How Spotify helped me as an artist
I’m really proud of the release of Are We There Yet? This new 3-track EP is out now on Spotify. Have a listen and spread the word! And after that, read how Spotify helped me find an audience during the last 8 months!
Before February there was nothing. I had no record out (other than demos from when I was 15), I had no band, I had no fans, I simply had nothing. So there is clearly a point zero. A time before Spotify and a time after Spotify. This is the story of how Spotify helped me, Pip Blom from Amsterdam, forward as an artist. This is my story about finding an audience, finding fans and building up relations in a digital age.
Last year I spent almost every day in my small home studio. Writing songs, recording songs. I was learning everything. Learning to play the guitar, learning the skills of songwriting, learning how to record and how to mix. This year I decided to release my first 4 songs. Every week of February one track. Thanks to Dutch digital distributor Songflow, for 5 euro’s a track I could make my work available on Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify and more. And I published my music myself on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
To be honest I had no expectations. I’m very ambitious, I want to make a career out of music, but I realise that’s going to take years. And I’m doing everything on my own. I had no label to support me, no publicist to help me, no promoter to get me on the radio, I was happy that my music was out there in the first place. And a 1000 plays on Spotify would be great. That would mean there would be people listening to me and my music!
But immediately something happened. I’ll tell you the story of Spotify and me and what happened after that. Of course other artists can tell you how YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp or Apple Music made the difference for them. I love those services as well, but I’ll limit myself to the story I know best.
Fresh Finds = Early Adoption
Spotify’s official Fresh Finds playlists, now widely known, were unknown when I started. My first release Hours was picked up by Spotify’s Fresh Finds algorithm almost immediately. We didn’t know it then, but now we know that Spotify monitors a world wide audience of music watchers, professionals and influencers without them knowing. Not only do they monitor what those people do on Spotify, they also look at what they are saying and playing on blogs, social media and more. When those influencers pick something up, it’s a signal of potential for Spotify. One play of an influencer means more than a hundred plays of my family. So that’s what happened. Some influencers must have picked me up because I ended up in Fresh Finds. But who? Spotify doesn’t say. And the influencers themselves don’t know they are in this list. So this is a secret. But it worked for me.
What does this mean for an artist?
This is what I learned for my own next release! Make sure the right people know your music. Make sure you inform the people that could be important to you. Of course your fans, but also other people that can get you to a bigger audience: radio DJs, magazine and newspaper writers, bloggers, record industry people, bookers and other music lovers. Follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, put their names and numbers in a database, start a newsletter and inform them with relevant information. If they like your music they will tell the world and Spotify will notice! Of course I hope they will like my new material, my Are We There Yet? EP.
Playlists = Influential Curation
Looking back, this is where a lot started for me. Fresh Finds got a lot of balls rolling. So did the Spotify playlists. If you’re not familiar with Spotify or other streaming services, I’ll tell you a little about the importance of playlists. Of course the normal recommendation engines help people find and discover music (‘other people who played this, played that as well’) but the human aspect of filtering and guiding is really important on Spotify. Fans make playlists which people subscribe to, but Spotify (and Apple, Deezer and the others) has important professional curators that play the role DJs do on the radio. They make weekly selections around genres (alternative, metal, r&b, etc), around moods, etcetera. Their playlists have got a lot of subscribers that help you find an audience. My music made it into official Spotify playlists like New Music Friday UK, New Music Friday Netherlands, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, Viral Top 50, and Absolute Alternative, and also influential international playlists of radio stations and professionals like Best New Indie, Indie Top Tracks and IndieXL. This helped me a lot in getting people to hear me.
What does this mean for an artist?
I don’t want to pretend to know it all. Because I don’t. I have been lucky as well. But I’ve learned a lot during the last six months. That’s what I want to share with you. Of course everything starts with the music. But after that it’s about people getting to know you and your music. Online you use social media for that and try to get online media to cover you. The same thing you can do concerning playlists. Try to get in touch with the Spotify curators so you can tell about you and your music. Look for the other big playlists and find out who are responsible for them and promote your material. They have to know you and like you before they can program you.
Discover Weekly = Automated Discovery
Spotify is a digital company, a data company. They register, monitor, analyse and use the data to help people find the music they (might) like. They see what we play and how often, they see what we save and put in playlists, they use that information to recommend music and to decide what they put in playlists. Discover Weekly is the weekly personal playlist Spotify makes for all its users. Depending on your own plays and what like-minded people listen to, Spotify gives you 30 tracks they think you will like. And I think Spotify is really good at this.
Discover Weekly helped me a lot. I’m not sure, but this is how I think it works at Spotify. After Fresh Finds and the curated playlists, the data of Spotify showed traction. People liked my songs, played them and that was a reason for Spotify to put my songs in the pool of Discover Weekly songs. People who didn’t know me got to hear me because Spotify suggested me. In certain weeks my songs were in 60,000 Discover Weekly playlists. And at the moment of writing, almost 8 months after release, this week 20.000 people can discover my music if they listen to their Discover Weekly. Discover Weekly has been crucial getting to the 300,000 Spotify plays I have at the moment of writing.
What does this mean for an artist?
Being part of Discover Weekly is really important. And thanks to all the data you get from Spotify Fan Insights as artists, it’s great to see that you find a truly international audience thanks to the service (1: United States, 2: Netherlands, 3: United Kingdom, 4: Germany, 5: Canada) and that people like your stuff (13,200 people saved Skippy Still Remains to their personal favourites, 35,300 Hours, 17,200 Truth), but there is not a lot you can do to influence this. To get there, things like Fresh Finds and influential playlists help you, but Spotify or its algorithm decides to put you in the discover pool and in how many playlists. So I’m hoping already that my next release will make it to Discover Weekly again!
Media spread = radio, blogs, magazines
So far I’ve focused on plays and playlists on Spotify. But there has been a really important effect outside of Spotify. People who discovered my music on Spotify through Discover Weekly frequently got in touch and took things further. There’s a lot more, but I’ll give you some highlights besides the positive reactions I got in my home country The Netherlands:
- UK-based label Grunt Grunt A Go Go Records wanted to release the 7” single Hours / Truth that has been available since July 1.
- UK-based promotion company Theo PR was so enthusiastic that they started promoting my music in the UK with the result of raving reviews on sites like DIY Magazine (“A gem”), The Most Radicalist (“Hypnotically lo-fi and brilliantly simplistic”) and Beehive Candy (“Delightful and wonderful”). Also they got me plays on local and national radio (BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music).
- International digital distributor AWAL proposed to start doing my distribution and will be doing so in the future.
- US promotion company Big Hassle started promoting my music with succes. I got great reviews from lots of blogs: The Autumn Roses (“Exhilarating”), A Little More Like You (“Immediately earworm hooks”), The Pentatonic (“Pip deserves to be the next big thing”), HearYa (“A killer track”) and Impose Magazine (“One of the danciest songs you’ve heard all week”).
- International radio stations picked my music up. From national station Radio 1 in The Netherlands to channels in France, Sweden, Germany and other countries. And a lot of college stations in the US seem to like my music. One of my favourite radio stations, KCRW, played Truth 125 times at the time of writing!
- International charts like Ausfahrt 20 and Indie Top 40 (Number 1!).
What does this mean for an artist?
What I’ve learned during the last 8 months is that Spotify in itself can help you find an international audience. Of course 300,000 plays is not the world, but it is a good beginning for me as an artist no one had heard about 8 months ago. But besides the plays on Spotify, it helps you get in touch with the people that can help you a step further. Spotify can help you build a fanbase and build a network of people that can help you in your career.
And what’s next?
And now there’s the release of my 3 track EP Are We There Yet? Not only are AWAL and Jake Whitener at Big Hassle helping me a lot, but Claire Lim and her team at A Badge Of Friendship have already been doing great work on press promo in England and Timothy Britton helps to get my music to relevant online radio stations. So we’ve entered a new round, I’ll keep you posted on Pip Phase 2 later!
By the way, international labels, international bookers and other people that like what I’m doing, I’ve learned a lot from DIY, but I’ve also learned that I can’t do it alone!
Wanna know what Are We There Yet?sounds like? Give it a try!