Digital Media Inquisitor 010: What’s up with “Artist Playlists” on Spotify? And what’s up with “Featured Artists” on Apple Music?

My review of a few noticeable glitches in artist marketing offerings by major digital music services

/// Intro ///

As a musical artist (a member and leader of the group FSQ — Funk Style Quality) I’m very grateful for the availability of mainly “free to use” artist marketing platforms, tools and services that the major digital music service providers (DSPs) offer — YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.

I also use artist tools on digital music stores to create my own artist driven charts — for instance dance music outlets — Traxsource (link to example) and Juno Download (example)— offer such features.

Honestly most of these artist marketing platforms I would gladly pay for — they are great! And I do pay for some 3rd party artist marketing platforms like Linkfire, Toneden, Chartmetric. So if I pick on any of these artist marketing platforms in this post for having shortcomings, missing features, etc I understand these services are mainly free and that the DSPs are offering them to benefit the artists, no matter how limited their functionality may or may not be.

I haven’t figured out every platform yet; from how their individual content management systems operate, that allow you to create rich artist profiles; to how their analytics dashboards can help you understand your audience better. There’s a learning curve with each major DSP’s “artist marketing” platform and their individual features are continually evolving. So if you’re an artist managing your own digital marketing and fan engagement campaigns and strategy, you will be spending a lot of time teaching yourself how each artist platform works. These are basically the back end of a consumer facing DSP.

I’m pretty fluent in SoundCloud and Spotify, YouTube to an extent, and less experienced with the Pandora and Apple Music artist programs but I plan to dig in more and utilize them more. I will also be searching for ways to centralize the management of our artist digital presence and catalog across all platforms. Hopefully what I learn along the way can help other artists, and I’m sure there other resources beyond the individual artist facing blogs of the DSPs (feel free to share any in the comments of this post).

I attended the Music Business Association MusicBiz 2018 in Nashville this past May, and major DSPs — SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Apple Music — all separately presented overviews of their most recent artist services offerings to the record labels and artists attending the conference.

At MusicBiz 2018, YouTube, as several other DSPs did, emphasized the importance of creating “artist driven” playlists in your marketing strategy.

But can you really create an “artist playlists” on all of these DSP’s artist marketing platforms?

YouTube at Music Biz 2018 encourages artists to build playlists on their official artist channels

/// Playlisting for artists on Spotify is an issue, but there are some great benefits with Spotify for Artists ///

Spotify for Artists User Experience Excels: The artist marketing platform I use the most is Spotify for Artists. It has a great set of features including full customization of your artist profile, and rich audience analytics that go as deep as showing you which cities you are getting the most streams from. Spotify for Artists recently even rolled out a video series called “The Game Plan” designed to educate artists on best practices on their platform.

Spotify has more users? Spotify has always had more users than other DSPs and it’s the DSP I use the most as a music fan, so it made sense to invest my time on learning and using Spotify for Artists also in terms of audience reach beyond overall user experience. As of writing this, Spotify has roughly 70 million subscribers, and Apple is catching up with 50 million (paid + free trial).


/// Apple Music fails at surfacing entire artist catalogs ///

My group FSQ is often a featured artist on other artists releases. Unfortunately, these collaborations do NOT appear on our FSQ artist page for Apple Music.

FSQ Artist Page on Apple Music — unfortunately our appearances on other artists works do not appear here

So our catalog seems limited on Apple Music when it’s actually more extensive. To find the remix work we’ve done for artists on Apple Music, you would have to know the specific song title to search for that work; such works would not appear on our Apple Music artist profile. For instance, our remix for Midnight Magic’s “Sea of Love” — you would need to know about it and search for it.

To find FSQ’s remix for Midnight Magic on Apple Music, you would have to know it exists and have the title of the track

/// Spotify’s “Appears On” gives love to featured artists ///

Spotify does display all of our collaborations with other artists in a section on the artist profile entitled “Appears On”, including our remix work for other artists. Also these collaborations and work for other artists count towards our monthly listener count on Spotify, which is super important. For instance, that Midnight Magic “Sea of Love” remix we did, it does appear here.

The “Appears On” page for our Spotify Artist Profile

With all the benefits of Spotify for Artists, I found an issue: for the past year I struggled to understand how to create an “artist playlist” on Spotify. Yet I was seeing other artists create playlists that showed that were created by real artists. I even filed help tickets about it with the very responsive Spotify for Artists team. Here’s what I learned about “artist playlists” on Spotify …


/// Originally, lack of clarity on what an “artist playlist” is on Spotify ///

I came into the Spotify for Artists program for my group FSQ, in the Spring of 2017. I quickly noticed that by following the steps to create “an artist playlist” (pictured), that my artist playlists were not reflecting my artist name “FSQ” but instead my individual Spotify username, “Fonksquish”.

FAQ about “Artist Playists” on Spotify for Artists page back in 2017 — it has since been updated

I filed a few support tickets to Spotify help about the issue of “not being able to generate an artist playlist” in August of 2017 but I kept hitting a dead end. Nobody seem to have the answer as to why I could not create “an artist playlist”.

As a temporary fix, Spotify changed my individual user name to display as my artist name so that my playlists will at least “appear” that they’ve been made by FSQ. I’m still user “Fonksquish” but the display says “FSQ” within the Spotify app.

I figured eventually I would get around to finding how to make an artist playlist that actually took users back to my artist profile for FSQ, versus my user profile. I know maybe it seems like semantics — who cares if it’s the “user” FSQ or the “artist” FSQ? Well it’s important if you want to use a playlist to drive people to follow your artist profile.

For example, here is a playlist called “FSQ Remix Works”. I created to highlight our remix work for other artists. I consider it to be an official playlist for our group. It does say created by “FSQ”, ok that’s good.

This playlist looks good — created by FSQ

Follow the highlighted cursor in this brief video, you’ll see what happens if you click through on “Created by FSQ” on the playlist. As an artist, you want that “Created by” to click through to your artist profile. Unfortunately that’s not what happens.

Now let’s go back to the “Frequently Asked Questions” on Spotify for Artists about “Artist Playlists”. Disclosure: this FAQ information was very recently updated on Artists.Spotify.com, but for the sake of this post, I want to show you what I was seeing when I was trying to understand how to create an “Artist Playlist”.

You see indeed that the (old) documentation tells artists that you can create “Artist Playlists”. It mentions 3 different times here the term “Artist Playlist” three different times.

“How do I post an ‘artist playlist’ to my profile?” Well the answer is “you can NOT!” —in fact, I learned later on that this question was not worded right (again, the documentation has since been updated to be more clear).

I had been trying since August 2017 to figure this out, and now it was April 2018. I wanted to understand what was going on here and so I looked at other artists and how their artists playlists were working.

FSQ is signed to an artist run record label, Soul Clap Records. Soul Clap is the artist that manages this label, and they have their own artist playlist, titled “The Adventures of Soul Clap” with over 3,600 followers.

Soul Clap’s artist driven playlist, “The Adventures of Soul Clap”

When I click through on “Created by Soul Clap”, Spotify takes me to this page.

This is a NOT an “Artist Profile” — it’s a individual user profile that has been turned into a “verified artist user” page.

The above is actually is the “user page” of the artist, Soul Clap. It has a verified blue check. But it’s not the same as their artist Soul Clap “artist profile page”, which is this:

So what I finally realized through all of this research on my problem is that all playlists on Spotify have to be generated by a “user”.

Major label artists (and independent artists that joined Spotify for Artists program before spring of 2017) are assigned official “artist user accounts” with a verified blue check. Then they have their separate “artist profile pages”.

Therefore, all artists using Spotify for Artists have these two distinct and separate accounts.

Though a Spotify consumer user may not notice the difference between the two accounts if they both say “Artist” with a blue check. Would you be able to tell which is the real “artist profile” versus “user profile” for Soul Clap for instance?? They both say “Artist” …

Every artist on Spotify maintains two accounts — left, the “artist user account” and right, the “artist profile”

The issue is that for those of us artists who are not on a major label or joined the program after spring of 2017 is that we have no way of getting an “artist user profile” to create playlists.

THE FIX — As I showed in the brief video, there are several reasons why this is really NOT an ideal fix — but it’s the only thing you can do for now: Change your Spotify personal user name to display the same as your artist name.

You can file a support ticket with Spotify for Artists to make this happen.


/// Conclusion ///

Now that I finally understood there are two separate accounts for all artists, I set out to get a “artist user account” from Spotify just like the Soul Clap example. Unfortunately, I was shot down.

I spoke to the Spotify support team after this communication and told them that if this is indeed the case, they needed to update the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to reflect that you can NOT have true “artist playlists” as a Spotify for Artists user.

The confusion around the FAQ is what caused me all this trouble for almost a year, I read the “Artist Playlists” term in that FAQ as you saw, and yet there’s no such thing for the independent artist today on Spotify for Artists.

I’m not sure what’s ahead on Spotify’s product roadmap but I do hope the figure out a way to allow artists to create playlists that link back to artist profiles. And that would create a level playing field for all artists because again many artists CAN actually create “artist playlists”.

And I’m glad I pushed Spotify to update their FAQ to explain that you can NOT create true artist playlists. Here’s the updated FAQ as of May 2018; it recently changed as of this month.

The FAQ now reads “How do I add or remove playlists to my artist profile” versus what it used to say “How do I post an artist playlists to my profile”

However, they still use the term “Artist Playlists” — it should say “Display User Playlists on My Artist Profile”.