What Is Spotify Discovery Mode and Should You Use It?

Spotify Discovery Mode
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Spotify Discovery Mode
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Photo credit: David Pupăză

As an indie artist, you’re always looking for a way to get ahead. An edge. You could even say a shortcut. Well, Spotify Discovery Mode is not a shortcut, but it could help you grow your music career. The catch is, Spotify takes a portion of your streams in exchange.

What Is Spotify’s Discovery Mode?

Spotify Discovery Mode is a tool that lets you, the artist, push your music out to more people through its algorithm. In exchange, Spotify keeps a 30% commission on all streams pushed out via Discovery Mode contexts (currently Spotify Radio, Autoplay, and Daily Mix) and not from anywhere else.

So if someone listens to your song via Discovery Mode, Spotify keeps 30% of the payout for that stream. But if that listeners adds your song to their own playlist, you would get 100% of the streaming royalties when the song is played from that playlist.

This tool does not guarantee more streams, but it “increases the likelihood of the selected songs being recommended.” Spotify looks at song engagement, both within and without Discovery Mode, to determine if it will get pushed to more listeners.

So it doesn’t push your song to random people. It uses the algorithm to recommend songs to listeners who may like the song.

Discovery Mode operates on a month-to-month basis, so when you opt in a song, it’s opted in for a month. After that, you can choose to opt it out or opt it in for another month.

And you’re not giving up any rights to your song. You’re simply asking Spotify to show your song to more people, and in exchange Spotify keeps a portion of the streams from its Discovery Mode efforts.

Is Spotify Discovery Mode Worth It?

According to Spotify, on average, artists who use Discovery Mode see a 50% boost in saves, a 44% boost in playlist adds, and a 37% boost in follows.

They calculate these increases by looking at a track’s stats in the 28 days prior to it entering Discovery Mode. Then they compare these numbers to that track’s stats in Discovery Mode contexts during the campaign period.

Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, let’s see if Discovery Mode is actually worth it based on people who have actually used it.

Indie artist Nic D said on the NDPNDNT podcast that it’s a “really a great tool if your song is actually good.” And as Spotify says, “It only works if fans love [the song] too.”

Nic D points out that even though Spotify takes a commission from Discovery Mode streams, these are streams you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Artist Brian Hazard wrote a case study on his experience with Discovery Mode. Overall, it sounds like he had positive results.

“It looks like the more songs you opt in, the more streams you get,” he writes. “The effect is large enough that, for me at least, streams per song is irrelevant. I want as many streams as I can get, so I’m going to opt in as many songs as I can!”

Last year, Ari from Ari’s Take published the results from an artist who had been using Discovery Mode for 5 months.

“Every month it has brought a healthy lift in listeners in streams,” he writes.

“…If you use Discovery Mode,” he continues, “it’s safe to say that you will see a bump in streams and listeners.”

Also last year, indie artist Andrew Southworth said Discovery Mode is a “no brainer.” He shares all the stats and results from his experience, which will give you a good idea of what to expect. Keep in mind, this was last year when Discovery Mode was relatively new. So is it still a no brainer?

“Eventually, down the line,” he says, “when everyone’s using Discovery Mode, it’s effectively like no one having Discovery Mode.”

Does Discovery Mode Decrease Your Monthly Listenership?

In my research, I noticed a common theme: artists who noticed a decrease in monthly listeners after using Discovery Mode.

“It works okay-ish/well for a couple of genres but it’s awful for the most,” said this Redditor five months ago. “…In my case it brought me down from 35k [monthly listeners] to 20k and dropping.”

Also, this Redditor said four months ago that after using Discovery Mode, they went from 80k monthly listeners to 52k.

But they said “even if I hadn’t opted into Discovery Mode my listeners and streams would’ve dropped as songs aren’t being pushed as much via the algorithmic playlists as Spotify is actively focusing on pushing Discovery Mode plays so they can make more money.”

Another musician says they went from 30k monthly listeners to 5k after using Discovery Mode.

“When it was just…Beta I tried it and got good results,” they said three months ago. “But only the first time I did it. It gave me a good bump in followers and monthly listeners. So I thought cool, this is worth it. But when I did it again my monthly listeners went way down from 30k to 5k. Normally I range between 10k-20k monthly listeners without doing anything but just releasing music and making content for Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.”

We can’t confirm why this decrease in monthly listenership has happened for these artists, but we do know there are so many factors that could have caused this drop.

And this might be why Spotify has since increased the monthly listenership minimum for Discovery Mode to 25,000. Whereas before, artists could use Discovery Mode with much fewer monthly listeners.

When (and When Not To) Run Discovery Mode

According to Venture, a music marketing company that says it was invited to a Spotify for Artists masterclass, there are certain times when you should and should not opt your songs into Discovery Mode.

Apparently, the best time to opt in your song to Discovery Mode is when it already has good traction, whether organically or algorithmically.

And the worst time to opt in a song is when it has not been doing well on streaming. Doing so can negatively impact your algorithmic success because you’re teaching the algorithm to learn negative things about your song.

Remember the artists from the previous section who said they saw a drop in monthly listeners after running Discovery Mode? It’s possible they may have opted in songs that weren’t doing well in the first place, hence the negative results. But again, we can’t confirm each of the artists’ situations.

The Overall Takeaway

There’s a reason it’s called “Discovery Mode.”

It’s not about making a profit, it’s about getting discovered. It’s not going to blow you up to superstardom, but it can definitely get your music in front of new people. And it can do that well if you haven’t confused the Spotify algorithm by making multiple different unrelated genres, or if you’ve opted in a track that hasn’t already been doing well.

The good news is, it seems Spotify is making changes to improve the efficiency of Discovery Mode, like adding a bunch of eligibility criteria (see the next section for that).

Using Discovery Mode is about finding new fans who, over time, will help you build a music career. Yeah, I don’t love that Spotify takes a bigger commission on Discovery Mode streams when the per-stream rate is already terribly low. But remember, these are extra streams you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Ultimately, Discovery Mode seems worth a try. It couldn’t hurt to opt in one or two of your top performing tracks as a test. If it doesn’t work for you, then stop. But it could definitely boost your monthly listeners, streams, and (hopefully) lifelong fans.

How Do I Join Spotify Discovery Mode?

Discovery Mode is still technically in beta mode, so not everyone will have access. But here are the requirements in order to get access:

  • You have at least 3 tracks that meet the following criteria:
    • Distributed via Amuse, CD Baby, CmdShft, Dance All Day, DistroKid, EmuBands, Horus Music, recordJet, Stem, *TuneCore, UnitedMasters, Venice Music, Vydia
    • Released for at least 30 days
    • Streamed via Spotify Radio, Autoplay, and/or Daily Mix in the last 7 days
  • You have at least 25,000 monthly listeners
  • Available in select countries (see full list here)

So yeah, there are a lot of stipulations. If you don’t meet these criteria, you could try using Spotify Showcase or Marquee. Either way, you should be creating content to promote your music.

But if you do meet the Spotify Discovery Mode eligibility requirements, you’ll see it in your Campaigns tab in your Spotify for Artists dashboard.

*Not listed by Spotify as one of the distributors who have access to Discovery Mode, but a TuneCore representative told Digital Music News that TuneCore does participate and offers artists access.