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The MIC Mountain's Spotify Algorithm "Inner Circle" Method
By:

Since welcoming the newest international intern class into MIC in December 2020, we've been buried in the development of the next update of The Mountain (coming very soon to www.theMICmountain.com).

This includes a "Spotify Algorithm Experiment" to find ways to avoid the straight-up payola/time-draining-&-soul-sucking/collusion that playlisting often becomes nowadays. It's not always miserable - but so often it's hilariously expensive and time-consuming with very inefficient results, that we know this is a major problem for many of the indies we work with and study.

So, our first project this semester centered around finding out if it is even possible to play the streaming game straight like it was originally intended, with getting on playlists to increase exposure.

The Mountain is about pulling back the curtain on what music careers actually look like, and since we're indies (independent musicians) working with other indies around the world, we know that nearly all of us feel the constant pressure to "playlist more!"

However, many indies understandably don't know that tricks of money and connections run a lot of the game here. Spotify numeric success through playlisting is point-blank more difficult to do effectively than a lot of advice-givers act like it is, because a lot of people get hella sneaky about it. Why? Well, because those Spotify statistics are highly influential, we all know this instinctively - and even if Spotify tries to crack down on bots, trust us, that's not the only way to game the system and get ultimately fake views and followers that boost the numerics that impress people upon first impression (which is the whole goal of gaming the system - in fact, remember to return later for more about how we recommend indies work wisely with the psychological influence of streaming service & social media statistics, in Step 5's "First Circle Breakout.")

In our MIC opinion, every indie deserves a lot of credit for even trying to playlist, because it is very time-consuming, often expensive, and risky (because of bots & getting taken down.) We run other projects to determine our highest recommendations for efficient, effective playlisting methods to get on user-created playlists, and we'll share those results in the future, too. However, this experiment we crafted decided to focus on the algorithm-created playlists instead of the user-created ones - especially since Spotify talks a big game its algorithm treating music equally, therefore supporting all musicians not just the ones it has financial interest in, like certain labels.


So, in MIC Mountain less-is-more style, we aimed to create a simple, efficient, actionable, realistically-budgeted ($0) method for indies to use to strengthen their chances of triggering the Spotify algorithm organically, to get on those playlists: we've deemed it the "Inner Circle Method", and we used Millaze's A Note on the Author album (ANOTA) as our final test run.

It's not perfect, but it's something we now recommend to our indies because it's a realistic, simple, and free tool to have in your arsenal - and when it works, it works super, super well. If you aren't aware, an indie music career is often incredibly up against the powers that be in our industry -- and pilling up authentic methods of outreach is your only chance if you don't have a budget of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars like so many musicians do (yeah, don't be so quick to compare yourself to other musicians before you understand the sheer volume of financial backing they often leverage.)

Granted, since playlisting is so important, we're not saying to *only* use this Inner Circle Method - like I said, we're running other experiments on playlisting methods, and we'll share those results, too. However, today we're here to share with you the most valuable, realistically actionable, organic method we believe in so far: cutting straight through to the big ol' Spotify algorithm itself, because from these roots grows many natural branches.

"Inner Circle"?



We came up with this "Inner Circle" idea after a couple years of research, experiments, and feedback from other indie friends' anecdotes -- but the biggest inspiration came from Andrew Chris, the "instant vintage" Mac Miller/Jimi Hendrix/Tame Impala musical hybrid who is also Millaze's producer & a former MIC intern, among a dozen other things (he produced this ANOTA album coming Thursday, actually!).


Andrew Chris used grassroots outreach to ask his close friends/family to pre-save "Bike" before release day - then he asked them to listen to it on release day itself. It was quite casual actually. This caught the algorithm's attention (as Spotify says it should), triggering Spotify to place it on other algorithmic playlists around the world. See it for yourself, that's over 13,000+ true, natural streams to this day, and it continues to grow the way music naturally should on streaming services - no payola, no collusion, just good old true support from his genuine fans, which triggered Spotify to act as it idealistically should: "Ah, this song's got support & it's catching on, we see you, we see you, we'll send it to other people who would like it, too" -- and like it they understandably did, adding it to their own playlists & sharing it with their friends. That ripple effect continues today.

We coined the phrase "Inner Circle" here at MIC because it showcases the connection of appreciating the outliers in indies' "First Circle Conundrum" - it's one of our MIC theories that sheds light on why the people already in your life often can't be your fans - and how that makes sense, and is okay.
Andrew created an "Inner Circle" by reaching out to the family/friends he knew would go out of their way to help him, just that extra little bit: click a link here, listen to a song there. These are simple, little asks that mean the world to indies, and aren't that hard to carry out.

Next step for us was studying the pieces that contributed to the puzzle of Andrew's success, especially timing & calls to action. We used Millaze's "A Note on the Author" album (arriving Thursday 4/29) & singles (Met a Man, Tattoo, Black Coffee & Cherry Pop-Tarts, & Viscera) as our formal guinea pig experiment this year, and here are our final takeaways:

How to use the Inner Circle Method

First step: begin by making that "Inner Circle" list of people in your life that you know will do a couple simple things for you - and who use Spotify. (Remember, it's okay if they aren't technically fans of your music - that's what MIC's "First Circle Conundrum" gets at: it's really normal that someone who already knows you might have a hard time being a fan of your music - that's just how the human brain psychologically operates with chunking & first impressions. Let them support you in the Inner Circle anyway, people who care about you often want to help you!)

Next step: generate a pre-save page for your next release. Often your distributor will do this for you - Millaze currently uses Distrokid, so here's that example of her pre-save page. A lot of our indies like Toneden, too - in fact, our Danish intern Frederik manages the EDM artist Birsch, so pre-save their next release "Magic" here to see an example of Toneden's pages.

Before the release: reach out to everyone in your Inner Circle with that pre-save page link - ask them to pre-save your release, & thank them. We tend to think reaching out individually is more genuine because these people are your friends. Some people do a group-text thing, it's up to you. Either way, Spotify really cares about this "pre-save" statistic because it shows more people are excited about it.

Also before the release: prepare a playlist that you'll add your release to, on release day - you'll see why in a moment. Theming it with your brand is a cool idea.

On the day of the release: reach out to everyone in your Inner Circle with the link to that playlist, asking them to listen to the release *on that playlist* (because listens from a playlist count more towards the algorithm than listens from the catalogue on your artist profile). Here are the other tips you can tell them matter to the Spotify algorithm, too:

  • Follow the artist by hitting the "Follow" button in a rectangle (This one is super important!)
  • **The first 12-24 hours of a release are the most important for streams counting towards the algorithm. It's a hype thing the algorithm tries to read - older songs aren't getting algorithm-playlisted, only new releases.
  • Listen to the first 30 seconds at least - or it won't count as a stream. (This is for anyone who isn't just letting the playlist play passively in the background, which means they're trying extra hard, wow thank these people extra.)
  • Don’t listen on mute - but very quiet is okay!
  • Don’t use the back/repeat button - it’s better to have the song multiple times in a playlist and let the playlist passively run.
  • Follow (heart button) this playlist, or add to your own, and listen to it there (not from catalogue, as we mentioned)

**Indies: when you upload your release to the distributor, select something like "release at 6AM EST, simultaneously" instead of "release at 6AM regardless of the listener's timezone" because the clock starts when the release first hits Spotify, and unless you live in a far east time zone like New Zealand, you'll miss out on these important hours.

After the release: thank them again - and if anyone is eager to help more, ask them to share on social media - especially the "button" feature of IG Stories or including the song on a TikTok video.

What to Expect

At the end of the day, even if this method doesn't "work" to trigger the algorithm in such a glorious manner like Andrew Chris' "Bike" single - it's still worth it, because (1) the algorithm is always watching, so this did matter in the long run, (2) indie music careers are about trial & error because you never know what will work, so it's a numbers game that will add up to a tipping point eventually, and (3) you're practicing how to do this method so you can do it over and over again, more efficiently each time, until it does work.

The Mountain's latest update will arrive soon, so sign up for our email list below if you haven't yet - and don't be a stranger, tell us what else you want us to research & shed light on in the music industry! We're all about finding the truths out there that relieve that pressure so many indies feel, so that our music careers improve our qualities of life, not detract from them.

Hope you enjoy A Note on The Author as much as I do - thank you to my own Inner Circle for your help so far!

- Millaze


The MIC Mountain's Spotify Algorithm "Inner Circle" Method
The MIC Mountain's Spotify Algorithm "Inner Circle" Method

Since welcoming the newest international intern class into MIC in December 2020, we've been buried in the development of the next update of The Mountain (coming very soon to www.theMICmountain.com).

This includes a "Spotify Algorithm Experiment" to find ways to avoid the straight-up payola/time-draining-&-soul-sucking/collusion that playlisting often becomes nowadays. It's not always miserable - but so often it's hilariously expensive and time-consuming with very inefficient results, that we know this is a major problem for many of the indies we work with and study.

So, our first project this semester centered around finding out if it is even possible to play the streaming game straight like it was originally intended, with getting on playlists to increase exposure.

The Mountain is about pulling back the curtain on what music careers actually look like, and since we're indies (independent musicians) working with other indies around the world, we know that nearly all of us feel the constant pressure to "playlist more!"

However, many indies understandably don't know that tricks of money and connections run a lot of the game here. Spotify numeric success through playlisting is point-blank more difficult to do effectively than a lot of advice-givers act like it is, because a lot of people get hella sneaky about it. Why? Well, because those Spotify statistics are highly influential, we all know this instinctively - and even if Spotify tries to crack down on bots, trust us, that's not the only way to game the system and get ultimately fake views and followers that boost the numerics that impress people upon first impression (which is the whole goal of gaming the system - in fact, remember to return later for more about how we recommend indies work wisely with the psychological influence of streaming service & social media statistics, in Step 5's "First Circle Breakout.")

In our MIC opinion, every indie deserves a lot of credit for even trying to playlist, because it is very time-consuming, often expensive, and risky (because of bots & getting taken down.) We run other projects to determine our highest recommendations for efficient, effective playlisting methods to get on user-created playlists, and we'll share those results in the future, too. However, this experiment we crafted decided to focus on the algorithm-created playlists instead of the user-created ones - especially since Spotify talks a big game its algorithm treating music equally, therefore supporting all musicians not just the ones it has financial interest in, like certain labels.


So, in MIC Mountain less-is-more style, we aimed to create a simple, efficient, actionable, realistically-budgeted ($0) method for indies to use to strengthen their chances of triggering the Spotify algorithm organically, to get on those playlists: we've deemed it the "Inner Circle Method", and we used Millaze's A Note on the Author album (ANOTA) as our final test run.

It's not perfect, but it's something we now recommend to our indies because it's a realistic, simple, and free tool to have in your arsenal - and when it works, it works super, super well. If you aren't aware, an indie music career is often incredibly up against the powers that be in our industry -- and pilling up authentic methods of outreach is your only chance if you don't have a budget of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars like so many musicians do (yeah, don't be so quick to compare yourself to other musicians before you understand the sheer volume of financial backing they often leverage.)

Granted, since playlisting is so important, we're not saying to *only* use this Inner Circle Method - like I said, we're running other experiments on playlisting methods, and we'll share those results, too. However, today we're here to share with you the most valuable, realistically actionable, organic method we believe in so far: cutting straight through to the big ol' Spotify algorithm itself, because from these roots grows many natural branches.

"Inner Circle"?



We came up with this "Inner Circle" idea after a couple years of research, experiments, and feedback from other indie friends' anecdotes -- but the biggest inspiration came from Andrew Chris, the "instant vintage" Mac Miller/Jimi Hendrix/Tame Impala musical hybrid who is also Millaze's producer & a former MIC intern, among a dozen other things (he produced this ANOTA album coming Thursday, actually!).


Andrew Chris used grassroots outreach to ask his close friends/family to pre-save "Bike" before release day - then he asked them to listen to it on release day itself. It was quite casual actually. This caught the algorithm's attention (as Spotify says it should), triggering Spotify to place it on other algorithmic playlists around the world. See it for yourself, that's over 13,000+ true, natural streams to this day, and it continues to grow the way music naturally should on streaming services - no payola, no collusion, just good old true support from his genuine fans, which triggered Spotify to act as it idealistically should: "Ah, this song's got support & it's catching on, we see you, we see you, we'll send it to other people who would like it, too" -- and like it they understandably did, adding it to their own playlists & sharing it with their friends. That ripple effect continues today.

We coined the phrase "Inner Circle" here at MIC because it showcases the connection of appreciating the outliers in indies' "First Circle Conundrum" - it's one of our MIC theories that sheds light on why the people already in your life often can't be your fans - and how that makes sense, and is okay.
Andrew created an "Inner Circle" by reaching out to the family/friends he knew would go out of their way to help him, just that extra little bit: click a link here, listen to a song there. These are simple, little asks that mean the world to indies, and aren't that hard to carry out.

Next step for us was studying the pieces that contributed to the puzzle of Andrew's success, especially timing & calls to action. We used Millaze's "A Note on the Author" album (arriving Thursday 4/29) & singles (Met a Man, Tattoo, Black Coffee & Cherry Pop-Tarts, & Viscera) as our formal guinea pig experiment this year, and here are our final takeaways:

How to use the Inner Circle Method

First step: begin by making that "Inner Circle" list of people in your life that you know will do a couple simple things for you - and who use Spotify. (Remember, it's okay if they aren't technically fans of your music - that's what MIC's "First Circle Conundrum" gets at: it's really normal that someone who already knows you might have a hard time being a fan of your music - that's just how the human brain psychologically operates with chunking & first impressions. Let them support you in the Inner Circle anyway, people who care about you often want to help you!)

Next step: generate a pre-save page for your next release. Often your distributor will do this for you - Millaze currently uses Distrokid, so here's that example of her pre-save page. A lot of our indies like Toneden, too - in fact, our Danish intern Frederik manages the EDM artist Birsch, so pre-save their next release "Magic" here to see an example of Toneden's pages.

Before the release: reach out to everyone in your Inner Circle with that pre-save page link - ask them to pre-save your release, & thank them. We tend to think reaching out individually is more genuine because these people are your friends. Some people do a group-text thing, it's up to you. Either way, Spotify really cares about this "pre-save" statistic because it shows more people are excited about it.

Also before the release: prepare a playlist that you'll add your release to, on release day - you'll see why in a moment. Theming it with your brand is a cool idea.

On the day of the release: reach out to everyone in your Inner Circle with the link to that playlist, asking them to listen to the release *on that playlist* (because listens from a playlist count more towards the algorithm than listens from the catalogue on your artist profile). Here are the other tips you can tell them matter to the Spotify algorithm, too:

  • Follow the artist by hitting the "Follow" button in a rectangle (This one is super important!)
  • **The first 12-24 hours of a release are the most important for streams counting towards the algorithm. It's a hype thing the algorithm tries to read - older songs aren't getting algorithm-playlisted, only new releases.
  • Listen to the first 30 seconds at least - or it won't count as a stream. (This is for anyone who isn't just letting the playlist play passively in the background, which means they're trying extra hard, wow thank these people extra.)
  • Don’t listen on mute - but very quiet is okay!
  • Don’t use the back/repeat button - it’s better to have the song multiple times in a playlist and let the playlist passively run.
  • Follow (heart button) this playlist, or add to your own, and listen to it there (not from catalogue, as we mentioned)

**Indies: when you upload your release to the distributor, select something like "release at 6AM EST, simultaneously" instead of "release at 6AM regardless of the listener's timezone" because the clock starts when the release first hits Spotify, and unless you live in a far east time zone like New Zealand, you'll miss out on these important hours.

After the release: thank them again - and if anyone is eager to help more, ask them to share on social media - especially the "button" feature of IG Stories or including the song on a TikTok video.

What to Expect

At the end of the day, even if this method doesn't "work" to trigger the algorithm in such a glorious manner like Andrew Chris' "Bike" single - it's still worth it, because (1) the algorithm is always watching, so this did matter in the long run, (2) indie music careers are about trial & error because you never know what will work, so it's a numbers game that will add up to a tipping point eventually, and (3) you're practicing how to do this method so you can do it over and over again, more efficiently each time, until it does work.

The Mountain's latest update will arrive soon, so sign up for our email list below if you haven't yet - and don't be a stranger, tell us what else you want us to research & shed light on in the music industry! We're all about finding the truths out there that relieve that pressure so many indies feel, so that our music careers improve our qualities of life, not detract from them.

Hope you enjoy A Note on The Author as much as I do - thank you to my own Inner Circle for your help so far!

- Millaze


Find us @theMICmountain on social media because we, too, are humans on our phones.

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