We chat to Spotify about the Spotlight playlist, and how it’s cultivating the grass roots of music by turning striving young stars into household names...

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“Every artist just wants to get heard, and we can put them in front of a really big user base – and a potential fan base – in a really quick and effective way.”

Will Hope is Spotify’s Director of Label Relations and Content, and his statement is the heart of the vision behind Spotlight campaign and the Spotlight playlist – a curated playlist designed to champion the freshest, most talented young artists from around the world, and pipe their music straight to your ears.

That playlist launched with then up-and-comers HAIM and Lorde – both of whom have since achieved critical acclaim – and it continues to wave the flag for young musicians today. So we thought we’d have a chat with Will and catch up on how Spotify keeps its users ahead of the trend when it comes to new music.

And if you’re on a Vodafone Red 4G plan you can get involved – and stay ahead of the pack – by picking up Spotify Premium on a Red 4G plan.

Searching for stars…

So how does Spotify decide who’s worthy of a place in the Spotlight?

“We work with the record labels, but we also try to make it as user-generated as possible,” says Will. “Labels, managers and the artists themselves will send us details, music and release schedules, but obviously we look at what’s happening with our users as well. That’s the metric we’re most interested in. Usually it’s a case of cross-referencing the details that a label or manager might give us, and seeing what Spotify users think of it.”

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Though Spotify has a good formula for finding diamonds in the rough, it’s not an exact science. Will and his team find the potential stars and put them in the Spotlight, but ultimately it’s the users that will validate those choices by listening, sharing and adding them to their playlists. “There’s a lot of music out there; sometimes we haven’t heard it and our users bring it to our attention,” says Will. “It’s a cyclical process.

“The bulk of the first listens are brought to them by us, and that’s an advantage they wouldn’t have had if they weren’t part of the Spotlight program.”

“Sometimes you can get artists that might not even be signed yet, but we’ll notice them gaining interest, popping up on the viral chart and becoming a viral hit. That’s what makes us sit up and take notice. We discuss and listen to a lot of music, and we have the ability to test it as well, so we can drop it in playlists and see how it does. If something reacts well, we’re looking to see if that track gets played a lot within the playlist, and whether it gets saved to other people’s playlists, or shared a lot. Early adopters of an artist or track will be a bit more evangelical about it, so often those getting to an artist first are the more likely to share it as well.

“We’re always really interested in whether that is happening, and to what extent.”

Things like radio support and popularity also factor into the equation, but all this data is just part of the story. Spotify doesn’t ignore any source in the hunt for tomorrow’s stars, including the noisier, old fashioned ways. “We’ll try to go and see bands we’re interested in,” says Will, “because obviously, it’s very different seeing who they are live and in person versus a track in a playlist.”

Shine a light on me…

When you look at the numbers, Spotlight is clearly a driving force behind young musicians who find their way onto the channel. Last year’s crop included the likes of Hozier, Dan Croll and FKA Twigs, all of whom have gone on to great success. It remains to be seen who the big break out artist in 2015 will be, but I would keep your eye on Norwegian EDM producer Kygo and US rapper and troubadour Raury. For a lesser known quantity like Laura Doggett, Spotify’s driving force has made her a breakout star. Data from February 2015 shows that jumping into the Spotlight playlist took her from 7000 plays to over 100,000 in a single month – a 1334% increase that has helped her fuel a UK tour!

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“Since we launched Spotlight, I’ve seen that lots of the artists we’re pushing then pop up in the viral charts,” says Will. “What we’re seeing now is that most of people’s first listens to that band or that particular artist are coming from the playlist that Spotify is managing. So the bulk of the first listens are brought to them by us, and that’s an advantage they wouldn’t have had if they weren’t part of the Spotlight program.”

“Also it gives us the opportunity to really prioritise them and get them in playlists that maybe they wouldn’t normally get into immediately,” Will adds in closing. “Being able to push them out means that the discovery process happens that much sooner.”

Are you #4GMusic? If you want to be at the forefront of new music, you can get a 24 month subscription to Spotify Premium included when you sign up for a Vodafone Red L, XL or XXL 4G plan! Interested? Find out more, right here.