While radio may have once been the means of making or breaking a hit, the onset of the streaming age means the playlist is now the primary avenue for listener discovery. Unsurprisingly, this has given rise to a new form of payola, with companies emerging that specialize in getting artists' music on playlists...for a fee.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0
While radio airplay used to be the lifeblood of a hit (and in some cases still is), today it’s the playlist that really sets the tone for listener discovery. If a track is added to a popular list, its streams will spike and listeners will add it to their personal playlists, which sometimes adds a viral element that spreads to playlists on other networks as well. What’s more, hot playlists are now watched by radio programmers to see both what’s trending and what’s not.
Not surprisingly, pay-to-play has come to the digital age as a new form of payola now attempts to influence what consumers listen to. Playlist promotion, or “playola,” has become a big part of the promotional campaigns for many managers and labels. In fact, prices for playlist promotion can be as little as $100 to a small blogger with a modest following, to as much as $10,000 for a six-week campaign for a major playlist owner. A quick Google search will find dozens of promotion companies that specialize in getting your songs on playlists just about anywhere.
Just like in the old days of radio promotion, competition is now fierce for these playlist spots, so don’t be surprised if the prices continue to rise.
While the playlist culture has been great for music discovery for the listener, it turns out it hasn’t been that great for artist development. Where before listeners were getting to know the artist’s music via multiple songs on an album, that’s all changed as streaming has made the business more song-driven instead of artist-driven. As a result, songs tend to come and go faster, as do artists. The good news is that means there are are always spots open on a playlist for new songs. The bad news is that it’s more difficult for an artist to get long-term traction as a result. Check out this post to improve your chances of getting placed on a popular playlist.