In Australia, Spotify has been leading the charge when it comes to playlists. Not only has the streaming giant brought playlists to life, a la its two local Front Left Live events (with acts like Tove Lo and girl in red) Spotify is becoming more transparent around how playlists are curated and how artists can utilise the algorithm.

In February 2018, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek declared to investors that he was on a mission to give “a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art.” And with Australia currently experiencing its fourth year of double-digit growth thanks to streaming, we’re making some serious inroads locally.

This week, Spotify will continue to offer experiences fans can see and feel IRL with the staging of A1 Live to celebrate its A1 Hip-Hop playlist, followed by 280,000 people.

Featuring some of the most prominent breakthrough acts from Australia and New Zealand, Triple One, Manu Crooks, Kwame, JessB, Hooligan Hefs and Sophiegrophy are set to take over Sydney’s Metro Theatre on Nov. 7 for a night of local hip hop.

Stream Triple One – ‘So Easy’

In an editorial first for TIO, we chatted to the hive mind of Spotify Australia’s playlists to talk placement tips, local initiatives, the future of playlists, and more.

Each question was directed to Spotify Australia’s Alicia Sbrugnera – Head of Shows & Editorial, Peter Stevens – Senior Editor – Music Culture & Editorial, Andrea Gavrilovic – Music Editor, and Hannah Brewer – Music Editor. Check out their responses below.

spotify's editorial team
Spotify Australia’s Peter Stevens, Alicia Sbrugnera, Hannah Brewer and Andrea Gavrilovic

Tell us about how the music editorial team operates over at Spotify. What are your main focuses?

Alicia: Collaboration is at the core of how the Spotify Editorial team works, both locally and globally. We are constantly striving to improve the user experience by putting our audience first whilst ensuring that we are enabling millions of creators around the world the opportunity to live off their art.

Supporting, nurturing and ultimately exporting local creators through our playlist ecosystem will always be a focus for us. 

In short, our team listens to a lot of music, curates best-in-class playlists, and collaborates. 

Alicia Sbrugnera
Alicia Sbrugnera

Pete: Whilst we hold some individual focus genres and audiences, we work closely to collaborate on our overall editorial decisions and focus artists/releases to ensure everything is supported where necessary on a local level.

We also are part of the wider Editorial network across the globe, where we are given the chance to share movements and key artists/releases in our separate local music cultures. 

Andrea: Aside from the aforementioned (think they’ve covered the subject really well) and aside from the creators, our key focus is our audience!

This includes anything from keeping them across the latest music, helping them discover new artists, to providing avenues for everyone to hear their favourite song/artist whenever they want, no matter how niche or broad.

What strategies can artists use to maximise playlist placements?

Alicia: The Editorial team are tasked with curating diverse content in our playlist ecosystem and work by a democratic process. Artists can not maximise playlist placements per se, nor do Editors place songs because we like or dislike them – we playlist songs because we anticipate – through our application of Editorial insight – that specific audiences that we program for will like them.

Furthermore, once we get feedback from those audiences (via our platform insights), we react and adjust our curation strategy accordingly.

We encourage artists to build their brand on-platform and share playlist features off-platform. Some simple tactics to promote your music on Spotify is to build your following, engage with your fans and get social. 

Take BENEE for example – we have supported her music in our playlists from the very beginning. BENEE has been active on our platform and across her social channels to garner further engagement – she now has a strong fanbase in the US, UK and Germany as a result.

BENEE – ‘Soaked’:

Pete: We look for exciting new music that will have the ability to speak on a local cultural level as well as have global appeal. In short – a really good song!

We have an official submission system that allows Editors across the globe to check out new music released weekly, and we use this on a local level to keep our team across the multitude of new releases, as well as bring attention to local priorities across the wider Editorial network.

This centralises everything and creates a level ‘playing field’ for all new music weekly, plus it eradicates the risk of music to get lost in a web of emails and links. 

The undervaluing of music is still a hot topic. What do you see as the major ways your team contributes to the ethos of respecting music?

Alicia: Our fundamental goal as an Editorial team is to support and nurture local artists and their art – this is why we have local teams set up all over the world and why we have had so many local success stories to date.

Our dedication to this cause plays heavily into our music strategy and we work tirelessly to ensure that artists’ music is amplified not only on platform, but off-platform via broader storytelling pieces and interesting marketing campaigns.

We have recently launched the ‘enhanced album experience’ where we complement a body of work in the form of a mixed media playlist format. Here, artists can release a unique canvas for each track accompanied by vertical videos, a real testament to how we not only deeply consider but push innovation in this age of disruption. We have many more exciting features in this space to come. 

Spotify’s Billie Eilish interactive experience
Spotify’s Billie Eilish interactive experience was created in honour of her debut album 

Pete: We are huge advocates of local music and try to over-index in editorial placements of local artists, so we can provide a unique programming experience that is hyper-local.

Prior to streaming, Australia has had a history of homegrown music not being as well represented as you see in other regions – we want to help bring a change in that by being as supportive of local talent as possible.

We also adopt a listening and placement system where everything that is submitted to us is given the same consideration, whether it be a strongly established artist, or a brand new artist who hasn’t had any presence on the platform previously. 

Andrea: Two key things: 

We’re part of a well-oiled global team and as a result, we’re always talking about local artists to our colleagues worldwide in order to give artists get the biggest platform possible and try to amplify them on a global stage 

There’s a playlist for everything now! No matter how niche or broad your taste is, there is a playlists for you filled with artists you might not know but will enjoy!

As editors, we’re listening to music almost all of the time and looking for every possible place to place an appropriate song. This is giving exposure to artists that don’t have marketing budgets, aren’t signed to labels, basically anyone with a good song can get playlists.

People are consuming more music by more artists than ever and that’s in no small part due to streaming! 

What’s the local editorial initiative that you’re most proud of?

Alicia: Without a doubt, the ongoing commitment we have made as a team to increase the representation of First Nations artists on and off our platform, plus engaging the industry to support these efforts, as well.

Music from all genres and styles has been first class and we have been able to support many artists across a wide variety of spaces across our portfolio. I can’t wait to expand on this work in 2020.

Pete: In the past year we have put a lot of focus into local Hip Hop and becoming a key supporter of the genre from a local perspective. Hip Hop is arguably the biggest genre in the world right now, and across other regions we have seen significant growth with local Hip Hop artists becoming the new mainstream in their individual territories.

We aim to help build domestically-produced Hip Hop to amplify the story of these artists and the local culture through playlists, editorial support, content and of course the all-local A1 Live lineup. 

Peter-Stevens spotify
Peter Stevens

Andrea: Three x First Nations playlists and support of First Nations artists across our entire offering, not just within the confines of those three playlists. This is an incredibly important initiative for the editorial team and our way of supporting and being a part of a much bigger movement.

Additionally, we’ve been working on expanding our offering and creating new playlists and ways to support artists that previously had no home within our local offering. 

Stream the ‘Deadly Beats’ playlist

Hannah: From the short amount of time I’ve been at Spotify, I’m most proud of how we have split the programming between New Zealand and Australia so that both countries are now receiving more localised experiences.

I think this shows our consideration for both audiences and artists and the importance Spotify places on reflecting and celebrating the cultures and diversity of Australia and New Zealand.

Playlists are becoming something we can now see and feel. What do you think the future of playlist experiences is?

Alicia: I think as playlists evolve even further into the future, Spotify’s strength will be how we blend our editorial expertise into even deeper personalised experiences. Mixed media tactics will continue to grow and I look forward to seeing how we expand on our already world class Live playlist experiences.

There is so much room for future innovation! 

Pete: I think given the success of our Front Left Live series (and fingers crossed for the same with A1 Live!) we are seeing that bringing a playlist to life on the live stage can complement the fandom of the individual artists, as well as bringing the playlist-specific element of discovery into what essentially becomes a living and breathing playlist experience.

I think the future will see an expansion of the experiential side of playlists as they become the new normal for music consumption, giving the playlists an identity around trust and discovery with their intended audiences. 

A1 Live spotify
Register here.

Andrea: Personalised experiences! With thousands and thousands of playlists on Spotify, I can guarantee there is one out there you will like, but you’ll probably like a lot more. And instead of finding the right playlist/s, they’ll find you!

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the audience will get to dictate their experiences on platform and it will all be some kind of beautiful symbiosis! 

Hannah: I see the development of greater personalisation technology influencing the way people will interact with playlists. I also think there is room for playlists to involve different types of media and become more dynamic in that way.

Music fans love feeling connected to artists and I think there is opportunity for this to play into the way people experience playlists. 

Spotify's Senior Music Editor, Pete Stevens & Head of Music Culture & Editorial, Alicia Sbrugnera
Spotify’s Senior Music Editor, Pete Stevens & Head of Music Culture & Editorial, Alicia Sbrugnera

Finally, what’s one playlist you seem to always go back to?

Alicia: Genreless is where it’s at for me. I also really gravitate towards the more abstract properties that evoke more of a mood or emotion than anything. Discovery is also an important element in what I expect from a playlist.

My current favourites are Lorem, Crush, Mellow Bars, POLLEN, Broad Chords and Front Left.

Pete: A tough question! I like playlists that not only display the best of an intended genre/s, but also set a vibe. Beats n’ Bars is a favourite in that regard, it’s lyrically driven Hip Hop but has a continuous movement throughout it.

I’m also listening to Broad Chords a lot, as its a diverse range of genres with a blend of forward thinking artists and those who give a little nod to the past. 

Andrea: I really love playlists that aren’t genre-centric, but more based on a mood/vibe with a bunch of new, exciting songs and artists. Playlists like Crush, POLLEN, Front Left, Lorem. One of my latest favourites is Internet People.

Hannah: I love playlists that evoke a strong mood or feeling. Soft Glow, Crush, Front Left, Lorem and Weekends + Friends are a few of my favourites.