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How to get played on streaming services and playlists

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Getting your music discovered, played, and featured on playlists on the best streaming services is well within your reach. Use these techniques to get your music played.

Streaming is where the party is nowadays, and, because it makes you income and is easy to get onto, your music should be there. But getting your music on streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and others is just the start. With so many songs in their music collections, you’ll want to tackle the problem of getting listeners to discover your music.

There are five types of streaming opportunities available

  1. Interactive streaming services. You can get your music heard on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and more through digital distributors like CD Baby. This is the very first step before you launch into any music promotion campaign, because if people decide they like what they hear, they’ll search for you on their favorite streaming service to hear more and follow you.
  2. Non-interactive streaming services. Services like Live365 and Pandora use the Internet to stream music directly to listeners. Each station might feature a regular rotation, as well as specific shows you can submit to. Check out “How To Get Your Music On Streaming Music Stations” for more details on how to get played on these types of streaming stations and shows.
  3. Curated playlists. These are playlists that are curated by the streaming services themselves which may be chosen by computer or by hand. For instance, Spotify has a playlist called “Ultimate Indie.”
  4. Popular streaming playlists. These are playlists that are created and managed by users of the streaming service. In other words, they’re fan-based playlists. Some are informal, but others are more formal and have more structure behind them. Do some research to find out who curates your target playlists so you can get your music into their hands.
  5. Your streaming playlists. You can create playlists with your own curated musical selections. If you choose an engaging title people are searching for and add a compelling description, you can entice people to listen to your music. The best way to do this is to weave your music in between popular artists to piggyback on their popularity. It’s free to create public playlists, so it’s worth a few minutes to try creating a bunch to see what works. Try making playlists based on genre, mood, activity (exercising, meditating, chilling out, etc.), and song topic.

Prep steps

Before you begin, you’ll want the following at-the-ready.

  • Music distributor. Choose a music distributor, such as CD Baby, to get your music up on each of the streaming services.
  • Links to your music on streaming services. Most streaming service submission mechanisms and playlists will need the links to your music on the streaming service.
  • Your bio and music on credits databases. Many of the streaming services pick up your music bio and discography from credits databases like AllMusic. These make it more likely for fans who discover you to check out more of your music. We cover a full list of credits databases you should submit to in our book, Making Money With Music.
  • Simple Tracking System (Spreadsheet). You’ll need to keep track of who, where, and when you sent your music and any supporting material (press/media materials, fact sheet, or bio). A simple spreadsheet like Google Sheets works fine (and it’s free).

How to make money

Making Money With MusicYou make money from all of these sources via royalties. Specifically, you can now collect composition mechanical royalties through the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) for the interactive streaming services and via SoundExchange for the non-interactive streams. Register for these before you begin your campaign. In fact, it’s a good idea to register for all of your royalties before you start any campaign for music discovery.

(For more detailed info about how royalties work and the 14 registrations you should do to protect your music and ensure you get all the money that’s owed you, see the “Licensing and Royalties” chapter of our book, Making Money With Music.)

How to get played

Once you have royalties set up and have your music and credits databases ready to go, here’s how you can get played on each of these types of commercial radio outlets.

1. Make a list of targets to submit to

  • Interactive streaming services. Use your music distributor to get on all the streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, etc.
  • Non-interactive streaming services. Check out “How to get your music on streaming music stations” for more details on how to get played on these types of streaming stations and shows.
  • Streaming service curated playlists. The playlists created by hand may have a submission method that the streaming services share with artists. These are all over the map, so you should research the playlists you want to target for submission requirements.
  • Popular streaming playlists. Some of these are explicitly pay-for-play while others are informal and happy to get emails from musicians suggesting new music to add. This used to be easier when streaming services allowed users to communicate with each other; now, the best approach is to research who’s behind the playlist and find a webpage or social media profile you can reach.
  • Your streaming playlists. Because it’s free to create public playlists, why not experiment making playlists based on genre, mood, activity, or song topic?

2. Submit your music to your targeted list

Once you’ve done your research and completed your target list, it’s time to submit, adding the dates of when you submitted to your spreadsheet. Be sure to follow all submission instructions, since bypassing posted processes could exclude you from the opportunity.

3. Keep tabs of your submissions

After submitting, keep track of the responses in your spreadsheet. Some are automated, but if a person gets back to you, be sure to use good PR techniques like being politely persistent to increase the likelihood of being played.

4. After being played, send a “thank you” message and track the plays

Keep track of the submissions and see if your music appears. If there happens to be an Internet presence, services like Google Alerts may catch a new instance of your name.

What to do once you’re played

When you catch that you’ve been played:

  • Share on social media. As always, when you see that you’ve been played, share the news with your fans on social media.
  • Send thank-you’s and update your spreadsheet. Don’t forget to send a thank you to the radio station or show host/producer as well.
  • Ladder up and out. When you get played, be sure to publicize it and use the success as a reason to ladder up and reach out to other places who haven’t responded back or played you yet. Provide them with proof that people like and play your music.

Read the rest of the “Get Seen and Heard” series.

Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.

How to 
Make More Money With Music, the Complete Guide

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About Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan

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