Explained: How the Spotify Algorithm really works

Updated: Nov 22

As a musician, you're always looking for new ways to get your music out there. With Spotify being one of the most popular streaming platforms, it's definitely worth looking into how their algorithm works.

In this blog post, we'll take a deep dive into how the Spotify algorithm really works, and how you can use it to your advantage. When it comes to streaming platforms, Spotify is one of the best ways to get your music discovered by new fans.

They have a vast library of songs, a wide range of users, and they're always coming up with new ways to improve the user experience. One of the most important parts of Spotify is their algorithm, which is responsible for choosing what songs to play, and in what order. The Spotify algorithm is a complex beast, and it's constantly changing. However, there are a few things that we do know about it. For example, we know that Spotify takes into account your listening history, the time of day, your location, and even the weather. Based on this information, Spotify will curate a personalized playlist for you, which is designed to keep you listening for as long as possible. So, how can you use the Spotify algorithm to your advantage? Well, if you're a musician, you can start by making sure that your music is well-tagged. Spotify relies heavily on metadata, so the more information you can give them about your music, the better. You should also make sure to release your music at a time when people are most likely to be listening to it. For example, if you're releasing a summer song, you might want to put it out in the Spring time so it reaches it's peak as summer comes rolling in.

Spotify has a growing number of algorithmic playlists that are customized and personalized for each specific Spotify user. Because these algorithmic playlists are customized for each user, they are likely to have some great music in them.

This is how the Spotify algorithm works:

For example, no two Release Radar playlists are the same because no two Spotify users are the same.

Everyone has unique listening habits and the Spotify algorithm takes that into account to provide the best song recommendations possible for each unique Spotify user.

However, the Spotify algorithm does look at the listening habits of other similar users to provide song recommendations.

For example, let’s assume Spotify User A has similar listening habits (artists, songs, times of listening, etc) to Spotify User B.

If Spotify User A starts listening to a new song, and Spotify User B has not yet listened to that new song. The Algorithm will notice that Spotify User B may enjoy this new song and might add this new song to one of Spotify User B’s algorithmic playlists.

What Are The Spotify Algorithmic Playlists?

The type of algorithmic playlists that Spotify uses to recommend new music to users includes:

  • Release Radar

  • Discovery Weekly

  • Daily Mix

  • Spotify Radio

  • On Repeat

  • Repeat Rewind

  • Your Top Songs

Keep reading for a breakdown of each of these algorithmic playlists.

Release Radar

Release Radar is a Spotify algorithmic playlist of new releases from artists that a Spotify user follows or listens to.

However, Spotify may also include new releases from other artists that they think the user will enjoy.

How to get your music on Spotify’s ‘Release Radar’ algorithm playlist:

To trigger the Spotify algorithm to get your music on Spotify’s ‘Release Radar’ playlist, all you technically need to do is release new music. You can also further trigger the algorithm by increasing your song’s engagement and stream counts through things like Playlisting, Targeted Ads, and social media.

However, you should know that if your next release has multiple songs, you can only pitch 1 song in the Spotify For Artists dashboard 7 days before release day to have that song show up in your follower’s Release Radar playlist.

This is why you should release 1 song at a time every 28 days in order to maximize the exposure your music can have through the Release Radar algorithm playlists.

It’s again important to note that if your song does well, Spotify may start suggesting your song in the Release Radar playlists of Spotify users who don’t follow or listen to you.

The number of extra streams you get will depend on how many followers you have and how engaged your followers are.

However, I have seen anywhere between 500 and 37,000 additional streams from this type of playlist when I can get Spotify to suggest it to my non-followers:

Here are some extra tips on how to get on Release Radar:

  • Make sure your song is delivered to Spotify at least 7 days before release day

  • Once a user listens to your song inside of their Release Radar, that song will no longer show up there (but another song from your release may show up in its place).

  • Your music will only show up in Release Radar if you are the main or featured artist for the song (being listed as a remixer will not work).

  • Songs with Various Artists aren’t eligible for Release Radar.

  • Only brand new songs will show up on Release Radar (aka no re-releases of songs already on Spotify).

  • Each listener can only receive one song per artist per week in their Release Radar.

  • Your song can appear in Release Radar for up to 4 weeks after its release if a listener hasn’t already heard it. After that, the song will not appear because it is not “new”. This is why I recommend releasing new songs every 4 or 5 weeks to capitalize on this.

Each time I release new music, I am trying to maximize my amount of Release Radar streams because this is one of the easiest placements you have control over getting on.

Discover Weekly

Discovery Weekly is a Spotify algorithmic playlist that updates every Monday and is based on the listening habits of each Spotify user. Your songs will appear in a listener’s Discovery Weekly playlist if they have recently played a song similar to yours or if you have been added to a listener’s Release Radar playlist. To trigger the Spotify algorithm to get your music on this playlist, make sure that you are actively promoting your release and getting your fans to stream your new songs. The easiest and most effective way to do this is with a playlist pitching service like Playlists Plus

The number of extra streams you get from this type of playlist will depend on how many users are listening to and saving the song. It’s again important to note that if your song does well, Spotify may start suggesting your song in Discovery Weekly, Radio, Daily Mix, and possibly adding it to Editorial playlists.

A Powerful Discovery Tool

Discover Weekly is a Spotify algorithmic playlist that features both new music and older music that updates for each Spotify user on Mondays.

Unlike Release Radar, you can’t actually pitch to get your music on this playlist and the music does not have to be new. In fact, it is quite common for artists to see older songs in their back catalog get new life if they start getting placed in Discover Weekly.

The number of extra streams will depend on how well your song performs which will dictate how many Discover Weekly playlists your song ends up on and for how long.

Factors that influence your song’s performance may include:

  • Total number of streams from Discover Weekly

  • Listening time (how much of the song listener’s get through)

  • How many users are saving the song after listening on Discover Weekly

  • How many users are liking or disliking the song after listening on Discover Weekly

  • How many users add the song to their own playlists after listening on Discover Weekly

  • How many times user continue to listen to the song after listening on Discover Weekly

  • If the user follows the artist after listening on Discover Weekly

How to get your music on Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ algorithm playlist:

There is no cut-and-dry way to get your music on Discover Weekly, however, a lot of artists have noticed that they started to see placement on this algorithmic playlist once their song has surpassed the 10,000 - 20,000 total stream mark and after their music has been out for at least a few weeks.

The best way to get your music on Discover Weekly is to release music frequently to increase your chances and aim to trigger the Release Radar algorithm for each of your songs so that the algorithm has a lot of data and engagement to work with.

It is also possible to trigger the Discover Weekly algorithm by promoting the song you want to push since the increase in streams and engagement can give the Spotify algorithm a reason to try pushing your song out. The easiest way to do this with a playlist pitching campaign.

So far, I have seen tens of thousands of additional streams (and counting) from getting my music placed on Discover Weekly.

Daily Mix

Daily Mix is a Spotify algorithmic playlist that looks at a Spotify user’s past listening habits over time and creates up to 6 personalized playlists based on songs that the user has been playing often as well as some related music that the user might enjoy. As the name suggests, this playlist is updated each day.

Similar to Discover Weekly, these playlists can’t be pitched to, can include older songs, and will gain you a varying number of streams depending on how well your song performs.

Spotify uses “clustering technology” to find different sub-groupings within a user’s listening patterns (listening history and active feedback) to create a playlist made up of a user’s most commonly listened to artists as well as additional recommendations using the algorithm’s understanding of their favorite music.

The algorithm then balances the song order between the user’s well-known favorites and appropriate new suggestions.

The amount of playlists (up to 6), depends on each user, where a user that listens to lots of different styles of music will have more mixes than a user that mainly listens to one genre.

What makes these playlists different from Discover Weekly is that Daily Mix has more of a focus on familiar and favorite music with less of an emphasis on discovery. Spotify actually mentions that Daily Mix is ‘less adventurous’ when compared to Discover Weekly.

Additionally, Discover Weekly only has 30 tracks, where Daily Mix will continue to load up more songs for Premium listeners to make sure the music does not stop.

So far, I have seen anywhere between 500 and 12,000 additional streams from getting my music placed on Daily Mix playlists.

How to get your music on Spotify’s ‘Daily Mix’ algorithm playlist:

There is no cut-and-dry way to get your music on Daily Mix playlists. You simply need to keep releasing new music and driving targeted listeners/streams to your music, while hoping that you’ve created a song that performs well.

Spotify Radio

Spotify Radio is a series of Spotify algorithmic playlists that can be based on any artist, album, playlist, or song on Spotify. These playlists update over time and usually contain about 50 tracks.

Your music can appear in your own artist, album, playlist, or song Radio playlists but can also appear on other artist’s artist, album, playlist, or song Radio playlist if the algorithm notices a relation between you and those other artists.

Here are some notes on these Radio playlists:

  • Users can search to find Artist Radio playlists

  • If users have ‘Autoplay’ selected, Radio playlists will get launched as needed so that the user gets an endless mix

  • Spotify users can like/follow these Radio playlists

  • Once you build up enough streaming data on Spotify, your own Artist Radio playlist will be visible in your profile underneath your Discography titled “Featuring [YOUR ARTIST NAME]”

How to get your music on Spotify’s ‘Radio’ algorithm playlist:

My understanding is that you can get on other artist’s radio station by manipulating a connection between the 2 of you in the eyes of the algorithm by doing things like:

  • Running targeted ads to people that listen to that artist on Facebook/Instagram

  • Getting placed near them on other user’s playlists

  • Putting yourself near them on your own playlists and making sure those playlists gain followers and active listeners

Basically, anything you can do to prove to the algorithm that you are related can help you get on other Radio playlists.