If you’re an artist, here’s a term you have certainly heard, definitely over the past few years or so: playlisting. If you’re not already familiar, playlisting is when a streaming platform or independent creator puts together a soundtrack or digital mixtape of sorts… they can be curated for a certain genre, mood, event, or really whatever the curator is feeling that day!
For instance, you’ve probably noticed many new music or theme-specific playlists on your favourite streaming services, some even curated by the artists themselves. Around the holidays, you can definitely find a ton of varied playlists to spread that holiday cheer. There are also era, genre or even mood-specific playlists like, “Hits of the 90s,” “Rap Caviar”, “Tear Drop”and more. In many ways, playlists are how people discover new music; a virtual radio station that a user can control with the type of music they want recommended to them.
Now we all know where you can stream new music, follow the latest playlists or even create your own. However, how does an artist get their music heard by the right people to get included in those playlists? Is there some big secret formula to getting the attention of the highly coveted official streaming service playlisters? Or the hear-it-before-everyone-else tastemaker bloggers who have their own curated playlists? With Play MPE, indie labels, artists and promoters can get behind the virtual velvet ropes with global music promotion distribution tool, Caster. All one really needs to do is create an account, upload content and create an impactful promotional email to distribute music to Play MPE’s vetted distribution lists. Top tastemakers around the world access the latest music (from major labels to indie artists) in Play MPE’s secure Player (membership required). This is how sought after decision makers discover new music or iconic catalog, for their playlists. Major labels use Caster to promote their artists, and you can use it too! How cool is that?!
Playlisting is also something indie labels, promoters and artists can do on their own. By creating playlists you can promote your own music and share your favourite artists while building up a community of potential new fans. Win-win!
Ever wanted to hear directly from a playlister to learn more about the ins and outs and get some sound advice? (Yeah we did.)
Katy Krassner spoke with Tom Mullen, who has 20+ years as a music industry executive and is the founder of the Washed Up Emo podcast and the Anthology of Emo book series, which came to fruition because of his playlisting. “I like to curate a playlist with a fan in mind. Would I want to listen to this? Do these songs work well together? From there, I craft the songs on that fan experience. Personally, I spend hours listening to new music and continually return to old albums and eras to refresh my memory. When the playlist is coming together, you’re so well informed it feels like a person did it, not an algorithm.” Tom is a huge fan of the benefits artists can reap with playlisting.
“I think an artist can gain a lot by having people help with playlisting. It’s a huge way to get in front of fans and people likely to listen to you. Equal to that is the work done by the artist to push the playlist, work their own music separately to continue to drive awareness on their endeavors. The work doesn’t end when you get on a playlisting service, it’s only just begun,” he advises. “As an artist, I would use playlists in creative ways that compliment your band and interests. If you’re into surfing, make a surfing playlist or put together your music in themes or stories to help share on socials. Fans are waiting to hear your story be told in new ways and you can do that with interesting playlists and thinking past the discography or best of. Think more about your audience and cater to that.”
A good example of an artist making use of their pandemic downtime to playlist is Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon. When his band’s touring plans were scuttered, he and a longtime friend began the WHOOOSH! Playlist, made up of 10 tracks which he and his co-host discuss throughout the typically one-hour program. Almost all of the music Simon picks is from new artists, as his goal is to introduce lesser known acts to the mainstream. While not everyone reading this has the broad audience Duran Duran do, he is still using his playlist to connect to newer artists. Listen to his playlist on radio.duranduran.com.
So why should an artist submit their songs for playlisting as well as playlist themselves?
1) to promote your music
2) to promote other bands within the same genre, who will then do the same for you
3) to attract a wider audience by hoping your song end up on the same playlist as a bigger artist
4) to connect with an influencer or tastemaker that will post about your track or repurpose a playlist you’re on.
Any artist who wants to make sure their song gets heard by as many people as possible will invest time, and often money, in playlisting.
And a great way to get started on that, is with Caster.
By contributing writer Katy Krassner.