How to Hack Your Way Into an Insanely Popular Playlist

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The playlist is the new radio.  So how do you get into seriously heavy rotation?

In the old music industry, the best way to reach a large audience was to get your song played on the radio.  Today, the music industry is changing, and becoming more about online music consumption.  Music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are gaining serious traction, and people want instant access to their favorite songs.

But they also want features that let them quickly discover their next favorite artist.

Spotify Paid Me $40,000 for 10 Million Streams. Is That Fair?

On these streaming services, people discover new music through a combination of human curated and algorithmically generated playlists.  Playlists are the radio of today, and have become bigger than the album.  So getting placement in a well-followed, well-targeted playlists should definitely play a part in your overall music marketing strategy.

So, how can you get your music into automated and human generated playlists on popular streaming services?

Let’s break it down into a repeatable process based on the type of playlist.

Part I: Getting Your Music Into Human Generated Playlists

If a streaming platform is more social and has public playlists made by its users, a great way to reach more listeners through that service is to get your music placed in some of the well-followed public playlists.

Before you start reaching out to these playlist creators, it’s important that you have a basic online presence in place.  It’s normal for people to search for you online to see if you’re legitimate.

Here’s a basic list of things to have in order before you start contacting users:

1. A website (here’s a guide on how to make a great artist website)

2. A Facebook or Twitter profile for your music.

3. A well-written bio.

4. High quality images on your website and social media accounts.

5. As many followers as possible on your targeted streaming platform.

Once you have these in place, you’re in a good position to get started with your outreach efforts.

Here’s a step-by-step process to finding the right playlists, identifying the person to reach out to, and pitching your music.

Finding playlists

There are millions of playlists available on streaming services, but you want to target the playlists that are a fit for your music.

The great thing about social streaming services is that while search terms return artists, albums, and songs, they also return playlists and users. This makes the process of finding playlists easy. To find playlists your music may be a fit for, just come up with a list of search strings that include your genre, moods and activities that may interest your fans, and similar artists.

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Best rock songs
  • Hip-hop favorites
  • Road trip
  • Workout
  • Metal workout
  • Party
  • Acoustic
  • Chill
  • Coffee shop
  • Breakup songs

Once you have your list of search strings, enter them into the search to start finding new playlists.

During your search, you could click each playlist individually to check its follower count and if it’s created by a user or the streaming services staff, but to make the search process as fast as possible, you want to see all of this information in one view.

Here’s how to do that using Spotify.

When entering your search term, and click “show all results,” then click “Playlists” in the results, and you’ll see a view with the playlist name, the user who created the playlist, and the follower count – like this:

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To discover even more playlists, you can search for user profiles of other artists, political figures, brands, and radio stations, then explore their catalog of playlists to find one that your music would be a good fit for.

Identifying the creator

Once you’ve identified the playlists you intend to reach out to, it’s time to find the creators contact information.

Unfortunately, streaming services usually don’t let you send your songs to their users within the service. In order to get your music heard by the playlist creator, you’ll have to do some digging with the help of social media and Google.

If the user has their name listed on the streaming service, head over to Facebook and search for that users name. When users sign up for streaming services with Facebook, the service often pulls their Facebook profile picture, so look for the user with the same profile picture as on the streaming service (since there may be many Facebook users with the same name).

If the user doesn’t have their full name listed on the streaming service, and instead has a username, you can try doing a reverse image search on Google images to find some of their online profiles. Simply take a screenshot of the users profile picture on the streaming service, upload it to Google images, and look through the results.

This method works well if the user has some sort of online presence outside of social media.

When it comes to brands, blogs, magazines, or other large-scale profiles, rather than simply emailing a email address, find the person responsible for the playlist on social media, then follow them directly to start building a relationship. At companies and organizations, their social media manager will generally handle the playlists. Get on their radar with likes, comments, and retweets.

Reaching out

Once you’ve spent a few weeks putting yourself on the radar of your target editors, it’s time to start contacting them.

If you’re contacting an individual, social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are fine, but use email when contacting people in the workplace, like social media managers at brands. Be careful about sending too many messages over social media sites, as the spam filters for these are much more sensitive than they are for email.

When reaching out to playlist creators, weather you use social media or email, it’s important to make sure the message is small enough to fit on a phone screen. Use plenty of white space so it’s easy to read.

Here’s an email script you can use for your outreach efforts:

Hey [Name],

[Insert personal note, such as a comment on a recent tweet or article they shared/wrote].

I’m contacting you because I found your playlist [Playlist Name] on [Music Service].

[My band/We/I] just released a new song that I think would make a great fit for your playlist’s listeners. You can check it out here: [URL to song in streaming service]

Looking forward to hearing what you think.

Either way, keep up the awesome work!


I use a similar script when reaching out to bloggers for guest posting opportunities, and I’ve been getting around a 10% response rate. The most important part of your outreach is to make sure your song is an absolutely perfect fit for the playlist the person represents.

Part II: How to Get Your Music Into Algorithmically Generated Playlists

There are a number of algorithms music streaming services use to generate playlists for their users without humans, but most of these algorithms use methods such as collaborate filtering, web scraping, and playlist analysis.

Collaborative Filtering

Collaborate filtering is the process of recommending new music to one user based on what other users with similar music taste are listening to.

Here’s an example of how it works:

1. Users A, B, and C listen to many of the same songs.

2. User A and B listen to a new song.

3. Because user C has similar music taste to users A and B, the new song is then recommended to user C.

While there’s no direct way you can hack collaborative filtering algorithms, the best way to take advantage of them is to narrowly target your outreach efforts when contacting playlist editors.  Collaborative filtering algorithms are heavily reliant on view-to- click, click-to-play, and play-to-save conversion rates.  So if your music performs well in these metrics from playlist placement, collaborative filtering algorithms will pick it up.

Web Scraping

Similarly to how Google scrapes the web to identify the best search results for a given term, streaming services use web scraping as well.  This allows them to identify the music that tastemakers and bloggers are talking about online, and who they’re comparing these newer artists to.  This is the methodology behind many automated playlists featuring new release recommendations.

The easiest way to get picked up by web scraping algorithms is to get your music reviewed by influential bloggers.  Don’t just get your music reviewed by any blogger though.  Instead, figure out which music blogs are influencing your target playlists.

To do this, identify automatically generated playlists with new releases that you’d like to be placed in. Once you’ve found a playlist, make a list of the songs and their artists, then head over to HypeMachine and type the songs into the search box to see what blogs have mentioned the artists or songs that are in the playlist. This will help you identify which blogs are likely triggering the web scraping algorithm’s interest so you can better target your outreach efforts.

As you do this, compile a list of the blogs you find in an excel sheet. Once you’ve completed this process for your target playlist, reach out to the blogs about reviewing your album with an email like this one.

Sample email.

Hi [Name],

I came across your blog via your review of [Album]. Awesome stuff!

I thought you might be interested in reviewing our album, since we have a similar following to [Artist].

Here’s a link to one of the songs on the album: [URL]

Let me know if this interests you and if you need more info. Either way, keep up the awesome work!



Repeat this process for any automated playlists you come across that are focused on new releases.  Try to get your album reviewed by the blogs close to the time you release it on the streaming service so the algorithms pick it up as a trending new release.

If you can’t get reviews on the blogs, then if it makes sense, offer to write an article for them.  This way they get new content for their site, and you get a mention.  This can also be a great way to grow your bands email list.

Playlist Analysis

When it comes to playlist analysis, streaming services look at what songs are together in playlists to identify new songs users might be interested in. This might work by looking at what songs a user has saved in one of their own playlists, and cross referencing it with other playlists that contain those same songs in order to recommend new songs, albums, and artists to the user. This works similarly to collaborative filtering, but with playlists instead of user activity.

The best way to take advantage of playlist analysis is simply to get your music into as many niche playlists as possible through targeted outreach, as outlined above.

This includes unpopular user generated playlists, well-followed playlists by brands, and automated and curated playlists put together by the streaming services staff.

Generally, playlists put together by internal staff have a heavier influence on algorithms using playlist analysis.


If you want success on music streaming apps, your goal should be to get into as many playlists as possible.  That can happen through direct outreach, and by focusing on building your online presence by scoring reviews on influential music sites.  This will put you on the radar of more people interested in your style of music, which will get you into more, better playlists.  Ultimately, that will lead to better discoverability of your music on popular streaming platforms.

Good luck!

9 Responses

  1. Ari Herstand

    Brilliant! Great work and great explanation. Thank you for this Nicholas!

  2. Troglite

    Great demonstration that the Internet has NOT freed the marketplace of “gatekeepers”. We have new examples like these playlist curators/algorithms. We have new forms of fraud and collusion in bots and click-through farms. But power is still heavily concentrated which will naturally create the neeed/desire to game the system as this article advises.

    If anything, the intermingling of pro, amateur, and pro-amateur works on the Internet has increased the need for gatekeepers to exist. So much for the utopian vision so many well intended but misguided “visionaries” have espoused over the past 20 years. I’d rather see placement driven by straight up payola with full transparency than fake traffic and personal favors.

  3. I'm a Philosopher

    Looks like you missed the biggest way to get into a playlist: $$$$$. The biggest playlists are paid for just like radio.