Music Business

Spotify New Music Friday, Singled Out Playlist: A Look Inside

This mystery of how to best release and market new music on Spotify becomes a little less mysterious thanks to this analysis by Charles Alexander and the team at Systemic.

By Charles Alexander of label services firm Systemic with help from Kayla Whetsel and Zan Dainwood

We thought it would be fun and interesting to look at the songs and artists on New Music Friday to explore the who, the why – and possibly the how – these songs made this flagship Spotify playlist. In this analysis, we examine the July 16th-17th edition of this playlist.

We then take a look at the Spotify Singled Out playlist which essentially is supposed to summarize the best performing songs of the most recent week.

First, we need to state upfront that we’re not in favor of new/emerging (and possibly even mid-level) artists making this playlist until and unless they have some marketing support behind the release. If not, we see a really dramatic spike for one week before the project dramatically drops off a cliff, never to be seen by the algorithm again.

We’re much bigger fans of growing a new artist via the algorithmic and “feeder” or “long burn” playlists (like Fresh & Chill for example) that can provide a better growth strategy for newer or less established artists on the platform. Metrics like follows, saves and listeners are better indicators of fan engagement than raw stream count. But we acknowledge that there is a certain cache and/or recognition of credibility to landing on NMF. Which is why a lot of artists and labels pursue real estate on that playlist. Sometimes to their own detriment.

Click to see the spreadsheet.


We sourced most of our data from Chartmetric supplemented by manual curation by our staff.

40 tracks (i.e. 40%) on New Music Friday had at least one female artist on the release.

The primary artist on 64 tracks identifies as Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color. The rest are either white or not identified as of yet. We welcome any corrections to this summary.

Some observations on this NMF edition: According to Chartmetric, 45% of these songs are major label projects. In truth however, an additional 30% of releases are major label imprints or benefit from major label infrastructure. For example, Keith Urban is most definitely a major label artist. His most recent release “Superman” just happens to be on his own UMG imprint LP11.

Likewise DAVA, a heretofore indie artist from Denver, is now signed to Disruptor, The Chainsmokers imprint under SONY. Her first two releases were independently released. Although “Hoodie Strings” performed really well on Spotify personalized playlists such as Study Break (link), “ASOS” her first major label affiliated release landed on NMF out of the gate. Her follower count is still under a 1000. The track itself is generating around 10000 streams a day. The same goes for Cleveland’s Ty Bri’s “Too Bad.” The UPC for her release is a SONY Music UPC that maps to RCA Records.

We denote on our annotated spreadsheet just which of these releases benefit from extended major label infrastructure.

There are also some fringe indie/major releases. LA Reid’s HITCO is distributed by indie giant Empire. We presume obvious benefits from Mr. Reid’s massive network of music industry relationships. So — it’s not your typical indie release.

ICECOLDBISHOP’s “TRICK DADDY” was released under Troy Carter’s Human Re Sources label as part of Warner Music’s bespoke indie music distribution network. This partnership makes a lot of sense as well.

We love the fact that Asian music collective 88 Rising has a release on NMF with NIKI’s “Selene.” NIKI is massive in Indonesia and South East Asia. Great to see her get coverage here in the US.

Indonesian DJ/Producer/Artist Bleu Clair is signed to Dutch producer Martin Garrix’s STMPD RCRDS. He makes NMF this week. The parent company for STMPD is music distribution and label services company FUGA.

Sarah Berk hit the indie artist jackpot for New Music Friday; this is her debut release. We should note here that new artists do not have access to Spotify for Artists due to the fact that the Spotify profile would not have been spawned until the release goes live. As such she would not have had the ability to pitch in-platform to Spotify editors at least a week ahead. She has a presence on Soundbetter, the music talent marketplace owned by Spotify. Her producer is Steven Franks, who has produced Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, Big Sean, and Meghan Trainor. She distributed the song through DistroKid.

Finally, one small footnote: Love Regenerator is a pseudonym for Calvin Harris, which is a pseudonym for Adam Wiles. Phew. How many times can one change their stage name?

So at least as far as this week is concerned, it would seem as an independent, your best bets for distribution are:

  • AWAL -5
  • The Orchard/SONY — 4
  • InGrooves — 4
  • STEM — 3
  • Believe — 2
  • Merlin — 2
  • Empire — 2
  • DistroKid — 2 (3)
  • TuneCore — 1
  • FUGA -1
  • United Masters — 1

It would also appear that DistroKid, in spite of it’s legendary minimal or lack of customer service is a viable option for “upload and forget it” indie distribution. Their Teams product is also great for folks who need upfront payment splits processing. Most people are aware that Spotify has a minority stake in the distributor.

Singled Out

click to see spreadsheet

If NMF is heavily skewed towards majors, it’s virtually impossible to detect an indie release on Singled Out this week. In fact as far as we can tell only two indie releases, the remix of ROSES by SAINt JHN, J Balvin, Imanbek and “honey” by boy pablo made the playlist.

Singled Out is supposed to highlight the hottest performing singles of the week. It is benchmarked against this hybrid algorithmic playlist curated by Glenn McDonald, Spotify’s primary music curation data scientist.

We confess to being confused over the criteria. There are artists who actually lost monthly listeners between Friday and Tuesday (Powfu, Tyla Yahweh, BENEE) yet gained streams and followers. The stream count for MORGAN is less in comparison to say someone like Anson Seabra who saw over 261K in streams in 4 days for his single, “Hurricane.” He doesn’t however make the Singled Out playlist. Anson also has a huge Spotify follower and monthly listener count that increased over 4 days.

beabadoobee’s “Care” also generated close to 600K streams and yet doesn’t make the list. But maybe it’s because she also experienced a precipitous drop in monthly listeners in 4 days. Which still doesn’t explain Powfu’s presence on Singled Out.

It is possible that the releases on Singled Out simply over indexed in terms of saves, follows and listens as opposed to raw stream count. But as we have pointed out, that doesn’t appear so on rudimentary review.

It bears mentioning that neither Bob Marley’s “Sun Is Shining” and David Guetta’s “Kill Me Slow” were on New Music Friday.

We believe decisions for Singled Out were based on velocity of consumption and adoption. But all in all the criteria and analytical determination is opaque on both these playlists and warrants further examination.

We also know that skip rates matter. But unless you’re using a top tier distribution company like AWAL or The Orchard, that information is not available to indie artists & labels. Since the major labels are serviced that information as a matter of course, that same information should be made available in the Spotify for Artists portal for artists and labels. It’s their data. They should have access to it. This will allow for informed decisions about releases and related marketing efforts.

It’s appropriate to point out that this is one data point. Time permitting, we hope to perform further analysis on future editions of NMF and Singled Out over the next few weeks so we can obtain a more complete picture of the editorial decision making processes and criteria for both these playlists.

We welcome any and all feedback.

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  1. Bravo and more!!
    Playlists and playlisting continue to be incredibly misunderstood, and we support this kind of transparent look at the type of support the majors and their imprints have on ‘company’ playlists that independent artists aren’t as likely to get. And we agree, skip rates on S4A for all please!

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