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Personalised Music Consumption & AI: Does It Hinder or Help New Artists? [Guest Column]

Is Spotify generally a helpful tool for upcoming bands exposure? Let's find out.

Photo by blocks / Unsplash
Editor's note: This is a guest story by Laura Mills, a music journalist and reviewer. Laura's stories were published in Independent, Metro, NY Post, The Daily Mirror, The Sun and other outlets.

Now, as music consumers, we’re all very aware that streaming companies do not pay big bucks to the bands whose music they share. In fact, artists receive a rather small amount of $0.003-$0.005 per single stream. Despite platforms not paying them enough to sustain their living from this source of income, sites like Spotify have playlists followed by users around the world with exclusive ones tailored to the user specifically as well. So what we all really want to know is: does the platform hinder or help the success of new artists?

To understand whether this really will help new artists on their journey to recognition in the music industry, we must first understand how services like Spotify work. On Spotify, users can select the ‘Made For You’ section which contains a variety of playlists generated by Spotify and curated by your previous music consumption. This may appear as though unless a listener actively seeks out new artists then they’re unlikely to appear on one of these playlists without being streamed several times meaning that listeners are not discovering.

Despite this, the platform does offer artists which do get selected for a more popular playlist a chance to be discovered. Likewise, Spotify also offers a release radar which is also generated by your previous consumption but it contains new tracks of a variety of artists, more popular and smaller ones, therefore giving upcoming musicians a chance for exposure and from this potential success.

On their website, Spotify said “Our tools are here to help you attract the biggest possible audience to your new music”. When an artist releases a song whether they’re a chart-topper or completely new to the scene, it is all centred around maximising exposure. Spotify suggests that “The more prepared you are for that big release, the more likely it is that you’ll see streams, listeners, and followers come pouring in”. Likewise, they also boast of who have pitched to them and watched their streams and followers skyrocket after being featured on one of Spotify’s editorially curated playlists. For example in 2022, more than 275,000 artists were added to at least one editorial playlist. But what are they doing to help the cause?

One area is their pitching guide. They suggest artists should pitch a song for playlist consideration at least seven days before its release date. When artists are pitching a track, they should add key details about the song, such as genre and mood, which will improve the likelihood that it’ll land on the most suitable playlist, and once this has been pitched, their editorial team will see if it’s the right fit. Spotify senior product manager Steve Shirley said: “Everyone who has music on Spotify is now able to get their songs in front of the people making these really impactful playlist decisions”.

Likewise, Spotify also offers specific playlists for newcomers as well. These include dedicated playlists like ‘Fresh Finds’ a series which covers a range of genres from hip hop to indie to Latin. Similarly, there is ‘Fresh Finds: The Wave’ which focuses on new R&B and soul, and country-specific Fresh Finds playlists focusing on new music from the Philippines and Indonesia and other countries. With their goal to “incorporate new or smaller artists into a variety of playlists across different moods, activities, and genres that we think listeners will like, while also aiming to develop emerging artists.”

But does any of this really help out upcoming artists when they’re releasing new stuff?

Halftail, a band from Seattle, United States, found some success when using Spotify to release their new music but other singles flopped leaving them confused about the value of pitching to Spotify. One band member explained how their second single was picked up by the release radar playlist on the platform which ended up getting around over 2,000 streams and new fans from the release radar, leaving them at around 2,200 monthly listeners, which was a massive improvement from the 25-30 listeners they had previously. However, the other singles the band released did not receive much recognition from the release radar playlist.

However, another musician named Conner Youngblood found great success when pitching his music to Spotify. Youngblood pitched his single ‘Pizza Body’ to the Spotify editors who described it as “plush mix of dreamy folk and ambient instrumentation wakes and warms the soul” leading them to place it on the Mellow Morning playlist which boast over 600,000 likes. Since his success with this single, Youngblood has also been featured on other Spotify playlists, including Acoustic Hits and Indie Chillout, which has over 1.5 million followers combined. Conner has over 50,000 monthly listening on the streaming platform and many songs with millions of streams so it could be suggested that he is a true Spotify success story.

Overall, it appears Spotify is generally not the most helpful tool for upcoming bands exposure, recognition and success due to the amount of music available to stream on the app. It also appears artists which have gained some new fans from this appeared as a fluke, rather than the platform being very useful. This may suggest that if bands are looking to be discovered, they must try as many avenues as possible and definitely not rely on a chance encounter from a Spotify editor to notice their art.

Words by Laura Mills