So, a while back at SXSW, I attended a radio promotion panel where some brilliant minds predicted that CDs and the iTunes Store would become extinct and that all music would be streamed. As a music producer and songwriter, I wondered, “How will people like me get paid?”
Fast forward to today, and CDs are ancient history, the iTunes Store is also on its way out, and while Apple Music is doing alright, Spotify is the reigning king of music streaming and will continue to be.
You might have seen the stats that 1 million streams on Spotify equals about $3,000 in income. It sounds like a lot of streams for that small amount of money, but it’s all relative to the number of followers you have.
There’s a difference between monthly listeners and followers; monthly listeners are people who might randomly stumble upon your track and play it, while followers are devoted fans. To keep your music career profitable, it’s essential to grow your followers.
Here are some suggestions on how to increase your Spotify growth organically.
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Spotify is succeeding in the streaming game because it’s essentially a social media platform. Their artist profiles are packed with information, including a bio and links to other pages chosen by the artist.
The most popular links are to Instagram and the artist’s website, as well as SoundCloud and Bandcamp. On the other hand, Apple Music was slow to catch on to this whole social media collaboration thing, which is pretty surprising given the massive cult-like following of the Apple brand.
To increase your Spotify followers, you have to plan a “blitz release.”
When you’re releasing a new single, you should have a preview clip on SoundCloud with a link to your Spotify account. At the same time, you should create an Instagram story that features a little video or clip of the track, which can also be shared on your Facebook story.
That is phase one.
Phase two is where you announce the release of your new single along with a picture that has a code you can scan to go straight to Spotify.
That code is a game-changer because it makes it much easier for people to find you on Spotify. If you get picked up by the algorithm on Instagram, it’s almost as quick as Snapchat and can lead to tons of new listeners on your profile.
Even if you’re not releasing any new music, you can still promote your Spotify using these same methods. And don’t forget about link tree codes! They’re an awesome way to make the most of your one Instagram bio link.
When somebody clicks on your link tree, they can access a bunch of different links all in one place. You can share your SoundCloud, Bandcamp, website, and even a Spotify playlist of your choice.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about playlists.
Playlists are like the holy grail for getting more followers on Spotify. There are two types of playlists: personal artist playlists, which are made by you and shared publicly, and curated playlists, which are chosen by the cool cats called Curators. They are the big shots and have huge followings on their playlists. If they choose your music, you’re in for a big exposure boost!
Curated playlists are the most sought-after promotion in the music industry. It’s like the new radio!
Some reports say that major labels pay millions of dollars to influence Spotify employees and top curators to add their artists exclusively. That’s how important these playlists are to an artist’s career.
But the thing is, it’s still like the Wild West when it comes to getting on these playlists. Luckily, there’s a new feature on Spotify for Artists called Discovery Mode.
If you’re looking to grow your follower base, you should definitely sign up for this. Discovery Mode is one of the main ways to get on the playlists with the most followers.
The catch is, that you need to have at least three tracks that meet the eligibility criteria and a fan base of at least 25,000 monthly listeners to qualify for Discovery Mode. So it’s like the next level for up-and-coming artists.
Working with other artists is a great way to get your name out there and grow your fan base. When your song is added to a playlist or released by another artist, it will show up on the bottom half of your Spotify profile.
On a successful artist’s profile, you’ll see two categories above the “about” section: “Appears on” and “Discovered on”. You can check out these sections to find other artists, and for other artists’ fans to find you.
“Appears on” is where you’ll find collaborations where you’ve been featured on another artist’s album. So, let’s say you team up with Dua Lipa, and both of your names get credited as artists, or you get a featuring credit, that Dua Lipa album will show up on your “appears on” section in Spotify. This is a super important way for many artists to gain more followers.
Of course, the more fans the artist already has, the better your chances of gaining more followers, but even consistently working with other less-known artists will also help you increase your influence. The bottom line is that you’ll likely see an increase in both your monthly listeners and your followers, so keep collaborating!
Okay, so here’s the deal with sync licenses (or synchronization placements, if you want to sound fancy). Basically, it’s when a music supervisor puts your song in a film or TV show.
You probably already know that getting a sync license can be a huge boost to your income and publishing royalties, but did you know it can also help you grow your Spotify followers?
But what’s really cool is that when you click on an episode of a show, the website identifies the song that was in the show and provides a Spotify link in case you want to listen to it again.
So let’s say your song is featured on a popular show like The Walking Dead, which has millions of viewers every week. If someone hears your song and decides to check it out on Spotify, boom, you just gained a new listener. And if that happens with 5 million people watching weekly, you’re looking at some serious growth potential, my friend.
Sometimes big shows like Grey’s Anatomy, also feature the artist with an onscreen credit, almost like a music video. This is also huge.
Many artists like Ingrid Michaelson funded their whole careers with big placements on TV. She’s never signed with a major label and has almost 2.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, with over 800k followers.
That’s more than many major label artists.
YouTube has just been named the number one spot for finding new music. They even have YouTube Music, which you can bundle with your stores on distributors like DistroKid and TuneCore.
But here’s the thing: YouTube is a double whammy. Not only can you get some visibility from being featured on different topic playlists (algorithmically speaking, of course), but you can also add your Spotify links right to your video.
And let’s not forget that people use Shazam to discover new songs, which can lead them straight to your tunes on YouTube. More on Shazam later.
Now, every social media site (including YouTube) has paid ads you can use to promote your music. Instagram and Facebook ads are cool and all, but in my opinion, YouTube ads are where it’s at. Why? Because YouTube’s algorithm is just way more powerful, and it can really boost your visibility.
So, listen up: If you want to get more Spotify followers, you have to make sure your music has a video component. It doesn’t have to be some flashy, MTV-style production. Just something that’s going to grab people’s attention and make them want to check out your Spotify profile.
Many artists make simple lyric videos straight from their digital aggregators like Distrokid. Apple Music has a special function if you’ve added your lyrics in the metadata before release, so make sure you do that.
Independent Radio Playlists
Some people view radio as old-school and only for major labels and superstars. However, many new artists and up-and-comers don’t realize that there are plenty of independent radio stations, such as NPR and KCRW in Los Angeles, with enormous and loyal followings.
For example, KCRW doesn’t require payment to play your song as long as you pitch it through the proper channels. I’ve had a couple of my songs played by KCRW recently, and the artist’s followers jumped by over 600 in one hour.
One reason for this is that many KCRW subscribers instantly use Shazam to identify songs they like. Additionally, KCRW DJs put out a playlist on their site with Spotify links so you can easily find and enjoy the songs that caught your ear.
I don’t know if any of you are old enough to remember, but I used to have to go into music stores and sing the song to the clerk to see if they knew what it was. Then, he would have to point me to the aisle and help me find the particular CD. That’s assuming they carried it, otherwise, it was on to the next store!
Oh, how far we’ve come.
Shazam (or, as some call it, Encore) is a great tool for gaining new followers on Spotify. All you have to do is get your music to as many venues as possible and you’re set.
You may have noticed the small S-shaped circle on your iPhone. That’s the sound recognition feature, and it’s pretty cool.
If you’re out and about and hear a song you love, just take out your iPhone, go to your favorites, and tap on Shazam. It will analyze the song, show you the artwork, and ask if you want to add it to your Spotify or Apple Music library.
If you’re signed up for Spotify for Artists, you can see how many times your songs were streamed and where. You can also see which songs were Shazamed the most. The same goes for Apple Music.
So what does this mean for gaining more followers? It means that your music can be heard anywhere in the world, and you can still gain new fans. If your song gets played in a bar in Egypt and someone Shazams it, boom, you’ve got a new listener.
And it’s not just bars – you can be anywhere, like an airport or stopped at a red light, and hear a great song. Shazam will help you find the artist and their Spotify. Even satellite and car radios have Shazam features, and some modern CarPlay systems even have direct Spotify links!
In my experience with productions, the biggest factors for gaining followers are playlists, artist collaborations, and Shazam. So keep promoting your Spotify link, and who knows? You might get picked up by some random stranger’s playlist and blow up!
There is a dark and shady side to gaining more Spotify followers, which involves paying for fake streams and enlisting influencers to promote your songs. I would caution you against this method.
While taking shortcuts like paying for fake listeners to increase your streaming numbers might increase your monthly listeners in the short run, it doesn’t always translate to followers. Followers are the people who become your fans or are already your fans.
Longevity in the music industry is all about growing your fans organically. If you pay for 1 million people in a third-world country to play your song once, it might look impressive at first glance, but if you have 10 million monthly listeners and only 350 followers, something is not right.
Spotify and its algorithm have also gotten wise to these tricks, and they can suspend you.
Followers are much more important than streams because Spotify is much more than just a streaming platform. Artists sell merchandise there, including limited edition autographed CDs or vinyl, and most importantly, they sell tickets to their live shows.
The more true fans and followers you have, the better your chances of selling out shows, and merch, and attracting more professionals such as record labels, managers, and publicists.
It’s all an ecosystem, and growing your follower count organically is the best way to achieve new levels of success in the music industry.