Direct-to-Playlist Campaigns

While Playlist companies are necessary for the kind of volume that influences the Spotify Recommendation Engine, building your own playlists can give you a sizable advantage in your long-term strategy. It is unlikely that the average artist will be able to build several playlists which Spotify considers "good" for recommendation inferences. However, building at least one can give you a jump start for every song you release.

Furthermore, the lowest cost-per-click we've seen in Direct-to-Spotify advertising has come via a Direct-to-Playlist campaign. This most likely has to do with the nature of the offer being made to the advertised audience - asking someone to stream your song is more inherently self-serving than inviting someone to use a playlist that was made for them.

And, above all else, the most important benefit of Direct-to-Playlist advertising is that it can be tested and tracked - unlike any other Direct-to-Spotify ad campaign. Because you can create multiple, identical playlists, you can link different creatives, audiences, and even campaign objectives to different versions of the playlist to measure the difference in cost-per-follower.

Unfortunately, not every genre will have luck with Direct-to-Playlist advertising. The more niche a genre is, the less potential audience it will have that is actively looking to discover new music via curated playlists. Taking niche audiences off of the Facebook platform to Spotify is not the most difficult trick in marketing, however, the raw economics of that schema are not favorable.

Depending on hundreds of factors, including genre, target audience, song, artist, and ad creative, there will be a high variance in campaign results for this type of campaign. However, if you can achieve a low cost-per-follower, you can use automated campaigns to build your playlist as a valuable asset in the background while working on other music career tasks. To offset the costs of doing so, you can also strike a partnership with other musical acts in your genre to split ad costs and add massive scale to your playlist building. 

The best creative and placement combination we have seen for Direct-to-Playlist advertising has been Facebook and Instagram Stories. However, we still advise that you test placements and creative to arrive at the best configuration for your genre. Still, those tests should absolutely include the Stories ad type - preferably, with multiple variants of the creative to test.

When creating your playlist, it is important that you select artists and tracks that are both based on your audience data and advantageous to you in terms of the Spotify Recommendation Engine. If your advertising tests are showing you a preponderance of certain artists among your best performing artists, you will want to include them in your playlist. While we recommend 40-70 songs for your playlist, some very successful playlists feature hundreds of songs. However, the more songs in your playlist, the more difficult it will be to update regularly. At the least, you should update your playlist twice per month.

You should also use a design program such as Photoshop or Canva to create a playlist cover. It is important that your playlist cover be directly indicative of what listeners can expect from your playlist - the best performing covers we've seen feature images of the artists that frequent the playlist. Including your own image alongside these artists can give you an advantage of top-level association in the minds of your listeners.

It is also important that you write an accurate, descriptive paragraph for your playlist description. You should include adjectives that properly describe the "genre" or "mood" of the playlist, alongside the names of artists you include in the playlist. It is indeterminate whether the Natural Language Processing model of the Spotify Recommendation Engine considers the descriptions of playlists, but, if so, writing this kind of description can help your chances of proper Recommendation. Equally as important is the likelihood that your playlist description will impact the search visibility of your playlist in Spotify's search engine. 

When you have your playlist name, the songs, a cover, and a description, you will want to create your playlist under a new Spotify "free" account. This is to ensure that every playlist you run and every artist profile you control are housed in different accounts. This is a necessary precaution that can save you headaches in the future in the event that Spotify changes its terms of service regarding playlists or if someone wants to buy your playlist.

Testing Creatives, Titles, and Audiences

Before you begin building your playlist at scale, you will want to test ad creatives and audiences to determine the very best configuration for your ad campaign. You may also want to test playlist titles. To do this, we will be using a testing framework that involves creating multiple versions of the playlist.

Using the Spotify Desktop app, click "+ New Playlist" in the bottom left corner. Enter your playlist cover, the name of your playlist, your playlist description, and then a number, letter, or other unique identifier at the end of your playlist description (i.e. "v1"). Since you will be building multiple versions of the playlist, you need a way to keep track of which ad creatives and audiences correspond to which playlist version.

Next, in the Audiences panel of Business Manager, create a testing audience for your Creatives and Playlist Titles by including all of the interests from your Targeting List Worksheet in a single Saved Audience. To limit the size of the audience, target a single country. Name this audience "All Interests - Testing".

For your first test, create as many versions of the playlist as you have ad creatives to test. For instance, if you have 3 Stories ads and 1 News Feed ad to test, you will need 4 playlist versions. If you are testing Playlist Titles, do this before testing multiple ad creatives.

Next, open a Spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets and, in the first column, record down the unique identifiers for your playlists (i.e. v1, v2, v3, etc.). Then, in the next column, record the playlist links for each playlist. Lastly, in the third column, record down a version of your creative that will correspond to each version of the playlist. Then, create a Spotify Bridge Page for each version of the playlist and record the URL of the Bridge Page in your Spreadsheet. Now, you should be able to tell which playlist corresponds to which ad creative and Bridge Page.

To set up your Creative test:

  1. Navigate to and open "Ads Manager" using the top left menu
  2. Click the green "Create" button and name your Campaign "T - Direct-to-Playlist - [PLAYLIST NAME] - Creative Test"
  3. Turn on Campaign Budget Optimization and set your budget to $10-20
  4. Name your Ad Set and Ad "[NAME OF AD CREATIVE (i.e. "Story 1")] - [PLAYLIST VERSION] - [PLACEMENT BEING TESTED]", then click "Save to Draft"
  5. Check off your Ad Set to open it in the Edit Pane
  6. Click "Use Saved Audience" and select your "All Interests - Testing" audience
  7. Scroll down, click "Edit Placements", and limit the Placements to correspond to the first Ad Creative you will be testing (i.e. just Stories for your Story ad)
  8. Check off your Ad to open it in the edit pane and enter your first Creative parameters
  9. Under "Website URL", be SURE to enter the Spotify Bridge Page URL that corresponds to this Ad Creative in your Spreadsheet
  10. Check off your Ad Set and click "Duplicate", creating as many Duplicates as you have remaining Creative to test
  11. Modify the Ad Set placements and Ads for each duplicate until you have entered all of your Creatives
  12. Divide your Campaign Budget by the amount of Ad Sets you have created, then set the Minimum and Maximum spending limits for each Ad Set to correspond to this number so that each Ad Set receives a roughly equal amount of Ad Spend
  13. Click "Review and Publish", then click "Publish"

After 3-5 days of testing, measure your Cost-per-Follower by dividing your Amount Spent by the amount of Followers for each Playlist. Whichever Playlist received the lowest Cost-per-Follower will correspond to your winning Creative/Placement combination.

At this point, you will want to re-create your playlist. It may be painful to let the Ad Spend and Follower-count go to waste, however, it is crucial that you derive accurate findings from your tests. Any existing follower counts will only skew your data when testing audiences.

Create as many new versions of the Playlist as you have Audiences to test. Then, create a new Bridge Page for each version. Lastly, add the new playlist versions, playlist links, Bridge Page links, and the audiences they correspond to.

To set up your Audiences test:

  1. Return to Ads Manager and locate your Creative Test campaign, then check it off and Duplicate it
  2. Rename your Duplicate "T - Direct-to-Playlist - [PLAYLIST NAME]"
  3. Delete all Ad Sets except the one corresponding to your winning Creative, then rename this Ad Set "[NAME OF AUDIENCE] - [PLAYLIST VERSION]"
  4. Change the Saved Audience to the first Audience you would like to test from your Targeting List Audiences
  5. Check off the Ad to open it in the Edit Pane, then change the Website URL to correspond to your first audience
  6. Check off the Ad Set, then click "Duplicate", creating as many Duplicates as you have Audiences left to test
  7. One-by-one, change the names and Audience Targeting of each Ad Set and the Website URL of each Ad until you have entered all of your Audiences and corresponding Bridge Page URLs
  8. Lastly, click "Review and Publish", then click "Publish"

After 3-5 days of testing, measure your Cost-per-Follower by dividing your Amount Spent by the amount of Followers for each Playlist. Record the Cost-per-Follower for each Audience in your Spreadsheet. Then, establish an acceptable range of Cost-per-Follower based on the range of results in your findings. For example, if your audiences range from $0.07 to $0.31 per follower, you may only want to keep Audiences that perform below $0.10.

Shut off any Ad Sets that do not meet your acceptable Cost-per-Follower standard. Then, delete every Playlist version in your account except for the one with the most followers. Lastly, change the Website URL in all of your remaining Ads to correspond to this Playlist version.

Your average Cost-per-Follower for your remaining audience is the price at which you can purchase followers for your playlist.

Lesson Objectives

  • Understanding the pros and cons of Direct-to-Playlist campaigns
  • Examining creative and placement examples from case studies
  • Building a multi-variate Direct-to-Playlist campaign