Cannes Lions

The Unheard Playlist

WONDRLAB INDIA, Mumbai / SPOTIFY / 2023

Case Film
Supporting Content
Demo Film

Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Background

Music doesn’t know the gender of artists, but this isn’t reflected by the music industry. USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative showed a 3.6:1 ratio between male and female artists. Women accounted for just 12.6% of songwriters and 2.6% of music producers. The Indian music industry mimicked this, only 1 out of 10 most streamed artists on Spotify in 2022 was a woman. There was just 13% top-of-mind recall for women artists with 1 in 4 women creators saying that it’s difficult for a woman to build followers. Spotify has balanced its role of entertainer with efforts to bring gender inclusivity into music through music platform EQUAL and the AmplifiHer initiative, which brought female artists into the spotlight. Now in partnership with Sony Music India, it decided to use the language of music, to create the cultural impetus for gender inclusivity. Something that felt authentic and organic, rather than paid and pushed.

Idea

On International Women’s Day, Spotify in partnership with Sony Music India, dropped a limited-edition enhanced playlist - The Unheard Playlist. Listeners were in for an audio surprise. It contained the most popular Bollywood duet songs, but while the male vocals were unchanged, the female vocals were silenced, with the background score playing instead.

For the music community, it instantly demonstrated the gender skew. With zero bought media and minimal production cost, The Unheard Playlist started trending on Twitter. India’s top women artists asked millions of followers to share songs of upcoming female artists to make them heard. Micro influencers with several thousand followers, took the conversation deeper into the country. Media joined, spearheading discussions with stakeholders on underrepresentation of women in music. Thus, by silencing women’s voices, The Unheard Playlist actually got them heard… that too, at barely more than the cost of a playlist.

Strategy

The Unheard Playlist deliberately kept away from a heavy brand push strategy. The Indian music ecosystem is a close-knit community of artists, composers and music houses. What was needed was not a heavy-handed, promoted message, but a tipping point that started an authentic, organic conversation on underrepresentation of women in music.

Spotify is also a young platform in India, with almost 85% of users below 35 years. Popular artists with the power to snowball the conversation, were likely to be younger artists, who don’t take well to preachy messages. Therefore, we applied the universal wisdom: ‘If you want to demonstrate the value of something, take it away.’ With International Women’s Day coming up, where most brands made women speak up, Spotify decided to silence the voice of women artists. Then we did what we usually do - we dropped a playlist and waited for the community to spark the revolution.

Execution

Creating an organic movement without bought media, needed the execution to create amplification possibilities. The first step was to identify the most popular Bollywood and multilingual duets which would be most relatable to the listeners. The music was sourced through a Sony Music India partnership and modified to silence the female vocals with the background score.

To increase impact, video bytes of the artists whose voices had been silenced, were interspersed between the songs using Spotify’s ‘enhanced playlist’ feature. This increased the scale of the conversation by looping in these artists’ combined base of millions of followers as well as securing the attention and support of other popular artists. And just like that, a new enhanced playlist was born.

All that remained was to drop the playlist like any other playlist on Spotify and wait for the community to pick up and amplify the conversation.

Outcome

Starting from the 8th of March to the 16th of March, and with zero bought media, The Unheard Playlist gathered enough momentum to become the #1 trending topic on Twitter on Day-1, despite the clutter of Women’s Day messages. Eventually, organic conversations reached almost 39 million people on Instagram and Twitter.

This conversation also united the women in the industry. India’s top women artists became spokespeople for the campaign and urged their combined follower base of millions, to share work of upcoming women artists. Male artists and micro influencers joined the movement and took the conversation deeper into the country. Media joined, spearheading discussions that addressed relevant issues on underrepresentation of women in music. By silencing the voices of women, The Unheard Playlist created the cultural impetus needed to kickstart gender inclusivity in music. All this, just by creating a purposeful playlist.

Similar Campaigns

12 items

Spotify Arcade

XELEMENT AGENCY, Riyadh

Spotify Arcade

2023, SPOTIFY

(opens in a new tab)