Amongst the 10 Musical Genres that are accounted for in Nielsen Music’s Annual Reports (which include R&B/Hip-Hop, Pop and Rock), it was revealed in their recent 2017 Mid-year overview that Christian & Gospel Music was amongst the six genres that has experienced a slight ‘slip’ in overall consumption within the last year, with a decline of 17%. Positively, the religious genre was able to maintain it’s 3.1% share of Digital Song Sales, though all other forms of C&G reflected a rather significant downfall in ‘consumer-interest’ (in comparison to the year prior) – including Physical and Digital Album Sales and both Video and Audio On-Demand Streaming.
Does this mean it’s time to admit Christian & Gospel Music is ‘dead in the water’? Or, is it simply time to employ the ‘WTOH’ ideology and ask ‘(W)hat’s (T)he (O)pportunity (H)ere‘? I must warn that adopting the latter approach also comes bundled with a few ‘accessories’ – one being a solid understanding of the fact that not only has the ‘game changed’, but more importantly that it is consistently changing. And regardless of genre, it is important for any Artist that is serious about a career in Music to actively embrace this factor. Hopefully, the ‘tips’ I will share in this series will help you in that. In this piece, we’ll be focusing on the following:
SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS AND RADIO AIRPLAY
A little over a year ago, I sat down with an executive at INGrooves Music Group. We were discussing the marketing and distribution campaign for a few of the upcoming releases at the time – and naturally, Radio Airplay came up. We decided our approach to targeting Radio, though not uncommon in today’s market, would not be the traditional method. Instead of taking the more direct routes (e.g. Radio Pluggers/Promoters), we decided to put our focus on Spotify Playlists. And here’s why you should too.
As Streaming has become the dominant form of Music Consumption, the ‘Power of Playlists’ has become even more of an industry force than before. So much so that instead of ‘Radio deciding what gets played on Radio’, now Streaming Numbers do. Thus, being featured on some of the more prominent Playlists on services such as Spotify (some of which have over 17m followers) are almost guaranteed to catapult a release into the mainstream, as we’ve recently seen with the success of Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow‘. This ‘force’ has now reached a level where the lack of support from a streaming giant like Spotify can heavily affect the success of a release, as we learned from Katy Perry’s 2016 comeback single “Rise”. In short, because Perry initially released the track as an Apple Music exclusive (Spotify’s closest competitor), they allegedly “refused” to playlist the song on their Platform – and as a result, the song failed to make the commercial impact that was expected for a ‘Katy Perry comeback track’. It peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 100 and No. 25 on the Official UK Singles Chart and is yet to receive any RIAA or BPI Certifications (a rarity for Katy) – which she and other industry sources said was a direct result of a lack of support from Spotify, considering this was the lowest-charting “comeback” single of her career (as Lead Artist).
Having realised how important Streaming Playlists are, the next question is, how does one get featured on them?
It was reported last year by Spotify that their Top Playlists are now generating over 1bn streams a week (yes, one…billion…a week – and that’s just their top lists, so you can see why they’ve now been creating ‘fake artists‘ to avoid paying real ones). Without giving too much away, there are a few ways to go about getting your tracks on Playlists. The most common method (outside of ‘making noise’ organically) is pitching. With Spotify for example (I’ll use them as they have the largest paying subscriber base), they have a team of in-house ‘Music Editors’ that solely work on creating and curating Playlists for the platform. A simple smart Linkedin search could help you find the names of these individuals, then it’s on you to find out the best and most effective way of getting in touch with them (I can’t give away all the secrets). These Editors specifically curate the Spotify-owned Playlists, which tend to be largest/most-followed. Whilst it is possible to do this yourself, the best route I’d suggest is finding a good Digital Distributor that offers that service (most do, you just have to enquire) or via networks like Playlist Pump – who work with over 400 Playlist Curators. I’d advise this method because Curators often prefer to have their submissions streamlined via a source they know and trust, as opposed to the timely, tedious process of dealing with an influx of talent directly – and Digital Distributors are normally good sources. Another (and perhaps slighty easier) approach is to reach out to curators of popular ‘Non-Spotify-owned’ Playlists – particularly ones that are owned by independent individuals (who are often just music fans that created playlists that ended up becoming popular). In both cases however, ensure you’re contacting Playlist Curators who cater to your genre of Music.
If you do wish to take the DIY route and approach Editors/Curators directly, be tactful and make sure you ‘have your house in order’ (i.e. get a verified Spotify Profile, have an active consistent Social Media presence, and be mindful of small things like your following:follower ratio – as a general rule, it probably shouldn’t be any lower than 1:1.5). Just like a Record Label or Radio DJ, most Curators for the larger Playlists will want to know you’ve already put some work in to develop a fan base and understand the importance of a strong web presence across multiple platforms (from Blogs to Social Media to YouTube). Even once all that is in place, don’t pitch your music right away – work on building a relationship with these individuals first. Find a route in, ideally one that is unrelated to your music. As an example, a few years ago there was a Music Exec I wanted to draw in to assist me on a project I was about to begin working on. I didn’t yet know them personally, and so instead of approaching them directly about it, I wanted to find an alternative way to establish relationship and familiarity first. Luckily at the time, I had a Music Seminar coming up – so I invited them to speak, and they accepted. A few months later, we were working on the project together – an unlikely result had I just went in cold from the gate. People feel a lot more inclined to engage once they feel like they know you – even if it doesn’t yield the response you want, at least you’re likely to get one (and at that point, a ‘no’ often means ‘not yet’ or just ‘not now’). The main point here is about finding a unique way to cut through the noise, and exercising patience and tact when it comes to relationship building.
How this all links into Radio Airplay, goes back to a point I mentioned earlier. In the same way ‘the internet has become the new A&R’, streaming has become the new ‘radio’ – and thus, a key decider of what gets regular rotation on traditional radio (i.e. AM/FM/DAB/Satellite). In other words, Radio is responding to what’s going on the Streaming world. As a result, if you’re release is not generating significant streams or being featured on prominent playlists, you can pretty much forget trying to impact Radio – which would be a big loss considering that it is still the highest form of New Music Discovery.
To help you get started, here are links to some of the most prominent Christian & Gospel Spotify Playlists:
- Gospel by Dwayne Perryman Jr. [51.8k Followers]
- Spread The Gospel by Spotify [320.3K Followers]
- Top Gospel Hits by SOZO Playlists [101k Followers]
- Christian Rap Playlist by Rapzilla [23.1k Followers]
- Christian Dance Party by Spotify [201.4k Followers]
- Christian Mix by Spotify [132.8k Followers]
Follow them and put them on your list as ‘ones to target’ – once you’ve established your online presence. Again, I’ve focused on Spotify in this piece just as an example, but playlists on services like YouTube, Apple Music and even Soundcloud should also be considered.
In the next ‘Timely Tips’, we’re going to look into getting Christian & Gospel Music featured in TV & Movies. Surprising to some, not only does this methodology pay very well, it is also the third highest form of New Music Discovery – above Social Media, Streaming and Press Coverage. Until then, feel free to reach out to me directly for assistance and consultancy regarding the above and more. I can be contacted via my website (link in profile, below).
Until next time…