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.

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