March 24

Here’s Why Spotify Playlist Pitching No Longer Works In 2021


I know what you’re thinking… how can it not work? All the music marketing gurus are telling me to do it and I just paid $200 for a playlist curator contact list. As a matter of fact, I was in your shoes just six months ago.

I took a course from Ari Herstand & Lucidious about music marketing, and specifically, running Facebook/Instagram story ads to grow your audience. They also spoke in that course about DM’ing Spotify playlist curators and asking them to consider your songs for their playlists. And ya know what? Nothing against them for teaching that tactic, it probably worked pretty well a few years ago.

Now fast forward to 2020. I was really excited about the concept and started waking up early every morning to do my research, find the right curators, and send them a personalized message. Over the course of three or four weeks, I sent messages to hundreds of playlist curators. Want to know how many actually listened and placed the song? One. Just one.

You’re probably thinking it was more of an issue with my messages. Maybe you’re right, but I personally don’t think so. I have a background in sales and marketing, and consider myself a pretty good writer. To be honest, I was pretty confused why it wasn’t working. Then I became a Spotify playlist curator myself and my perspective completely flipped…

POV: Spotify Playlist Curator With Thousands Of Playlist Followers

After a month of waking up early to send messages to playlist curators and see very little success, it’s safe to say I lost some momentum. I stopped doing it and decided to change gears. I made a new plan to leverage my music know-how and my marketing skills to become a Spotify playlist curator myself.

Within three months, and by the end of 2020, I had built up 3 playlists to a grand total of more than 15k followers. Once my first playlist reached that 1,000 followers mark, I was completely shocked by the number of indie artists sending me messages to add their songs to my playlists.

All of a sudden I was receiving 5-10 messages every day from indie artists I didn’t know. And unfortunately, I was pretty unimpressed with the messages they wrote. The all sounded exactly the same:

“Hey Lance! I’ve been listening to your XYZ playlist and really love the songs you’ve put together. XYZ artist has been such a great inspiration for me. [Insert some lie here about how I’ve listened to your playlist for far longer than it’s actually existed or how it inspired me to write a song].”

What was even more surprising to me was the fact that I had my own songs peppered into the playlist and very few artists took the time to notice or mention that. Maybe 1 out of every 20 would say something about my own music and that made a huge difference.

The 5 Main Reasons Why DM’ing Playlist Curators No Longer Works

So what happened with all these messages I was receiving from indie artists? I feel somewhat guilty saying it, but really nothing. The messages that truly felt personal I actually responded and listened to their songs with an open mind. But that’s probably 3 or 4 out of a thousand unfortunately.

The volume was just too much. I was already receiving 50-70 paid submissions through other ways each day and had to keep my playlist engagement as high as possible. And I was already struggling with having enough time to get through those paid submissions.

Alright so what am I getting at? Here are the main reasons why I think DM’ing Spotify playlist curators doesn’t work anymore:

  1. These playlist curators are REAL people. They have full-time day jobs in many cases, other priorities, stressful lives (just like everyone else), and they have no personal ties with you.
  2. You’re not the only indie artist sending them a message and telling them how much it helps you out (they already know). You probably would have been 3 or 4 years ago, but now all the driven indie artists are doing this same tactic.
  3. With so many artists sending messages it’s going to be REALLY HARD to stand out. Even if you have a personal connect or take time to craft the message.
  4. In many cases, they don’t make enough money running playlists from paid submissions, let alone from free submissions in the form of a direct message.
  5. You haven’t done enough research or taken enough time to form a real personal connection. It’s not enough to say “I love these artists”, “my music sounds like X artist”, “this will really help me out so much”, etc.

9 Tips For Successfully Pitching Playlist Curators

Have I sounded a bit too negative in this blog post? I admit there’s a slight tad of bitterness from my own experience (and lost money investing in tools like Chartmetric lol). And admittedly it HAS worked for others, and maybe it still does if you really do it right.

So now that I’ve grown a Spotify playlist audience of more than 60k followers and receive all these DM’s from indie artists ever day, here are my top tips for successfully pitching playlist curators:

  1. Take Your Time & Do Your Research. Play through a few of their songs. Make sure it REALLY fits your own vibe. Check if they have their own music on the playlist or an obscure artist that most people haven’t heard of. Anything truly personal or interesting that will catch their eye.
  2. Check out their Instagram profile and see what other personal connections you can find. Maybe they have a shared hobby or a dog that is super cute or grew up in an area that you’ve been to. I mean, don’t stalk them too hard, but get creative and find a connection that is interesting.
  3. Don’t lie. People are smarter than you think. I’ve LOL’ed at a few messages that said they listened to my playlist for years when it had only existed for like 4 months. Or they said that it inspired them to write a song that somehow released before I even created the playlist.
  4. Acknowledge how many messages they probably receive and subtly let them know why yours is different or better.
  5. Recognize that they’re a real person with a stressful life and might not take the time to read your message or listen to your song. That’s okay! As long as you are mentally prepared for that, it won’t be a huge let down if it doesn’t work out.
  6. Remember that their top priority is keeping their Spotify playlist engagement high. Which means they can only accept a small percentage of the submissions that come their way. And the songs they accept truly have to be relevant and an almost perfect fit for the playlist as a whole to continue performing well.
  7. Remember that people have different tastes and preferences. If they don’t like your song, it literally means NOTHING. It might just not fit their vibe or you may be into very different types of music.
  8. Look for a paid submission link on their playlist or profile or even their profile on SubmitHub. If they have a paid submission system in place they probably won’t check out your song for free.
  9. Before you start, carefully consider your time available and the smartest way to utilize it. I personally think there are more effective & valuable tactics out there to grow your audience. In fact, I’m working on putting together a mini-course around how I built up my own Spotify playlist audience in only a few short months. If you’d like to receive information about it, add your name and email address in the boxes below this article.

I hope this helps in some way, and that I haven’t offended too many of you! Let me know what you think, if you completely disagree or if you have any questions in the comments.


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