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Spotify 101: Understanding the Spotify Playlist Landscape

Spotify 101: Understanding the Spotify Playlist Landscape

By this point, most independent music creators understand that getting their music added to playlists is the key to gaining more listeners and streams on Spotify. But what are the different kinds of playlists on Spotify, and what role do they play in helping to grow an artist’s audience on Spotify?

The Three Types of Playlists on Spotify

There are three major types of playlists on Spotify: Spotify editorial playlists, Spotify algorithmic playlists, and listener playlists (playlists that are owned and curated by users on Spotify). It’s important to understand the differences between these three types of playlists.

1. Spotify Editorial Playlists

These are playlists that are curated by Spotify’s Shows & Editorial team. This is a team of music experts and genres specialists from around the world, hired by Spotify to curate and manage Spotify’s own playlists. These playlists tend to have large followings, and are typically the first playlists most people think of when discussing playlists on Spotify.

Many of these playlists are genre-specific – think “RapCaviar”, “Hot Country”, or “Rock This”. Others are more context-driven, such as “Songs to Sing in the Shower”, “Teen Party”, or “Relax & Unwind”.

Spotify editors often test out new tracks on smaller “feeder” playlists. Tracks that perform well on a playlist like “New Noise” (289K followers) might be promoted to “Rock This” (4.3M followers); songs that gain traction on a playlist such as “Most Necessary” (1.8M followers) might eventually end up on “Rap Caviar” (10.3M followers).

2. Spotify Algorithmic Playlists

These playlists are playlists that are automatically created for each Spotify user by Spotify’s own software algorithms. Spotify monitors each user’s music listening habits, and uses this information to produce these highly personalized playlists. Two important algorithmic playlists include “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar”.

Discover Weekly

Discover Weekly is a weekly playlist that’s updated every Monday and unique for every Spotify user. This playlist features music that Spotify thinks that user is likely to enjoy, based on their particular Spotify listening habits. These listening habits might include:

  • any artists/albums/tracks a user likes
  • any artists/albums/tracks a user shares
  • any tracks a user saves to their own playlists
  • any tracks they skip

Release Radar

Release Radar is another weekly playlists that’s updated every Friday and unique for every Spotify user. This playlists features new music by artists that Spotify assumes the user currently enjoys, based on their Spotify activity.

3. Listener Playlists

Also called user playlists or user-generated playlists, these are playlists that are created and maintained by Spotify users themselves. Users can choose to make their playlists “secret” or “public”. While many Spotify users are simply regular users curating playlists for personal enjoyment, many businesses, companies, public personalities and more also curate their own playlists, usually as a way to extend their branding.

How Each Type of Playlist Can Help Grow Your Audience on Spotify

Spotify editorial playlists have the obvious advantage in terms of follower numbers. Most artists are understandably keen to get a spot on these playlists, and for good reason: a placement on a major playlist like “Your Favorite Coffeehouse” or “Peaceful Piano” can mean hundreds of thousands of new listeners and streams. A word of caution, however: many of these streams tend to be “drive-by” streams. These listeners can often be more passive about their music listening habits; they’re less likely to turn into active, long-term fans.

Spotify algorithmic playlists can reach a highly targeted audience of listeners who are almost certain to love your music. This can result in a surprisingly large number of streams, particularly for talented artists in less popular genres. Spotify users who listen to playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar also tend to be much more engaged, actively searching for music they love. These listeners, while fewer in number, are much more likely to turn into loyal fans.

Listener playlists can sometimes attract large numbers of followers, and can produce a significant number of listeners and streams for an emerging artist. They also have the potential to influence Spotify’s algorithmic playlists: whenever a user adds your track to their playlist, it provides data to Spotify about the type of music they like. With enough data, Spotify can then recommend that track to other users who have similar listening habits, resulting in long-term audience growth.

Planning Your Overall Spotify Campaign Strategy

Your overall release strategy should include aiming for placements on all three types of playlists:

  • Spotify for Artists allows you to submit your upcoming releases to Spotify’s editorial team. Make sure you submit your track at least 1-2 weeks before your release date!
  • While you can’t pitch to Spotify’s algorithmic playlists, your chances of landing on Discover Weekly and Release Radar improve greatly the more people are engaging with your music on Spotify. Remember, Spotify looks at overall engagement, so streaming your tracks on repeat won’t help your metrics. Encourage your fans to add your songs to their playlists and follow your artist profile on Spotify. Make sure to run a pre-save campaign prior to every release!
  • Most importantly, reach out to listener-curated playlists that fit the theme, mood, vibe, or genre of your song! Use PlaylistRadar to find independent curators who already love your style of music. Take the time to create a thoughtful pitch, and reach out to as many relevant curators as you can. In time you’re bound to notice a steady growth in your monthly listeners and streams on Spotify.

If you’re a music creator with a back catalog of previously-released material, learn more about how to promote your previous releases on Spotify. If you’re planning a new release, learn more about how to ensure your new music reaches a wider audience.

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