Over the past few months, I’ve been putting time into promoting and marketing my latest releases, which mostly consist of reaching out to Spotify playlist curators and blogs in the hopes that they’ll feature my music. It’s a lengthy process, but one that I’m happy to do nonetheless (and you should too!).
While I expected to receive a few rejections, ignored emails, and the odd acceptance here and there, what I didn’t expect to find was the sheer amount of playlists that aren’t as kosher as you might have thought. But how do you spot this ahead of time and avoid reaching out to and being added to not-so-legitimate playlists?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer here as Spotify offers little in the way of statistics to the average listener. Factors such as playlist listener statistics tend to really only be available to Artists via Spotify for Artists, but that’s generally once a track has been added to the said playlist.
So what can you do to spot bot playlists before being added? There are third party trackers out there, like Chartmetric, but the service does require a premium account to dive deep into a playlist’s statistics. Adding to that, a playlist has to already be in the system before you can check out any historical data.
Another avenue you can check out is SubmitHub. If a playlist accepts submissions via that platform, they do give artists a rough idea of how many plays they’ll receive if they get accepted onto that playlist. Though in my experience, because of this, those who bot playlists do tend to avoid SubmitHub.
So on that note. How do you spot if you’ve been added to a botted playlist? There are a number of factors, so let’s break them down.
Spotify playlist plays
You’ll find that legitimate and organic playlists will see a much lower number of streams/listeners to followers.
For example, if a playlist has 3,000 followers and sees 3,000 or more streams/listeners in a month, it’s fairly unlikely that every person following that playlist has listened to it that month, and if they have, it’s also unlikely that each one of those 3,000 followers listened to your track on that playlist that month. It’s not impossible, statistically, but it’s incredibly unlikely.
Of course, not everyone follows the playlists they listen to, but again it’s unlikely that a playlist will see identical or more streams/listens than its followers.
In a similar vein, if the playlist has 3,000 followers and you find it’s giving you over 3,000 plays a month… it’s kinda obvious at this point.
One of the biggest red flags for spotting bot Spotify playlists is many listeners coming from very specific and odd locations. For example, I recently found myself on a playlist that received over 400 plays in a month from a city in Texas called Mount Calm. Mount Calm as of 2019 had a population of around 300. It’s insanely unlikely that every citizen of Mount Calm listened to this playlist in a month, and every single one of them happened to listen to my song on this playlist.
This situation is obviously quite unique, but it does paint a larger picture in that if you’re seeing hundreds or thousands of plays from a single location, it’s very likely that the playlist that these plays are coming from is a bot playlist.
There are scenarios where this isn’t the case – if the playlist curator is running ads for their playlist, for example. They could be targeting their local area, or a specific location based on the artists on that playlist.
Another factor in a similar vein is receiving a lot of plays from a location where Spotify Premium accounts are insanely affordable. For example, in India, Vietnam, Philippines, Brazil, and Indonesia users pay between $2-$4 for Spotify Premium accounts, which in the eyes of a potential bot farmer, is music to their ears. That’s not to say users in those locations aren’t going to listen to your music organically, but if you’re seeing numbers wildly swing to those locations, it’s fairly likely.
Fans also dislike…
One of the biggest telltale factors, and probably the most damaging, is having your “Fans also like…” section removed and ultimately being ditched from algorithmic playlists.
The reason this happens is simple, the Spotify algorithm is confused. If the bot playlist is full of all different artists, regardless of plays, Spotify can’t figure out what your music is about and therefore removes you from algorithmic playlists like Daily Mixes and no longer shows fans what other artists they may also like.
If you’ve found that your algorithmic plays and “Fans also like…” section has disappeared, it’s not too late – which is good news.
Saves, Followers, and more!
Another interesting statistic to look into is if the track is getting saved, or whether your follower count is going up. Engagement is key here, if it’s a genuine user, chances are they’ve saved your music or at least followed you. If your track is getting hundreds and thousands of plays but your follower count and saves on that track remain static, it’s likely it’s a bot playlist.
But hold on a second, here’s where things get a bit tricky. In order to seem genuine and hopefully avoid the ban hammer, outside of generating plays some bot farms can also bot your followers and save your music adding a real spanner in the works. Fortunately, they haven’t cracked how to make it seem genuine and organic, so you’ll likely see an unnatural spike in both plays, followers, and saves.
What do I do if I’m on a bot Spotify playlist?
To put it simply – contact the playlist curator if possible. Check the playlist’s description and see if they have an email or Instagram handle added to it, if not, check the Spotify user’s other playlists to see if the info has been added there, too.
Be polite and ask for your song to be removed. If you don’t see any removal within a week, try again. Make sure to give them a link to the track, the song’s artist and full track name, to make it as easy as possible for them to locate and remove your track.
If you’ve tried everything you can and it still hasn’t been removed, you can report the playlist to Spotify, but in my experience, it’s unlikely that Spotify will help – which is a real shame. But they may be able to help in your case, so it’s worth a try, at least.
The wild west of music streaming
Sadly it’s becoming a little like the Wild West when it comes to Spotify playlists. Even some of the most genuine curators could be engaging in foul play.
My best advice would be to keep the saying “if it’s too good to be true” in your head when reaching out to playlist curators. Always look at a playlist first before blindly submitting so you can see if there are similar artists or whether it’s a jumbled mess. Check out some of the other artists, reach out to them if you’re unsure, and ask if they feel like the playlist is legitimate or not.
If you’re still unsure, then trust your gut. While a playlist with 20k followers might seem like a pot of gold, it might do more harm than good in the long run.