How to Get Your Music on Playlists: Demystifying the Process

Posted in MusicWorld on April 20, 2023 by

When I started teaching workshops for aspiring recording artists and songwriters more than 30 years ago, signing with a major record label was the only way for artists to reach a wide audience. Without a major label to provide distribution to record stores, radio promotion, and financing for videos, most unsigned artists—and those on independent labels—were met with glass ceilings that made it virtually impossible to make a significant impact. While some rock and alternative acts were able to secure airplay on college radio stations and stations that specialized in underground music, mainstream pop, country, and R&B artists without a major label deal were left out in the cold.

The landscape changed when streaming became a viable way to get music heard. Spotify officially launched in the United States in 2011, and in March 2012, Billboard magazine added streaming services to the formula of its Hot 100 chart. By the mid-2010s, streaming became the primary way that music was disseminated, surpassing physical and digital formats.

Now, anyone with a smart phone or a computer can record their own music and video, and thanks to platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Spotify, they can make their music available to listeners throughout the world.

Spotify, the leading streaming service, has more than 80 million tracks available from an estimated 11 million artists. But with more than 100,000 songs typically being uploaded to digital service providers every day, how can you lead listeners to your music?

A key component to being “found” is to have your music included on respected and widely followed playlists. Spotify creates approximately 3,000 playlists, and it is estimated that its most popular one, Today’s Top Hits, has more than 33 million followers. Almost every imaginable style of music has one or more playlists on which it might fit.

There are primarily three major types of playlists. Algorithmic playlists are created by computer software. Major streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora, Deezer, TikTok, YouTube, and Google Play use algorithms—information generated by computer programs that track data such as the songs and genres a given user listens to. This information is used to create computer-generated recommendations of additional music for that user. You cannot pitch your material or pay for it to be included on algorithmic playlists. Inclusion on these all-important lists is based on the number of listeners engaging with your music.

Editorial playlists are curated by streaming services’ music experts and genre specialists. These playlists are categorized by musical genre or by the mood(s) they evoke. This allows listeners to seek out new music that has been deemed worthy by experts in the styles the listeners prefer.

According to Spotify curator @iambluejay, “We’re always looking to curate more music and artists in our playlists, so we really value the time you give and spend sharing your stories and songs with us when you pitch your music. Beyond providing us with context about your music and the particular track you’re submitting, make sure you submit your track at least a week in advance of its release, and fill in every part of the submission form as accurately as possible—the questions you answer about your track’s mood and genre are incredibly helpful in surfacing your music to editors.”

Spotify curator @haleyjonay suggests, “When you’re pitching to us, bear in mind that editors love to learn about context and community. (For more details on how to do this click here.) Give us the who, what, why, when, where, and how of your song. Who made it with you? Why did you make it? When was it made? Where did you make it? If there’s an interesting story around you and/or the song, please let us know. The music is key, but context is also extremely helpful to us. Whatever you do, we encourage you to NOT leave the note blank! The more information we have about the song that you’ve worked so hard on, the better. In addition, beyond knowing what your song is about, it is also especially helpful to us to include any press, music video plans, release schedules, and promotions, as well as the social media accounts linked in your artist profile.”

For additional information about Spotify’s editorial playlists, click here.

Listener playlists are created by users and are their own personal recommendations. Those who create playlists are referred to as curators. Individuals who compile playlists—and garner followings—are sometimes referred to as influencers.

Maximize the chances of your music being discovered by aiming for placements on all three types of playlists.

Terris Meisenheimer, Director of Strategy and Growth for Rise, suggests using the template he provided (below) to pitch your music for inclusion in listener playlists. Rise offers performance-based automated marketing campaigns that guarantee audience growth for artists on Spotify, TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. Artists can preview their expected results before paying for each Rise campaign. Their extensive customer list includes thousands of independent artists as well as The Nations, Curb Records, Nettwerk Music Group, and all of the three major labels (Sony, Warner, Universal).

“The main principles for pitching to listener playlists are that you want to honor the playlist curator by mentioning their playlist by name, compliment it, follow it, and actually listen to it. Then demonstrate you have listened to it and are familiar with it by describing your song and a key lyric that you think would resonate with the curator based on the songs you heard on his or her playlist. Keep it short and sweet.” – Terris Meisenheimer

Sample Listener Playlist Pitch

Hey {name}!

Loving {playlist name}! Just followed!

I’ve got a new single that I think would fit right in. {song name} is a {genre} song about {insert short description here}.

{Song Name} by {Artist Name} {insert a link to the track}

Thank you!

{Your Name}
{Artist Name}

Those who take the do-it-yourself approach to getting their music included on playlists are tasked with identifying the most appropriate lists for their music, locating the curators of those playlists, and submitting their music directly to them. PlaylistRadar can help artists find independent Spotify playlist curators who promote your style of music.

Songwriter John Pearson shared, “One way that I’ve had songs that have been placed in TV shows and movies added to Spotify playlists is by using Tunefind.” Tunefind is a free service that identifies music used in movies, TV shows, and video games. Pearson continued, “In Tunefind, go to the show/episode in which your song was placed. You have the option to add your song to the episode by adding a description of the scene in which your song was used. I’ve done this for several songs and those songs have been added to some very influential playlists—and it didn’t cost a penny.”

Locating Influencers and Playlist Curators

With more than 1 billion monthly users, TikTok has propelled songs by unknown artists into the Billboard Hot 100 and Spotify Viral 50. So how do you get more exposure for your music on TikTok?

TikTok influencers are individuals who have cultivated an audience that looks to them for recommendations of music and videos. Having them promote your music can be career-changing, but it can be difficult to locate contact information for playlist curators and influencers.

For a monthly fee, MICCO provides its members with a listing of more than 7,000 music industry influencers. They provide contact information for influencers and playlist curators for streaming platforms including Spotify, TikTok, YouTube, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora, Deezer, and Google Play.

Indie Bible sells e-books such as the Indie Spotify Bible, which provides contact information for curators of more than 5,400 playlists. Their Apple Music Bible provides contact information for the decision-makers at more than 3,500 Apple Music playlists. Similarly, their Indie YouTube Bible provides contact information for more than 3,500 playlist curators, categorized by genre. These publications do the research; the artists do the leg work of pitching their material.

Spotify for Artists

Artists can submit material to Spotify for Artists to pitch their songs for possible inclusion in Spotify’s editorial playlists. There is no fee for this. According to Meisenheimer, “It is crucial to choose accurate genres, state why your music is unique, and demonstrate you know what kind of music you make and who would like it.”

Spotify Radio

Spotify Radio creates a 50-song playlist made up of personalized recommendations it thinks you will like based on a song or artist you state you like. Spotify Radio provides an excellent opportunity for music to get discovered because the listener is essentially asking Spotify to choose the music for them. Additionally, for users who have autoplay enabled on their account, once they get to the end of an album or playlist, Spotify automatically starts playing the recommended Spotify Radio songs based on what they were listening to.

Terris Meisenheimer stated, “I would recommend any artist go to their profile and listen to their own artist radio to see what songs Spotify is recommending alongside their own music.”

Spotify Mixes

Spotify Mixes are 50-song playlists, similar to Spotify Radio, but are customized for each listener based on his or her listening history and active feedback. Each Spotify Mix is based on a different listening mode or grouping that Spotify identifies and emphasizes familiar and favorite tracks with a small amount of new music to discover. If someone has been listening to your music repeatedly then you have a higher chance of being included in one of their Spotify Mixes, which is a great place to be since you will be streamed right next to the user’s favorite songs. You can find your Spotify Mixes if you scroll down towards the bottom of your home page as a listener.

Identifying Genre

Since listeners tend to prefer specific genres, Spotify identifies the genre of every song to help with recommendations. In order to do so the song has to get enough positive feedback (i.e., streams, saves, adds to playlists, etc.) by users who are fans of that genre, or by users who are playing the song right before or right after a song that has already been labeled as that genre.

Essentially, if a song is played thousands of times right before or after a rock song and is hardly ever played before or after songs of other genres, then the algorithm can label the song as a rock song with a high level of certainty. This makes it easier for Spotify to recommend the song to fans of other rock songs, or even fans of the specific songs that the song has been played next to.

“The short answer of how to get labeled as a rock song is get your song played before or after other rock songs. The longer answer is share your music with rock fans on social media who will hopefully stream your song on Spotify between their other favorite rock songs, and pitch your music to rock playlists where rock fans can do the same thing until the Spotify Algorithm has enough data to determine that your song is in fact a rock song, and a good one worth recommending to more rock fans.” – Terris Meisenheimer

Popularity Score

A track’s Popularity Score is based on positive feedback signals received by the algorithm. These include high numbers of streams in a short amount of time; repeat listens from the same listeners; a high ratio of the song being saved by listeners; having many users add the song to their own playlists; and having a listener follow the artist or listen to other songs by that artist after hearing this one.

Discover Weekly

Discover Weekly is a 30-song Spotify playlist updated every Monday with recommendations based on your listening history. It focuses on songs that you have not listened to, regardless of when the song was released. Discover Weekly is a good example of collaborative filtering at work where it looks at other users who have a similar taste in music and it compiles songs you haven’t heard that similar users have enjoyed and recommends them to you.

Release Radar

Release Radar is a personalized Spotify playlist that updates every Friday with new releases from artists you follow, plus some new singles it recommends by artists you don’t follow. The playlist defaults to 30 songs, but can be hundreds of songs if you follow a lot of artists that are actively releasing new music. To get your music onto users’ Release Radar playlists they either have to be following you on Spotify, or they have to be listening to music that is similar to yours.

Getting Users to Follow You

According to Meisenheimer, “There are a few reasons why a user might choose to follow you. Firstly, they like your music so much that they go to your artist page and click “Follow” because they want Spotify to keep recommending music like yours to them. Secondly, they understand that following an artist means their new releases will show up in their Release Radar and they want to stay up to date with your music. Thirdly, the artist asked them to follow and the user did because they like the music. The first and second way can happen organically, but usually in smaller numbers. The third option can be a good one since most listeners aren’t thinking about the importance of the algorithm, but do like the music and want to offer support.”


Having music included on widely-followed playlists—and recommended by trusted influencers—is a critical component for recording artists hoping to grow their fan base and reach worldwide audiences. Whether we engage the services of a company that promotes and distributes music to streaming platforms, or take the DIY approach, those who approach this diligently and methodically—and have music with the potential to connect with listeners—will likely find their work on playlists.

A heartfelt “thank you” to Terris Meisenheimer for helping me to crack the code of streaming platform playlists—and for his huge contribution to this article, and to Rise for offering readers 15% off (with code “BMI15”) for any single campaign for Spotify, TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram.

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (all published by Billboard Books). His songs are on Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. A guest lecturer at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and at the Berklee School of Music, he has been interviewed as a songwriting expert for CNN, NPR, the BBC, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. To receive his free video, “3 Things You MUST Do for Success,” and weekly tips to inspire creativity, click on For information about his workshops, webinars, more than 120 additional articles, and more, visit


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