How to Use Playlists as a Promotional Tool

Mona Fimreite, Digital Marketing Specialist at Phonofile Photo: Phonofile – Spellemannprisen 2014

By Linus Lassus

Playlists play an important role in today’s music marketing. With the rise of streaming services, they have become the modern mixtape and a powerful tool for listeners, who want to find new music as well as for artists who want to find new audiences.

Phonofile is a Norwegian online distribution company that has been looking into the playlist communities, developing new tools and ways of making sense of the playlist as a promotional platform. We talked to Mona Fimreite, digital marketing specialist at Phonofile, and asked her a couple of questions about how musicians can utilize playlists as a way of spreading their music and finding new fans.

Who are maintaining all these playlists? DJ’s, individuals, labels…?

The biggest playlists are maintained by editorial crews working for different music services, record labels, brands and people working in the media field. But some are also run by artists and regular users, “tastemakers” – like myself!

Which are the most relevant playlist platforms out there? Spotify is probably very popular, but are there any well-kept secrets we don’t know of?

Services like Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and YouTube are very popular when it comes to playlists. In order to discover new music and new playlists, a lot of people use the playlist suggestion feature or look for tastemakers within the streaming services.

My impression is that regular users often listen to the different playlists that are created by the music service itself. Tastemakers also tend to use other services to find new music to add to their playlists.
Examples of websites and online communities that tastemakers use to find new music are, 8track, IndieShuffle, Soundcloud, Mixcloud and websites like Pitchfork.

Personally I like to find new music and playlists within the services (I’ve got my favorite tastemakers there). I also use some external websites like and 8tracks to build my own playlists.

How well does playlist slots translate into other kinds of revenues/gains, such as radio airplay, tickets sold, likes on Facebook?

It’s very hard to measure the complete return on investment on playlist placements! One of the main problems for marketeers working with music is the fact that they “don’t own their own shops” and therefore are not able to place scripts on websites that would help them measure conversions.

Being added to a big playlist can definitely result in an increase in streams and revenue. This increase will definitely lead to more people hearing the music and discovering new artists. And this will lead to a lot of other events taking place (increase in fans on social media, concert bookings, etc.) That is something we see every day and that’s why we work hard on placing our music on different playlists. Measuring what playlists you are being added to can help you understand who the important playlist owners are and find people you should build relationships with. Phonofile has developed a system where you can see what playlists you have been added to and how many streams are generated as a result of that. Our labels use this data to map out what players have an impact on their revenue.

What should be the key points to think of when creating a playlist strategy – does hard work pay off or is it all about lobbying around the right playlists?

You should aim to understand who the most important tastemakers and playlist owners on the different services are. A good strategy should start with mapping out the most important playlist owners dealing with the same type of music that you’re working with.

When you have a list of tastemakers and playlist owners you can start building relationships with them and pitch your music. The editorial teams working for the different music services should definitely be on your list. An important rule is to always think about the receiver. Only pitch relevant music! 

If you want to create and build your own playlist, you should have a long-term strategy. Less is more. Instead of making a lot of different playlists you should focus on a few playlist with high quality.  Having too many playlist will make it hard for you to keep them updated and relevant. Users look at this when they consider if they should play and follow your playlists. If you’re not updating frequently you won’t get as many subscribers.

When it comes to the playlist content, make sure that you always think of the users first! What does the user want and expect? Try to conceptualize your playlists. Try to create genre specific content. There is nothing wrong with adding music from other labels into your mix. Your first goal should always be to get people to follow or subscribe to your playlists. When they do, you can update them with new music (your own) later.

If possible, try to collaborate with other labels and brands, especially if you have a limited marketing budget. Build something together and then you both have a future communication channel to promote your new content.

You should always think of SEO (search engine optimization) when you create your playlists. Find important keywords and make sure you use this as part of your profile/playlist titles. There is no point in making good playlists if users cannot find them when searching or if there is no search volume to begin with.

Make sure to promote your profiles and playlist both within and outside the music services. There are a lot of websites and online communities for people looking for new music.