Grow Your Spotify Followers with ToneDen

It’s been over two years since I wrote How To Promote Your Music with Facebook Ads, and it’s still one of the most popular articles on the site.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’m still learning! The truth is, the platform is constantly evolving, along with the Ads Manager interface. It’s hard to keep up!

What if, instead of babysitting your ads every day, you could automate the entire process, and get even better results?

Such is the promise of ToneDen, a social marketing platform built for music promotion.

Want to sell tickets through Instagram Stories? Grow your presence on YouTube? Get SoundCloud followers by offering a free download?

Whatever your music marketing goal, ToneDen likely has a ready-made campaign for it, which they call a “playbook.”

I took their Spotify Growth for Artists playbook for a spin, which uses Instagram Stories ads to direct listeners to your artist profile. After a week when the campaign completed, I followed it up with a near-identical campaign directly on Ads Manager for comparison’s sake.

Setting Up Your ToneDen Campaign

It took mere minutes to get my campaign off the ground. It seriously couldn’t be easier.

After connecting your ad account and choosing the correct Facebook and Instagram pages, you select your artist page on Spotify and enter similar artists. ToneDen pulls the Fans Also Like for those artists and scans for matching interests in Facebook.

ToneDen Spotify Artists and Generated Interests

As I’ve lamented previously, there are no good synthwave targets. Still, I was surprised when ToneDen didn’t pull in anything from Depeche Mode.

I ended up targeting Depeche Mode, Synthesizer, Retrogaming, and Synthwave. Yes, Synthwave is targetable as an interest, but Audience Insights puts it at only 1 – 1.5K people in the US.

I didn’t come up with Synthesizer and Retrogaming on a whim. I’ve tested them extensively in the past and they consistently deliver. At this point, my ad account is pretty well seasoned regardless.

Next you’ll set a geographic target, when the option becomes available. For now we’re stuck with all 70+ Spotify countries worldwide.

Enter a daily budget (I went with the minimum $5), then design your ad! There’s even a video tutorial with best practices right on the page.

ToneDen design Instagram Story ad interface

Here’s what I whipped up in less than 10 minutes, using video from beeple.

In retrospect, I should’ve gone for more contrast between the type, logo, and video. Whatcha gonna do.

The audio segment, on the other hand, was already thoroughly tested in my playlist promotion campaign. I don’t know why the last two lines of a verse going into an instrumental coda works, but it does!

Review, confirm, and you’re done! ToneDen schedules the campaign, and with any luck, the ads will be approved by Facebook before it goes live.

My ToneDen Spotify Followers Campaign Results

I won’t keep you in suspense.

I got 102 new followers for $30, or $0.29 per follower.

ToneDen Spotify Followers Campaign Results

Keep in mind that ToneDen isn’t able to filter out organic growth, which historically is about 15 followers per week.

My first impression was — that’s really, really good.

I’ve experimented with direct to song campaigns through Feature.fm, and ended up paying more than $0.29 per click to Spotify. And that’s just to get a user there in the first place, much less to listen or follow!

There’s one key difference though: geographic targeting.

My direct to song campaigns were targeted to the countries where most of my fans are: US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Sweden. All of them are relatively expensive countries to advertise to.

ToneDen breaks up the Spotify countries into three different tiers, and then continually optimizes the ad spend based on each tier’s performance.

In the end, 40% of my budget went to Tier 1 countries, 40% to Tier 2, and 20% to Tier 3. So what does that look like in practice?

Not what I expected. Turns out Brazil is a Tier 1 country.

I have nothing against Brazil, but considering that US clicks cost 3-4x, I wonder if they really belong in the same tier.

Another consideration is that I can’t ship merch to fans in Brazil. There’s no First Class International option from the US, so it currently costs $33.75 to mail a 3 oz CD in digipak.

Argentina? $119.20.

I learned this just the other day when a fan in Colombia ordered my CD and I had to refund her money.

With that in mind, I’m not sure Brazil and Argentina are the best countries for me to invest in.

ToneDen argues otherwise in their Spotify Promotion Guide.

Going global is especially important because it allows us to tap into Spotify’s 240 million listeners for worldwide, affordable engagement. Labels and artist managers who only promote their music in the US, the UK, and Australia, where royalty rates are high, miss out. Spotify’s algorithm doesn’t put a premium on streams from the US over streams from Turkey: user engagement is valued equally. Less expensive user engagement gets you on algorithmic playlists just the same as more expensive user engagement.

Would massive engagement from Brazil and Argentina put me on the Discover Weekly playlists of US listeners?

I don’t know, and I’m not sure the hypothesis is even testable given the data that Spotify provides.

Could I Get More Spotify Followers Myself?

Honestly, I didn’t expect the campaign to work as well as it did. I knew I’d get some streams, but without a clear call to action, I didn’t expect many new followers. Maybe it would be worth testing an alternate ad that includes “follow for new songs” or something like that.

ToneDen is limited to interest targeting. You’ll recall that I targeted Depeche Mode, Synthesizer, Retrogaming, and Synthwave.

But I had a better audience up my sleeve — the lookalike I’ve been using to build my Spotify playlist. One that I wagered could handily beat ToneDen’s results, in an admittedly unfair fight.

Instead of targeting all Spotify countries, I split my $5 a day between two groups: US and Brazil + Argentina + Mexico + Chile. It’s the same setup I’ve been using in my playlist campaign.

I got 54 new followers for $35, or $0.65 per follower.

Yeah, I accidentally ran it a day longer than my ToneDen campaign.

So, ToneDen wins? Yes, I suppose it does.

I admit defeat, but I didn’t lose by much once you factor in geography:

My Spotify Followers Campaign

My cost per click for the four Spanish speaking countries was actually slightly better. The biggest difference is that I devoted half of my budget to the US.

ToneDen Spotify Growth for Artists Conclusion

ToneDen’s Spotify Growth for Artists playbook is the best way to get Spotify followers that I’ve tested so far.

Compare my organic follower growth vs. the ToneDen campaign vs. my own lookalike campaign:

Spotify for Artists Follower Growth

The real beauty of the method is that people follow entirely of their own volition. They aren’t being forced to follow in order to download a track or pre-save an upcoming release.

Should you try it?

If you accept ToneDen’s premise that user engagement is valued equally, then absolutely! If you have reason to suspect otherwise, let us know in the comments.

They were kind enough to provide Passive Promotion readers with a discount code. If you sign up, I’ll earn a small commission, which will go toward future experiments!

New users get a 7-day free trial plus 10% off any subscription using code COLORTHEORY10 here.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep testing! I just launched a new campaign with different targets and four different ads.

Have you tried ToneDen? Share your results in the comments!

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Brian Hazard

Brian Hazard

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52 Responses

  1. Sounds good…. I will check it out! At present I am trying the Indiepreneur, John Gold and Carl Hitchbrooke methods (all the same but with slightly different angles), but I am failing due to a lack of time in sitting down and going through the courses and digesting the info – it’s all so overwhelming and time consuming. Reading your review these sounds quicker. In your opinion, is this method better than those courses or is it an ‘add-on’ to complement them? Does this bypass them? Or have I completely misunderstood the method?!

    1. You’re a trooper! I haven’t heard of Carl Hitchbrooke. Maybe it would be better to test those three methods sequentially, starting with whichever one is easier to implement and/or looks the most promising.

      Actually, I’d suggest trying ToneDen to get a baseline, since it’ll take you less than a half-hour, and then see if you can beat it with the other systems.

      Is ToneDen better? That’s a tough one. If you don’t factor in the work of setting up your ads manually, ToneDen’s current lack of geographic fine-tuning, and the subscription cost, they are theoretically equal.

      In other words, ToneDen isn’t doing anything that you couldn’t do for yourself if you had the time, knowledge, and inclination.

      That said, I know I’m not going to be entering in 70+ countries into Ads Manager anytime soon!

      Ultimately it comes down to whether or not you subscribe to their global approach. I really can’t say if becoming an algorithmic superstar in Brazil will get me on US Discover Weekly playlists. For now, I’m taking their word for it!

    2. I got the name wrong – it’s Carl Hitchborn AKA ‘The Baker’. who had some success taking an unknown British band from obscurity to stardom by throwing everything at FB ads and has similar courses on FB ads and Spotify to the other courses that you have covered before. The methods all use FB ads but as you know by doing Indiepreneur and Gold – there are unique tweaks to each and a different philosophy (one favours not making ads look like ads or using buttons, and the other does the opposite). If this ToneDen takes away the need for me to have to do all the trainings and clumsily execute them as I have been doing then I welcome it because not all of us can easily grasp the steps in the training and run the campaigns correctly (I am always messing up somewhere and not getting any results but I do know that I am the one making errors…). I need to study it a bit and see how much it costs overall but as always, if I do it, I shall report back my experience!!! Learning so much from you and always happy to read a new review!

    3. Haven’t heard of him either! 😉

      To be fair, Indepreneur favors not using buttons for fan finders in particular, as they’re supposed to look organic.

      A bunch of ToneDen’s playbooks look promising to me! Might as well do the free 7-day trial and see how you do. The most you stand to lose is the ad spend.

    1. It’s all done on your ad account, which is what you want because 1) you can see everything, and steal what works for future campaigns, and 2) it helps season your account, which will improve performance over time.

  2. I tried one of those $497 webinar things where you watch several vids on how to do this very thing (with Facebook ads). It didn’t go so well for me (it’s very possible I didn’t let it ride long enough to pick up steam). But, I did see an Instagram story of one of the teachers driving around in a new Tesla about a month later. All kidding aside, I’m sure it worked (and still does) for some.

    It seems that Toneden makes it hard to screw this up. Maybe I’ll give this a shot sometime. I know using your code won’t give you $497, Brian – but, I’ll still try to win us a prize on Instagram!

    1. It’s gotta happen eventually!

      Yeah, they idiot-proofed it pretty well. The only place you could possibly make a blunder is in selecting your targets, and they make you click a box confirming that the targets are valid.

  3. It seems like a really cool service. I just started my 7 day trial. Let me get this straight though. You have to pay for the ads on top of the cost of the subscription? That’s pretty steep. so you pay either $50 or $100 and then you have to add on the playbook features for another $50? Brian, I’ve been on your mailing list for a very long time. I really appreciate what you are doing for the music community. Thanks so much!! -JOHN-

    1. You’re welcome!

      To be fair, Facebook charges for the ads, not ToneDen. The $50 Basic Plan is good for up to $500 per month in ad spend, so there’s no reason to go higher than that.

      As for adding the playbook features, I’m not sure how that works! It’s not mentioned in their pricing breakdown here: https://www.toneden.io/pricing

  4. So I signed up and started my free trial. Facebook shut my ad account down due to suspicious activity and apparently I violated some sort of policy. I responded and told them what I was doing with Toneden. Doesn’t seem to be helping the situation. Do you know of anyone else having this sort fo issue??

    1. That’s a big yikes! No, I don’t know of anyone who’s had that issue. I hope you contacted ToneDen support? There’s a little help popup thing on the site.

      I’m running three different types of campaigns through ToneDen right now with no problems.

  5. I have some questions:

    1. Is it even a good idea to do this because of the international bots across the world?
    2. Would I be better off just running my own ads if it has a similar cost per click, but a much higher cost per follower?
    3. If I’m a U.S artist, should I only target the U.S. even if there is a much higher cost per click?
      1. I’m no security expert, but I don’t see any particular country running so far ahead of the others to suspect that bots are involved. Especially when I can see that the clicks translate to new followers.

      2. I wonder why, all other things being equal, your cost per click would be the same but your cost per follower higher. You’d have to do the math and compare your ad spend to the cost of a ToneDen subscription, and the convenience of having the ad sets automatically optimize.

      3. ToneDen’s assertion, and I’ve heard it in other places too, is that you’ll end up paying less for US plays by growing a worldwide audience. In any case, you wouldn’t JUST target the US. Indepreneur talks about “green light countries” that have higher rates per stream, which would add maybe 15 more like UK, Australia, Germany, etc.

  6. So, to be clear, this company can’t do a campaign on Instagram? If it can’t be done on Instagram (which is owned by Facebook!)… I just can’t be bothered.

    1. Actually, it wasn’t unclear… but the ToneDen site gives misleading prompts where that’s concerned (if you haven’t used Facebook Ads before). Anyhow, I despise Facebook – I avoid it at almost all costs – and apparently you have to create an Ad Account in FB to use ToneDen in IG. Ok, fine, well… when I tried to create an Ad Account in FB it was a total disaster. I got a ways down the rabbit hole, got verifications, payment info input, etc etc, then… a couple of hours of error messages, then finally figured out that I needed to verify some business account info, and then after I did all of that I got an “Ad Account Disabled” message. So, to be clear, my Ad Account has been disabled before it’s ever been used… one time. Brilliant. So, I clicked on a “Review Status” button that I assume will never get tended to by even some faceless drone. So, I’m done with this thing before I even began. What a collosal waste of time – all Facebook’s fault, to be clear.

    2. Hi David. I had a bad experience too. I already had an ad account. When Toneden set up the ad my ad account got shut down for suspicious activity. No matter what I told fb they just kept telling me there was suspicious activity and some policy violated. I had to reset my pw and verify my account. When ToneDen got back to me they said that fb can be a pain in the but and that they seem to randomly flag accounts using Toneden. I gave up. I didn’t want to go through that again.

    3. Thanks for that John. Obviously, I didn’t know that. One more reason to move along. Nothing’s worth having your account locked/blocked/disabled/etc. Unfortunately, FB/IG is slowly winning the war of essentially not letting anyone but themselves do anything for your account marketing-wise. They just keep making it harder and harder for (inexpensive) third-party vendors to work through your account. Eventually I imagine they’ll find a way to keep almost all of them out, although it will take a few years. Then things will get really expensive.

    4. My ads account has been active for many years, and was created in a more relaxed political and social environment. FB must be working harder than ever this election season to ensure that advertisers are legit.

      I understand your frustration, but it’s by far the best ad platform in the world right now. It’s going to be hard to reach potential new fans without it, ToneDen or no.

  7. Trevor again:
    I think because the countries toneden uses cheaper cost per click countries (like u said 3-4x) so it was the same cost per click in my Facebook Ad Manager. But when it came to how many total clicks, it might have been a lot more with those cheaper countries? Does that make sense, and if im wrong let me know.

    Also, doesn’t indiepreneur also talk about AVOIDING SKETCHY TRAFFIC, PERIOD? If that makes sense?

    1. I’m not sure I understand your cost per click situation, but what we really want to measure is cost per follower.

      You’re correct that Indepreneur would not recommend this method. That said, they talk about seeing particular countries completely dominate an ad set. I’m definitely watching for that and haven’t seen it. My feeling is, if I’m getting the followers, it’s legit.

  8. My cost per click situation is that when i check Facebook Ad Manager, the price is the same, $0.20 on my personal ad set and on the toneden ad set, but the cost per follower is WAY higher on my own ad sets (i.e. i got less followers).

    1. In other words, a higher percentage of people who click through from the ToneDen ad choose to follow you. It sounds like the targeting you entered in ToneDen (or ToneDen selected for you) is a better match. If you’re using the exact same targets, try checking the “Detailed Targeting Expansion” box on your own ads. I notice ToneDen uses it by default.

      It also sounds like your ad(s) could use improvement, considering I’m currently getting clicks at $0.09.

  9. Hi Brian! What’s the chance ToneDen is not using bots? I mean, the cost per follower is really low especially for being a single cold campaign instead of an actual funnel with brand awareness and a couple of retargeting campaigns. Assuming those new followers are real, what’s the likelihood they’ll stick around and become true fans?

    1. ToneDen is positively not using bots. They use your own Facebook Ads account, and you can monitor everything yourself. The likelihood listeners will stick around depends on how much they like your music. Or to frame it another way, how good your targeting is. Unlike running your own ads straight to Spotify links, FanBridge uses a redirect page that tracks visitors through your Facebook pixel, so you can retarget that audience with other campaigns.

  10. I know you said “My feeling is, if I’m getting the followers, it’s legit..”

    But do you think that even if you are getting followers, there’s still a chance it could be bots though???

    1. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, but I can’t envision a bot that would swipe up on your Spotify story, open Spotify, and click the follow button. My streams are going up accordingly too.

    1. When you create an ad from a post, you can choose whether or not you want to add a button. A “listen now” button on a post is an obvious sign that it’s an ad, which for the purpose of a fan finder, we want to avoid.

  11. Thanks so much Brian for all the work you do to help the indie musician community!!!

    What really needs to be said clearly is:
    No course, no service, literally nothing will ever work for someone, when
    1. Music is not good
    2. Visual is not appealing
    3. Targeting is wrong (and I feel that’s the hardest thing)

    So many artists are disappointed from the courses, tutorials and strategies out there, because the guys selling the courses do not tell you absolutely clear that the strategy will not work for everyone the same way!

  12. Was having fun playing with the free trial this week – I actually really like this ‘Facebook Ads for Dummies’ approach – lets you get stuff up quick without second guessing yourself, and look each day at the sloping graphics instead of scrolling for numbers in FB ads manager… much easier on the eyes.

    Was all about to get started with a subscription… then… uuuup, $50 more for the ‘spotify playbook’ (I sortta though that was the whole point here?!) hmmm, well, yeah hmmmm, ok I could do it for a month at least…. ..uuuuuuup! a separate fee for EACH FB page… …ahhhh, I was playing around with 4 different projects – would be $400 to continue this way…
    …so, i guess i’ll be reverse engineering what they’re doing for now…
    …no more ‘Facebook Ads for Dummies’ for me :/

    1. mmm, no, may have got that wrong, i think you CAN access different FB page accounts to advertise from on one Toneden account… i’m still looking into it, they make it all pretty convenient setting up the fanlink trip page and everything else. and i think their argument about avoiding bots by using ‘conversions’ traffic is convincing (on account of that ‘conversion’ leads are usually ‘higher quality’ and bots are almost never ‘higher quality’ leads… probably bots don’t like to spend money or put in CC numbers i guess… )

    2. I only set up one account, but I remember being able to select from multiple. Yep, it’s pretty convenient! And the conversions campaigns have been working well for me. If you don’t want to pay the extra $50, you could just use whatever base tier they offer and set up a Smart Link to run your conversions ads.

  13. Hi Brian, another great review. I have a newbie question, apologies if this is a stupid question, but I assume if you don’t have a FB account then you cannot use this service at all correct? Thanks a lot!

  14. “If you don’t want to pay the extra $50, you could just use whatever base tier they offer and set up a Smart Link to run your conversions ads.”

    I don’t think you can set up conversion based ads inside of toneden unless you use the growth playbook?
    If i do this Brian will i be more likely to get bots since this is no longer a conversion but a link click? Or will the landing page mitigate the bots?

    1. No, you can still set up conversion based ads. I’ve got two running right now! I just copied ToneDen’s ad structure, which you could do with the free trial.

  15. Thanks again Brian for the reply. Yes I could open a FB account but do you have to be active on it at all? I don’t have any intention of having any kind of brand “presence” on FB or Insta. I only am on youtube for my music videos. I would only make an “empty” FB account for this sole purpose, just so I can try this service out, and just try and direct people to my spotify or youtubechannel or website. But just wondering if that is even possible or would that cause me issues. Do the ads try and direct the person to your FB or insta page or directly to your spotify? Just not sure how much control you have in that area as would hate to direct people to a blank FB page. Sorry for the newbie questions, as you can likely tell I have no experience with FB or insta , thanks Brian!

    1. For all its evils, Facebook’s ad platform is the best in the world for reaching your potential fans. You want to have a presence on FB and IG because people will click through to your profile from the ads, and if they don’t see a living breathing human being that they can relate to, they’re not going to become invested.

      As for the ads, you can direct people wherever you want. If you want to send them directly to Spotify, Instagram Stories ads are probably your best bet.

  16. When you say you “just copied ToneDen’s ad structure, which you could do with the free trial.” Are you saying that you made a free trial with Toneden, and then copied the ad structure over from the FB Manager itself so you can run ads in perpetuity without paying for it?

    If so what is the conversion event? Is it “view content” because i cant seem to link the landing page straight thru facebook, but the “per conversion” event is automatic with the playbook.

    1. Actually, I set up my own campaigns to see if I could beat ToneDen, which I wasn’t quite able to do. I think the key difference is that they split the countries into three tiers and dynamically adjust the budget.

      I remember setting up the custom conversion required a lot of trial and error, but yes, it’s View Content with the rule “URL equals” your Smart Link. You can use that configuration to run any campaign using a ToneDen Smart Link to pixel users on the way.

  17. If im either way im sending people to a fanlink landing page when running an ad, does it matter if i pick conversions or link clicks?

    1. It does! You’re sending people through the ToneDen Smart Link to Spotify, pixelling them along the way so you can retarget them later. A conversion event tells Facebook that user actually viewed the content, beyond just clicking the link.

  18. Hi, I want to try Toneden but can I ask for how many days did you keep paying 5$?
    And for 7 days good and give good profit for the next promotion?, Because I am student and I don’t work haha.

    1. I’m still doing it, now $6 a day. Today my playlist has 9.1K followers.

      There’s no way the money from the streams is paying for the promotion. Maybe 5% of it at best, unless you could SubmitHub, but that’s work!

  19. Hi Brian — this is an excellent write-up, and the “paint by numbers” approach from ToneDen finally prompted me to jump in & experiment w/ ads. Just ran a ToneDen Spotify followers campaign and am now trying a non-ToneDen playlist campaign inspired by your post from May.

    What’re your thoughts on executing a non-ToneDen Spotify followers campaign that’s setup through URLgenius vs. a ToneDen smartlink? URLgenius seems cheaper than paying $50/month to access ToneDen’s smartlinks, and it looks like there’s a way to setup FB pixels & conversion tracking w/ URLgenius, though it’s going to require me putting on my IT hat.

    1. Great question Joe! I use ToneDen for the pixel. I suppose you could just create a ToneDen Smart Link to URLgenius and kill two birds with one stone. Please let us know what you find out!

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Brian Hazard is a recording artist with over twenty years of experience promoting eleven Color Theory albums, and head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion.

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