If you release music on Spotify, you may want to check out the "Fans Also Like" section of your artist profile — because there's a good chance it just completely changed.
Artists have started noticing a difference over the past few days, some anecdotally reporting minor changes, while others say it's a completely new list of artists. It also appears that several artists who previously had too few monthly listeners to qualify for a Fans Also Like section are now popping up.
In Spotify for Artists, the platform says that, "The Fans Also Like tab on your artist profile is determined by algorithms, using a combination of your fans' listening habits on Spotify, and music discussions and trends happening around the internet." However, several artists have complained the new Fans Also Like section on their profile is misrepresentative of their music and following.
Why The Fans Also Like Section Matters
The Fans Also Like section of Spotify is one of the few sections that artists have no control over. It's also a good look into how Spotify might currently be categorizing your music and how others might be finding you.
For instance, if you go to a major artist with an established following, you'll likely find other artists you'd expect. The Fans Also Like section for *NSYNC includes obvious candidates like Backstreet Boys, 98º, O-Town, and more. But if you go to an up-and-coming boy band with say, 10,000 monthly listeners instead of *NSYNC's nearly 8 million, you're not going to find *NSYNC on their "Fans Also Like" section — even if it's true. Because in addition to listening habits, Spotify also clearly considers things like the overall popularity of the band on the platform.
Spotify uses basic math to explain this. "The more fans two artists have in common, and the larger the share of each artist's total fans those shared fans represent, the more similar we consider them," says data alchemist Glenn McDonald. "If an aspiring band has 10,000 fans, and 6,000 of them are also fans of another band that also has 10,000 fans, that's a pretty good sign that the two bands are probably similar. Whereas either of those bands might easily have 1,000 fans who also like Ariana Grande, but Ariana has tens of millions of fans, so those 1,000 shared fans aren't a significant share of hers."
The Good And The Bad Of This
This method can be good and bad. On the one hand, of course a smaller act wants to be considered similar to bands they make music similar to. It's one of the early ways any artist tries to help people understand what they do. Artists are constantly asked who their influences are or who they sound like.
On the other hand, if a listener only listens to huge acts, they will probably immediately skip an artist they've never heard of. And when artists get skipped a lot on Spotify, it can hurt their overall algorithmic reach. Algorithmic reach is massively important when it comes to not just growth, but sustained listenership. Things like Spotify radio and algorithmic playlists drive a substantial portion of streams, which translates to an important piece of recurring revenue.
Spotify figures there's a greater chance that a fan who listens to a small independent artist will be equally willing to listen to a different small independent artist they haven't heard of. So when those artists pop up in their algorithmic playlists and radio, there is, in theory, a better chance to make a new fan.
Other Ways An Accurate Fans Also Like Section Matters
There's another huge way the Fans Also Like section matters for smaller artists — research, marketing, and collaboration. In fact, Spotify's own ad platform suggests marketing campaigns centered around targeting listeners of your Fans Also Like section.
And plenty of marketing agencies and independent artists mirror this concept in their own independent marketing efforts. So if your Fans Also Like section suddenly changes, it can affect your marketing efforts.
Artists will often scout out the other bands Spotify is lumping you in with to understand if your branding and style are translating. And in some cases, it can be a great opportunity to reach out to those artists and see if there are good collaboration opportunities.
So did Spotify just completely change the way it calculates the Fans Also Like section, or are artists just experiencing a glitch? After all, the company is going to roll out quite a few changes this year. It sounds like it's the former.
In a customer service chat, a Spotify employee told RootNote, "We've made recent update to our Fans Also Like algorithm. The new algorithm provides better recommendations based on data from your fans. Since this feature isn't manually curated, we're unable to make changes to the artists that appear there. If you have any feedback on the improvements, let us know. We'll pass your feedback onto our development team who'll continue to optimize the feature to improve the accuracy and relevance of recommendations."
You can contact Spotify here.