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The Dos & Don’ts of Playlist Pitching

May 30, 2019 | Written by: Stem

Fruitful playlist pitching moves mountains in 2018. While it’s important to recognize the limitations of DSP placement (some won’t push the needle, many won’t convert laidback listeners to lasting fans), one right look can lead to a major windfall for artists.

Generally speaking, pitching might intimidate, especially when the process seems ambiguous from the outside looking in. If one thing’s for sure, there’s no magic button. Nothing is guaranteed. Luck plays a factor, as does the personal taste of each curator, and who you know never hurts. With that said, simple actions can increase a song’s odds of success.

We’ve had the opportunity to see what works. Thoughtfulness, consistency and planning go a long way. Tweeting the link to a playlist, while worth doing, is the bare minimum. Comprehensive marketing plans help make your case to the curators who are selecting songs to be featured each week. Careful preparation for pitching can also tighten other key business activities, illuminating areas of improvement worth addressing.

To help jumpstart your pitch brainstorming, Stem made a straightforward list of dos and don’ts for approaching streaming service curators. We hope you find it useful. For assistance on other relevant topics, such as correctly sizing images for different music platforms, pay our blog a visit.

Do honor deadlines

Meeting deadlines can make or break chances of placement. Most platforms require 30 days advanced notice for playlists pitching consideration, so teams must incorporate that lead time into their release strategy. Last-minute sprints might not yield ideal results.

Make this a constant conversation with your team, be creative about how to drive more of your fans to the different DSPs, and be sure to note these brilliant strategies in your pitches.

Do research (a lot)

Study playlists with intent. Spend time browsing each platform. Explore. Dig deep. Make note of the ecosystem on a macro and micro level. List ideal placements that range from “probable” to “dream” and chip away at the end goal over time.

Everyone wants to make RapCaviar, or New Music Friday, and you might end up landing the big fish. With that said, it’s more practical for newer artists to aim for playlists that reflect their music most (what already featured acts could you see yourself touring with?), and their audience today. Consider lifestyle or event-driven playlists as well and include them in your pitch. Also, don’t be afraid to research international playlists, too.

Research informs pitches. Informed pitches let curators know you care and also helps them do their job.

playlist pitching stem

Image via Apple Music

Don’t assume anything is obvious

At the end of the day, a pitch is an opportunity to educate someone about why you’re special. Arrogance can rub people the wrong way, but it’s important to take pride in what you’ve accomplished, especially because they may not have the time or resources to discover that information on their own.

Unfamiliar listeners, including curators, might not immediately understand where your work fits best. When pitching, you can clearly position your music (without putting yourself in a box) by pointing to what others have said about it.

Here are some ideas of key things to include in your pitch:

Do consider the DSP’s perspective

For most teams, playlisting deserves to be considered a cornerstone of your marketing strategy, in addition to touring, publicity and socials. When ideating for different initiatives, plotting a release, or routing a tour, think about how your actions can potentially benefit streaming services. How will you drive traffic to their platforms and encourage your fans to regularly engage with their services?

At the end of the day, platforms are businesses. Even executing a simple cross-platform campaign can set you apart. Here are some easy ways that you can drive your fans to a specific platform (make sure to include this part of your strategy in your pitch!):

Don’t forget the follow

While we’re on the subject of follows, incentivize fans to tag along for the ride on each platform, whenever possible. Retention is tough on streaming services, so growing your followers can have a massive impact on the sustainability of your performance.

Take Spotify, for example. A follow translates to reliable awareness because each fan will automatically see your new music in their Release Radar playlist. Listens in Release Radar are conducive to placement in Discover Weekly, and substantial listens there can help propel playlisting across the entire platform.

The follow button on Lola Kirke’s Spotify profile

Do embrace narrative

More often than not, teams submit pitches digitally, sans face time, which makes a compelling story that much more important to move forward. Even for those who sit down with curators to talk shop, a poorly told narrative can cause confusion and diminish excitement around an artist. Weaving key components together (where you’ve been, where you’re at, where you plan to go) alongside a meaningful why offers structure and purpose to contextualize what you do.

Curators are busy (so are you); fortunately, several paragraphs or sentences can achieve just as much as a sprawling life story. Details—the making of a song, the moment your parents said they were proud of your work, the first talent show you ever performed at—add extra color.

Don’t think you need to be big to get bigger

Everything is relative. While it’s true the lion’s share of royalties go to top-selling artists, rising acts can benefit from recognizing where their journey first started. In other words, a hometown show with 100 people in attendance might not mean much to Drake in 2018, but it would have in 2006. That’s worth something.

Positive progress comes in all shapes and sizes. For those who lack sales history but have a social following, embrace it. If you did a DJ set for packed club, throw it in. If you’re making music while studying business at university, don’t shy away. That’s you, use it to your advantage.

Do ask your label or distributor how to help

Any well-intentioned release partner will take time to help clarify points of confusion for their artists.  Just as important as asking for help, however, is offering it. Labels and distributors are often sending out several pitches a week, and if they have to guess or take time to unpack a part of your pitch, it could have negative results. Ask your rep or A&R how you can make their or their teams’ lives easier with your pitches, and we’re positive they will gladly tell you. After all, playlist openings are scarce and so is time. You can show commitment, build rapport, and learn a lot when you go out of your way to try and make your partner’s job easier.

Don’t exaggerate (ever)

No matter how you spin it, dishonesty won’t do you any favors in the long run. Lying sucks, and most platforms have robust databases that show them exact numbers. Don’t embellish your stream counts or downloads; instead, talk about how you’re planning to increase the real numbers over time.