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Understanding Spotify’s Elusive New Music Friday Playlist

July 27, 2020

Spotify's New Music Friday playlist has, for many artists, become somewhat of a "brass ring." The elusive playlist is one of Spotify's most popular assets. Landing a spot on the list with your new track is like, clout supreme

But who *exactly* has a shot at the list and, more importantly, is it really where you should focus your time and attention? Our friends at label services company Systemic just released an excellent new analysis of a recent New Music Friday playlist, as well as Spotify's "Singled Out" playlist. 

Why Is New Music Friday So Popular?

Well, it's a catchy title at least. The de facto day of the week to release new albums and records used to be Tuesday. That's because stores used to actually sell records and everybody agreeing to start selling an album on Tuesday gave stores enough time to stock Monday shipments.

In 2015, the industry globally adopted New Music Fridays as the new day to put out music. Spotify dropped the "s," named a playlist after it, and BAM! Branding. 

But the real reason New Music Friday is such a sought-after playlist is that it supposedly represents the most buzz-worthy tracks, regardless of genre. Yep, on any given NMF list you can find pop next to R&B, alternative, rap, cumbia, hot soundtrack tunes, and more. 

Spotify made a move towards expanding "New Music Friday" so that different countries can have their own versions etc. But the cache of landing a song on the list remains the same. 

Who Usually Lands On New Music Friday?

This is where Systemic's excellent analysis really comes into play. They found that 75% of the artists on the playlist were either released by major labels (40% in total) or were "imprints" of major labels, meaning they had the marketing infrastructure of a major label, even if the label name is different (an additional 35%). 

In other words, odds are heavily skewed away from indies. Not cool. 

But that's not necessarily to say it's because they're independent. In reality, everybody supposedly has the same shot to get editorial love when they submit their tracks through Spotify for Artists. However, having a well-funded marketing plan and points of traction for a track does factor in to editorial consideration and, in most cases, label projects at least have a little more money behind them. 

Spotify swears up and down that having a relationship with an editor doesn't affect playlist placement. Most managers or distributors with a track record of getting songs on lists will add a nice little "wink" caveat to that statement. But even if the relationships labels have with Spotify don't *directly* impact placements, there's no question major labels are able to provide resources that ultimately tip the scales more than just "does the music fit this list?"

Systemic also notes the interesting case of independent artist Sarah Berk, who did not have any prior releases and who put her song out via DistroKid. She would not have been able to submit the song via Spotify for Artists. But she does have a presence on the Spotify-owned platform Soundbetter. And her producer has worked with some heavy hitters, including Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, and Lil Wayne. 

Should You Try To Get On New Music Friday?

Well, to qualify: you should care if you get on New Music Friday. More streams means more money and it's another potential marketing point. But should you actively try to get on the list?

Purely as a measurable goal, no. The thing about setting goals is you want to have realistic ways to reach and measure them. According to Spotify, the only thing you can absolutely do to get on the list is submit your song via Spotify for Artists. And obviously that's not even a 100% requirement. 

In reality, landing on the list is at best a biproduct of preparing your song for success outside of it. Your marketing should be around things like collecting emails, sending people to the songs on different platforms, and making content and assets to consistently incentivize people to check you out. 

You can measure all of those things. Actively "trying" to get on New Music Friday will pretty much just drive you crazy. Because you either do or you don't get on it, there's no real way to tell if you will, and literally tens of thousands of people don't get on it every week compared to the 100 who do. 

What Will New Music Friday Do For You?

With somebody like Sarah Berk and her song "That Good," we actually have a pretty nice opportunity to look at the list's effect in a vacuum. 

As of this post, the song came out 11 days ago. It's a slickly produced pop track worthy of appearing next to any other modern pop tune. Sonically, it absolutely belongs on the list. If you like pop, give "That Good" a listen. You'll like it. But a cursory search for Berk reveals there hasn't been a huge marketing push around the song. 

As best we can tell, she didn't release a YouTube lyric video for the song (and hasn't maintained her channel much at all). DistroKid created a standard "Topic" video for the song. So we can assume nearly all of the song's stats on Spotify are due to it appearing on New Music Friday.

All in all, New Music Friday has about 3.5 million U.S. followers and 8 million global followers. "That Good" accrued about 40k streams from the list in 10 days, while Berk's new Spotify profile has 32k monthly listeners and 70 followers. 

The track had a massive drop off after leaving the New Music Friday list, going from around 9k listeners on its first Friday to now a few hundred per day. Obviously any artist would love to see a few hundred listeners per day on their debut track. But given the branding power around "New Music Friday," the overall effect of the playlist drops dramatically.

Which suggests it's ultimately a very passive playlist. Again, that's not to say you shouldn't celebrate landing on it. But when it comes to events that will truly move the needle and you can actually control, consider focusing your time on developing lasting relationships with fans instead of aiming for editorial playlist placement. 

Be sure to read Systemic's full analysis of New Music Friday and Singled Out.

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