The title of this blog post sounds harsh right? Well, it is. Follow for follow is a common practice among independent artists. But will it help or ruin your Spotify algorithm? How these Facebook groups work: you post a link to your Spotify track on Facebook groups in the hopes of getting more streams. You simply want to (at least) get past 1000 streams, because otherwise, it won’t look so good. More streams means you’re more popular, right? No, it doesn’t. It only means the track has been played a lot and won’t say anything about whether listeners actually liked the song, listen to similar music often, saved the track, added it to personal playlists etc.
In this blog post, we’ll explain the pros and cons of practising follow for follow and what this does to the algorithm. Of course, these Facebook groups are only an example and can be done elsewhere as well.
There are many groups on Facebook that are about Spotify playlists. E.g. Spotify Playlist Party, Spotify Playlists, BEST SPOTIFY PLAYLIST’S ON EARTH, Grow Your Spotify, Spotify Sharing an Following and I can probably get to 100 groups with a little more effort. The first thing you notice is that the minute someone posts a playlist, artists start replying with (mostly only) a link to their track on Spotify, without even looking at the playlist’s title, genre, mood or submission guidelines.
See for example the post below, which (coincidentally) was the first post I saw when checking the Facebook group:
The OP (original poster) started this thread by promising a 100% return when listening for 35 seconds to his/her song and comment with a screenshot of you listening to the song after (apparently) he/she will do the same.
Or this one:
It’s basically the same principal. Someone promises to add your tracks to his/her playlist. In this case, you don’t have to provide a screenshot, but only comment. Sounds easy enough right? But to what playlist are you submitting to? Does it have followers? What genre or mood is it about? You don’t know this, so is it a good idea to have your track on it?
I have to admin, a few years ago when I didn’t know what I know now, I did some follow for follow (F4F) here and there. It didn’t get me anywhere and it sure as hell didn’t help my Spotify algorithm.
Why you shouldn’t do follow for follow
To cut right to the chase: follow for follow doesn’t work. It doesn’t get you any real fans and will ultimately screw up your algorithm. Spotify does a great job at recognizing and even predicting a user’s music taste and suggesting artists they’ll love.
How does Spotify’s algorithm work
Basically, Spotify’s algorithm is an artificial intelligence (AI) system designed to keep listeners listening to Spotify. Spotify’s AI is called BART (Bandits for Recommendations as Treatments). While listeners are listening to artists the listener is already familiar with, it adds some new tracks the listener hasn’t heard before, but will probably like. BART uses three main functions to determine what to suggest to a listener:
- Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Songs with similar background and description
- Raw Audio Analyzation
Vibe or mood or a song. Is it upbeat, relaxed, hard, minimal, instrumental etc.
- Collaborative Filtering
Analyzes both your and others’ behaviours to decide what you will like next
What does this look like in a pipeline image?
Other factors that affect the algorithm are listening history, skip rate, listening time and playlist features. People who listen primarily to your genre, are seen as ‘more important’, and so you should want your music played by these people. Landing a playlist with lots of these listeners, so listeners listening mainly to your genre, and you are featured as well, should be good for the algorithm.
Of course, there are many more factors to include here but we’ll leave it at this for the sake of this article. We’ll write a more in-depth article on Spotify’s Algorithm in the near future. Check the source above if you’re a techy and want to dive right in yourself.
Why Follow For Follow Will Harm Your Spotify Algorithm
I hear you ask “so why does posting links to Facebook groups harm my algorithm?”. Well, let me give you an example involving my own band SPAWN. We play Ska Punk music. It’s quite niche-y and is a mix of Ska and Punk Rock with horns, keys and is very up-tempo. Now let’s go back to the post in Spotify Playlist Party (example 1) where someone posted: “Hey guys looking for new music to add on my Spotify playlist. It’s a FREE placement and I will consider EVERYONE who comments.” Although noble to consider everyone, why would I want to be on this playlist? Questions I should ask myself before posting a link:
- What’s the popularity of the playlist
- What’s the mood of the playlist
- What’s the genre of the playlist
So I disregard the questions and post a link and my Ska Punk track gets added to this (mostly) Hip Hop playlist (full disclosure: I didn’t actually check the playlist to see if it’s really Hip Hop but it’ll do for this example). Yes, you got a playlist feature. Will Hip Hop minded listeners listen to my Ska Punk tune? Probably not. This will severely affect the skip rate and listening time of the song and thus the algorithm and depleting your reputation due to the algorithm.
In other words: you lose potential money by messing with the algorithm. Yes, you might get 10 or so plays a day from this playlist for a short time, but if it’s a bad playlist, with listeners who won’t like your music you will lose potential money by getting a bad algorithmic score.
Also, apart from the algorithmic issue, it’s a waste of time. Spend your time wisely. It’s a waste of both the curator’s time and yours if your track doesn’t fit the playlist.
General rule of thumb: if a playlist covers many different genres, it won’t get (m)any streams. Try to stay away from those.
Best practices while joining Facebook groups:
- Don’t participate in Follow For Follow
- Don’t submit to playlists without a description
- Don’t submit to playlists on Facebook groups without all the info (genre, follower count, mood)
- Don’t buy fake streams
- Don’t do pay per play
- Try to only submit to playlists with a small number of genres (even better: 1 or 2 genres)
- Don’t take a screenshot of you following and playing the playlist in hopes of getting on the playlist. It probably only contains listeners that are skipping their way through the playlist.
Good luck getting your song on the RIGHT playlists, tickling the algorithm and soon be added to Spotify’s awesome algorithmic playlists like Release Radar, Discover Weekly, Your Summer Rewind, Your Top Songs, Your Daily Mix, Repeat Rewind, On Repeat and more and get your music heard by listeners who don’t know you yet, but will very soon and the best part? They’ll probably love your music as well because you were matched them by Spotify’s clever BART algorithm.
What you can do to properly promote your music on Spotify? Check this blog post to get the basics right and just use your own common sense.
Thanks for the useful tip!
What an interesting article. I’ve never understood the ‘follow for follow’ thing and this clearly explains why it’s such a waste of time. More music, less F4F!
A waste of time indeed Sam.
Thanks been doing a lot of research on the spotify algorithm recently and this was a great read.
Super useful, thank you!
Didn’t know about Spotify’s AI (BART) – very well explained. Thanks for the informative article! With my band, we’ve been trying to find relevant playlists where we can plug our music, but unfortunately our style is a bit unorthodox and we cannot fit into a single genre, which is apparently a huge problem when it comes to promoting.
Follow for follow has always felt like one of the worst parts of social media in general to me.
It represents shallowness and fake support, and I think that is way more damaging than no support at all in some cases.
Thank you for this very helpful article.
Spotify algorhythm is so dangerous!
An interesting read!
Wow! I did not know, that it was such a waste of time. Very useful!
I am always really grateful to learn more things about becoming more successful as a music artist. So thank you for helping!
Thank you for the tip! It’s easy to fall into these easy ways of promotion, it’s important to let people know that it actually they don’t work!
Love this. Can’t wait to implement this in future works! Algorithms are so frustrating.
Huh, never thought of that before
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Very Helpful to understanding more about Spotify
Still so true! Spotify is part of, but not the entire puzzle, and follow for follow, buying streams, botted playlists, etc just ruin your chances at success and restrict you from doing the things that get and KEEP you fans!
Amen, very well said!