N.B. This isn’t quite an exhaustive guide to all things Spotify - check out my dedicated guides to Analytics, How to Get on Spotify Playlists (coming soon) and Social Media Integration (coming soon).
As the most popular music streaming service in the world, Spotify has become an essential tool for any artist in the modern music industry. And although there have been plenty of gripes about the low payouts per stream on Spotify, particularly when compared to its competitors, the reality is that artists and labels have to make the most of the situation by looking beyond the initial income you’ll receive from the platform. You might not receive a huge amount of money from the streams themselves, but if your listeners can easily go ahead and buy gig tickets and merchandise through Spotify then it soon becomes more valuable than you might have initially thought.
Unlike Apple Music you’re actually able to go in and customise your artist profile on Spotify (although Apple Music have had a never-ending beta testing period for the same feature), and this gives you a huge opportunity to convert your listeners into gig-goers and merch-buyers. Here’s how to optimise your Spotify profile to properly promote your music.
1. Claiming Your Profile
If you haven’t already then the first thing you’ll need to do is claim your artist profile on Spotify. Visit the Spotify for Artists homepage and click on ‘Claim Your Profile’ at the top of the page. Indicate whether you’re the artist or representative (manager) and search for the artist whose profile you would like to take control of. If nobody has yet claimed it, you’ll have to login to Spotify and follow the on-screen instructions - bear in mind that there will be a verification process which may take a few days. If you uploaded your music to Spotify via a distributor such as CD Baby or DistroKid, you may be prompted to instead visit their website to instantly gain ownership of your profile.
Once you’ve gone through the process, you can visit the Spotify for Artists website to edit your profile, make announcements, view your analytics and much more besides that we will go into over the course of this blog.
2. Adding the Perfect Photos
The first thing that anyone sees on your Spotify profile is your photo - so it’s hugely important to have a selection of shots that catch the reader’s eye and make them want to learn more about you. Before anything else, you’ll need an avatar sized at least 750x750 pixels. From the ‘Profile’ section of Spotify for Artists, click the pencil icon above your monthly listeners numbers to edit both your avatar and header image. Your profile picture is likely to fall into three main categories:
Obviously which one of these you choose is entirely up to you, and it’s impossible to say that any one is better than another. If you choose a live shot then you should take particular care to ensure it’s really high-quality and not too dark - that won’t look good within Spotify’s dark interface. I do like the idea of having an exciting image from a live show as someone’s first impression of your music, but it’s extra important here to have a professionally-shot image with the correct lighting. Take the image below as what I think is a good example of an avatar from a live performance.
The main things to take into general consideration are that the image should be sufficiently high quality with (ideally) a clean background, it stands out from other profiles and that it represents you & your music effectively. Try to update it semi-regularly whenever you release new music or perhaps when you have a few more photos from live shows to choose from.
The next part is your header image. It must be at least 2660x1140px, and for this I would try and avoid a busy image with lots of text on. Keep it simple and again consider utilising a bright, colourful background to contrast with Spotify’s dark interface. Header images don’t appear on all mobile devices, so they’re not as important as your avatar, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook them.
Next up, from ‘Profile’ click ‘About’ and then the little pencil icon once more to edit your image gallery. These are the photos that people can scroll through after clicking on your avatar, and so aren’t immediately visible to users. It’s a good chance to upload a variety of different shots from live settings, photoshoots, of individual band members (if applicable) and even some studio images. After scrolling through these images ideally the user should have a clear idea in their head of what you look like and what you sound like.
The final thing to update is just to the right of the image gallery, where you’ll find the ‘More Info’ section. Here you can easily add links to your social media profiles as well as your Wikipedia profile.
3. How to Write a Great Bio
The next thing to think about is your Spotify bio. This is a hugely important part of your profile because it’s the only opportunity you have to really give a sense of your music’s sound, identity and vision for any of the 200m+ users who might have happened upon your profile. So it’s worth putting the time in to make sure your bio stands out in a sea of other artists all vying for attention. Once you’re logged into Spotify for Artists, click ‘Profile’ at the top of the page, scroll down to the bio and click the little pencil icon next to it to start writing.
First up, try to think of your bio as more of a story than a simple description of the members of the group and the year you were founded. Write a brief little bit about how the project started out, where it’s at now and any musical touchpoints that people could compare you to. Think of an opening few lines which really grab the reader’s attention and then go through your story chronologically, detailing how each of your releases came about, what they sound like and how they were received. Note that you may have to download the Spotify for Artists app to @ any artists, songs or albums that you’ve mentioned along the way.
By updating your bio periodically and ensuring it always remains up-to-date, you’re keeping your profile fresh and interesting for both new and existing fans of your music. Just as nobody likes to see a social media profile or website which hasn’t been updated in a long while, leaving your Spotify bio neglected isn’t a good first impression either. Whenever you release any new music be sure to include a mention of it in your bio; since there aren’t any cover notes on Spotify it’s your only opportunity to communicate to people any interesting tidbits about the release and make them want to listen to it.
4. Adding Tour Dates
Now you’ve tidied up your photos and bio, it’s time to start digging into the rest of the features that Spotify has. One of its best ones is their integration with Songkick, which automatically displays your tour dates at the top of your profile. Even better is the fact that if a user in Barcelona were to visit your profile, your next live date in Barcelona (or nearby) will automatically be displayed to them.
So head over to Songkick’s artist Tourbox to create an account for your band (or claim your existing one if it already exists). Once you’re logged in you’ll have to click on the name of your band/artist from the left-hand menu. Add your upcoming live shows using the ‘Add event’ button, and then again from the left-hand menu you’ll be able to edit Songkick’s integrations with various platforms - Spotify included.
The events that you add to Songkick should automatically appear in your Spotify profile within 48 hours. Remember that it’s also possible to automatically feature your tour dates on the likes of Facebook, Soundcloud and Bandcamp, so once you’ve integrated all of these you’ll be saving yourself loads of time by only having to update one list of tour dates which will then appear in several locations across the web.
5. Using Artist's Pick
By logging into Spotify for Artists, clicking ‘Profile’ and scrolling down a little, over on the right-hand side of the page you’ll see an option to select an ‘Artist’s Pick’. You can either feature your upcoming tour dates or a playlist in this section, which features prominently at the top of your profile but does expire after 14 days.
Naturally this is a good place to promote an upcoming tour that you’ve just announced or started, so simply click ‘Your concerts’ to pin them to your profile. The date which is highlighted will either be the next concert closest to that user, or if there isn’t one nearby then your next tour date will be shown. You’ll see you can also add an image to the announcement; these should measure at least 690x500. The top and bottom of this background image will be obscured when you upload it, so keep any graphics or text in the centre of the image.
Your other option with the Artist’s Pick is to feature a playlist at the top of your profile. The world of Spotify playlisting is something which we’ll come on to after this, so for now just be aware that you can feature any playlist from the platform - whether it be a Spotify editorial playlist, a user-created playlist or one of your own.
6. How to get on Spotify playlists
Playlists, bloody playlists. So much has been written about Spotify playlists and how they will soon bring about the end of civilisation - but for me it’s another thing you simply have to accept as part of the modern music industry. A common complaint seems to be that so much power lies in the hands of a few shadowy playlist curators at Spotify, but hasn’t that always been the case when you consider the similar influence of radio DJs in times gone by?
Playlisting might initially seem like a massively confusing system, but the premise is quite simple. It’s all about performing better on Spotify’s algorithm. Playlists fall into three main categories:
Playlists such as Release Radar, Discover Weekly and Daily Mix are algorithm-based, meaning they aren’t put together by a human. If your music performs well in metrics such as total number of streams, listen duration, number of adds to other playlists, track shares and track skips then it has a higher chance of appearing in these playlists alongside the user’s music that they already listen to.
Playlists such as ‘Summer Hits’, ‘Mellow Chill’ and various other generic names are called editorial playlists and are created by actual humans at Spotify HQ. If your track makes it onto the most popular playlists - such as RapCaviar with 11m+ followers - it can rack up a huge number of streams. If your song is played often, all the way through, not skipped and shared a lot then it even has a chance of working its way to the top of these mythical playlists.
Spotify recently changed their system to allow users to submit their music directly to the editors, which in my eyes is a much fairer system than the randomness of before. Here’s a guide on how to submit your track for playlist consideration before its release.
The third type of Spotify playlist is listener curated. They’re the millions of playlists created by Spotify’s users - some of which have thousands of followers. Unfortunately there’s no way to contact the playlist creator directly via Spotify, but keep on reading for an alternative way of getting in touch to ask about inclusion on their playlist.
So what can you do right now to get onto Spotify playlists? Here are a few ideas.
Create some of your own playlists. It could be your full discography, the music you’re listening to right now (updated on a weekly basis and including one or two of your own tracks, of course), your influences, your B-sides, your collaborations with other artists…anything you can think of. Remember, by encouraging your existing fanbase to listen to you on Spotify you’ll improve your numbers for streams, play duration, skips and shares - which in turn heightens your chances of appearing on editorial or algorithmic playlists.
Use Spotify’s ‘Artist’s Pick’ to pin your latest playlist to the top of your profile. You can also use it to feature other playlists that your music has been added to, or even use it to feature playlists that you like that have been created by other users. This is a good way to connect with them and perhaps get your music on their playlists in the future.
If you’re serious about getting playlisted then you could even adopt a DIY approach. Directly ask friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances to add your music to their Spotify playlists and share your music. You could even approach local businesses and ask them if they have their own playlist spinning when they’re open. If not, set one up for them and include your own music on there.
I understand point 3 seems like a heck of a lot of work for you, so if you have a little money to spend then there is an alternative. There are plenty of online services who, for a one-off fee, offer Spotify playlist promotion and pitch your music to relevant playlist curators, influencers and music industry tastemakers with the view to boosting your streams and growing your online visibility. If you’re interested to learn more about that, I’ve got special agreements with certain companies for a discounted price. Get in touch for more details.
7. Selling your merch on Spotify
Yet another feature of Spotify that has appeared in recent years is the ability to advertise your merch on your profile. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as heading to Spotify for Artists and adding all of your t-shirts, records and tapes to your profile at will. Spotify have partnered with a company called Merchbar to deliver this service, and merchandise is pulled automatically from their website. Here’s a brief explanation of how you can join Merchbar, taken from their website:
How do I join Merchbar?
Merchbar has partnered with a large number of artists, merch companies, record labels and a wide range of distributors around the world. If you work with a merch company or your merch is managed by a label or distributor, Merchbar likely has an existing partnership with your merch provider - all you need to do is ask them to make your merchandise available on Merchbar.
Merch companies, Labels or Distributors
If you work at a merch company, record label or distributor and would like to learn more about becoming a Merchbar partner please click here.
Artists/Managers that already sell merch online
If you are an artist or manager and manage your merchandise independently and already sell merch online store would like to learn more about becoming a Merchbar partner please click here.
Artists/Managers with merch but don’t sell online
If you are an artist or manager that manages your merchandise independently but don’t currently sell merchandise online we have partnerships in place with companies who can help you sell your existing merch online. Please click here and answer the questions as accurately as possible.
Artists/Managers without merch
Are you an artist that doesn’t have merchandise but would like to? We’re working hard to create new ways for you to support your career and create merchandise your fans will love. Please click here to express your interest and enter our Artist Intake system.
So there are lots of ways - but be aware that there is often a waiting period before being able to get your merch online. Unfortunately they don’t provide a list of the online sellers that form their marketplace, however I do know that well-known e-commerce sites such as Big Cartel, Bandcamp and Shopify have existing deals with Merchbar and so are a good place to start if you don’t already have your merch available online.
That’s pretty much it for Spotify. There are plenty of ways you can optimise your profile to boost your streams, and remember that all of this is an ongoing process, so it’s worth checking your profile periodically to update your photos, bio, tour dates, playlists and artist’s pick. And now you have a rough understanding of how Spotify works with regards to playlisting, let’s hope that giving it some time and attention will give you that break you’re looking for.