Yesterday I interviewed Swedish based “Chillstep” artist Christoffer Hylander, aka “Killigrew” for my podcast, about how he’s been able to generate over 20 million streams on Spotify and has created an income stream from streaming alone that he’s able to live off of.
If you haven’t checked out that podcast yet, you can do so here: https://musicmoneyandlife.podbean.com/e/how-one-artist-generated-20-million-streams-on-spotify-and-makes-a-full-time-living-from-his-music/
In the beginning of the podcast, Christoffer said that his success on Spotify basically was a result of good timing and luck. He said that he wasn’t actively trying to get on Spotify playlists, but that a curator that runs a gigantic playlist just happened to discover his music and featured Christoffer’s musical project, “Killigrew” on his playlist and as a result, Killigrew’s music blew up, and to date has had over 20 million streams on Spotify. Christoffer has been living off the royalties he makes on Spotify alone, for over four years now, in Sweden.
Christoffer’s story is great, but I was a little disappointed at first, to learn that Christoffer basically concluded his success just boiled down to luck. That’s the way he described it at least. I wasn’t disappointed because I don’t like it when people are lucky and have good things happen to them, for no apparent reason. I love stories like that. It’s just that, from the standpoint of my podcast and website, I’m always looking for the takeaway. I’m looking for specific tactics and techniques that can be replicated by other artists, myself included. I want to know what the lesson is in each success story I hear so that we can applies these lessons to our own lives and careers. I almost always find at least one nugget of wisdom in each interview I do. There’s almost always something to learn from everyone I talk to. Sometimes I have to keep digging though before I strike gold.
As Christoffer and I kept talking, he eluded to his being lucky several times. I continued to question him about his success and what led up to it though, determined to find some practical advice and ideas that would apply to all musicians. Although I appreciate Christoffer’s humility about his success, I eventually found, as I suspected I would, three key things Christoffer did that led to his Spotify success.
Here they are…
Big Fish In A Small Pond – What’s Your Niche?
Christoffer told me that one of the keys to his success,was being one of the first “Chillstep” artists. Full disclosure: I knew more or less nothing about “Chillstep” until connecting with Christoffer. Christoffer discovered this genre in its infancy and according to Christoffer, he was one of the first dozen or so artists making this genre of music early on.
We might not all be in a position to be pioneers in a new genre of music, but the takeaway for me here is that it’s much easier to stand out when you’re a “big fish in a small pond’. If you’re making a style of music that there is a ton of, it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed, but you’re going to have much more noise to cut through. If you’re doing music that is more niche oriented, you’re going to have less competition and a greater chance of succeeding. What’s unique and truly original about your music? Is there an abundance of very similar music? These are important questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to promote your music on platforms like Spotify.
This is the part of Christoffer’s story that was really an “aha” moment for me. Although Christoffer chalked his Spotify success up to luck, he told me that prior to getting featured on the Spotify Playlist that catapulted his success, he spent weeks emailing thousands of people on Youtube his music. His strategy was finding other artists in his genre, Chillstep, and reaching out to fans of other artists who were making music similar to his. Christoffer said that although a few people would get upset and accuse him of being “spammy”, the vast majority of people were positive and receptive and he gained thousands of new fans using this method.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Christoffer said that it was a connection he made on Youtube that led to him inadvertently being featured on the Spotify Playlist that ultimately led to millions of streams. Someone who discovered his music first on Youtube, was the curator of the playlist that Christoffer was featured on that led to his Spotify success. So although he wasn’t actively trying to promote his music on Spotify, he was on Youtube, and the work and effort he put into promoting his music on Youtube, led indirectly to his success on Spotify.
Although I can appreciate Christoffer’s sentiment that luck played a role in his Spotify success, it’s also clear to me, after hearing his story, that had he not exerted so much effort in promoting his music on Youtube and in general, he never would have had the success he ultimately found on Spotify.
Finally, the last thing that Christoffer pointed to that led to his success was that deliberately created very distinct imagery and branding around his music. Christoffer’s project “Killiigrew” features an emphasis on nature and the beauty of nature and the outdoors. Like his music, his branding and the imagery he uses illicit a very calming, and relaxing feeling.
Here’s an example of some of the artwork he uses to promote his music:
It’s important that you have clear and consistent branding. Think about the kind of images, artwork and story would best fit your music and the message you’re trying to convey with your music. Good branding will help you stand out and make it easier for people to remember you and the music you create. There’s a reason major corporations work with ad agencies to help promote their products; because it works. Advertising and branding are a huge part of success in any industry, including of course the music industry.
So, what’s the ultimate takeaway? Does success in the music business simply come down to luck and being in the right place at the right time? I don’t think so. It’s clear in hearing Christoffer’s story and the countless other success stories I’ve heard over the years, that success in the music business is usually the result of both hard work and often times, what seems and feels like luck. Perhaps it’s better to say that success in the music business often arrives in unexpected ways, but if you re-trace the steps that led to most artists becoming successful, you’ll find that a lot of hard work was done along the way.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.