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Questions for Music Ad Gurus: Why are you in each other's Fans Also Like on Spotify?

Spotify pays attention to several data points to determine an artist's Fans Also Like. One of these data points is whether there is significant overlap between the listeners of two artists. For example, I release music under the name Frogers. As of this writing, an artist named Delachute (who is awesome, by the way, check him out!) is the first artist listed in my Fans Also Like. This means that a significant portion of my listeners also listen to Delachute. Also as of this writing, Frogers is not listed in Delachute's Fans Also Like, meaning it is not the case that a significant portion of his listeners also listen to my stuff; alas.

My Fans Also Like

Here's why I bring this up: if two artists are in each other's Fans Also Like, you can be darn sure there is a lot of overlap between their audiences. There are literally millions of artists on Spotify, the odds of any particular artist being in your Fans Also Like is very small. So, when two artists are in each other's, that indicates significant overlap in listeners.

This can happen when two artists have a similar sound. For example, The White Stripes and The Black Keys are in each other's Fans Also Like. This make sense; these two bands have a relatively similar sound and it's easy to think of someone liking both bands. (I'm sure someone will strongly object to this!) But what's really curious is when two artists who do not sound similar are in each other's Fans Also Like. In that case, we know the overlap in listeners is based on .......... something else.

Here's the point: there are Music Ad Gurus who have built up YouTube presences around selling aspiring artists on the idea that paid social media advertising is a good strategy to build a fan base. Additionally, these Music Ad Gurus use their own musical projects as test cases to demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategies they teach. And this gives the data-savvy musician a backdoor view into whether these strategies are actually effective.

A stock image because I'm self-conscious I have too much uninterrupted text in this post. Just keep reading.

If you, savvy-musician, were to find two Music Ad Gurus who were in each other's Fans Also Like on Spotify, you'd know their listeners overlap significantly. And if you were to further notice that the music of these two Music Ad Gurus is not very similar, you'd know that the overlap in their listeners is probably not based on those listeners having seen a social media ad targeted to their specific musical preferences. And if you were savvier still, you'd probably conclude that a significant portion of these Music Ad Gurus' listeners on Spotify are only there because they've been consuming the Gurus' YouTube content selling them on the idea of running targeted ads.

Now, of course there's nothing wrong with building a community on YouTube around a strategy you're teaching and then having some of that community find your music on Spotify. But:


The problem is when these Gurus aren't transparent about the proportion of their Spotify listeners coming not from the strategy itself, but from the people they're selling that strategy to. In that case, any success the Gurus would show would be artificially inflated, giving a false impression of the strategy's efficacy.


It would be a bit like hosting a seminar teaching people how to effectively sell knives through social media ads, pointing to your own sales numbers as evidence that your strategy works but failing to talk about how a large portion of your sales come from seminar attendees. Again, there's nothing inherently wrong with selling knives to seminar attendees, but it would be a bit misleading if you insinuated that all of your success came from your social media ads strategy.

So, if you ever see Music Ad Gurus in each other's Fans Also Like on Spotify, think twice about whether it's truly the strategy they're selling you that's driving their success, or if it's you.

Promoting music is tough; we're trying to do it focusing on community-building and story-telling. To learn more, check out our podcast on Spotify called We Could Blow Up.


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