Professional audio is a German-language, monthly specialist magazine dedicated to professional recording technology. The magazine is aimed equally at studio professionals, musical sole entrants, ambitious home-recorders and interested beginners.
(Interview by Nicolay Ketterer, Professional Audio Magazine)
The service provider Playlist-Promotion.com offers artists to place songs on successful playlists within Spotify. YouTube promotion is also offered. Both should also enable newcomers to quickly reach a large audience.
The provider, which is based in Munich, Germany, promises organic Spotify promotion – no so-called fake-plays through bots or hacked accounts, as some service providers offer. We spoke with company co-founder Andreas Klein.
We originally started music promotion in 2004 with our former company We Run This, which was specifically aimed at American hip-hop artists who wanted to gain a foothold in Europe. Our clients included T.I., Jadakiss, who starred with Jenny From The Block with Jennifer Lopez, Mobb Deep or Talib Quali. At the time, we worked with European magazines and organized interviews. At that time we distributed compilation CDs with the artists. For marketing, we have dealt with e-mail plays and forum promotion – the songs were initially attached to mails, later links were sent. The e-mail plays were directed at American and European DJs. Finally, we came across the booking section and brought US artists, for whom we had taken over the DJ sampling, to Germany for shows. In 2014 we specialized in Spotify promotion– since then we offer this for national and international artists.
The compilations were initially offered as CDs, later as downloads and promoted. iTunes was at the beginning with downloads of the market leaders, 2015 streaming over Spotify gained market share. We saw potential in that, as Spotify is very well suited to address a targeted audience via playlists. We have tried this with customers and expanded the topic. Our team has grown by now – there are five of us. The company was the first in the market to offer targeted playlist promotions on Spotify, and we also have the largest database – we’ve captured 90 percent of all playlists that exist in Spotify and are in contact with the operators to place songs there can. Independent playlists – those that are not operated by record companies – exist 5,000, in our database there are about 3,000.
„We do not accept every song because we guarantee a placement on playlists – for example, the production quality has to be right. We do not promote genres like classical music, blues or jazz, because too few playlists exist in Spotify in order to guarantee the range.“
How can I as an artist imagine your service of placing a song on playlists?
We listen to the song and decide if we can work with the song, get it on Spotify playlists. Although we have lots of playlists, we guarantee placements. To be able to guarantee that, we have to select. The quality of production plays a role here – we refuse recordings that overdrive. We even get requests where the musicians recorded the songs with their mobile phones! Studio level should be available. The voice should usually come out clearly, without sinking in Hall, if not exactly stylistically desired. And then there’s the genre: we’re not working in the classical, blues or jazz sectors because Spotify’s market is too small there, with just a few playlists. Our Spotify music promotion packages start at the reach of 100,000 playlist followers – that is, we would need to place one song on ten playlists, each with 10,000 followers. The largest package has two million followers – then we place the songs on 40 to 80 correspondingly large playlists. We only place the songs on genre-typical playlists or those that suit the mood: A summery hip-hop song also fits on summer playlists, but not on a rock or electro playlist. Some Spotify promotion companies do it anyway.
Do not followers also skip a playlist if they do not keep their promises?
That can happen, so we regularly check the playlists we use. There are curators – playlist owners – who take only self-selected music. Some of them have good followers. Others take whatever they are told – they have lost followers over time. If you follow the playlists for years, you can see if someone has bought followers, which is offered on the net. Larger jumps from 2,000 to 5,000 followers within seven days appear suspicious. These playlists are out of our system. We’re trying to put the music on quality playlists so that it will give customers as many streams and followers as possible. The final streams are unpredictable, but with the smallest 100,000 follower reach package, the artist can typically expect at least 20,000 streams. The number can also be quintupled. We also offer a money back guarantee if we can not transact all playlist placements and refund the missing share. This only happened once, due to our large playlist database, on an experimental song that we had accepted. It is important to us to offer a complete package that does not just stream, but helps the artist and generates new fans, who then listen to songs in their profile. Happy customers will come back to us later – every company lives on regular customers, and that’s what we value. We have customers from all over the world, so we work in Munich in an American time zone. Most of the customers come from North America and Canada, but also from South Korea: we have promoted with the most popular K-pop band, BTS, with their current song “Singularity”. On Spotify, the band has around 15 million monthly listeners. I can not name the American names, but among them are artists from the top 10 of the hip-hop and top 20 pop charts. One of the most famous hip-hop artists is a regular customer. We also work with major labels.
How has the Spotify market changed over the years?
When we started, the playlist market was pretty manageable, a fraction of today’s market. At that time there were no giant playlists – a big one had perhaps 20,000 followers. The largest playlist in our database today has over one million followers – one of the largest in Spotify. For almost two years, fake plays have become popular with artists, in addition to fake playlists. This is not good for the market, because new customers are skeptical at the beginning: Are these really real playlists with real followers?
Right now the provider Tidal is in the criticism, because he reached impossible high streaming numbers in 2016 [see box]. For Spotify, some dubious vendors offer the ability to simply “buy in” fixed streaming numbers, such as those done by robots with fake accounts – which is not least a scam in streaming royalties …
Some customers also want to buy fixed 10,000 streams with us. We do not offer that and we do not recommend it because: Spotify can delete accounts together with the stored music. This can be quite fatal if the artist has invested a lot of money in a campaign. Neither do we recommend placement on fake playlists: their followers are many bots that operate via fake accounts – they play the playlist up and down. Spotify can do that. An indication would be a song with 40,000 streams, but the artist’s account has only eleven followers. That does not fit together. If the streams from a playlist that has 1,000 followers but 10,000 listeners are also inconsistent. Listeners are the ones who just listen to a playlist, followers subscribe to it too – usually around 90 percent of listeners. Within Spotify, I can see how many streams come from my playlist on my song. It shows the top 5 – I see how many followers the playlist my song is placed on and how many listeners the playlist has. Another indication: Many fake playlists contain a particularly large number of songs – for example, 1,000 – but have few followers. The profiles of the fake playlists are also quite meaningless, such as a cryptic combination of letters and numbers as profile names. For Spotify it is not easy to prevent robots. You could insert a captcha verification – but of course the users do not want to fill out a code every time they hear a song! Apart from that, as an artist, I usually want my music to be heard and people to enjoy it, and I want to build a true fanbase. What do I want with 10,000 robots? Most of these clients are about making a name for themselves, “I’m important!”.
„Some users are looking for music, and thereby come across playlists that contain the artist or song. This makes listening easier – very few users always want to search for songs, but let music pass through them, like a radio station.“
What is the relevance of playlists in Spotify – compared to me as a user searching for and listening to music?
Some may not be looking for a playlist, but will find it when searching for specific music. The playlists are popular because they make listening easier – they go through them like a matching radio station. Looking for a song – for example, Billie Eilish’s hit “Bad Guy” – I also see playlists with similar music. Very few people just want to hear one song and then search for the next one. As a user, I would tap the playlist – I like it, I press “Follow”, otherwise I may listen to another.
How can I imagine the average playlist owners?
Most of them are private individuals, DJs, sporadically magazines and labels. The biggest playlist owners started relatively early and probably had no intention of creating a well-known playlist. This has happened over time rather by chance. I know a lot and have the impression that 60 to 70 percent of playlist curators are women. We have a large hip-hop playlist in the database curated by a woman in her early twenties in the Philippines. The playlist should be over seven years old; with her taste she hit a nerve and has generated a few hundred thousand real followers. Nowadays it is harder to reach many listeners with a new playlist because many genres and niches are already covered. We have been in contact with the curators of the playlists in our database for a long time and maintain contacts regularly. The most widespread are pop and hip hop – about the same size – plus rock and electro. In the genres, the focus of our clientele.
Do the owners benefit financially from accepting music suggestions?
Partially. Many accept suggestions because they find the music good and exciting because their passion is to edit and maintain playlists. They enjoy winning followers. It’s the same as it used to be with people who like mixing tapes! Some are joking, others are asking for money to be placed on their playlist. This can be a good extra income for those who put a lot of emphasis on their playlist, select well and develop the playlist continuously. The more listeners and followers a playlist has, the more they can demand.
You place both on “Free” playlists and on those owners who ask for money?
Yes. Sometimes we have no choice at all and we also have to pay playlist holders because we guarantee our customers placements – and, as a result, success. The packages are extensive, so we have to show something. Of course, artists could approach the playlist owners directly and offer a song, but it will take time to find and write suitable playlists and contacts. Then they would have to follow up, as many contacts in the first cover letter do not respond, when Nachfassen maybe a fifth. Whether those accept the proposal, is then still out – the chance of success is much lower. Our advantage: We usually know the owners for a long time. They know that we only offer them suitable music – of which they accept the suggestions in 90 percent of the time.
Does your offer guarantee how long the songs stay on the playlist?
We guarantee a placement for two months. Then it can happen that the songs are taken down again or remain on the playlist for years. That depends on the taste of the playlist owner. Some remove songs so the playlist does not get too full. For a playlist, quality before quantity. In my opinion, a playlist should ideally have between 30 and 150 songs. A successful playlist in the genre “Classic 80’s” could also contain 300 useful songs – but only if they are well selected.
We work in dollars because a lot of the clientele comes from North America. The 100,000th package costs $ 350 [approx. 315 euros]. This is already a sum, but not cheaper, because we offer a guarantee of success. The two million follower reach package currently costs $ 4,900.
The latter is probably less booked by newcomers who have just finished their first EP?
In fact, we also have newcomers booking the package as it can be a good kick starter for a career. Spotify and YouTube promotion are, in my opinion, ideal opportunities for musicians, because there is a return on investment and the target group can be well limited. The most successful song we promoted reached over six million streams, which earned the band three or four times their promotion investment. The money comes back at least partially. There are also additional marketing channels, for example, artists from South America like to use: We also offer YouTube promotion, but only for selected artists and music that is “clean” – no swear words, drugs or too much bare skin in the videos. This can be on YouTube, but can not be advertised. For example, the aforementioned South American artists order a large package of Spotify and YouTube placements. They may get a million views on YouTube and 200,000 to 400,000 streams in the Spotify song. With the numbers they approach club owners and organizers in South America, to document the level of awareness. This can be read from where the streams and Views come: For an artist with a Reggaeton song, which had one million views and 300,000 streams in Colombia, that’s relevant: This gives him shows in Colombia. The more streams and views, the higher the fee. As such, there is also a return that is greater than the promotion costs. The artists invested in credibility, which is important for shows.
“After successful promotion campaigns, some artists in South America are using the numbers on club owners and promoters to book for shows.”
How much does a YouTube promotion package cost?
They are starting at 100,000 views for $ 750 [approx. 670 euros]. We offer up to 20 million views as a package. Logically, we need a music video for that. Audio and video must not contain swear words, but exceptions are possible: Many song collaborations contain multiple languages. We recently promoted a song with Arabic, English and Spanish parts. The Spanish singer used swear words. We were still able to promote the song because the YouTube staff responsible did not understand Spanish. It can happen! (laughs) That’s good for the customer. The application on YouTube is partly through playlists, but usually via side recommendations. For example, if a customer sounds roughly like Puff Daddy, we could display his video in the recommendations to the right of a Puff Daddy clip. We could also show it in the search if someone enters Puff Daddy. In addition, we could play it as an ad before the actual Puff Daddy video is playing. At YouTube, we pay for actual clicks. The campaign will be displayed until it reaches the desired number of clicks. By the way: Spotify ads that are served within the network are very expensive because Spotify does not charge per click, but per impression – how often the ad is displayed. 1,000 impressions cost $ 20. We tried that and ran it for hundreds of dollars of impressions – and ended up adding ten followers to the advertised playlist. The clicks are relatively low because users do not use the Spotify app to view the app. It’s not worth it for us, but major labels consistently advertise their own playlists – they may have a deal with Spotify. If I make a listening advertisement that the free-users hear, that’s different, but also the commercials are only worthwhile for big labels or brands.
„Only clips that are free of swear words and too much bare skin can be promoted on YouTube.“
How can I as an artist understand the success of a booked campaign?
This can be measured by the streams and followers, which are already visible on every mobile phone. There is “Spotify Insights”, on the artists.spotify.com page – it’s easy to see how many of the streams came from which playlist. It shows how many people saved the song in their library and how many followers were added each day. The YouTube Insights can even track how long people have watched my video – Spotify is not as detailed. After the end of the campaign, we will send a report as a PDF file containing all playlists, links to playlists, number of followers and all other relevant data.
For artists from 30 seconds playing time of a song to a remuneration. What is the compensation for Spotify and YouTube?
The compensation currently stands at $ 0.00357 – about one-third of a cent. This varies slightly: Spotify pays less for streaming through users with a free account, and less for a family account. It’s worth it for the top 50 artists in the world, for everyone else it will be more difficult. As for YouTube: Roughly one million views bring about $ 1,000. For us, the focus is not on the views, but on the entire fan base: If a video reaches one million views, the owner gets many new subscribers on YouTube. This can affect Facebook likes and Twitter likes. Many people post the links underneath the videos as well, which raises the fan base. This can not be guaranteed in numbers, but there is a scattering effect.
Is there a size on YouTube when a video can become a self-starter because it will then be promoted on YouTube?
The effect can arise. We’re working to get into the YouTube trends – their charts. If a customer buys a package for one million views and wants to have it implemented quickly – for example, within five days – we can adjust this on YouTube accordingly. Many views in a short time have a positive effect on the YouTube trends. We already had songs that ended up in the first position – that generates additional views, so the effect can be quintupled. Then the video will be displayed practically half of Germany on the day. In order to get many views, a good interaction rate has to take place: that is, the user looks at the video for longer, not just two seconds, he likes and comments, likes comments, subscribes to the artist. If the interaction rate of these factors is good – which usually happens because we do not promote home videos or badly made music – it is very likely to end up in the trends.
Keyword scatter effect: How should I promote my Spotify presence as an artist on the net?
Spotify behaves in a similar way to Google: The more often a link is shared, the higher it gets in the platform’s internal ranking. I would post my Spotify link anywhere and add as often as possible – on Facebook, below the YouTube video, on my blog, on the website, in my Instagram stories, and in WhatsApp groups. Tell friends to share the link. What I also recommend: Spotify has the most user-friendly interface. As an artist with my own website, I would incorporate a Spotify player so that visitors coming to my website can directly stream the music from Spotify. I can install it for free: Within Spotify I go to my album and click on “Copy embedded Code”. This is an HTML code that can also be inserted in blogs or WordPress pages. This is directly usable for everyone, even without Spotify registration – like a web player.
According to the Bundesverband Musikindustrie, the streaming market share has meanwhile caught up with CD sales. Apple has also announced the end of iTunes – which gives up the most successful download model, the streaming market is pursuing Apple with Apple Music on the other hand. How do you think Spotify will evolve over the next few years?
I suspect that the music video market within Spotify will grow strongly. Chance of music videos are already present, which are displayed in the songs – sometimes as small GIFs that are played in continuous loop – but the scope is still quite low.