Spotify expands Fresh Finds into an artist development program


Spotify launched its Fresh Finds family of playlists in 2016, using data from music blogs and tastemakers’ listening on its own service to highlight artists and tracks in the early stages of breaking through.

More than 25,000 playlisted artists later, Fresh Finds is now expanding into a “partnership program” for independent artists. It will offer them mentorship, marketing and training in how to use Spotify’s various artist tools.

The streaming service will also pair artists chosen for the program with notable producers to record tracks for its separate ‘Spotify Singles’ initiative. The new program is launching with four artists: Wallice, Unusual Demont, Julia Wolf and Ekkstacy.

Alongside the launch, the Fresh Finds playlists are expanding too. They were originally curated by genre, with five playlists focusing on hip-hop, electronic music, pop, rock and experimental music, plus a sixth umbrella playlist collecting tracks from each of them.

Now the family is expanding internationally, with 13 new Fresh Finds playlists covering individual or multiple countries: Brazil; Spain; Australia and New Zealand; the UK and Ireland; the Philippines; Indonesia; Singapore and Malaysia; Vietnam; India; Italy; Germany, Switzerland and Austria; South Korea; and Turkey.

Spotify’s head of indies, artist and label partnerships Jeff Stempeck talked to Music Ally ahead of the launch to outline the thinking behind it.

“Independent artists are the focal point of the program, and Fresh Finds is the vehicle. We are doubling down on independent artists. We see there’s massive, explosive growth in that ‘artist direct’ DIY space,” he said.

“Any marketing program from a streaming service can hype up an artist and provide a temporary spike, but we want to provide the tools and relationships to sustain that development.”

Stempeck said that Spotify is aiming to choose around eight artists a year on the new program, and that choosing who to invite to take part will be “informed by a combination of data and editorial decision-making: data and gut” rather than by any formalised qualification criteria.

That includes the definition of independence: Stempeck said he was wary of getting too bogged down in semantics “as long as it’s distributed independently, if you’re putting out your own music and you own the copyrights… the program is really focused more on the DIY artist team”.

The program’s training will focus on Spotify’s growing suite of tools, from its marquee ad units and canvas / clips video formats to its Soundbetter marketplace. The marketing support will be both on Spotify itself and outside – including ‘paid social amplification’ and even billboards.

This is all part of a big push for Fresh Finds as a playlist brand, with Stempeck running through some of the latest metrics that Spotify believes shows its success in helping artists to find new listeners.

Among the figures: the existing family of playlists has featured more than 2,400 artists in 2021 so far; that on average those artists see their monthly listeners more than double (up 108%) 28 days after being added; and that of those for whom this is their first addition to a Spotify playlist, more than 44% go on to be included in other editorial playlists on the service.

Meanwhile, around half of artists added to Fresh Finds playlists this year had fewer than 21,000 monthly listeners at the time, while more than 70% had fewer than 50,000.

“People don’t realise how ridiculously far-reaching and extensive Fresh Finds is. It’s 10 playlists, over a ton of different genres, all focused on independent artists, churning through good music and finding homes for it,” he said.

“This isn’t just about cool hipster playlists. It’s an entry point to a massive ecosystem of thousands of other playlists, and all of those can open up subsequent doors for an artist’s career.”

Clairo (“she had 200 monthly listeners when she was found by Fresh Finds”) Amine and Pink Sweats are some of the artists Spotify cites as getting their first break on these playlists.

The company’s hope is that from now on, when it spots someone with the potential to follow in their footsteps, it will be able to offer its full program of training and support, rather than just slots on playlists.

Of course, Spotify is not alone with this ambition. Apple Music acquired artist development company Platoon in 2018, while SoundCloud has just signed a number of ‘A&R partnerships’ focused around its in-house distributor Repost.

Spotting new, independent artists and helping them to develop is very much a priority for the modern streaming service, as much as it is for labels.

Written by: Stuart Dredge