How does Spotify's algorithm work? Streaming hacks for musicians
Spotify is great at recognising their users' music taste down a tee and suggesting artists they'd love. But the big question is, how do you make sure YOUR music is picked up by Spotify’s clever algorithm and put in front of potential fans?
We’re about to take a dive into everything we know about Spotify's algorithm and the ways artists can leverage it to reach the right listeners.
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Spotify’s Algorithm Explained for Musicians
Let’s get a little bit technical...
Spotify’s algorithm is an AI system known as BART (an abbreviation of Bandits for Recommendations as Treatments).
Basically, BART’s job is to keep listeners listening.
It does this by playing and suggesting songs it knows the user is familiar with, while dropping in some fresh tracks it thinks they might like, but most importantly, haven’t heard before.
This makes sure the listener is engaged, but things never get boring.
<p style="padding: 20px; color: #000000; background-color: #000000; border: 7px solid #000000; text-align: center;"><span style="color: #ffffff;"><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>BART decides what to suggest to listeners using three main functions:</strong></span></span></p>
<p style="padding: 20px; color: #000000; background-color: #000000; border: 7px solid #000000; text-align: center;"><span style="color: #ffffff;"><span style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Natural Language Processing<br></strong></span>Analyses the language, lyrics and content of a song.<strong><br><br><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Raw Audio Analyzation</span><br></strong>Detects the “vibe” or “mood” of a song’s audio and decides whether it’s upbeat, chill, heavy, minimal, instrumental etc... <strong><br><br><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Collaborative Filtering</span><br></strong></span></span><span style="color: #ffffff;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Compares new songs to a listener’s current habits to decide what will suit their tastes.<strong><br></strong></span></span></p>
Ok so that’s the tech behind Spotify algorithm in simple terms.
But how can artists, bands & labels plan their releases to make the algorithm work in their favour and reach more listeners?
We’ll go through some main ways it decides which tracks are suggested to fans through algorithmic playlists, daily mixes and other suggestions.
It’s all about the stats
Just like other social media platforms, Spotify’s algorithm is driven by statistics. The platform is constantly watching how its hundreds of millions of users engage with different types of music in order to feed them more of what they like.
Spotify is always watching - and learning!
The algorithm takes loads of stats into account when deciding which songs to suggest to its users.
<p style="padding: 20px; color: #000000; background-color: #000000; border: 7px solid #000000; text-align: center;"><span style="color: #ffffff;"><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Important stats for Spotify's algorithm include:<br><br></strong>- Listening history (mood, style, genre)<br><br>- Skip rate (less skips = more recommendations)<br><br>- Listening time (getting past 30 seconds is key)<br><br>- Playlist features (inclusions across all personal, indie & official playlists)</span></span></p>
The 30 second Spotify-friendly rule
The first 30 seconds of a track matter to Spotify more than anything else.
If a listener gets past the 30 second mark of your track - that’s a positive bit of data. Plus, that’s the point at which a stream is monetized.
Making a track "Spotify-friendly" specifically to please the algorithm is a debated topic. Do you compromise your creative vision for the chance of hitting more playlists? In the end it's up to you.
But if you’re trying to make the algorithm work in your favour, think carefully about the first 30 seconds of your song. Make sure it grabs the listener immediately to keep your skip rate low.
You might want to rethink that 31 second slow piano intro for your first few releases (unless you're targeting slow piano playlists!).
Timing can make the difference
First 12 to 24 hours after your release drops are key. Spikes in listeners, low skip rates and listening times matter most in the day/days straight after release.
So you can see why timing is key. Create hype in the build up to your release. Get your fans excited enough in the run-up so they all listen to and save your track on day one.
Don’t forget to watch the competition too. If a big artist is set to drop a track that all your fans will be listening to, try to avoid that release date.
It’s also generally accepted that releasing new music on a Friday is best. It gives you a better chance of landing on one of the influential New Music Friday playlists.
Algorithmic playlists hacks
Getting your music into Release Radar & Discover Weekly can give your stream count a big boost. They get more streams than any other playlists.
That’s because they’re algorithmic playlists tied to each individual user's listening habits.
Release Radar is entirely based on your followers. If someone follows your Spotify profile, your new music will appear on their release radar.
Discover Weekly is a little more complicated. It’s mainly based on music taste, habits and analysing other playlists across the platform. Here’s how Spotify have described how it works:
<p style="padding: 20px; color: #000000; background-color: #ffffff; border: 7px solid #000000; text-align: center;"><em><strong>"We look at what you've been listening to. And what are the songs playing around these songs that you've been jamming on, but that we know you haven’t heard yet on Spotify."</strong></em><br /><br /><em><strong>"Let's say you've been playing a song by The Killers and a song by Bruce Springsteen a lot. Algorithms look for how those songs are played and ordered in other Spotify users' playlists. If it turns out that, when people play those songs together in their playlists, there’s another song sandwiched between them that someone has never heard before, that song will show up in your Discover Weekly."</strong></em></p>
One way to boost your chances of landing on Discover Weekly is to harness the power of your friends, family and fanbase!
Every single playlist is taken into account by Spotify’s Discover Weekly algorithm, so get everyone you know to put your track in the number one on their own personal playlists.
Use tags & pitch for playlists in Spotify for Artists
If you’re not using Spotify for Artists already, go register right now. I’ll give you a minute… ok back? Good.
Submitting directly for Spotify playlists and tagging your tracks in Spotify for Artists will help to determine who they are suggested to and what playlists they'd suit.
These meta tags include mood, genres etc. If they’re labelled wrong, they’ll appear to the wrong people and get skipped. Remember, skips before the 30 second point of a track is bad news in the all-seeing eye of the algorithm.
You can tag your tracks in Spotify for Artists when you submit for playlisting. Find out more here.
Spotify is social media in disguise
You might not think of Spotify as a social media, but in reality that’s exactly what it is!
It connects artists with fans and uses huge quantities of user data to keep giving listeners exactly what they want.
Spotify is just a piece of the social puzzle. Every other social platform plugs into the bigger picture, so when your track drops, make sure to point all your links at Spotify.
The algorithm loves it when you bring users in from a different social platform.
Your profile matters
Getting users to spend time on your profile, click your links and follow you are all important data points for Spotify.
There so much info you can include on your profile to engage fans, so fill it out properly. That includes, pictures, social links, bios, upcoming gigs, merchandise and more. Don’t hold back!
Indie-rock band Eskimo Joe include pics, bio, social links, gig dates & more on their Spotify profile.
Get a Pre-Saves boost
Remember how we mentioned the first 24 hours after your release is really important?
Well, an easy way to get Spotify’s algorithm to take notice of you in this key timeframe is by racking up pre-saves in the run up to your release date.
You can learn more about getting fans to pre-save your upcoming releases on Spotify here.
Spotify algorithm picks up on streaming spikes, fan engagement and playlist adds across hundreds of millions of tracks.
If you want it to notice your music, you need to implement a Spotify strategy again and again, create hype in the run up to release and build momentum.
Momentum is so important. Playlists additions and organic recommendations can snowball into the traction you need!