How Spotify & Discover Weekly Earns Me $400 / Month
(Note: This post is also available as a Youtube video.)
I'm making over $400 / month with my music— mostly through Spotify.
Of course that’s not enough to support a full-time artist but that’s not what I’m trying to be. I don't tour, I don't sell merch and I'm not on a label. I just want to make music and Spotify is making that possible.
I’ve been releasing music since 2013— but it wasn’t until I started releasing music on Spotify in 2017 that I started to get traction:
Promoting my music before Spotify was awful.
I would spend hours cold emailing bloggers— desperate to get a feature. It was boring, monotonous work and it couldn't be automated.
Every one in a while I would get written up on a blog and it provided a short bump in listens— that’s what these jumps are:
But once I was on Spotify I started to get featured on Discover Weekly, a personalized playlist sent to users every Monday based on their musical preferences.
Discover Weekly changed everything by giving me something incredibly valuable: a consistent stream of new listeners.
I didn’t even have to do anything for it. No cold outreach. Nothing. They just arrived most Mondays.
But what’s been even better than the data is the serendipitous events that make me feel like the momentum behind my music is growing.
For example, a friend recently overheard my music in a cafe in Slovenia…
… Covers of my songs are popping up on Youtube…
… A listener overheard my song in a Norwegian hardware store…
… And friends are randomly stumbling into my music:
Plus I get at least a few DMs and emails from listeners every week. They often just say things like 'Hi!' or ask me about song meanings or tell me they introduced their friends to a song.
That stuff is crazy. 😍
I can't communicate the feeling of getting these DMs and emails. It makes me want to make more music. It puts a spring in my step. If you ever need to feel good about the Internet again— I’d suggest releasing music online. You’ll be bowled over by how encouraging people are.
How To Get On Discover Weekly
There are three types of Spotify playlists: algorthmic (example: Discover Weekly), editorial (created by Spotify's official human editor) and listener (anyone can make).
The conventional wisdom for getting on Discover Weekly is that you first need to be featured on an editorial playlist first. While that’s probably a good first step, it’s not entirely true— my band BamBoo has never been on an editorial playlist and we've received 22,000+ streams from Discover Weekly.
I have no insight into how you get on editorial playlists. I've been fortunate to be on 9 editorial playlists but I couldn’t tell you why— it just happened.
The best tip I have for getting on editorial playlists is to release singles.
You see, you usually need to submit your music to Spotify 4 weeks before your release date (this is the same for all streaming services). During that 4-week span Spotify lets you submit one song for their editors to consider for playlists. Because you can only submit one song, it’s best to space out releases. That way you can have ten singles considered by Spotify editors— rather than one single from an album for an entire year.
The best indicator I’ve found for being featured on Discover Weekly is saves / listener. My songs with the highest saves / listener rate have all get the most exposure on Discover Weekly:
Can you pay to be on playlists?
The term for paying to be on playlists is payola. Payola is against Spotify’s rules— though most indie artists will tell you in a conspiratorial tone that music labels (part owners of Spotify) have special access to playlist promotion.
Instead of paying directly for placement, there are playlist promotion companies (example: PlayListPush, SubmitHub and Streaming Promotions) that promote your music to curators of listener playlists— which I believe hold less weight than editorial playlists on Spotify.
If you’re an indie artist you will get lots of cold-emails from playlist promotion companies. I’ve tried a few and had modest success.
What About Apple Music?
I’ll take plays wherever I can get them but… Spotify has done way, way more for me than Apple Music.
Here’s how Spotify and Apple Music compare in streams over the last 48 weeks:
For an indie artist like me, the major difference between Apple Music and Spotify is Discover Weekly. Apple Music has no equivalent. (Edit: HN readers have pointed out that Apple Music does actually have some personalized playlists!)
This is of course totally anecdotal!
Why Earning $400 / Month is Important
Artists should be truth tellers not hustling entrepreneurs. But in todays world that's not even close to possible.
To be a full-time artist you have to hustle and grind. Your Instagram has to be on point. You have to tour constantly. You have to sell merch. You gotta start a Patreon. Anything to support the art.
I don’t want to do that stuff. I just want to make music. Preferably in my evenings when I'm done work at my day job.
That's what Spotify is letting me do and I'm actually earning a bit of money. I'm not getting rich or famous but I’m not sure that's worth aspiring towards anyways.
I'm making music for people who want to hear to it. Anything beyond that is a bonus.
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