had an amazing first year, generating tens of millions of streams and working with dozens of talented artists to develop their careers.

    So now it’s time for the next step and we’re diversifying into the dance world with the launch of Humble Angel Dance. The new label will be dedicated to (yes you guessed it) dance releases only. The focus will still be streaming platforms of course but we’re going to go more niche and work closer with some of the dance specific platforms like Beatport etc. We also have specialist resources and experience in dance radio and club promotions to help artists succeed in this competitive space.

    Our first release is also out today, “Close” is from singer/songwriter Joan Alasta who is best known for providing the vocals on Alok’s 100 million streamer “Big Jet Plane”. It’s produced by the amazing Mathieu Koss who also produced Alok’s hit, so it’s pedigree is strong.

    Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be building out our rosta or artists and moving across all genres of dance. As always anybody can submit unreleased music for release consideration through our main portal here.

    Humble Angel Records Year One

    I launched Humble Angel Records on 26th January 2018 and seeing as we’re closing in on our first year in business I thought I’d share some stats and learnings of how things have went.

    Some stats…

    Since our first release on 26th January until our last release of 2018 on 23rd November (we didn’t release anything in December as no point in competing with Mariah Carey) we’ve released 47 singles, that’s just over 1 a week.

    As you can see from the graphic above from Spotify we’ve achieved 240 million minutes worth of streams up until October 2018 (the cut off point for Spotify’s Wrapped 2018). The real number will be higher than this as I don’t have access to all of my artists stats on Spotify but I’m very pleased with this result. From a standing start of zero to 240 million minutes in 9 months is fantastic.

    Investing in artists not songs

    My biggest shift over the last 12 months or so has been to move towards a more artist development and long-term approach to the artists I work with. When I first launched the label I was signing artists on a song by song basis but I quickly realised in the fast paced streaming world that it takes a lot of time and effort to break through the 30,000 songs that are released on Spotify each day. My best success has come from artists who I work with over time and invest in more of a long term strategy, maybe by partnering with PR teams, radio pluggers, experienced managers, video creators, sync teams and even putting on live shows.

    Don’t get me wrong, we’re still a streaming first label and playlists and algorithms are at the heart of what we do. We’re just expanding to ensure success off platform too and making sure we connect with fans everywhere.

    Artist highlights of 2018

    Here are some of the best moments and successes from Humble Angel artists of 2018. It’s not all of Humble Angel artists, just a selection. I’ll follow up with more artist updates in a later post.

    SLANG

    SLANG is Dan Dare, one of the most creative, talented and authentic artists I’ve worked with. We started 2018 with the release of the Terms and Conditions EP and finished up with the heartfelt See You Again. Dan is one of the best lyricists around and can create the most infectious hooks I’ve ever heard. He’s also an exceptional live artist and this year supported La Fontaines on their UK tour as well as The Manor at the Roundhouse in London. 2019 will see him supporting Gavin James on some UK dates as well as some brilliant new music in February.

    Fia Moon

    Singer/Songwriter Fia Moon smashed it in 2018 with 3 releases on Humble Angel, earning critical acclaim far and wide from the likes of Clash (Settle Down is an absolute banger) to the Official Charts (Settle Down is dazzingly honest and a deceptively catchy pop piece that embodies Fia’s rich and melodic sonic diversity).

    Fia also played a Sofar Sounds gig in London, appeared on Reprezent Radio, Fubar Radio and RTE2 in Ireland. Fia is also named as one of the 2FM Rising 2019 list or Irish artists to watch in the coming year.

    Houssein

    Houssein is already doing well on platforms like Tik-Tok where he has over 1.5 million fans and over 100 million likes and in 2018 he released 3 singles on Humble Angel records to build on his fan base. 2018 also saw Houssein play his first live shows too including Nickleodeon’s televised “Slimefest” and a support slot for Dusky Grey. Spindle dubbed Houssein “Pop’s Newest Prince” and I think they could be right.

    Houssein 2018 highlights…

    After 6

    After 6 is probably best known for his massive club collab with Ryan Blyth, “Show Me” which has racked up over 23 million streams to date. In 2018 he topped the no.1 position in the Music Week Club Charts with “Upside Down” and has plenty more to come in 2019.

    Ryan Keen

    Ryan is a gifted singer songwriter and when he’s not playing guitar with SLANG he’s releasing beautiful pop songs like Tired Eyes, which was one of my personal favourite releases of the year. As well as being a prolific songwriter, Ryan is also an ambassador for the I Am Whole mental health charity and helped setup their first gig which saw the likes of Ed Sheeran, Anne-Marie, James Arthur, Olly Murs and more play live together in 2018.

    Malia Civetz

    Malia is only 3 singles in but has already racked up over 10 million streams, been tipped by Taylor Swift and supported JoJo on tour in the US. With one of the strongest and unique female voices around and industry heavyweights J Kash and Ross Golan in her camp 2019 will see big things for Malia.

    2019 and beyond

    There’s much more coming in 2019, we’ve already signed some amazing new artists and we have some exceptional new releases coming from our existing rosta too. We’ll continue to expand, innovate and develop new strategies, new routes to market and an exciting announcement coming January 25th 2019…

    What do the clouds mean on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlists?

    Have you ever seen a New Music Friday playlist with a picture of clouds on instead of the customary artist image and wondered why? Well wonder no more!

    Spotify display the clouds graphic when a “secret” big release is coming that hasn’t been announced to fans yet. The reason for this is that songs are released at midnight Thursday local time. So that means that midnight in Australia happens 19 hours ahead of LA so if anybody viewing Australia’s NMF playlist in LA on a Thursday morning can effectively see what tomorrow’s new releases are.

    And given that the major labels are all headquartered in the US anyway, they want new releases to drop at midnight in the US (Eastern time) so they can co-ordinate marketing efforts and press releases etc. They definitely don’t want any spoilers for countries that are ahead of the US in terms of time zones.

    So next time you see the clouds, be prepared for a surprise release from someone big.

    The Ultimate Pre-Save for Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer

    I’ve been working with the guys at Feature.fm for a little while now to help them build the ultimate pre-save tool for artists and labels. The team there are really forward thinking and they asked me to help design the tool to meet artist’s and label’s needs first, so that’s exactly what we did. (For anybody not sure what a pre-save is, it’s the streaming equivalent of when you pre-order an album or single download so you get it in your music library on the day of release.)

    Here’s why the Feature.fm pre-save tool is (I believe) the best on the market:

    1. It’s free – other pre-save tools exist but they can be expensive and require a subscription
    2. The Feature.fm pre-save tool is the first to offer Apple Music compatibility as well as Spotify and Deezer. Apple have only released this functionality recently.
    3. It’s easy to use – we understand that not everybody is tech savvy, and you don’t need to be to use this tool
    4. Converts to a Smart Link on release day – the pre-save link will automatically convert to a “listen now” link once your release is live, meaning you only ever need one link for the entire campaign
    5. Extra benefits – as well as giving users the opportunity to pre-save your song the tool also enables them to follow your artist profile. Great for building a fan base.

    Fore more details please read the Feature.fm blog post announcing the tool here. Then to sign up to use the pre-save tool for free please click here.

    The best Spotify HPTO ever?

    I fully appreciate that this post won’t “connect” with most people and it’s only for the hardcore Spotify nerds. But nonetheless here’s 5 reasons why this is one of the best and most effective Spotify Homepage Takeover’s (HPTO) ever from Universal UK displayed today.

    1. The graphic has nice big images of 6 of the biggest artists in the world now (well 5, sorry Liam). I’ve done some testing with HPTO’s and playlist covers in the past and graphics that contain recognisable superstars like this always get more clicks than ones without. Reminds me of the time we put a competitor’s artist on the front of one of our playlists when I worked at a record company, but that’s a story for another day.
    2. It’s simple. Never underestimate the power of simplicity, this HPTO doesn’t try to be clever, it just has the name of the playlist, some superstars and the tag line “All the songs you love in one playlist”. Job done.
    3. The branding matches that of the playlist artwork, it may sound obvious but the amount of times I’ve seen ads with totally different branding than the playlists they are promoting is numerous.
    4. It’s about the playlist and not the playlist brand. Let’s be honest, nobody cares about record label playlist brands. As far as I know, Universal UK are the only Universal territory to ditch their global “Digster” brand and focus on their “Hits” brand but more specifically their Chart Hits UK playlist. This is smart because given how incredibly difficult it is to grow third party playlists in Spotify, you can only realistically actively promote and grow a handful of them. It’s pretty pointless having more than say 5 or so playlists to focus on these days, far better to concentrate on 2 or 3 playlists and treat each of them as brands unto themselves.
    5. It has a clear call to action, the “Listen On Spotify” button. Obvious to some most likely but I’ve seen HPTO’s in the past that don’t direct the user to click on them.

    No Fans? No deal!

    I was talking to a new artist today. He’s released one song in his short career so far and he’s released it through one of the popular distributors. When he originally went to the distributor and asked them (quite rightly) what they could do for his release they asked him to fill in a lengthy form with all sorts of silly questions, the main one being how big his social reach is.

    Now bearing in mind that he is brand new, this was before he released his first ever song, he has pretty much a zero fanbase. To be expected right? On receiving this form they then went on to tell him that they couldn’t offer any support because he has no fanbase and there’s pretty much nothing they could do for him, except to make his song available on all DSP’s and take a nice cut for the privilege.

    Sadly this is now pretty much the case for all record labels as well as distributors. I’ve heard from so many artists today who are asked from labels, how big their fanbase is, before they even listen to the music. In other words if you don’t do your job for them and build up a fanbase first they won’t even consider signing you.

    I can’t begin to say how messed up and wrong this is.

    Surely the job of a label is to develop an artist and help them grow a fanbase together? If the artist is talented and has great music then who cares about how many Instagram followers they have? I don’t. The fact that they have great music is all that matters and if you truly believe in them then the fans will come with your help. Isn’t that a record label’s job? Isn’t it remarkably lazy to expect the artist to do all the work, build the fanbase and then give their music to a label to put out? You don’t need a label to do that, they are supposed to be a partner and help you get your music to fans old and new.

    And don’t even get me started about all those Instagram and Youtube stars with a massive audience who have been signed up by a label hoping to cash in on what they’ve achieved already and then release terrible music. Just because you have a huge following of fans who like your funny YouTube videos or makeup tutorials doesn’t mean they want to hear you sing.

    This is partly why I set up Humble Angel Records, I have an open submission form where anyone can send in music. I don’t care what your fanbase is, all I care about is if you have good music. We can work on the rest together.

    Why is Calvin Harris paying to promote his playlist on Instagram?

    Whilst browsing Instagram stories today I saw this ad promoting Calvin Harris’ Spotify playlist “Calvin Harris Radio“. Interesting as you don’t see many Spotify playlists being promoted other than the major labels playlist brands, but even then not that often.

    Naturally I thought it would just be a smart move by Sony to capitalise on Calvin’s fanbase to promote a playlist that’s basically full of Sony content. I say smart as a fan will be much more inclined to listen to a playlist from an artist compared to a label playlist. Anyway I fully expected the playlist to be full of Sony’s priorities. Not the case! Sure there’s 3 or 4 of Calvin’s tracks but a very good mix of songs from all labels, independents and majors and even some catalogue tracks thrown in too. In other words it looks authentic and something the artist would probably put together himself.

    So why pay to promote it? I doubt very much Calvin Harris is promoting it personally, he has plenty of other stuff going on. And if Sony are investing in growing the playlist then why haven’t they put more of their own songs in it? I can only think that it’s a smart move to invest in the playlist long term and in a very thoughtful way. By keeping the playlist authentic and not filling it with Sony priorities they will build engagement and trust with his fans and grow the playlist faster. Maybe they plan to grow it and then when Sony songs come along that fit the playlist in a natural and organic way, i.e. something that Calvin will play himself in a set, then they can seed it in and help it grow.

    For me this is so much smarter than record label playlist brands that don’t have any loyalty or following among fans and have anything from 80% to 100% of their own content.

    Growing a playlist like this one also lessens the label’s and artists dependence on playlists controlled by Spotify or Apple Music. Of course these editorial playlists will always move the needle most but it’s smart to have your own playlist route to market too.

    This is probably a blog post on it’s own but now that streaming is unstoppable and here to stay, there really should be more investment and creative thinking into playlist brands. The 3 major labels could all do more with their playlist brands and be more creative and where are the other playlist brands disrupting the ecosystem? There are a few YouTube channels moving into streaming like the mighty Trap Nation and Cloudkid but who else? It will take money and some creative thinking but it can be done. The indie labels have been talking about creating a playlist brand for 3 years or so but nothings happened. Someone really needs to fill this space.

    Spinnin’ Records playlist rebrand for voice activation – a swing and a miss?

    Today, Spinnin’ records announced that they were going to rebrand 4 of their playlists so that they can be easily found in voice activated speaker systems like Amazon’s Alexa.

    In a statement the company said… “This means that playlists can now be found under a new succinct name, all have a unique theme and iconic-branding, making it more compatible for the streaming age and ready for voice-activated technology.”

    The four playlists are named; Hundred, Brand New, Pixel and Fit.

    Whilst the point of whether you should brand or rebrand a product/service to fit in with consumer behaviour is a debate for another day there I think problem with the names Spinnin’ have chosen. Namely that Spinnin’ have made the playlist names too generic. So much so that the exact reverse has happened to their goal.

    To test to see if these names were easily discoverable via my Amazon Echo which is connected to my Spotify account I first went in and followed all 4 Spinnin’ playlists in my Spotify account (this usually makes them more discoverable when I play them using voice commands) and then I tried to play them using voice activation.

    First of all I tried to play the “Hundred” playlist, here’s what I said and what happened…

    “Alexa, play the Hundred playlist on Spotify” – Alexa played the Billboard Hot 100 playlist
    “Alexa, play the One Hundred playlist on Spotify” – Alexa played the Billboard Hot 100 playlist
    “Alexa, play Hundred on Spotify” – Alexa played the song “OneHundred” by Sims
    “Alexa play One Hundred on Spotify” – Alexa played “One Hundred by NF

    This went on for a while, I tried every combination of Hundred, One Hundred, One Hundred Playlist and so on. None of the results brought up the Spinnin’ Records playlist. Eventually I gave up and asked Alexa to play “the Hundred playlist by Spinnin’ Records on Spotify” only for Alexa to say that “she” couldn’t find it.

    At this point I gave up, and decided to move on to the “Fit” playlist.

    “Alexa, play the Fit playlist on Spotify” – Alexa played the “This Is Escape The Fate” playlist ?!
    “Alexa, play the Fit playlist on Spotify” – Alexa played a playlist called Spin Fit
    “Alexa, play the Fit playlist on Spotify by Spinnin’ Records” – Alexa played the “This Is Fitz and The Tantrums” playlist ?!?!

    Once again, no matter what I said I couldn’t get Alexa to play the Fit playlist. OK then moving on….

    “Alexa play the Brand New playlist” – Success! Worked first time.

    “Alexa, play the Pixel playlist” – Success! Also worked first time. Side note, because all of the playlists have emoticons in the title, Alexa says “Playing Pixel Joystick by Spinnin’ Records on Spotify”. It sounds kinda jarring so I would consider removing the emoticons from the playlist title. If the playlists are meant for voice activation they’re redundant anyway.

    So, a 50% success rate. But with only 4 playlists I would want a 100% success rate.

    If I was rebranding playlists for voice activation I would make the playlist names as unique as possible. Like Spotify’s Rap Caviar or Bassline Bangers, that way there’s no room for confusion. What I expect is really happening here is that Spinnin’ are deliberately going for a generic name in an effort to mop up some generic searches, i.e. people who ask Alexa to play something “brand new” or “top 100 songs” etc. However I can’t help feel that this strategy is just trying to look for low hanging fruit in the search world and they are much better off growing playlists with a strong unique identity that stand up on their own.

    After all, Spinnin’ have built a fantastic dance brand over the last 20 years or so and that’s where their strength lies, not in voice search “SEO”.

    Side note, ironically the brand looks great visually.