Since 2011, Alex Rainbird has been discovering and showcasing the finest independent music. Joined by Beth Paterson as of 2017, their goal is to provide the best platform for underrated musicians to be heard, and for viewers to find amazing new music. As well as featuring over 100 new songs every month on YouTube and Spotify, they also run an indie record label, have their own podcast, held a London live concert in 2019 and organised a four-hour virtual festival to celebrate 1 million YouTube subscribers earlier in 2021.
What do you look for when adding tracks to your playlists?
ALEX – For us, it’s all about how the song makes us feel. We are lucky enough to receive a lot of submissions every day, so we’re simply looking for tracks that stand out and truly connect with us, which usually happens within the first few seconds! When we like something, we then look at the playlists that we’ve got coming up and see what the best fit would be!
BETH – A lot of the time the playlists are very seasonal/monthly for example we wouldn’t be accepting winter tracks in Summer… the tracks really must connect with us in that period of the year that we are in. And also, not R&B/EDM or genres that quite obviously wouldn’t fit on alexrainbirdmusic, you would be surprised how much not indie music we get submitted haha!
How did you get into Spotify playlist curation?
ALEX – I started making playlist videos on YouTube in 2013, and for a long time that was all we did! Over time, we noticed this thing called Spotify was getting more and more popular, so we thought we’d start duplicating our YouTube playlists on there too in late 2015. Whereas YouTube videos are static, it was nice to be able to add/remove songs at will on Spotify, so we made some new playlists to take advantage of that too. We can’t believe that we now have over 83,000 followers!
BETH – The Spotify playlisting came very natural to us after starting on YouTube, we then had a lot of people asking if we are on Spotify so it just felt right to start posting our playlists on that platform too. It’s so crazy how it’s grown and we are so so grateful to everyone that follows us over there as well as YouTube.
What are some of your favourite playlists?
ALEX – That’s so tough, but on YouTube, some of my favourites are the themed ones like The Mountains Are Calling, Endless Summer Nights and our Dark Forest series. Our “The Indie Chart” playlist on Spotify is possibly my favourite on there since it’s constantly updated every few days with our 10 favourite songs of the moment. So it’s always technically my favourite haha!
BETH – My favourite playlists are definitely the ones as we go into the colder seasons so Fall Indie Folk, Christmas & Winter. I also love the ‘themed’ playlists we do such as Wanderlust and Warm & Cozy. These are always so fun to make and really get you in the mood for the seasons.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into playlist curation?
ALEX – I’d say try and find what makes you and your playlisting unique. There are so many playlists out there nowadays so to stand out, try some totally new concept, name or artwork! Also make sure you’re adding songs that you like, rather than what you think other people will like. All of this will make the whole experience much more enjoyable and natural.
BETH – It takes time to grow a following, a bit like any business. it took 10 years for alexrainbirdMusic to get where it is today so don’t give up! And I also try and be original/ come up with original playlist ideas, grow an audience without having to be exactly like someone else.. find your brand.
Tell me about you and your background in the music biz?
ALEX – I started sharing music on YouTube way back in 2011 while still at school, and then began making playlists in 2013. The channel began growing while I was at university (studying something completely unrelated to music) and continues to this day! I have no official background in the music industry besides this, though I think a passion for music is the most important thing! So don’t let anything else stop you.
BETH – I grew up listening to a lot of 90s/2000s bands (blink 182, Sum 41 etc) and then I absolutely fell in love with the likes of Coldplay & The 1975. Still two of my favourite bands ever! I followed the Indie music scene pretty much all my life. When I met Alex in 2014 our music tastes completely matched and he’s the one that got me into the independent music scene even more and since then it’s pretty much the only music I ever listen to.
What’s your favourite track that’s ever been submitted to you?
ALEX – Oh my goodness this seems to change every day! I feel that we’ve become a lot more selective in the music that we share over the last couple of years, which means the quality keeps going up. My favourite today is probably “Night Shift” by The Satellite Station, but ask me again tomorrow for a different answer!
BETH – That’s probably one of the hardest questions to answer haha! I think it’s near impossible to pick out one track so I’ll just go with some of my favourite bands/artists these would have to be Cinders, Clouds & Thorns, WILD, Dylan Dunlap & Canyon City but there’s absolutely hundreds that are in my favourites list and it just keeps growing.
How do you create and maintain a successful playlist?
ALEX – We both get inspired by our life experiences and the world around us. Our playlists are very seasonal, which makes it a lot of fun to think of playlists each month… e.g. Tender Love in February (for Valentines Day), Hello Sunshine in the summer, Warm & Cozy in November etc. To maintain it, just keep your ear out for good music, maybe update the artwork every six months/year to keep things fresh, and remove a few songs as your tastes develop. Things like that!
BETH – I think, as I said, we are very into our seasons and themes and plan around that. If we know it’s coming up to exam season, we will then release a Stress-Free Studying playlist because we know it’s perfect timing for a lot of people to listen. I think just being very consistent and taking in the recommendations/ listening to what our viewers want to listen to. Another big one is only accepting songs that we 100% love and feel a connection with, it’s extremely tough to decline songs but we are so grateful and fortunate to be submitted such great music that the best way to work in this industry is to be completely honest with what we are accepting.
Do you think the future of independent music lies within streaming?
ALEX – Yes and no! Streaming and playlisting is an incredible way to get independent music into the ears of new listeners, but as you know, the revenue from streaming is never going to be enough to support an indie artist financially. So live shows, merch and new revenue streams like Patreon are still vital to growing in the industry.
BETH – I think the majority of people these days much prefer to listen to a song on Spotify than sticking in a CD, which I do kind of find sad because I used to be a huge CD fan… we have so many CD’S just collecting dust. It’s just become so easy for people to listen to music online so that’s what most people do these days. However, saying that, I am a huge vinyl records fan so I’m so happy they are so in/ it’s great seeing so many independent artists releasing on vinyl. Picking up a record with your favourite indie artist on it is always such a cool feeling.
What is your stance on artificial streaming?
ALEX – It’s the worst, and really makes us sad. Streaming is so new that there’s not much policing around these things, and I can, unfortunately, understand why artists would pay companies to inflate their numbers, despite the resulting streaming revenue not covering a fraction of the costs they pay. We’ve also seen playlists (ours included) being reported by bots, in an effort to push other playlists higher in the search results. It’s a crazy world out there! Hopefully, the platforms will find better ways to block this in the future.
BETH – I completely disagree with artificial streaming and it really annoys me, to be honest. It’s extremely fake and when we are already in an industry that is very difficult to get into, in the long run, it really doesn’t help anyone. It’s such a waste of time. What’s the point in paying for fake streams then playing a show and no one turning up? Ahah makes no sense.
Do you have any advice for people pitching their songs to Spotify playlists?
ALEX – Always make sure you’ve listened through a few songs on the playlist that you’re applying to before sending! Despite being an indie platform, we get sent so many songs from other genres which clearly don’t fit us. Also, try to find out where the best place to submit is – we personally much prefer either SubmitHub or our submission portal over an email or Instagram DM… but other playlisters could be the complete opposite! So absolutely take a couple of minutes to research first! It makes all the difference and could save you so much time.
BETH – Spotify is an extremely difficult platform to get playlisting on, we’ve experienced this a lot. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get on a Spotify playlist but just make sure you are pitching to the right playlist to fit your style of music & have a good bio that will draw them in. Good luck, it’s a tough pitching world out there haha!
Don’t forget to check out their Spotify!
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