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2021 Outlook with Jessica McCarrick, Head of Playlisting

2020 wasn’t the year we were expecting and with a dark start to 2021, we have sat and had a chat with our department heads here at Liberty Music PR about what the future for their department looks like and top tips for musicians for the coming year.

Jess heads up our playlisting team.

What does a typical day look like in your department?

I am the head of the department and I oversee all of the campaigns within the team, assisting where it is needed as well as running my own campaigns. These include editorial pitching and algorithmic optimisation, with a focus on long term organic listening growth and engagement. I am also conversing with an array of partnered curators and potential new ones. Being the main point of communication to the other departments and playlisting I help allocate campaigns to the right people and deal with any collaborative elements of the process. 

What’s a piece of advice everyone needs to know about playlisting?

Engagement is king. Lots of people like to focus on streams, but other than it being an ego boost to see numbers on your profile, they don’t add much value in terms of long term listener growth. What is really important is follows and saves on your profile. Algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly and Daily Mixes are where your track needs to be if you want to grow a consistent following. It is a golden ticket to listeners who will probably love your track (because Spotify’s algorithm is great at working out who will enjoy what) and become fans. These listeners are ones who probably would not have found your music without these types of playlists and it is imperative to growth, especially in places that you are not touring or based as an artist. Engagement is the key to unlocking this algorithmic growth. Take the pressure off stream numbers and focus on getting onto playlists that have listeners who will love you and most importantly engage with you.

How key do you think playlists are for an up and coming artist?

Spotify playlists fall into three categories: Editorial, Algorithmic and User playlists. They act in my opinion like a hierarchy. Very few debut artists will get placed on an Editorial playlist so that shouldn’t be the focus initially – even if it is the long term goal. Your best bet is to focus on contacting curators and getting placed on User playlists. This way your track will collect some streams and most importantly saves or profile follows. If this level of engagement is high enough you’ll hopefully see your track begin to appear in Algorithmic playlists, a very important part of the process. When you have engaged listeners and consistent streams then you’ll begin to be supported by Spotify and hopefully get on some Editorial playlists. Playlists are a key component of growing as an artist, but there is not one playlist that once on will change everything; it takes consistency and targeting the right ones to make a really positive impact on your growth.

How would you describe the service we offer?

We offer services that tackle the three types of playlists and hopefully begin a foundation for artists moving forward.  Splitting our campaigns into two parts, pre release and post release. Everything that happens before the track comes out is to focus on optimising the track for release day. We pitch to Editorial playlists across Spotify, Apple and Amazon for each artist to give them the best possible chance by including helpful tips that not all artists are aware of. We then create pre-saves and optimise online profiles across an array of platforms to increase engagement and take the guesswork out of the algorithm. Furthermore, we offer a Spotify profile optimisation to make sure it looks professional and is helpful for any new traffic that gets driven there through the course of the campaign. Then once the track is released we start pitching to playlists that we feel would be a good fit for our artists including, genre, mood and general new music playlists. A combination of our efforts should make for a strong campaign for the track and hopefully lead to continued success for anything the artist does in the future. 

What do you see as the future of playlisting?

It is difficult to say as the change within the area is so rapid. I believe that Editorial playlists will become less relevant to artists and listeners alike. They are currently not places that people who want to discover new music are drawn to. There will be a shift in the types of playlists that are popular. Already we are seeing Tik Tok and other social media platforms being a breeding ground for sharing music and massive growth in playlists from people who just love music rather than curators with a large network. The space will become available for casual listeners to gain a following which will only benefit artists who usually don’t get as much of a look in. The more people sharing and curating playlists the better, because no two people have exactly the same taste. Playlisting will just see expansion, which given how each day more new music than ever is being released will benefit artists. Gone are the days when there were 20 playlists and only the top artists got there. Now there are millions and a million chances for you to get on one.


If you would like any further information on our playlisting service, click here


Written by Natasha Hurford