Playlist curators are the tastemakers of the modern age, and when they're putting their playlists together, they have a specific set of requirements in mind. Here Michael Warner explains how artists can game with a few editing tricks to make their songs more playlist-friendly.
By Michael Warner from CDBaby's DIY Musician blog
What are playlisters listening for when they consider your music?
YOUR music should meet THEIR needs.
[This article is based on an excerpt from Michael Warner’s book Work Hard Playlist Hard.]
Curators add songs that fit into their playlists, meaning the song matches a specific feel, genre, or style with the rest of the songs in the playlist… with the occasional exception of a longer track to keep listeners interested.
Release music with playlists in mind.
Think about radio edits of songs; they are short and to the point.
This is for the sake of time and to keep the audience from changing stations. The same principle applies to playlists.
This is why it’s important to release a short version of your song specifically catered to playlists.
Now before we proceed please don’t let this ruin your creativity or originality. Finish the original unmodified version as intended and then work on a short edit that is geared towards fitting into playlists.
Make a short version that will fit in popular playlists with other short songs (also known as radio edits). Look at popular playlists on Spotify with similar music to what you are releasing.
Study songs on your favorite playlists and take note of the following:
- Song length (best to keep this under 4 minutes)
- Intro length (less than 15 seconds — or people may skip before the 30 second mark)
- Outro length (less than 15 seconds — you want people to let your song play all the way through)
- Song structure (start with the main hook, vocal, or something that lets people know what your song is about in the first 15 seconds)
Your listener can press play, and yes, they’ll be streaming the track. But if they listen to your song for less than 30 seconds it won’t count as a stream and you won’t get paid.
You need to grab their attention early so they don’t skip, then hold their attention at least past the first 30 seconds (and hopefully for the rest of the song).
This will give you an idea of what to do for your edit. Again, don’t let this ruin your creativity. Finish your song first, then make an edit. You can include both versions by releasing the radio-edit first, as a single; then save the extended version (with your epic intro) for the album.
Bonus tip for long intros
Take the long intro for your song and make it into a separate track. If someone skips the intro, your song will play next. However, if someone listens to your intro, then your song, this is two streams (one for the intro track, one for the song), which pays you twice!
See an example of this on Date Night’s album. Keep in mind that for an intro track to also generate streaming revenue (sales) it must be at least 30 seconds long.