Submitting beats to my playlists? Here are a few tips on how to get the highest scores
Were you ever curious about what's happening in my head when I'm considering your submission for placement in one (or more) of my Spotify playlists, and how do my preferences generally go with your flow? Well, it's your lucky day today - this blog post is practically a cheat sheet revealing the guaranteed ways of catching my attention and getting some yummy bonus points for your submissions.
Just a lil' note before we begin: These are purely my own preferences - other curators have their own ways. On the other hand, I can imagine a lot of the things I'll be going through could be applied with 'em as well.
All my playlists are aimed at lofi hip hop and chillhop. Sometimes, I also add a more classic (instrumental) hip hop beat, but mostly just to spice things up a little bit, if I really like what I hear. Your best bet to get most of your submission is to send tracks with that gritty dirty lofi aesthetics, or those more polished, but still quite distinctive chillhop beats. Things sounding too "HiFi" and polished would be killing the vibe of my playlists, so please keep it lofi & chill. And no, don't send me metal songs (not kidding, this just happened lol).
Now, this is an ongoing topic for me, but basically, I have a few internal rules regarding the length of the tune. I like to keep tracks in my playlists in a certain range, spanning circa from 1:30 to 3:30+-. Shorter beats than 1:30 just don't feel like a proper beat to me, and those too long can have other problems.
For shorter tunes (< 2:00)
When judging shorter lofi bits (dunno if 1:30 chillhop beats even exist) I'm more open to a certain degree of loopiness, because the track usually ends before it starts to piss me off completely. But the loopier the sample, the more I focus on the drums, their groove and variations - generally, I like to reward when people get creative with their beats instead of looping a sample for a maximum amount of time before it starts being blatantly obvious. By the way, I'm kinda a sucker for at least a short intro/outro - this is a good way to get some bonus points for your submission.
For longer tunes (> 2:00)
With longer tunes, I usually focus quite a lot on the structure and how the song progresses, as it's quite easy to spoil those with an endless loop. In other words, if your tune is a longer one, it's almost a requirement to go beyond that typical short-lofi loopiness and try to tell some story with your track, at least a little bit. Intro/outro is mandatory for those, having 3 minutes long beat that just "starts" and then just "ends" is a no-no.
Drums are one of the most important things in the whole beat (if not the most important one), so they should deserve some love! You won't generally impress me much with empty, groove-less robotic-sounding drums as that pretty much kills any vibe for me - I love my drums to sound lively, making me want to bop my head. Another thing is the mixdown - unless it's some ethereal atmospheric lullaby, the drums should have proper punch (a strong head-bopping factor), when they're just lost somewhere back in the mixdown, it kinda defies their whole purpose. The last thing - even a good drum pattern gets boring really fast if there are no variations in it. Oh, and some bonus points can be achieved by a nice use of foley - love that!
I've already mentioned this in some prior blog posts, but it just has to be repeated as many times as possible, 'coz the trend doesn't seem to be changing. What trend do you say? Well, I'm getting a large number of submissions that completely lack even the slightest traces of any bassline. And that is just SO WRONG! The bass is equally important as the drums - it's the thing (apart of the kick and snare punch/slap) that makes your track sound heavy and it doesn't really matter that you're making lofi. Lofi is about sound aesthetics, not about allowing yourself to be lazy in the studio (it's not even that difficult anyway). So, simply put: No bass, no fun!
It may surprise you, but I'm not that big fan of rapping - my problem is that not too many rappers have something relevant to say for me to listen (and if I hear "Gucci Gucci" one more time, I'm gonna kill somebody). Anyway, I keep my playlists mostly instrumental with only the bare minimum of vocal content, like dialogue samples setting the mood in the intro, or some really decent and rather minimal singing (won't lie, submitting anything with a prominent vocal is a big risk). After all, those playlists are meant to be playing on the background, allowing the listener to focus on what they're doing.
As I already stated in the "song length" paragraph, I generally really like it when the track is more than just a loop with some drum alternations, meaning the music actually evolve in time - like a new/changed melodies or instruments getting introduced into the composition, making the track interesting even past the first few bars. To me, it signalizes that the artist really tried to put in the work instead of just lazily putting three loops from Splice together and muting them here and there. And don't get me wrong - I have nothing against sampling, but even samples can be chopped creatively, or just copypasted to create one long never-changing loop. Guess what I like more.
Explained very simply, when more notes or sounds are playing together at one time and it sounds good, they're in harmony. And in most cases you really DO wanna have your instruments playing in harmony, 'coz, well, when they aren't, it just sounds like shit and hurts everyone's ears. And it's almost funny how one wrong chord or sample can ruin a song by making even just a short part of it sound weird and unpleasant. Now, this mistake is usually made by beginners as they either don't have their ears trained that well (even though I think if you're making music, you should hear it every goddamn time), or they just don't know how to make the part sound better so they just move on with the rest of the song (just my theory as I'm really having a hard time understanding that, lol). Anyway, with all that being said, having this issue in your beat is a fast train to the "declined" station.
This is probably the most personal part of my curation, but hey - we all like something different and I too do have certain preferences for sounds that speak to me the most. To be more specific - my cup of tea are rather darker, moodier beats that feel the best listened to in a dark night (Late Nite Lofi), and I also have a soft spot in my heart for melancholic, nostalgic and generally a bit sadder feeling beats (My Battery Is Low..., Sunset Lofi Vibes). The third biggest area of my interest are those lushest, chilled out beats out there that automatically make me think of palm trees, sandy beaches, sea waves, long drinks and bikini babes (Summer Lofi Chill). Of course, I don't limit the choices for my playlists to just those vibes, but hearing those will make me love your submission way more.
The final word
As much as I love to help unknown underground artists, I also need to know that the time and effort I'm putting in is actually somehow deserved. And there's no better way to demonstrate that than via the quality of the music you're sending to me. I don't care if you're a skilled artist who has been making beats for years or a complete beginner who just uploaded his first piece to Spotify. All that matters to me is the music itself, and how the music speaks to me. I like to reward the effort, I like to reward the creativity and I'm always happy to hear anything that doesn't sound the same like those thousands of jazzy (or worse, Shiloh) beats I've already heard before.
I hope this will help to make my curation process a bit more transparent and also help you to make the best choices when submitting your beats to me. Cheers guys and see ya in the next blog post! ^^
First time on my blog?
Welcome! My name is Pao and I'm the person behind this whole website. Besides making music myself whenever I can, I also write this blog and curate Spotify playlists. Feel free to explore it here a bit - I believe you will find some interesting stuff around ^^