Canadian Musician - September/October 2017 - Page 11

Bruener has his own experience with this after his band’s songs were added to a user’s Christmas playlist. “I was able to see that there was this one particular playlist that was driving tons of plays. So I looked it up and it’s just a random user; it’s not some curator,” Breuner says. Getting a bit curious and using a bit of what he jokingly calls “run-of-the-mill internet stalking,” Breuner wanted to see if he could find out more about the playlist creator. “I did a little digging and found out he’s big in the Airsoft [paintball] world. Like, he loves that stuff. I felt like I was a bit of a stalker, but I was just very curious about this one particular instance of how this hap- pened. He didn’t have a bunch of playlists that were performing well and it wasn’t like he was this curator that people followed; he just happened to have this playlist that tapped into some key words that made this particular Christmas playlist have an audi- ence. I think the audience was about 12,000 people that followed this playlist. It’s not like this mega playlist of millions and millions of people, but it generated about 90,000 streams for us between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.” While ending up on that random user’s Christmas playlist was pure luck for Small- town Poets, Breuner says that with a bit of focus and effort, it’s very conceivable to turn those 90,000 streams last Christmas into 250,000 this Christmas. “It seems very doable when you start looking at it in those terms. There’s these users that have playlists that have built audiences; they’re not curators, W W W. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N . CO M do for them as well, and just kind of being a respectful member of the community.” You may be able to identify some playl- ist makers who are clearly trying to become tastemakers within a particular scene or genre. With them, it can be especially impor- tant to offer value. “You need to bring your fan base to the table and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been checking out the playlist and my music would be a good fit. If you’d add a track or two, I’ll email my 10,000 fans and tell them to follow the playlist.’ Then that person is thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to get something out of this deal,’” says Breuner. Really, this is only scratching the surface of the playlist world. There is much more that can be done, such as connecting with folks at radio stations, consumer brands, and other companies that have branded playlists – or even creating your own playlists, and there is a science to doing that effectively. Just understanding how Spotify’s analytics Ari Herstand they’re not doing things to be the tastemaker of a particular genre, but they have, for what- ever reason, people listening to their playlists. I think when you start looking at that as an independent artist from that perspective and doing some digging and get away from the obvious mainstream stuff, there is lots of opportunity that is tangible. Really, what you need to do as an artist is get on some of these playlists, show a bit of a track record, and that makes it more feasible to get on bigger playlists.” You won’t hit your target every time. If you reach out to five playlist creators, it’s unlikely they will all return your email or Facebook message, let alone add one of your songs to their list. You can improve your odds, though, by spending some time with the playlist before reaching out, making sure your mu- sic is a good fit, and maybe most importantly, being a genuine fan of the music. Herstand insists artists should never approach a playlist maker for a playlist they don’t listen to. It’s just insulting. (Cough – kind of like emailing a magazine editor asking for an album review in a magazine that doesn’t do reviews, so it’s obvious you’ve never read the magazine – cough, cough. Just saying…) “Approach playlisters whose playlists you’re a fan of and you can have a conversa- tion with. Similarly, you can help out the other artists and be a member of the com- munity. Maybe reach out to the other artists on some of these playlists you’re eyeing, these other indie artists, and say, ‘Hey, love your new record. I’ve been spinning the tracks non-stop and I discovered it on this playlist. How did you get on this playlist?’ and they’ll give you some insight into it,” says Herstand. “It’s just about being a member of the community and always thinking about being respectful and the value you’re going to offer the other person. It’s not about what they can do for you only; it’s what you can Kevin Breuner at CD Baby’s DIY Musician Conference and algorithms work and how they influ- ence playlists is a fascinating conversation. (Interesting fact told to Herstand by some- one at Spotify: the service has identified roughly 50,000 users it deems “tastemakers,” meaning they have a track record of listen- ing to hits months before they break. Spo- tify’s algorithms factor in these users’ recent listening history when creating playlists, but these users don’t know they’re tastemak- ers). So do a bit of research, join the Spotify community, and see if you can boost your streams. Michael Raine is the Seni