How Do Streaming Services Use Algorithms?

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How Do Streaming Services Use Algorithms?

Many of us remember finding a new favourite artist through listening to a carefully curated mix tape given to us by a friend. Perhaps our preferred method of discovery was listening to the radio, or we might have seen a performance on Top of the Pops that made us rush out to buy an artist’s latest single or album.

These days, most music lovers discover artists and music through playlists on their favourite streaming platforms and these playlists are often generated in part or wholly by algorithms streaming platforms employ.

How are streaming services using algorithms to curate on-platform listening and what can you do to leverage the algorithms to increase discovery and consumption of your music?


Increase your chances of being added to editorial playlists by making sure your music is eligible to be added to algorithmically generated playlists like Release Radar and Discover Weekly which are unique to each listener. Spotify recommends delivering your music at least 7 days before release to get your music in Release Radar in the first week from release, however, we advise delivering your music as early as possible. Doing so increases your chances of receiving editorial support as editorial teams have more opportunity to listen to your music prior to it becoming available.

Run a pre-save campaign ahead of release day. When you’re announcing a new drop, encourage your fans to pre-save it ahead of time. A pre-save campaign reminds fans when your new release becomes available, and early streams signal to the algorithm there is momentum building. We offer Spotify pre-save through Slinky, Absolute’s own smart release landing page.

Apple Music

Apple Music’s algorithmically generated playlists located in its Top Picks section are unique to each listener. Get Up! Mix, New Music Mix, Friends Mix, and Chill Mix each update on different days every week. These playlists are created from user listening history; taking into consideration artists and tracks which users have previously added to playlists, music within their libraries, downloaded music as well as tracks users have ‘loved’.

Pre-adding on Apple Music works in the same way as pre-saving on Spotify. You can encourage fans to pre-add your release on Apple Music to foster early streaming of your music on the platform. Absolute offers an Apple Music pre-add function through our Slinky smart release landing page.

Apple Music makes it incredibly easy to increase fan engagement on your music, enabling you to let fans know about new playlists featuring your music and other notable moments with Milestones. Milestones allow you to create an image to post to Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook or Instagram Stories, available from the Apple Music for Artists iOS app.

Amazon Music

Amazon Music is less driven by algorithms compared to its competitors, but it does offer automated recommendations on some of its Stations including My Soundtrack which is continually updated based upon listening habits, preferences, and feedback. Amazon Music’s curators still contribute to the music being played across Stations by selecting tracks for Heavy, Medium or Light Rotation.

Amazon Music encourages its users to request music through Amazon’s very own voice assistant, Alexa. The importance of Alexa requests to Amazon Music is evident as the service has a devoted Voice area in Amazon Music for Artists, displaying a Daily Voice Index alongside a graph showing total voice requests to enable artists to see how they are performing with respect to requests for their music to Alexa on enabled devices. If you notice that your Daily Voice Index is registering as ‘Cool’ instead of ‘On Fire’, you can encourage your fans to request your latest release from Alexa with a recorded message within Amazon Music for Artists using the Spotlight feature. Bear in mind that Spotlight is only available to listeners in the US for now.

YouTube Music

YouTube Music’s playlists are created using signals from YouTube and beyond. Playlists are updated using algorithms, social signals, indicators from other Google products and services alongside involvement from YouTube Music’s curation team as well as listeners themselves. On-platform playlists serve as one of many inputs into YouTube Music’s recommendation system and the stronger a track performs in a playlist and across YouTube, the more likely it is to be surfaced to listeners.

If users’ settings allow, YouTube Music displays location-based recommendations, with shelves that say, ‘Looks like you’re at the gym’, or ‘Looks like you’re at home’, for example, to provide appropriate music suggestions according to users’ different locations.

Advice on increasing discovery and consumption ‘across the board’:

  • Timing is everything! A consistent release schedule is important to keep your existing fan base engaged while nurturing growth of your audience through feeding the algorithms.
  • Metadata helps to inform editorial teams, mood-based playlists, and algorithms at large. Getting your metadata right by selecting the correct genres, uploading lyrics, and including accurate performer details can only enhance your on-platform opportunities.
  • Deliver your release early! The sooner new music is delivered to platforms, the more likely it is that it can be heard by curators, increasing your chances to receive editorial playlist support.
  • Drive fans to pre-save on Spotify and pre-add on Apple Music by posting your Slinky to your social media profiles one to two weeks prior to your release becoming available.
  • Treat your artist profiles across all streaming platforms like social media and keep them updated regularly using the functionality available to you on each service. Make sure you have uploaded current profile photos, banners and biographies wherever possible.
  • Encourage fans to follow you, like, love, share and listen to your music on social media.
  • Share playlists with your fans. Whether you’ve been added to a coveted editorial playlist, or you’ve updated a playlist you curate yourself with your newly released track, sharing playlists with your fans on social media can help to promote more streams of your music which can result in further playlist additions.

If you need any advice or assistance with strategy or best practices for releasing your music, your label manager at Absolute can help you, so make sure you get in touch with them if you have any questions.

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