It’s not uncommon to day to find an artist that will spend a great deal of time, energy and even money to get a placement on one of Spotify’s major playlists. The current consensus in the business is that a playlist appearance can make a career, but is that really the reality?
An example that’s always served up in favor of placement power is Lorde, who seemed to shoot to fame after appearing on former Spotify board member Sean Parker’s personal playlist, a view that Spotify has been eager to promote even on its SEC F-1 filing before the company went public. To hear Spotify tell, her stardom was all due to placement on the list, but the reality may be different. As Music Business Worldwide points out, the New Zealand artist was already building up a head of steam and accumulating fans on both Tumblr and SoundCloud prior to appearing on Parker’s playlist. There’s no doubt that the appearance may have accelerated her success, but the thought is now that it would have happened anyway even without Parker.
It turns out that artists like Drake, J. Cole, Travis Scott, and the Weeknd have shown bigger first week numbers on Apple Music than on Spotify despite that company’s playlist promotion and user advantage. Rolling out a new song across multiple Spotify playlists didn’t keep fans from going to Apple Music in those cases, which means the power of their playlist seems to be overblown.
Now there’s not doubt that any placement on a playlist is important for an up-and-coming artist as the visibility is important, not to mention the credibility that comes with it. Just how much that appearance means is debatable though, especially when the curators are beginning to take themselves a little too seriously.
Like most things in music, the playlist is part of a cycle that’s powerful until it isn’t. The playlist may soon see its importance diminish as well.