Promoting your music and pitching to Spotify playlists in 2023 (without getting scammed)
This is first hand, uncensored, subjective experience I am having as an independent artist with several music promotion options out there. After a couple of years of investing many, many hours (and money) in pitching my music to curators, this is what I have found to work. When you search for articles on music promotion and Spotify playlist pitching, you will frequently encounter the same list of platforms and options that has been going around for some years now. However, some of these platforms have stopped developing or could not keep up. Also I have encountered a lot of options that are not described or reviewed anywhere, so I will give you my experience with them here so hopefully you can avoid wasting time and money or other pitfalls.
A couple of things you need to be aware off:
- The most deciding factor is the quality of your music.
- The next deciding factor is the quality of the curators and how well you are able to select matching curators. A good platform will be transparent and provide you with the necessary metrics and keep track of your campaigns.
- Even if your track is damn good, you will need to invest to get it played, there's just no way around it: it will cost you money! I am not saying you should buy your way into playlists and streams, but in order to get heard, some services are just indispensable. This investment is unlikely earned back by the streams you initially generate as an independent artist.
- Be cautious when playlists with attractive follower counts like 20K, 50K and 100K ask for 'donations' larger than $5-$10. I have learnt follower count does not always translates to real streams. Moreover, as playlists with lots of followers are rewarded, it seems this often stimulates them to take shortcuts. Always check if it is a good playlist on isitagoodplaylist.com
- Actually, you can report curators asking money for playlists to Spotify. I do this on a regular basis.
- Below reviews and results are based on my personal success (or lack thereof) with my music and genre. Things may work out differently for you.
This article consists of three sections:
- The usual suspects (Submithub, Groover, Daily Playlist. You probably want to skip this unless you are a total newbie to this.
- Additional platforms, services and methods to consider.
- Old and forgotten, or Sketchy and dodgy services, probably better to avoid
1. The Usual Suspects
Hands down my favorite platform. It is packed with functionality, the transparency and information disclosed about the curators and their playlists is phenomenal. The curators on this platform are dead serious, active and dedicated, and if they are not the stats will immediately show it. Development is always ongoing and the development and support team respond well to issues and feedback. My average acceptance rate here is around 10%, which is below the platform average.
- 'Pay-as-you-go', so no monthly subscription. When you are not releasing music on a monthly basis, pay-as-you-go is of course preferable over subscription models.
- Feedback is guaranteed. You get refunded if a curator does not respond (non-response hovers around 15%).
- Excellent filters for selecting curators, and essential curator metrics
- All the information you need to decide if you want to include a curator in your campaign is available next to the selection box. There is really no site or tool there that has this down so well
- I really like the 'Hot or Not' track feedback section. If your track is not scoring above average in this tool, there is really no point in submitting it.
- Many additional bells and whistles. It's a real community.
- Now featuring an easy flow if you invite specific individual curators to an existing campaign on a later moment.
- I found the playlist selection based on similar sounding artists to be extremely helpful, as genre definitions and preference are often huge gray areas.
- The selection filter can be a bit uptight, displaying curators you are then not allowed to select, even if you want to. (Computer says no!)
- You can mark favorite curators and target them as a group later, but there is no way to create and save specific target groups for reuse.
Cutting it close to Submithub, and certainly worth my time and money is Groover. In fact my last campaigns showed a much larger acceptance rate on Groover than it did on Submithub. Bear in mind acceptance has little to do with the functionality and quality of the platform, but everything with matching the right curators.
- Good selection filter
- Feedback is guaranteed. You get your Groovies refunded if a curator does not respond.
- Possibilty to save your selection to lists you can then use in future campaigns. Believe me: if you have gone through painstakingly selecting curators one by one a couple of times, you start to appreciate this kind of functionality.
- Slightly bigger stock of contact types than on Submithub.
- You can add more curators to the campaign, more or less following the same workflow but keeping your initial track data and associated documents. It's neat.
- Live support chat with real people.
- No easy way to invite specific individual curators ad hoc to an existing campaign.
- Not all the information you need to decide if you want to include a curator in your campaign is avaible next to the selection box, you have to do some back and forth clicking to get to more in depth information, including useful info like your contact history. However Groover keeps your selection together and I think on the whole does a good job managing the campaign workflow and session data even if you click in and out of pages.
Verdict: Indispensible. There is some curator overlap with Submithub, but overall I think they complement each other.(Some curators even refund you if they find you have selected them on both platforms.)
Daily Playlist (DP) still has my support, although there are - in my opinion - fundamental problems with its setup, the biggest issue being it seems to mainly attract playlist curators in need of followers. Still, I use this for every release as the costs to me seem reasonable for what is offered, and I still manage to get a handful of placements for every release.
- Maximum of 25 submissions per week for $6 monthly subscription. Extra submissions are $1 a piece. So the price per pop is lower than Submithub and Groover, which seems proportionally right considering the more basic functionality.
- Pretty ease to flick through and select multiple playlists.
- It is still actively being developed and the team behind this to me seem sympathetic. Also they are responsive to feedback and issues.
- My acceptance rate on DP: 5% - 15%. If you have a good quality of the track, just keep submitting every week, and don't ignore the smaller playlists.
- You are submitting to playlists, rather than to curators. This can easily lead to double submissions to the same curators when you spread your submission over time. But as they largely ignore your submission, this should not bother you.
- There is very limited details about the playlist and curator available on the cards as you select them.
- No option to create a list of favorite curators for future campaigns.
- No easy way to invite specific individual curators to an existing campaign, even though curators have their own landing page on the platform.
- Very limited campaign metrics, what I am really missing is a curator engagement rating, which could be easily added since DP already track and display when a curator was active, active recently or not active.
- Mandatory following of ALL the playlists of a curator in stead of just the one you are submitting to. You will end up following hundreds of playlists in your Spotify profile.
- Mandatory accepting addition to mailing lists. (And yes they will spam you).
- No guaranteed listen, in fact very few curators seem to listen. After a campaign you will end up with dozens and dozens of submissions 'pending' whitch are then moved to a status of 'declined' after a period of time. This makes it difficult for you to assess if it is worth your while to submit to the same curator the next time round. (That could be fixed if DP gave it a status of 'expired')
Verdict: Still worthwhile
Platform originally intended for letting labels listen to demo's uploaded by artists. There is also a small collection of 'Promotors' on the platform, and some of the bigger playlist have their own landing page or section that they use exclusively for submission. Off late (2023) the platform is seeing changes and is being actively maintained and developed.
- Some big labels and curators are on here and nowhere else.
- About a dollar a pop, free credits thrown in every month or so.
I have found that upgrading to 'Pro' (15$ a month) will indeed yield better results, with more labels listening and giving feedback.
- Same demo needs to uploaded seperately for targeting labels promotors on the platform and individual curators that use it as a portal
- Very few listens
- Credits are refunded when a label or promotor does not listen to your demo (which I have found to be true in 95% of the cases unfortunately).
- I have never gotten more than a few declines and payola offers out of this so far.
Verdict: Can't be ignored considering reasonable cost and low effort.
|So, in short any independent self promoting artist is using above platforms, there's absolutely no reason not to, and chances are that you are already using them and have even skipped above reviews. Very well, let's move on.
Submission forms and portals of big curators, record companies and labels
Here's a couple of free submission opportunities that do not usually make it to the top of the search results, but might still be worth your time (if you are into House music). I have found these researching Spotify and Googling mostly.
- As filling out forms can't be fully automated, this will again cost you a lot of time. TIP: Have a document open from which to copy and paste answers to the frequently asked questions, or consider using a clipboard tool.
- These people are serious and listen to a lot of demo's. Expect them to be critical and select only the best music. Brace yourself!
- Atlast FM.Music listening platform with a community of its own. It has been in beta and free for a very long time now.
- Red Ocean Records. This is a label but they also curate a playlist and respond to your demo.
- Round Trip Music. This is a label but they curate multiple playlists and I have gotten on a couple.
- Virmedius. Submitting to them has gotten me placements.
- Soundevote. They listen and get back to you.
- House Nest.They listen and give you feedback.
- Out The Box Magazine (OTB). This is actually a blog, but they have featured me more than once.
Verdict: You just need to do this. Collect as many of these portals as you can using Google and also Spotify. In my genres I have found over a hundred submission forms scouring Spotify playlists for contact info and by Googling 'submit music'.
So, I have just sunk $400 in my first campaign on Playlist Push, after hesitating over a year if I should ever try it. This is serious money (well not really, but for the average bedroom producer it is.). This buys me access to the ears of 36 curators, hosting 43 playlists. That is about $10 just to have them listen and review, roughly between 5 and 10 times the rate on Groover and Submithub. As the acceptance rate is also similar, this makes it hugely expensive.
- Not a scam. They do what they say.
- Basic functionality of the platform is working properly.
- You do get reports and feedback, at which point there is some disclosure as to which curators/playlists your track has been proposed.
- At $10 a pop, this is the most expensive option out there, without adding much for that extra money. So this is good for curators, not good for the independent artist.
- Despite costing top dollar, the functionality and control offered to the artist are at a minimum. You set the genre and literally dial in the amount of money you are willing to spent (minimum budget $268!)
- I have found the genre selection less than adequate, I dare even say flawed as curators stated directly in their feedback that they were looking for genres not selected by me.
- Some of the curators targeted, were already in my contact list or also on other platforms. There is no easy way to avoid this, you have no control over who they pitch to.
Verdict: the platform is real enough but the results for me are disappointing and above all: TOO expensive. At an acceptance rate of about 10% (the same as Submithub, compared with the same track), I paid three times as much money.
songtools.io (aka playlister.club)
Probably one of the best looking things out there. The interface is stunning and the integration with Spotify makes it easy enough to start a campaign. The only control you seem to have is over the genre your track is associated with (which is fed from Spotify metadata I presume?). The rest is all automatic, and according to the site algorithmically determined. To test this, I have joined them as a playlister (which is - of course - totally free) to see if I could find my track or see if it was presented to me if I indicated my preferred genres. This did not seem to work, and I found my EDM tracks amidst hard-rock, gospel songs and indie guitar music.
When I first tried this in 2021 this was quite new, and I initially had reasonable acceptance. For $40 and hardly any of my precious time spent, it was a good bang for my buck. I am guessing many more artists must have flocked to the site since then because I noticed my tracks were getting less and less 'views' and plays, obviously the stages necessary before being able to get a review or a placement.
- Easy to start a campaign.
- Professionaly developed website, certainly no scam.
- Nice Spotify integration.
- Over 35 placements on my last campaign. I cannot determine an acceptance percentage, as I don't know how many playlisters are active and in my genre, but the cost came to less than $2 per playlist for this particular campaign.
- The platform notifies you of new placements as it detects them in the playlists of its users, however if you have reached the curator through another platform that result will also show up here.
- Matching works in mysterious ways, it feels like rolling a dice.
- I am guessing interacting with the platform will get you more views and listens. So repond to the placements, like the reviews, etc.
- Totally catered to playlisters. Artists pay, playlister don't (as is the case everywhere).
- The only influence you have on your target audience, is setting the associated genre.
- Ypu need to pay extra to gain more views and get noticed. A basic campaign is genereting less and less views.
Verdict: You probably need to try this for yourself to get an accurate gauge on how well this platform works for your type of music. At just under $50 for a campaign and considering the huge reach, I'd say this is always worth a shot.
This UK basaed service at the core targets radio and dance floor DJs. They claim to have 30.000+ DJs in their pool, ranging from the top all the way down to your local heroes. They also pitch to a collection of Spotify curators, and judging by this sample report, this just might be a good addition to the existing platforms. But I have used them to get music into DJ ears, as this is their specialty and I know of no other means to do this.
- Pricing is reasonable but somewhat arbitrarily set in round numbers. There's no way to see if the prices of larger packages are proportional to their extra reach.
Verdict: If you are producing dance music, I think this is good value for money and complements mere Spotify pitching.
Another submission platform. You pay money, they pitch.
- Not a scam
- Acceptance 30%
- Prices proportional to 'size' of the playlist.
- You can 'dial in' the amnount of curators you want targeted in three groups, classified by the amount of followers. Each group comes at a different price per targeted playlist.
For one campaign I spent an additional $80 on this platform, this bought me reviews from less than 10 curators, as it was targeted at the playlist level.
- Forces you to have a campaign of at least 10 targets, but won't let you select them or prevent targeting known contacts.
- Like Playlist Push and some other platforms, Onesubmit does not let you select curators, they do this for you.
- I found the curators that responded to the campaign, were mostly curators I had already encountered on the other platforms.
Verdict: I find this service too costly and the amount of control and functionality too limited compared to what you pay. It added very little results compared to other platforms I had already used. Although not a scam, this feels like a money machine for the curators and the platform. You are not going to see any of this money back.
Plugging your track to (online) radio stations
This article explains why there is no point for an unsigned artist to pay professional radio pluggers in search of national air time. That is probably true. Alternatively, you can still play in the little league of smaller radio stations and online channels. Again: you have to put in the hard work Googling for contacts. You will find a few and so far I did not have any luck with this approach. I did however encounter an online service that has specialized in this: ipluggers.com. Although it did not bring me what I had imagined, I found the service certainly professional and transparant. To give you an idea: the platform claims a reach of 35.000+ outlets. Of this I managed a response of 46(!), neatly reported on a daily basis. Although I can't say to how many stations my track was plugged, it must have been thousand, so we are talking 1% or less. The track had only 7.500 streams on Spotify and was accepted on 70 playlists, so in hindsight it was probably not the best track to sink €350 in radio plugging. But I will certainly keep this service in mind for that commercial blockbuster that is soon to be released.
Verdict: As a small artist with no label backing, you need to try extra hard getting a foot in the door. Don't waste money on this, but if you have the time you can still contact smaller and specific channels that support unsigned artists.
This is more like a platform where you upload music and make a combination of distribution efforts and promotion campaigns. I've tried a couple of times to get a track in, but I did not have the patience required to set it up properly. For straight forward Spotify promotion, this is probably not the first thing you need to be spending your time on.
Verdict: I don't get it, but it does not seem to be a scam, if you get it to work for you, please tell me about it.
Giving this a test drive right now. The initial campaign budget was modest. My findings so far indicate this is not a fraud but probably a start-up.
- Direct contact with the owners, communication lines are good.
- Only six genres to choose from, they are probably still acquiring curators.
Verdict: This is just a really small sympathetic outfit. It is real, no scam, but do not expect a miracle to happen: I got added to 2 playlists for €19,-.
You Grow Promo
This Dutch based outfit offers various kinds of promotion packages, of which I tried the Spotify promotion for around €70.
- It is not paying for placement as curators do not have to accept a track
- No bullshit on the money back guarantee. I was not satisfied, but they did not hesitate to refund and kept handling and communicating professionally.
- In my testing of the service, my release 'Do You Like our Owl' had only one placement. This could be due to the specificness of the genre (melodic techno), but on other platforms this was one of my best accepted tracks, so at the time they must not have had that many curators.
- The idea is: after you get placed, you remain in a playlist until you have reached the amount of streams that is associated with your package. So this boils down to you paying for streams, and the business case for that is just never works out at this price point.
Verdict: It will get you streams, but I do not recommend going this way.
You have probably encountered this outfit. You might have been lured in by the free music submission option (and you did not get any placements from that, right?). I have submitted there frequently and subsequentially was mailed offers and invitations to start organically growing my Spotify streams and fan-base.
- Can you make out what it is exactly they do and where? It sounds really promising, but also kind of vague.
- Have you ever seen a music advertisement from them?
- Look at their reviews on Trustpilot, it does not look good.
Verdict: I did not try this myself and the warning signs keep me from doing so, and I think you should not either.
Setting up your own direct mail campaign
With a bit of internet savvy and technical trickery (Spotify API!) I have managed to collect around 1500 valid mail addresses over the past two years. I now use these every release. I painstakingly note all the reactions I get, add new curators, remove inactive ones..
Now, since I have build this list I will now maintain and keep using it, but looking back I am not sure if I would do it again. There are places that offer contact lists for for a couple of hundred dollars, but of course that is often very sketchy. If you Google really hard and smart, and if you are a bit handy with a spreadsheets, you might bump into a list that gives you a head start. I had found one, but the link was taken down. The quality was terrible and I still had to invest many hours verifying the data and catering it to my needs and genres.
- You spent loads of time collecting contact data, checking out playlists and curators.
- Many playlists on Spotify are inactive, there's no point mailing their curators, they have died from submission overload.
- You will need a platform to mass mail, and you will spent hours researching the right platform and learning how to use it.
- Total response (accept, denied or confirmation of receipt) is about 7% in my case
- I manage to get around a dozen placements per campaign, say 1%, all are small lists, usually by other artists.
- A lot of respondents offer you placement for cash. You will then spent time researching if this is worth your while, even try and pay some, only to find out it is all a huge waste. TIP: do write it down in your contact spreadsheet, to avoid mailing them again. And forward their offers to Spotify!
Verdict: Terrible cost to benefit ratio, but if you spread this over time, you an build a contact list and approach that will slowly start to pay off.
- Starts out with a free plan that is not too shabby, letting you test it for a month with 5 tracks.
- Loads of contacts already in place and the possibility to add your own.
- Low engagement of contacts.
- Lots of repetitive labour pitching to DJs and Blogs in the Droptrack contact list.
- Sketchy collection of contacts, some of them out of action and some clearly not real.
- Contacts asking for additional funding.
Verdict: Despite all the functionality Droptrack has to offer, I found the engagament and quality of the curators and DJs lower than on almost any other platform. Plus I just could not figure out the process. I did not import my contacts, so I can't tell if that works, but I am not looking for a CRM or markteling-tool to take in my scrubby list of contacts, I am looking for a platform dedicated to matching my music to the right people. Droptrack in my opinion misses that mark.
The Tunes Club
I should be giving this a test drive, but I am taken aback by the mixed reviews on Trustpilot and also the texts on the website seem off at some points.
- Take a really good look at the Trustpilot reviews! There is an odd mix of dissatisfied and super satisfied customers here. Most of the satisfied customers have really strange names, only one review in, and are adept at writing marketing pieces.
- The kind of outfit that says 'give us money, we will take care of the rest', without giving you any control over who and what goes out and to what effect (I have yet to see a report).
- Website descriptions bordering promised placement for pay. They practically guarantee placement with each package. That can not be right unless they control playlists themselves, in which case this is paid placement.
The main point of this platform seems to be leading you through as much advertisements as possible and having you follow the playlists. So this serves the platform, the advertisers and the curators but not you as an artist. There is no mechanism in place to communicate with curators, get any sort of feedback or at least a sense if your track was listened to. Unless you manage to get accepted into a playlist, Soundplate will give you the silent treatment.
I have looked back. After submitting close to a hundred times, I had 1 acceptance. ONE!
- Many, many clicks before you get to the submit form.
- Mandatory following the playlist
- No way to reuse information for subsequent submissions
- No response
- Many playlists and curators featured are already inactive
So, in my experience there is no point submitting to Soundplate anymore and I believe the platform is obsolete.
Verdict: Ignore this, waste of time
- $30 for a 'campaign'
- No response from the team, ever.
- Forms on the website have dark blue text against a black background, it is almost impossible to submit anything.
- After trying this for about three times, I gave up. The very first campaign gave me maybe one or two placements, but that was it. I can't rule out the possibility my music is just not in their universe of curators and just ignored due to a possibly overwhelming amount of submits, but as nothing like this is ever communicated, I am not giving MySphera the benefit of the doubt anymore.
Verdict: Not recommended