Spotify has been slowly rolling out and testing Discovery Mode over the past two years to a small group of artists and labels.
Discovery Mode is basically a program where Spotify will help get you more listeners by inserting your songs into other artists’ radio stations and general “autoplay” sessions – for an additional commission. More on the commission part in a minute.
How this works is, if you opt in (eligible) songs to Discovery Mode, these songs will start to appear more often in other artists’ Radio playlists. You’ll see in your Spotify for Artists reporting more Radio plays. And your songs will also autoplay more frequently after people finish listening to similar artists’ albums and playlists.
Yes, your songs most likely are getting inserted into other artists Radio playlists as it is now via the algorithm, but this juices is up.
Spotify will basically test your song in more Radio playlists and prioritize your song within the autoplay feature.
As of this past week, Spotify has started to open the program up much wider. Artists are starting to receive emails that look like this:
An artist I work with was one of the initial testers and has been using Discovery Mode for the past 5 months. Every month it has brought a healthy lift in listeners in streams.
Here’s what the previous months looked like for this artist. For clarity, this is a new artist who has released just a few singles. They started with 800 monthly listeners last Summer and are now sitting at around 20,000 monthly listeners.
The reason there was a higher percentage lift in previous months with lower total streams and listeners is because fewer songs were released and listener and stream levels were low in the months leading up to the Discovery Mode campaign. As more songs were released, more listeners and streams came in organically which decreased the total “lift” percentage. But as you can see, it has brought in quite a few listeners and streams overall, month over month.
As of late, the lift percentage, however, has decreased quite dramatically.
I’m not sure if this is because they’re starting to open up the program much wider so now there’s more artists opting in and more competition for the radio slots or what. Or if we included the wrong songs in the program and it hurt the overall campaign. I have no idea.
There’s very little guidance from Spotify currently on how to run these campaigns effectively. This is something I would appreciate.
I’ve chatted with Spotify directly about this and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason that they’re aware of (or want to share) as to why the dramatic drop as of late. They say there are normal fluctuations with Discovery Mode like algorithmic playlists.
But regardless, if you use Discovery Mode it’s safe to say that you will see a bump in streams and listeners.
Not every song is eligible for Discovery Mode. Spotify explains that for a song to be eligible it must meet the following criteria:
- A participating licensor is the distributor of the track
- The track has been released on Spotify for at least 30 days
- The track has been streamed in Radio or Autoplay in the last 7 days
“Licensor” means your distributor. So far I have confirmation that the following distributors have opted into the Discovery Mode program and it is starting to become available to their artists:
- CD Baby
There may be others, I just haven’t received confirmation from them directly yet.
If you didn’t receive the welcome email from Spotify for Artists (search your inbox for email@example.com), contact your distributor and ask them to opt you into Discovery Mode.
If you received the welcome email, here’s how you setup your Discovery Mode campaign:
- Log in to artists.spotify.com.
- Go to Campaigns and Discovery Mode.
- Click Set up [month] campaign.
Note: You can set up a campaign between the 11th and the last day of the month.
- Select the tracks you’d like to include.
- Review your campaign and click Submit.
Campaigns start on the 1st of the following month. You can make edits to your track submissions up until the end of the current month.
This program, however, will cost you. Not in dollars, but in royalties.
Spotify will charge you 30% royalties for this promotion. To put this into perspective, Spotify (and Apple Music for that matter) normally keep about a 30% commission for regular streams (and pays out 70% to labels/distributors and publishers/songwriters). For the Discovery Mode streams, Spotify is essentially keeping about 60% of your royalties (and paying out 40% to the rights holders).
For clarity, only the streams that come from Discovery Mode have the increased commission. The songs you opt in will still earn their full royalty amount when they get streams organically outside of Discovery Mode.
Before you start to rage with “HOW DARE SPOTIFY KEEP MORE MONEY,” take a breath and let’s put this into perspective.
A marketing tactic that nearly every label and marketing manager utilizes these days is paid social media advertising. Most marketing managers charge anywhere from $1,000 – $3,000 per month just to run the campaign and then require a minimum ad spend of about $1,000/month. For those of you who have run your own ad campaigns, you know how effective (or ineffective) it can be.
Personally, I’d much rather make a little less royalties and not have to pay out of pocket to run ads on Instagram or TikTok attempting to get those users to hop on over to Spotify to listen to my music.
I’m happy to run internal marketing campaigns within Spotify if it will drive more listeners which will hopefully convert into real, ticket buying fans.
It’s also helpful to increase the listenership to open more doors. Spotify monthly listeners is a currency these days that many in the industry work in.
But never ever ever ever artificially inflate your numbers. Meaning, don’t ever pay a service to increase your listeners, followers or streams for vanity’s sake. This is a sure way to royally mess up the algorithm and get your account shut down. You want to grow your listenership authentically and organically (or via targeted marketing, promotion and advertising). Discovery Mode is as targeted as you can get.
As more listeners listen, save and add your songs to their personal playlists it will trigger the Spotify algorithm to add your songs to more algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly which can drive massive amounts of organic, commission-free streams.
Algorithmic playlists on Spotify, these days, are far more powerful than editorial playlists.
Every artists’ goal for their Spotify strategy should now be to get their songs added to more algorithmic playlists. It will have a snowball effect. As the artist Lyrah shared a couple months ago, she saw a much bigger lift in streams and listeners from algorithmic playlists versus editorial.
Algorithmic > Editorial
i love looking at this data. i’ve seen more streams from Spotify playlists like Discover Weekly than any editorial playlists. and my most streamed songs haven’t even been playlisted.
— Lyrah (@lyrah) January 4, 2023
one more to show — i put this song out in Sep and it didn’t get any playlisting
it’s doing so well from the algorithmic playlists that it’s now getting editorial streams anyway from being recommended after the playlist ends (like on Chill Tracks) pic.twitter.com/QI162x6xa2
— Lyrah (@lyrah) January 5, 2023
And, for the record, this was without any Discovery Mode inclusion.
As you can see, Radio and Autoplay were triggering organically (hence the editorial playlists listed here that she’s not actually on).
It’s worth noting that Pandora has been running a similar program to Discovery Mode via their Pandora Amp artist backend for years – for free. There are plenty of internal promotional tools artists can take advantage of within Pandora, again, absolutely free. I’d encourage you to check them out. But of course with Spotify commanding the largest worldwide streaming listenership, and driving the majority of the conversation, most of the attention is on them.
Above all, remember what your ultimate goal is. It’s not to have cool looking numbers.
It’s not to beef up vanity metrics. It’s not to get more streams. Hell, it’s not even to get more listeners. Your ultimate goal is to build a fanbase that will stick with you for life. Everything you do should align with this goal.
Discovery Mode is just one more tool in your toolbox these days that can help inch you a few more steps closer to this goal.