How to Promote Your Music with Spotify Ads
UPDATE: Be sure to check out my latest post on Spotify Ad Studio here!
I’ve been looking for ways to boost my Spotify streams. What could be better than advertising directly on Spotify with an audio ad? That way people will hear my music without needing to click on anything first. And if they hear it, they’ll like it and want to hear more, right? RIGHT? 😅
Here’s how it’s done:
First, go to Spotify Ad Studio and sign up for the waitlist if there still is one. As of this writing Ad Studio is in beta. I didn’t encounter any bugs, but the functionality is minimal compared to Facebook Ads or Google Adwords.
Once you’re accepted and able to create an ad, you’re given two options:
Obviously we’ll go with the latter. After that you narrow down your audience by location, age, and gender. Then comes the key piece:
It would be wonderful if we could promote to fans of other bands, or even followers of a particular playlist. But, no. You can only choose the artist you’re promoting i.e. you. Assuming your artist name appears in the drop down menu, that is. Mine doesn’t, presumably because I only have 1868 followers.
My next best option was to target by genre, and the genre selections are pretty broad. I went with Electronica.
Next you can narrow your targeting to iOS, Android, or desktop, then select start and end dates.
After that comes the truly scary part…
Those are some big numbers, but I’ve got good news and better news. Let’s start with the good news. You can enter a custom budget as low as $250.
Now, $250 is still a solid chunk of change, but it’s relatively tame compared to my $500 Deezer splurge. Even if it were a total fail, it would be worth it to save you from making the same mistake.
The better news is, you can stop your ad at any time and only pay for what you’ve spent.
In other words, there’s no reason not to launch a campaign and stop at $20 if you’re not seeing the results you want.
I didn’t know that going in, and figured my $250 was forfeit the moment I submitted the campaign. My discovery to the contrary foreshadows my results, but more on that later…
And with that, the campaign is set up! There’s really not much to it.
The more cynical among us might note that the cost per ad served is more than the artist payout per stream, but let’s not go there.
Once that’s done, you upload your audio file to their specifications, which can be 15 or 30 seconds. Why someone would opt for 15 when it costs the same for 30 is beyond me!
This doesn’t apply to us, but Spotify will record the ad for you if you supply voiceover text and choose a song for background music — for free! Flipping that on its head, there’s no discount for providing a ready-made ad over having them create one for you.
Last but not least, you upload a 640 x 640 image, enter a headline for the ad, and provide a target URL that listeners can click through to.
Once you submit your ad, they’ll review it and email you back once it’s approved, which in my case was a matter of hours.
And that’s how to promote your music with Spotify ads! But should you?
Let’s talk about my campaigns, plural.
My Spotify Ad Studio results
My campaign objective was to get more streams on my new single, “In Motion”. The song scored a 7.5 on Crowd Review (which I review here), which placed it in the 91st percentile, earning it an automatic feature on the ReverbNation home page. I was optimistic.
I started by emailing Ad Studio support to ask if I should target by genre or by Color Theory fans, not knowing at the time that the latter wasn’t an option. After a couple days with no response (I never got a reply), I bravely forged ahead.
I used Google Trends to see where in the US people were searching for the terms “synthwave” and “synthpop,” and targeted males 25-54 in those locations. As much as I want more female fans, I know from experience that they don’t click on my ads. 😭
IMPORTANT: Spotify free users can’t listen to specific songs on mobile.
Therefore, I used my official playlist as the target URL, with “In Motion” at the top.
Here’s the ad, with an unmistakable play button smack dab in the middle of my album art (it might not show up if you’re running an ad blocker):
And here’s the audio: 🙉
It’s super cringey, I know. But I wanted it to be memorable, in case people hear the same ad over and over again like on Hulu or YouTube. I was destined to be the “big beautiful play button guy.”
At first, I restricted my ads to desktop users, who can play individual tracks on-demand.
After 355 impressions, I had zero clicks, so I changed my targeting from desktop to iOS.
After 607 more impressions, I had 4 clicks, so I opened it up to Android users as well, and emailed support for suggestions.
After 340 more impressions, I only got one more click, but I did get a reply to my email:
Within a half hour, I emailed back a new voiceover to swap in.
The next morning the voiceover hadn’t been swapped, so I emailed to ask if I should stop the campaign until it was:
I was worried that if I stopped the campaign, I’d lose the rest of my money. So I didn’t.
After two more days the voiceover still hadn’t been swapped, and my results were hideous:
Unwilling to continue paying $6 per click, I stopped the ad. Honestly, I’d think more people than that would touch their screens during my ad by accident!
I never received any acknowledgement or apology about the audio swap, but I did receive this email:
So of course I emailed back, explaining my predicament in full, being sure to point out that I would be writing an article about my experience. No reply. 😡
No joke, I was considering investing some of my 401k money in Spotify stock when it opened, but if this is how they treat their advertisers, forget it.
UPDATE: I just heard back from Kristina, who never received my email. Apparently they don’t know how to set up MailChimp so replies go back to the sender (hey guys, it’s under Lists ➤ Settings ➤ List Name and Defaults ➤ Campaign Defaults). 🙈
Spotify ads, take two
When my email receipt for the ad only showed $30.29 instead of $250, I decided to give it one last shot.
This time I went with what I considered slam dunk targeting: male electronica fans in LA that likely grew up listening to Depeche Mode on KROQ like I did. I spread out my dates to slow down the ad delivery, giving me ample opportunity to bail.
For the image I chose my most eye-catching cover art, despite the fact that it’s from a 2010 album and not the single I was promoting:
Here’s the slightly less cringey audio:
My results were even worse:
Should you advertise on Spotify?
Needless to say, there are better options.
Here’s a Facebook ad I ran for the same song (get all the juicy details here):
Obviously a 2.71% clickthrough rate beats 0.32%, and $0.17 per click beats $6.
In my mind, it all comes down to targeting. On Facebook, I targeted US men 18-34 who had an interest in Stranger Things, Drive (the 2011 film), and Spotify. 🎯
I don’t think it’s just a matter of audio versus display ads, as my Pandora AMP messages see clickthroughs in the 5-10% range.
Until Spotify allows you to target your own followers, or better yet, your followers plus a broader lookalike audience, I won’t be running another campaign.
The question remains as to whether Spotify free users are valuable targets in the first place. Most listening is done on mobile, and free users can’t pick the tracks they want to listen to.
It’s a safe bet that the most passionate music fans, or at least the ones willing to spend money on music, are premium subscribers. Since they don’t hear ads, you can’t reach them through Ad Studio.
Put another way, how likely is it that someone unwilling to spend $9.99 per month for unlimited on-demand music will pay that much to buy one of your albums? 🤔
Have you tried Spotify ads? Thinking about it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
And don’t forget to read about my most recent experience with Spotify Ad Studio.
Bad luck there. Maybe wait a year and go back flashing your unbelievably poor results and ask for some credits towards another campaign.
I believe only 25%? of Spotify users pay to listen, so that means you are advertising to 75% of the Spotify empire with sewed up pockets. Not actually a great demographic to start with before further shedding of everyone not interested in your niche. Maybe you did well, considering
Thanks for the comment Andy!
You’re absolutely right. Perhaps targeting users who don’t think music is worth paying for isn’t the most brilliant strategy to begin with.
Fwiw, according to this March 2018 article, 79M out of 159M active users are premium members (45%).
Thanks for these insights Brian – appreciate you being the canary in the Spotify coal mine for the rest of us!
Look forward to hearing your Facebook ad experiences, I’ve done some show promotions with them, but not songs directly…
I’ve been meaning to write about Facebook Ads forever, but it’s such a deep topic! Not to mention it changes every month…
Great article! Was thinking about including Spotify in our marketing strategy but not now.
We’ll see how the platform matures over time…
I think you are right that it will evolve. I think it’s one to watch.
Excellent website Brian, you have helped me a lot. I had in mind to announce in Spotify but seeing it well would be a waste of time and money, or maybe not, in the not too distant future I will announce in Spotify to see how it is going. Brian I want to know if you are still in Songtrust and reading answers in the article that you wrote about Songtrust I saw that you answered that you use Repost Network, I suggest you do an article about Repost Network since I am very curious and I would like to join them. I followed you on Spotify (Excuse me for my bad english)
Thanks for the kind words and the Spotify follow! I still reply to comments on all my articles, no matter how old.
I’ve been meaning to write an article on Repost Network forever, but there never seems to be a perfect time. It’s always adding new features! I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and do it. Great recommendation!
Thank you… I will look forward to that repost network article to see if it is worth doing my application to become a member
The main draw as I see it is the ability to monetize your SoundCloud plays. I earn maybe $1-2 per month. If you’re getting 10K+ streams per month, then it’s probably worth looking into!
How to promote your music. Well its simple. make an article about how to promote music and then promote your own music in the article. Genius…
And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.
Yes, the ad campaign was just an elaborate ruse. 😉
Can you give us a link to an example of an effective Facebook ad promoting your music?
I’d like to make Facebook ads for my music, but I don’t know the best approach, since Facebook is more of a visual than audio thing.
There’s one in my article here: http://passivepromotion.com/how-to-promote-your-music-with-facebook-ads
Here’s one I’m running now. Pretty basic, but I’m paying $0.14 per click to prior engagers: https://www.facebook.com/37916448940/posts/10156033821123941
Thanks for this article but, you have saved me from just jumping into Spotify ads. Well let me share one of my secrets to get some money back from advertising online. Embed your landing page with AdSense and your Music see example https://www.rudebone.com/download/bandana-rudebone-dj-kunsept/
Interesting idea! I see a travel ad. To me, it’s not worth the pennies to put ads on any of my sites. I have a few banners here on Passive Promotion, but I placed them myself and I don’t think they look so bad. 😉
Hi Brian, thanks for the information on Spotify ads, I have 2 questions:
1. What types of ad formats they allow? It looks like in your case it was a piece of audio. Are there banner ad options too? For example a banner ad alone, with not audio?
On the desktop and web app of Spotify, I see banner ads that appear to come from Google Ads / Google Adsense. I tried creating in Google Adwords a banner add campaign with placement Spotify.com I didn’t get any impressions for my banner ads. Looks like it doesn’t serve Spotify. Do you know anything about this and how to use Google Adwords to get banner ads to appear on Spotify?
The ad studio was in beta when I placed my ads, so maybe it’s evolved. At the time there was no option for banner-only. It was audio accompanied by a banner.
I have no idea how to get ads to appear inside Spotify. My guess is they are using their own in-house ad network, but I guess you would know better because if they come from Google, you’ll see the little sideways triangle. I’ve got a premium account and don’t see them.
Let me know if you find a way!
Thank you for a great, detailed article. This is so helpful, in a couple of ways. First, it details the actual process, BUT it also shows us that even well-done, excellent professional music like yours can simple be almost completely ignored!
It is so easy to underestimate just how astoundingly HUGE is the number of competing competent tracks asking for listening attention on the internet today. Look at this graph from Spotify Research of all the styles on Spotify. And then click on one to drill down and see all the competing artists.
I’ve been a professional songwriter and performer for many years. I have now subscribed to your PassivePromotion blog. For valuable insights, and also for the energizing uplift of watching another professional musician hammering away at it, sticking with it in the face of the huge challenge and formibible odds in today’s music tsunami.
First off, thank you for the kind words Glenn! To your point, I’ve seen several examples of music clearly better than mine being more thoroughly ignored!
That Every Noise at Once site is a lot of fun! I found myself on the outskirts of Neo-Synthpop. What I call Synthwave, they call Retro Electro. Regardless, the groupings seem accurate, and as you said, overwhelming!
We all agree with him cuz his music is dope. They rather listen to mumble shits!
I appreciate your transparency here! I was about to go through the process of making an add for my song titled, “Stop, Pray, Breathe,” which I have a youtube link to, https://youtu.be/H4AV9dQnxco but after reading your article, I have completely changed my mind. Would you happen to know of a real legit way of promoting music online other than Spotify or Facebook that yields great results?
Great blog post! Not sure exactly why, but the audio files aren’t working in Chrome. Had to switch to Safari to hear the cringiness.
That’s weird! Usually it’s the other way round.
Thanks Brian for a very interesting article. I like your single. Spotify ads seem dismal. Did your Facebook advertising generate any actual sales for you? Have you yet found any viable method to sell your music?
I haven’t done the legwork to properly track conversions, but sales are so dismal these days that I don’t think it’s worth the effort. If someone listens on Spotify, or subscribes on YouTube, follows me on SoundCloud… it’s all a win in my book.
I hear Spotify upgraded their targeting abilities, can we get an update?
I just experimented with creating a new ad, and I don’t see any difference. There’s still no way I can drill down further than electronica, which is way too broad.
Really enjoyed this Brian! I’ve been running Spotify campaigns for work recently and was wondering if they could transfer to artist promotion within Spotify.
I wonder if your results may have been different if you had flipped the structure of the ad and introduced the CTA at the end? The immediate voiceover could have the effect of interrupting the flow of the platform and immediately putting up a barrier for the listener?
If you get your age/genre/playlist targeting just right you could potentially drop your song in seamlessly and have 15-20 seconds to grab their attention with your music before having your CTA? They may not even realise it’s an ad at first… I guess the hard part would be finding that perfect point to drop them into while still having time to have your CTA.
Either way, this was super insightful!
Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you found the article useful.
You may be right about flipping the structure. At this point I’m experimenting with Spotify PR companies, and feel like getting people to actually hear my songs in a proper context is a better use of my money.
Agreed. When you say Spotify PR companies are you referring to companies who already have relationships with the DSPs and will personally pitch your music for placement on editorial/independent curator playlists?
Exactly, though I don’t know that my songs have been pitched to editorial playlists — just independent.
Hey Brian – first off – i think you are awesome. My band SUGARMORE and I have been trying all kinds of different marketing campaigns across many platforms and documenting all of them. It’s so awesome to see someone doing that and posting it online. Absolutely brilliant. I never would have thought to do that. What a great resource your site is. Thank you.
Right now we’re zeroing in on trying a Spotify Ad campaign. We’re actually really excited about it – we created a great audio ad with a great picture and NOW spotify lets you target OTHER BAND’s followers (that’s new!) – which we’re really excited about.
However – I’m having an issue figuring out where to send people (what link to use). As you mentioned, Spotify users on the free tier can’t select individual songs – but what’s worse – I can’t figure out how to ensure that they hear one of our songs when they click. You see, we’re a pretty new band – we’re promoting our third single, so any link we use – artist profile, a playlist of just our songs, a link to any of our singles – just plays OTHER people’s music 90% of the time. It’s hard enough to get people to engage, but then sending them to a completely different product?? The whole point is to boost OUR streams! lol
I see that this wasn’t an issue for you because you have a big discography, but for artists like us that only have a small number of songs….. it just seems silly to run a campaign that can’t link to your music.
I emailed spotify to see what their thoughts are on where we should link. I’ll keep you updated! Thanks again! 🙂
Thanks for the kind words! And the news on that key Ad Studio update!
You’re right, it makes zero sense that you can’t link directly to one of your own songs. Even though I have a big discography, my targeting would change depending on the album.
I’d be curious to hear your results if you don’t mind circling back once the campaign is complete! Maybe I’ll try again.
Thanks for the info.
I tried very minimal results. I don’t think its worth the spend unless you have a good offer. 🙂
Has insta story ads been the best use of your marketing spend?
It depends on what you’re trying to do! Instagram Stories has been great for growing my playlist, but I usually get more traction on Facebook overall.