We interviewed 970 Spotify playlist curators, and here’s what we found on how to get on a Spotify playlist and what songs selected for placement have in common.
Finding Your Place in a Spotify Playlist
The first thing you learn about how to improve the visibility of your music is the importance of getting featured on a Spotify playlist to make your path to success a little bit easier. However, it is well known that this is a very competitive place and many artists want the same as you—to be heard by many. For example, Spotify stated that between 2018, the year of the New Music Submission feature beta launch(on Spotify for Artists), and 2020, more than 70,000 artists had been added to editorial playlists for the first time.
But don’t let this fact discourage you because these numbers are actually working for you. This means that playlist curators are always searching for new releases that can be a part of their playlist. Now imagine how many playlists are out there! Your job is to find the ones that are right for you. Whether you make cheerful pop tunes or calming lo-fi beats, there are many perfect playlists for displaying your work properly. But before deciding to step into this kind of journey, one thing can help — understanding what curators want.
For this purpose, we have interviewed 970 playlist curators asking the most frequent and relevant questions that will give you helpful insights on how to make your songs more appealing to those mysterious Spotify playlist curators. These valuable answers can significantly benefit your music journey, and we got them exclusively for you!
Stepping into The World of Spotify Playlist Curators
This study uncovers many exciting facts about what is needed to be noticed and accepted by a playlist curator (or many of them). You will learn what aspects of your music are taken into consideration by curators, the reasons behind the rejection, particular positioning on the playlist, and much more!
Before diving into uncovering the key findings of this research, we have to tell you that there is no single formula or pattern for what gets a song on a top-ranked playlist. In fact, many factors have been found to be influential in getting approved by playlist curators.
Nevertheless, remember that knowledge is power, and by knowing how to make the submission of your song more exciting and memorable, you will gain the recognition you deserve. In the following text, you will find multiple answers to the seven most frequently asked questions that Spotify playlist curators get, so keep reading to find all the unknown details.
What characteristics do curators take into account when selecting a track for the list?
The first step is to know what characteristics are more likely to be considered when your track arrives in the hands of a curator. Here is the list of crucial elements mentioned by the majority of them:
- Production quality
The one characteristic referred to by more than 80% of playlist curators is the style of music which can be marked as the most important one. Different playlists feature many styles and genres of music, so try pitching your music to the ones matching your vibe. You can always send your submission for getting featured in any other playlist, but seeing how many curators positioned the style of music as the key element, it is good to keep in mind that you have better chances if you take into account the music style factor.
Another highly positioned characteristic is the production quality, which comes in second place in terms of importance. More than 70% of curators mentioned this element, adding that the high production quality can be crucial in the choice and can make up for some little details that could have been done better. (Keep reading because we will later discuss reasons behind selecting or rejecting a particular track.) In the end, if you’re self-producing your music, keep in mind that every moment you spend on improving your music production skills is well worth your time and effort! If you are collaborating with other producers, work with those who will do the job well, and don’t be afraid to change and search for other producers, because the point is to find the one who can successfully understand your music ideas and match your energy.
Speaking of energy, believe it or not, this is the next characteristic on our list with almost 60% of mentions, alongside mood. Of course, energy and mood can have multiple meanings in this context, but the main one is to (again) match the curator’s taste or theme of the playlist. Imagine if there is a playlist, e.g. for sleeping, and one of the songs is a lo-fi tune with heavy guitar riffs and loud vocals. For sure the one listening would no longer be asleep after that one. So, I think you get the message.
Do you think we forgot the vocals? No way! Vocals are probably the most prominent feature of a song, easily catching the attention of a broader audience (of course, if you are making instrumental music, ignore this one). More than 55% of curators mentioned this characteristic as very important.
We can’t talk about vocals without lyrics, and more than 40% of curators did the same, positioning this element as another essential one while saying that it’s excellent for lyrics to be relatable and well-written.
Honorable mentions: Structure, length, intention, and beauty of the song cover. These three were referred to by 15-30% of curators and should also be taken seriously by artists. Also, the beauty of the album/single cover was commented on more than a few times.
Our advice is to consider all of these characteristics while making music because understanding their importance and working on incorporating them into your work can benefit your position in playlists.
What are some of the most common reasons why you reject a track?
If you paid closer attention to the previously discussed comments, you would already be able to figure out some of the answers on your own. But don’t worry, we won’t leave you. These are the top 5 reasons for having your song rejected by a playlist curator
- Production quality
- Genre fit
- Mood fit
- Personal taste
- Other tracks placed recently
Most of the reasons are quite obvious, but let’s just dive into each of them. Three reasons mentioned between 50 and 60% of curators are production quality, genre/mood fit, and personal taste.
As for production quality, we already referred to the high importance of this characteristic. The track won’t reach its potential if you submit a great one regarding all the elements besides the production one. Having a very low-quality production value of a song is similar to having a great idea and talent for painting but having trouble creating a nice-looking artwork. Your music should be skillfully put together, with particular attention to arrangement, recording, editing, and mixing process. As one of the curators highlighted, one of the biggest mistakes comes from the following:
“The main problem is that people have good ideas, but it’s not really well executed… The 80% of the music I receive needs more work in terms of mixing.”
On the other hand, many playlists are created with different moods, styles, or genres of music in mind. Be diligent in studying various kinds of playlists and choose to submit the right one because if your music type isn’t what the curator is looking for, you don’t have much chance to be added.
Eventually, there are some reasons you can’t personally influence. The fact that curators also select tracks that fit their personal taste is good to be aware of. If you know some playlists made by the curators you want to submit your music to, you can quickly analyze and check if you match their tastes and preferences. Furthermore, if the playlist curator had recently placed some new tracks and does not need new music at the moment, that gives you another reason to keep trying, not giving up after a few rejections. Remember, your time is yet to come!
What reason is behind a position you select to place a track on your playlist?
All of the mentioned characteristics have to be taken into consideration when you are trying to uncover the reasons why curators eventually choose a track to be featured on a playlist and position it in a certain way. Instead of explaining their words, this is a perfect moment to quote some of the best answers we got from playlist curators, referring not only to the track position but to more interesting facts regarding the track selection.
One of the curators said the following about what makes him decide to select a certain song:
“Make sure the quality and lyrically the song is good. I look for music that has a strong production foundation and something that sounds well lyrically along with the great beat.”
“The quality of the arrangement, the relevance of the text, and the voice of the artist in relation to the chosen musical genre.”
Nevertheless, while paying attention to all these technical details, you should never lose your creativity and personal touch that will make you unique in the sea of sameness. One of the curators said:
“I listen for originality. When you hear a unique talent, it is an honor, a refreshing experience. Often artists try to sound like a certain successful artist they emulate and they end up sounding like a local cover band. A truly gifted artist has no choice but to sing and play their music the way they have to, and they carve their own niche in the music world.”
Finally, one thing we haven’t had a chance to talk about before is the position of your song in the playlist. Our curators had more than a few things to say about it:
“If I like it [the song] very much and I think it’s going to be a real hit, I put it at the top of the playlist. If I like it a little less, I put it a little lower.”
Apart from personal taste and potential popularity of a song, some curators place the newer ones at the top, try to match them with previous and next tracks in the playlist, or make certain dynamics when featuring different styles and genres. Also, the overall quality of a song is mentioned many times. Another interesting fact is that some curators position handpicked tracks in the highest positions. On the other hand, in some playlists songs can be randomly placed or in the order in which they were added.
What can an artist do in their track submission to your list to ensure that you’ll listen to their track?
Most of the curators said they listen or at least try to listen to all of the songs they receive, but a few of them had some more concrete answers. Because “branding is the key”, some curators are drawn to listen to songs with appealing titles and album/single covers. However, providing full information on the track (such as genre, mood, etc.) and sending a short review of your material can help attract special attention to your music. Curators value artists’ dedication and will to share the story through your music.
In your opinion, what genres are most wanted and popular for playlists nowadays?
Remember that genre doesn’t define an artist, but the artist defines a genre. Of course, working around the category of the most popular genres can make your way to the top a bit easier, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to know what are the most wanted and popular genres from the curators’ point of view because they often consider this element while making plans and decisions for their playlists. Almost 60% of them highlighted pop as the most popular and wanted, followed by hip hop and rap music, which 50% of them mentioned. Then there are rock, indie, trap, EDM, R&B, Latin, lo-fi, and numerous other genres essential to our popular music experience.
However, some curators don’t want to place music in certain categories, and depending on the type of the playlist, almost all of the music styles can find their well-deserved place. Also, they state that some genres can be popular for a short period. Still, some are timeless, gathering more faithful and active fans, so it is impossible to predict the song’s popularity only based on its genre.
Do you curate music on other streaming platforms?
When you think curators work only with Spotify, you’re wrong! More than 50% of curators from our list participate on one, two, or more music streaming platforms. That means you can meet the same curators in different platforms, or if you make a good connection with a certain curator, that person can help you and your music reach more streaming platforms.
What do you currently do for a living?
If you didn’t know, curators are not strictly professional musicians and producers. A lot of people from different professional spheres are on the board! Remember that you don’t need to impress solely great musical geniuses but other music lovers who have an excellent nose (and ears) for recognizing quality music and will appreciate your track on every possible level. Remember that you are not making music to stun the music experts but to transcend your ideas to everyone willing to listen to you. Make music for people who need it.
Spotify playlist curators are just regular people like you and me, not some untouchable mythical creatures. Respect them, learn from them, praise their hard work, and make a connection with them because you will then be able to reflect on your work and appreciate all the possibilities you are given.
We can now conclude that every aspect of your track matters, and you should be sure that the song you want to submit is worth listening to and be aware of all the elements that can be crucial for your improvement. However, please don’t overdo it! Don’t perceive your music as homework that needs to be done perfectly. Be creative and free. If you think that little part of the chord progression is not perfect but can’t find another solution, or you hear that little click in the middle of the track—maybe that’s exactly what will make the track stand out and be memorable so leave some minor details to work for themselves and pay attention to the crucial ones.
Understand your music and the potential it holds, but also constantly improve your skills because your talent is an uncut diamond that needs your hard work and dedication to shine. Keep in mind, “It’s about drive! It’s about power!”