Founder of Topsify, Playlists.net, Artists To Watch Records & ex Warner Music.
Streaming since 2008.
It’s well documented that a popular tactic to generate more streams and therefore more revenue in the streaming age is for artists to release albums with as many tracks on as possible. The rights holder gets paid from streaming platforms as soon as someone listens to 30 seconds of a song and therefore we get artists like Chris Brown releasing 45 song albums like his 2017 album “Heartbreak On A Full Moon” which was certified Gold in less than 10 days even though none of the songs from it made it to the top 40. Clearly this “strategy” works, if you can call stuffing an album with scores of low quality songs a strategy but hey that’s where we are now.
So when I saw this advert in my Instagram post for a “Sleep & Mindfulness Thunderstorms” playlist from Sony Music UK I was intrigued.
When I clicked through I was taken to a Filtr playlist (Sony’s playlist brand) in Apple Music that promises to help me relax and fall asleep to the sounds of pouring rain and thunder. OK then.
P.S. Notice how the playlist artwork says “Sleep & Mindfulness Thunderstorms” which although is nonsense, it reads logically, kind of. But the actual title of the playlist is called “Thunderstorms Sleep & Relax Tracks” which makes even less sense but is playlist SEO at work given that these are all keywords that Sony thinks people will be searching for in Apple Music.
But here’s the best bit, the playlist is made up of 330 tracks, all just over a minute long. Yes 330 tracks. Each track is as you would expect is just ambient noise of rain and a few thunder storms thrown in for good measure. This is the strategy I mentioned in my opening paragraph taken to the extreme.
By using a playlist as the “format” and not an album the guys at Sony can really go to town and add in 330 tracks without anyone blinking an eye, after all there are no rules or constraints for playlists so any number of songs goes. Then making sure each track is just over a minute long, thereby qualifying for the 30 second is also calculated to extract the most revenue possible from the playlist.
Finally, marketing the playlist as something to fall asleep to is also genius. The hope is that you play this playlist to help you fall asleep and when you do the playlist of course continues to play in the background while you’re asleep racking up streams and therefore revenue. Kerching.
One final note, the artist credited to all 330 tracks on this playlist is called “Sleepy John” and the songs all link to an artist profile in Apple Music for a rock quartet formed in 1969 from Lewiston Idaho. Either the meta data is messed up or this 1960’s rock band have done a serious pivot.
A few years ago, compilation brand Now That’s What I Call Music were really active on Spotify. They used to have a playlist for every Now album released as well as some that weren’t and they had a very popular “Now UK Top 40 Chart” playlist that was updated weekly and had a huge following. In fact, back in the early days of Playlists.net (around 2011 I think) we were invited to meet the Now Music team to discuss playlist strategy and for years we were marketing partners for their playlists. Check out their profile here.
However if you look at the Now profile in Spotify now there’s a load of old legacy playlists, playlist of the most recent Now albums, 101 and 102 and that’s about it. You can find Now 85 onwards too but none of the old ones. It looks like they’re maintaining the latest versions of their albums as playlists for search optimisation purposes but that’s all.
I had a quick look at Apple Music and low and behold there’s a homepage tile for an “exclusive playlist” for Now 102. If I look at the Now profile on Apple Music I can see a good selection of playlists (although not the entire Now back catalogue) including the Now UK Top 40 Chart and the Now UK Top 40 Dance playlist, both of which look like they are updated weekly.
So what this means is that as well as doing a deal with Ministry of Sound for playlist exclusivity, Apple Music have also seemingly done the same for Now Music. This is interesting as both brands are huge in the compilation space and bring brand recognition and loyal fans to Apple Music. What’s also interesting is that Apple Music are both investing heavily in their own playlists as well as working with trusted third party playlist brands. Whereas Spotify’s playlist strategy is centred almost solely on their own playlists.
There was a Homepage Takeover on Spotify in the UK today for Now 102 but instead of going to a playlist it directed users to the actual Now album on Spotify. Further evidence that the Now playlist brand isn’t a priority on Spotify.
Independent or third party Spotify playlists as they are also known can play an important part of growing your fan base and gaining more streams on Spotify.
When I talk about independent or third party Spotify playlists I mean playlists that aren’t curated or owned by Spotify editors. Instead they are curated by individuals with no affiliation with Spotify, people like you and I. A good example is my 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time playlist that I set up a few years ago.
So how can independent playlists help my song?
Put simply, if an independent playlist has an engaged audience of followers who enjoy listening to a certain genre or mood and your song fits with that vibe then by having your song in that playlist you’re going to get streams and hopefully new fans.
Great, how do I do this?
Use Playlist Push and use discount code YNK64JC to save 7.5%
Playlist Push is a service I’ve been using for over a year now, this is how they work.
Playlist Push have a network of over 500 playlist curators with a combined reach of more than 14 million listeners on Spotify.
When you sign up to the service, you upload your song and get presented with some pricing options. You can choose how many genres you want to target with your campaign and prices are set accordingly.
Once the campaign is up and running, your song is sent for review to curators who have playlists that will fit your song. Each curator has to listen to your song, leave a review and choose whether to include the song into their playlist or not. You get detailed reports back and emails when your song has been included in a playlist.
How much does it cost?
I’m told the average campaign comes in around $800 but can start from around $500.
How does this help me?
By reaching an audience of music fans who like specific genres/moods that match your music you will not only gain more streams but also potentially make new fans who will follow you and your music. More streams on Spotify also means that your music has a better chance of being noticed by Spotify’s algorithms and also possibly Spotify’s editors.
Kieron man, this looks like a paid advertisement for Playlist Push
It’s not. I have been using Playlist Push for over a year now and I’m very happy with their service, I wouldn’t risk my reputation by recommending something that I don’t use or can’t vouch for. The Playlist Push link I use is an affiliate link though and by using my discount code YNK64JC you save 7.5% and I get 7.5% commission from Playlist Push. Again though, I only promote services I use myself and think will be useful to others.
Spotify’s new ‘Canvas’ format is currently still in beta-invitation phase but is being rolled out to a wider selection of artists right now.
Below is a screenshot of what you will see when you select the “add canvas” button that appears in your Spotify for Artists dashboard.
Once uploaded to Spotify the eight-second looping videos are shown on the ‘Now Playing’ screen while listening to a song. To see one in action, listen to I Got You from HONNE on mobile.
Nice to see this format rolling out to more artists and it shows Spotify’s commitment to making listening to music visually interesting too.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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 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…
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.
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:
Founder of Topsify, Playlists.net, Artists To Watch Records & ex Warner Music.
Streaming since 2008.