Spotify playlists are one of the most requested tasks I get from my clients. Mostly, it sounds something like this: ‘I want to see a massive increase in playlist positions’.
I then go on to ask about their following overall on social media and especially on Spotify. Most of the time I hear a modest number. Following, I ask about the ad budget for Facebook ads and co. in order to lead fans over to Spotify and subsequently Spotify playlists.
Of course, I tell my clients all about the wonders of organic Spotify playlist marketing (read here). Also, I always encourage everyone to start back catalogue marketing immediately.
Here’s the thing, I know that both organic Spotify playlist marketing and back catalogue marketing cost time and genuine patience. So, I guess you already know what comes next in my client conversation. ‘Can’t you use a third-party playlist tool to get my tracks on Spotify playlists?’
Make sure to check Spotify’s FAQ section regularly for updates!
My honest answer is always that I don’t work with those third-party tools. Not because I think that all are fraudulent. I’m sure there are honest companies out there who really want to help.
However, I always worry if Spotify can detect the difference. This is crazy, Spotify always had a section in their FAQ about the usage of third-party tools. They state that the usage is against the terms & conditions of Spotify and that they can remove tracks where they think the numbers are not right.
And that is exactly what happened on the first of January 2021. As a bit of a very satirical NYE wish they removed thousands of tracks due to alleged fraud.
What is more, music industry lawyer Wallace Collins claims that only DistroKid users feel the takedown.
Upon information and belief, some 750,000 songs were removed, the vast majority of which appear to have used Distrokid for distribution.*source: Wallace Collins
Collins states in his text that he got hold on this story due to clients reaching out to him asking for legal advice.
This appears to be targeted at any independent artist who used a third party playlist or independent marketing service to promote their music – or any third party advertising outside of the Spotify platform (e.g., Spotify Ad Studio and Marquee).*source: Wallace Collins
Also, on Twitter, some claim that no major label artist is part of the takedown. On another satirical note, this makes actually sense. Since major labels like Universal own a stake of the Spotify share. (Which, as a reminder, trades on the New York stock exchange under the name SPOT).
There might be music down without any wrongdoing in Spotify playlists
This is crazy, over on Twitter, many musicians claim that their music is down without them actually using third-party playlist promoters.
Shortly after the story emerged, DistroKid issued a statement. Founder Philip Kaplan stated that: ‘These takedowns were distributor-agnostic and affected music from all distributors (not just DistroKid).’ (source, last checked on Monday 11.1.21 at 6 pm).
Here’s a common situation:
- A playlister, marketing service, publicist, advertising agency, manager, etc., tells an artist “for $300, we’ll help you get more streams.” These services often look legitimate, with seemingly good reputations.
- The artist sends money to aforementioned service.
- The service (or playlist) then employs bots (fake listeners) to boost the number of streams to the track or playlist.
- The artist thinks “wow it worked!” and sends more money.
- Rinse & repeat.
*source: Philip Kaplan
There are two big problems that appear here. Firstly, most musicians are well-meaning folks who wouldn’t use bad technics if only they knew.
Third-party tools for Spotify playlists got a lot of hype recently
Here’s the kicker: there is so much talk about Spotify playlist marketing that it sounds like a legit solution to use those third-party companies. Another point unearthed by Kaplan is that everyone can use those third-party tools. Even if the musicians might not want to use them. Anyone from fans to managers can secretly use them. Again, purely out of goodwill, I’m sure.
However, Spotify can’t detect who used fraudulent methods to amp up streaming numbers and playlist placements.
For once, DistroKid has started a counter-notice action for any artist impacted by this. You can sign their Google Document. Although you need to fill in crazy detailed information about your promotion campaign including invoices.
As well as ‘traffic reports of these campaigns (such as ad networks, social media and other channels)’. Also, you are being asked to disclose the money you have to spend on your campaign. All together very sensitive data that not every band is prepared to share.
There is no easy answer to this situation
There is no easy answer to this situation as it is still evolving. My guess is that Spotify tried to clean up some numbers that were truly gathered by bots. However, it looks like they overshoot the actions a bit.
One thing you can take away from this is clearly that third-party tools are never a good idea in the first place. No matter how good your intention might be.
Never put all your eggs in one basket!
Another clear message is to not put all your eggs into one basket. This is even more important now where musicians still can’t go on tour due to the ongoing pandemic.
One must not forget that the likes of Spotify and co. are nothing else but companies trying to make money. There aren’t run like charities and if they like to change the rules they can. Same goes for social media platforms like Facebook.
Your best bet is to have a wide portfolio. Also, try and cater to your fanbase as much as you can in a direct way. Using Patreon can be great for this.
There’s no easy way to get on a Spotify playlist
However, there is no one right way, every band and musicians’ story is different. Also, there is no short cut. No magic third-party tool will get you the numbers and Spotify playlists in a way that is honest and sustainable.
Building up a music career needs time, determination and an awful lot of elbow grease. If there’s one thing we can really learn from this is that indie musicians need to network and look out for each other. Because it is not given that any company earning money in the music industry will necessarily do.
One thing you can really do is to become educated as much as you can about the music business. With knowledge, there comes power. And the ability to distinguish what might feel nice to your ego (i.e. quick rise in playlist placements or streaming numbers) and what is right for your career.