Spotify Discovery Mode is a No-Brainer

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

I paid $1000 for similar exposure on Deezer (see here and here) and couldn’t wait until the day I could run the same sort of campaign on Spotify.

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:

Spotify Discovery Mode setup
PK Interactive LLC = DistroKid

You’ve got until the end of the month to opt in tracks for the following month, as explained in this probably unnecessary graphic:

Spotify Discover Mode dates

Here’s my campaign setup for July:

Spotify Discovery Mode selections

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:

Spotify Discovery Mode other eligible songs

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:

Spotify Discovery Mode 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:

Spotify Discovery Mode songs

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:

Spotify Discovery Mode “Death of You”

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:

Spotify Discovery Mode fewer streams

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!


  1. Hi, Great site – long time viewer- but you left out the requirement (25,000 monthly listeners)
    (From Spotify FAQ’s)
    You may be eligible for Discovery Mode if your artist team meets all of the following requirements:

    You have at least 3 tracks that meet the track eligibility criteria below
    You have at least 25,000 monthly listeners. We’ve found that Discovery Mode works best with an audience of this size or above
    You have an active Spotify for Artists team that’s registered in one of the countries below.

    1. Thanks Juno! Yes, that’s a very important detail.

      I’d heard stories of brand new artists taking off on Discovery Mode, so it slipped my mind.


  2. We’ll DEFINITELY be giving this one a shot! I am HOPING that using this—along with Groover—is going to help us level up our Spotify—and other streaming services—standings.

    —I was telling Bruce that it took YEARS for me to be ready to implement some of these ideas that you have been sharing, but I am FINALLY at the place where I want to see some gains on music promotion, specifically, so we’re diving in. —We did Spotify ads and they were okay, but we’ll try this next.

    Thanks for continuing to share new, tested ideas on how to get our music out to more potential fans.

    1. I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that your ads saw any success. It’s been a while, but when I tried them, zilch. Just accidental clicks from what I could tell.

      If Discovery Mode is available, I recommend hopping on it ASAP, because there are only so many Radio and Autoplay slots available!

      Always wonderful to hear from you!

  3. Here’s the message I see:
    “Artists must have at least 5,000 streams in the past 28 days, or at least 1,000 followers, in a country that campaigns can target.”

    So better than 25k…but still beyond my reach! Something I can aspire to, I guess. It appears that they have different thresholds depending upon who is checking, which is confusing but probably a work in progress.

  4. Hey Brian,

    Another super useful post from you – thanks!!

    I’ve only got 10 tracks distributed on Spotify at present but I opted all of them in and, like you, was really happy with the result. And so far it’s hard to see a downside. I’m on month 4 and no tracks have been weeded out as of yet. Fingers crossed it stays like that!

    The most interesting result for me is that I can see that the early tracks I released (which got a lot less promotion and therefore traction) are getting the most love. One track got a “Stream Lift” of 9,990% from 1,946 new streams in month one. It continued to lead in “lift” in subsequent months. But one thing I’m not sure of is if the stats are calculated as compared to the previous month, or as compared to the month before the track started being promoted in Discovery Mode. It seems like the latter is what Spotify means, but that brings up all sorts of questions if the track goes in and out of Discovery Mode…

    What’s your sense on that question, Brian?

    Thanks again! – Brock

    1. Whoa! 10K% is pretty amazing Brock!

      For the post screenshot, I sorted by total streams, because the top two tracks by stream lift have 5 and 10 streams respectively.

      To answer your question, it looks like lift is always in reference to the 28 days before the song was first selected for Discovery Mode.

      I guess that’s as good a way as any to do it! And yet still sort of messy. I’m inclined to focus more on the overall growth stats.

  5. Looks like I don’t have access to it yet (probably because of the 25k requirement).

    Tried asking CD Baby if they could give me access and their answer was that they only give access to artist on their “Label” tier plan at the moment — didn’t even know that was a thing, I’d only heard of their Standard and Pro plans.

    Next, tried to ask Spotify for Artist support directly, spoke to a (human) agent but only got the copy-paste answer about it being in test phase right now and how they would likely widen access “soon”.

    Eager to try this tool but doesn’t look like it’s happening for me right now! Will keep an eye out though.

    1. Tunecore is the same. Clearly some of their artists have it, but being on the middle tier, I don’t. I moved a bunch more releases to Distrokid today. 🙂

  6. I’m calling BS on all of this. I’ve been tracking daily/weekly/monthly Radio listeners and streams for over a year now. I received access last month and I’m showing a “65% increase in listeners”, yet my radio streams are sizably lower than they were in previous months. On that same note, I’ve noticed that radio listeners/streams have been gradually declining as this program was rolled out in the first place. It seems like the ‘new normal’ is for everyone to submit every song, and for the average music to get roughly the same number of monthly listeners with a 30% less payout.

    1. I think you nailed it Raymond! Ultimately it’s a way for Spotify to reduce their costs. Once everyone has access, opting in all tracks should put us back to how things were before Discovery Mode.

    2. I’m inclined to agree with you, Raymond. Spotify Discovery Mode probably has value now, but over time, as it becomes the ‘new normal’, its value will decrease, as you say. The quality of the streams is not high either, according to Brian’s stats (thanks for the post, Brian! Informative as always) – a lot of streams, but very few playlist adds and saves.

      I’m with TuneCore, who include Spotify Discovery Mode and a couple of other things in a package called TuneCore Accelerator, which you can opt in or opt out of; you can’t choose songs, they will choose them for you, according to their algorithm. I’m uncertain whether it is worth opting in – I don’t qualify as I have less than 25,000 monthly listeners – but if these listeners are not engaged, will this make the Spotify algorithm less engaged in the long run…?

      1. I’ve opted in to Accelerator but never got access, even with over 25K monthly listeners. I don’t see how TuneCore could stop you from selecting which tracks to include in your campaign, which is managed via Spotify for Artists. Maybe they limit which tracks you can select from though!

  7. Brian, an update on who’s eligible for this: I just checked my Spotify for Artists today & I was able to used Discovery Mode despite having less than 1,000 monthly listeners. So it seems that they’ve dramatically lowered their eligibility requirements. (I did have one month with over 7,000 listeners, so maybe that unlocked Discovery Mode for me? But that peak month was over a year ago.)

    Meanwhile, Spotify for Artists’ own FAQ still says that you must have at least 25,000 monthly listeners, so…hmmm.

  8. I’m also eligible and have had between 2-3k listeners/month. Have seen it before on my Spotify for artists but have never been able to follow the link, always got an error message. Going to be interesting to see how it goes. Trying it next month.

    1. Good luck Matt!

      Lately my results have been decidedly meh. I think we’ve reached the saturation point where everyone is getting as many streams through Discovery Mode as they were before it existed.

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