Getting playlisted: How do you land the digital holy grail?

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Digital service provider (DSPs) curated playlists have become increasingly influential over the last few years, but how do you attract tastemakers’ attention?

A panel of experts gathered at The Great Escape for a Demystifying Playlists: Cutting Through the Noise session to discuss how artists best approach DSPs and get their tracks playlisted.

The panel included Adam Reed, UK editor, Sage Ollito, artist marketing, both at Deezer, and Marcus Ernst, director of commercial label relations at Napster who gave some insight into the playlist process and offered some of their top tips.

This is what we learnt…

Partner with an aggregator…

Marcus Ernst (ME): You cannot direct upload something to us, you have got to go to an aggregator like CD Baby. That’s basically how everything comes into our system, so you have to find a partner to help you like CD Baby who provides that to us. I think the best thing is to work with your partner, like CD Baby, to have them ensure we know it’s coming, how big it is, how good it is.

Digital service providers aren’t the only route to success…

ME: There are a lot of ways artists can have success now, and it’s not always through DSPs. I think the most important thing when you start a band or you’re in your tiny little room banging on a drum computer dreaming of doing it live in a stadium, everything is about promoting yourself at the end of the day. No matter where you are, promote yourself, hand out flyers, download links, whatever’s clever. DSPs are just one piece of the puzzle.

You can still be discovered on radio, you can still be discovered on Youtube, and you can be discovered on a DSP over an algorithm. So, I would suggest you find people who believe in you, whether it be a good aggregator like CD Baby, if they believe in you, they can push you. It’s also now very popular to do something with gaming, with fashion, to do something in a different environment to actually get heard.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket…

Sage Ollito (SO): The best thing to do is spread your chips evenly, don’t just rely on one DSP. I mean, everyone has their strengths. Understand who we are as a company, understand where our strengths lie.

Self-promotion is key…

ME: Play, go out, promote yourself and the rest will follow. We will catch up, we will find you if we have to, our audience demands it sometimes. We get request for indie artists we have never heard of to be honest with you, and then we take a look into it and sometimes it’s because they aren’t anywhere else but on Soundcloud. We try to push for them to get a professional aggregator, so we can have it in our system, so that happens too.

Getting playlisted isn’t the be all and end all…

Adam Reed (AR): I think the more important streams you get long term are the streams you get outside of playlists, because those are fans that are going to your music again, and again, and again.

Pitch perfect…

AR: Our job is to provide users with content, not just what they know, but also stuff that will challenge them.  What you can do to build into a playlist is to create a noise and filling in to what we call a self-perpetuating cycle. If you get some PR, you’re touring, everything like that will help create noise and then that creates additional streams, which creates additional opportunities for us to maybe test back in a playlist. It’s all about creating a rounded proposition.

SO: On average, Deezer receives about 20,000 tracks a day, which is obviously a lot of music to consume between us. So, I’d my advice would be to learn how to cut through the noise. By doing that you can simply follow the right procedures to pitch to us. So that could be, making sure we have the press shot, making sure we have everything you could possible think of that we might need to make our decision on whether we want to support you editorially and build a campaign or not.

Quality is everything…

Make sure the sound is good, make sure it’s mastered. Little things are really important, because at some point we all listen with our own ears and if for some reason it’s not of the same quality as 90 percent of the professional music we are getting it’s hard for you to cut through. Make sure it’s really well mixed and that you did your homework. Go with a trusted source.

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