By now you’ve likely heard of Spotify Discovery Mode. It’s a relatively new feature, still in beta, that provides more algorithmic exposure for your music.
The tracks you opt in will appear more often in two specific contexts:
Radio — Algorithmically generated playlists based on any artist, album, or song
Autoplay — When a listener reaches the end of an album or playlist and another song comes up
That day is here and the reality is better than I ever would’ve anticipated! If you’d have told me that it would be free, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But it’s better than free! Spotify actually pays for the promoted streams. That wasn’t the case with Deezer.
If there’s a catch, it’s this: Spotify “only” pays 70% of the usual rate for the promoted streams.
They frame it thusly:
A 30% commission is applied to recording royalties generated from all streams of selected songs in Discovery Mode contexts.
And because of that, they’re being raked over the coals by not just artists and labels, but by the US Congress! That 30% commision is being referred to as “the new payola.”
That strikes me as ridiculous, but I agree that there’s cause for suspicion. Spotify’s motives aren’t purely altruistic, since every Discovery Mode streams saves them 30% over what they would’ve otherwise served up.
It seems likely that at some point all the Radio and Autoplay slots will be filled by Discovery Mode tracks. The further we are along in that journey, the more your tracks will be penalized for not opting them in.
My recommendation is this: opt in every eligible track.
Spotify frames Discovery Mode as a way to prioritize your most important songs. What we don’t know is whether the tracks you opt in are competing against each other, or against tracks from other artists.
In other words, if I opt in everything, is it going to serve up one of my weaker tracks instead of my new single? Or is it going to serve up one of my weaker tracks instead of some other artist’s track?
Until I hear otherwise, I’m assuming the latter. I’m all in.
How Spotify Discovery Mode Works
You can find out if you’re eligible for Discovery Mode by going to the Campaigns tab in Spotify for Artists.
Nothing there? That’s probably because your music isn’t being distributed by CD Baby or DistroKid.
Other qualifying distributors are Amuse, CmdShft, Dance All Day, EmuBands, Stem, UnitedMasters, Venice Music, and Vydia.
More than half of my catalog is on Tunecore and therefore ineligible. I’m tempted to move it to DistroKid, but it’s only a matter of time until Tunecore becomes eligible. There’s also the tiny, almost-not-worth-mentioning fact that at $1 per month per song, it would cost me over $500 a year to distribute all my cover songs through DistroKid.
You have to have 25K monthly listeners, which I suspect is the biggest hurdle for most.
That said, a good friend got in with 19K and still isn’t at 25K. I’m under the line at 23.5K right now, and I’m pleased to report that they don’t take it back!
UPDATE: I got a message on Instagram from someone who got in at 9K monthly listeners!
The final requirements are that you need at least three qualifying tracks that have been released over 30 days ago and streamed in Radio or Autoplay in the last 7 days.
On the 11th of each month I receive an email like so:
You’ve got until the end of the month to opt in tracks for the following month, as explained in this probably unnecessary graphic:
Here’s my campaign setup for July:
The tracks shown on this page are the ones Spotify thinks are winners, but it may also allow you to opt in a few shaky bets:
How often each track actually appears depends on how well it performs. If it causes the listener to skip every time, it won’t be served up and probably won’t be eligible next month.
On the other hand, if enough people save it and add it to their playlists, you may see an incredible number of streams. Which brings me to…
My Spotify Discovery Mode Results
My first campaign ended May 31 and stats continued to update until June 15.
Here are my overall results:
The key takeaway is that Discovery Mode put my music in the ears of almost 3000 new listeners, while paying me for the privilege.
Granted, these aren’t particularly engaged listeners, as evidenced by the paltry saves and playlist adds. But hey, I’ll take it.
You also get a breakdown by song:
Most of the tracks are ones I’m used to seeing in Radio, but there was one surprise:
“Death of You,” a recent collab with MAIN, received a dramatic boost over the prior month:
All good, right? Not so fast.
My May campaign saw increased streams for all 23 eligible songs, but 5 of the 31 tracks for June are exhibiting symptoms of bad mojo:
Three of the five aren’t eligible for July, and I suppose I should deselect the other two.
You’d think that if Spotify were receiving negative signals related to these tracks, they’d see less Radio and Autoplay streams regardless of whether or not they’re opted in to Discovery Mode.
Maybe Discovery Mode amplifies those signals?
Spotify Discovery Mode Conclusion
In almost all cases, Spotify Discovery Mode means more listeners, more streams, and more money.
I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t use it.
Whether or not you should opt in all eligible tracks is up for debate. That’s my strategy until someone convinces me otherwise, which I encourage you to do in the comments!
If you’re looking for a participating distributor, DistroKid is my favorite by a mile. That’s a referral link that will get you 7% off and give me $10. You’ll want the Musician Plus plan, currently $40/year, or else you can’t select a release date.
I use them for everything except cover songs because of the aforementioned $1 per month to administer them. Which is silly, because streaming services pay the rightsholders directly, so we’re only talking about the occasional iTunes and Amazon download.
Instead, I license cover songs with Easy Song (also a referral link) and Tunecore trusts that I’ve taken care of it.
Anyway, Discovery Mode! Have you got it? Do you use it? Share your thoughts and results in the comments!