Paul Johnson’s life was like any other struggling musician’s—working multiple jobs, picking up gigs, hustling. Then his warm acoustic folk-pop tune “Firework” made it on to one of Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlists, designed to surface brand-new artists. Spotify and other streaming platforms invest heavily in playlists, ranging from the algorithmically generated Discover Weekly (which predicts new music subscribers might like) to the editorial RapCaviar (the most desired real estate in hip-hop). Playlist placements are highly coveted, both for how they rack up the streams—more than 7 billion in five years, in the case of RapCaviar—and the way they expose music to new listeners. The latter paid off for Johnson.