Deezer's Unique Way of Editorial Playlist Curation
Starting off as a website in 2006 called Blogmusik, Deezer came to life in 2007 after a series of events, negotiations, and deals related to copyright. Ever since then, the Paris-quartered platform has been on the rise and today their service is amongst the top streaming platforms and available in 187 markets worldwide.
According to Statista, as of January 2019, Deezer had an estimated seven million subscribers worldwide making it the 4th or 5th most popular streaming service in the world right now. Besides expansion in subscribers, the Deezer team has been focusing on a number of initiatives like
- pioneering User Centric Payment System - one which splits each user's subscription among the artists that user listens to (more info)
- expansion into hardware - 360 spacial audio, availability on Google Home and Nest Devices
- exclusive content like InVersions, Deezer Live Sessions, ASMR playlists and their continuous work with the LGBTQIA+ artists and community
- launch their AI-driven discovery playlist titled Flow
Besides that, they've released a few cool features like SongCatcher and Play With Lyrics which will be quite appreciated for those who love going to karaoke. I'll let you explore the platform (both app and web) yourself, but there are tons of gems for anyone who loves music or podcasts.
Now to the real topic - how can an artist end up on Deezer editorial and how do they curate their playlists. I must note - Deezer is the only platform that puts the face and the name of the curator on each playlist, which gives transparency and opens up possibilities for discussions with them. That being said, I highly advise you to not abuse this and chase/annoy curators even if you find their contacts. For more tips - definitely listen to the podcast below.
I had the pleasure of talking to Adam Read (@adamread__) and we ended up having an hour-long discussion about tons of things.
Playlist curator as a job didn’t exist around the time Adam had studies Economics and Finance, but from the world of banking, he managed to get an internship position at a student radio as Head of Music. There he learnt to curate for an audience, and after that after a quick stint at a local label, he started at MTV UK where he worked as an Editor. Eventually, Adam landed his dream position in Deezer as a UK & Ireland Music Editor, and later on as Global Indie & Alternative Editor. He is one of the people responsible for Deezer’s InVersion playlists and curates playlists like ANTI, Bedroom Pop, Silk, and Chill Alternative.
If you dig the podcast feel free to share / follow on the platform of your choice. You can stream that and all other episodes on all major podcast platforms here.
A few key takeaways from our talk, but I highly recommend listening to the whole thing.
How quick do you fall in love with a song?
As someone who listens to music all the time, I had to ask him. I wanted to get into the head of an actual editor.
It could be the first chords, it could be when the strings kick in in some euphoric tracks. It could be just the first bars of a rap song hits you in the face and you’re like “yeah this is great”. Falling in love really varies from track to track but it's purely on gut instinct. When there is a track that takes it to another level you just know.
Balance between new and established acts on Deezer editorial playlists
"With every playlist, we always want to introduce something new; it’s a combination of giving them what they want and expect and just challenge them just a little bit because that’s one of the biggest joys you get out of being a playlist curator - watching an artist being discovered and watching their streams go up. That only comes from us testing these artists on certain playlists and the thing is that because I’ve been doing this for a little while now, I know the types of artists that would do great on a certain playlist based on performance on other similar artists before. Of course, it’s always trial and error.
Of course, it isn’t always a guarantee. It’s always trial and error. Your audience surprises you every day in terms of tracks you almost think it’s an absolute fit and the audience doesn’t connect with them and then tracks you are not sure about but they explore. It’s all about understanding the target user on each playlist, their susceptibility to accept a new artist which varies from genre to genre and also how they discover artists in general - in the rap space new artists explode very quickly compared to pop. The same goes for indie - there’s a natural gravitation towards new artists.
With a mood playlist when it's sort of a lean-back experience where people just switch on and play while lounging or going for a walk, you can normally put a few more new acts in there because people are less likely to change the playlist if you got the vibe right. In conclusion, it really varies from playlist to playlist how much you can challenge them but you always want to try and break as many new artists as you can as an editor.", shares Adam.
Does Flow matter when designing an editorial playlist?
As we've discussed in our previous article on Deezer editorials, they've got both situational and mood playlist and that's where the big difference is when it comes to the importance of the flow in an editorial playlist.
When it comes to curating a playlist obviously we have a target audience in mind for each playlist. Let’s say Sarah, 25 who is a mainstream pop listener and we want a relaxing playlist for her just to help her switch off in the evening. That obviously needs to has to have a certain flow and you can’t have too many sharp turns and you can’t make it too challenging as she needs to lean back and switch off. That being said, when it comes to a frontline dance playlist that has a different requirement, so it’s really on a case to case basis when it comes to the flow. Transitions, however, need to be as smooth as possible.
How does a typical day of Deezer curator looks like?
"We work closely with a lot of teams within the company, and extremely closely with our Artists & Relations team who leads the conversations with the industry and talk about what’s going on with labels and artists on the distributor’s side. We tell the A&R team what tracks are popping up as well and maybe explore potential opportunities to grow these artists. So, predominantly content initiatives come out of conversations between the content team and the A&R team as our ears are closer to the ground to explore opportunities. It really comes from a passion.
In terms of a normal day for playlist curator, about 75% of my day is headphones in, listening to new music submissions, or updating and curating playlists whether that’s prepping ahead for our Friday releases and going through as many tracks as possible and looking where they could possibly go or what moods they possibly fit and on the other side be looking at the performance of the playlists and what we can do to improve them or freshen them up. The other 25% of the time is working with other teams from the company, like Social Media or Marketing. I also speak to labels, management, and distributors to understand what releases are coming up and how we as Deezer can work with that artist on a campaign. That’s the typical day of a Deezer creator."
How can you get on Deezer Editorial playlist?
The holy grail question, which applies to any other DSP for that matter. While we don't have the winning formulate, Adam Read does share a few tips on how to increase your chances when it comes to editorial placements.
That being said, as I always highlight to artists, ending up an editorial playlist is a great thing, but should not be your destination. When it comes to the importance of being part of a specific label or distributor, Adam explains that it's not a decisive factor.
We have conversation with all of our distributor partners all around the world. Relevant editors and the A&R team will speak with all of these teams and we have submission forms that could be filled by any artist and anybody and that alongside the label submission form, and that altogether populate what we call a To-Do editor list and we go through all those releases dependent upon what genre they’re in etc. We try to create as even as playfield as possible. We know the tracks will connect with audiences no matter where they’re assigned to or where they’re from. You don’t have to do it (sign with a label) because you would have a better chance of being playlisted.
I think making great music, having a consistent upcoming release schedule and an artist brand that stands out is already going to be helpful when being noticed.
Having the curator name and face on the playlist page
As mentioned before, that's something quite unique for Deezer. You can easily find who curates your favourite playlist simply because their name and avatar/image is on the cover.
With the editors transparency it’s always been a… let’s have a human touch side to it because we believe that makes us stand out and we have a real passion and we believe it reassures our users there are people behind the machine. I think it also helps when users listen to one of my playlists when you have a human name attached to it. That makes editors someone you can relate to.
However, do not abuse this. Chasing editors and randomly messaging them will not increase your chances. It's better to always go through the official submission forms and describe your music in the best way possible.
When filling the Deezer editorial playlist submission form
A few tips Adam shared in our talk,
"In the submission form, you can put what genre and mood your music is, and all these sort of things that help building a picture around the artist and the track. You have the opportunity within that to upload key information like what support you had from additional press outlets or Deezer in the past, or what’s going on from a radio perspective or what tour you’ve got going on, maybe if you’ve supported another artist. Our submission form helps building a picture for us around who you are as an artist and where potentially you can fit within the platform. There’s plenty of opportunities within the form to help you stand out. It also subsequently helps us when looking for music. Make sure you get this right - if you tagged your track as a chilled indie alternative track and you have riffs in the middle of it - obviously that’s not going to work. You do have to be careful with what you submit."
On Hooks and TikTok
I've been reading a lot about the continued shortening of tracks length and the importance of writing great hooks in 2021, because... TikTok, you know, so we dove into this topic. I personally am not 100% convinced that even though 15 seconds of a track might be catchy I would like to listen to the whole thing on a playlist.
I am curating a listening experience for our users. In some cases, the hook that attracts would work in playlists that lean towards audiences that crave those hooks non-stop, but you gotta think about even back in the old days from a radio perspective. Quite often on the radio to keep listeners hooked, they would play the hook of the song and then go into the main track. So, this isn’t something that hasn’t been done before, it’s just being almost repackaged in a slightly different way, but when it comes to a hook that attracts, it's just down to us editors understanding what our users want and what the type of experience we try to curate for those playlists and whether they’re applicable or not.
What kind of Data Deezer editors look at
A lot has been speculated on the importance of data post-editorial placement. I think it only makes sense to use them as a.. signal to know whether your decision has been right. Adam shares,
I come from a Data background as well, so my view is that if you got that data there, why don’t you use it to build a better judgement. As an editor, you lean on what we call an editorial instinct, but you need the data to help to build that instinct. For example, maybe the track wasn’t skipped as much. We have a data portal on our side where we can look at diff performance metrics within a playlist and we also set targets for each playlist in order to analyse our decisions. It's always a combo of data and my editorial instinct.
A few other data points available at curators is the average time a track has been played, or its save rate, for example. The data from Songcatcher is also quite vital for editors. It signals the interest from listeners towards a track.
The importance of release strategies
There are tones of possible release strategies but one thing's for sure - make sure you plan in advance and describe your journey ahead, as it does help with the chances of being discovered and showcased on a playlist.
It’s always good to know what as an artist and a team you’re trying to achieve. If you have a structured plan in terms of what you’re working towards - it might be releasing a track each month ahead of doing a live tour. That can sometimes help my editorial decision because say you are a new artist - I can test you in one my emerging artist playlists and hopefully if it connects I can build you up further and further and if that works I can jump you in a bigger playlist that matches your tour happening. Make sure you got a plan you’re happy with and this is less from the curation side but more from the discovery side. If you release 2 tracks in a month and then nothing for 7, 8 or 9 months you got no opportunities to be discovered. Just have a clear plan of what you want to achieve and shout about your wins.