How to remove your podcast from Spotify without losing (all) your listeners

There are a lot of reasons you why you might consider removing your podcast from Spotify. In this article, I’m going to walk you through how you can pull your show, without completely wrecking your listener numbers.

The method I’ll show you involves creating a second podcast feed that just a has a single episode. This feed will be exclusively distributed on Spotify, while your regular feed for everyone on other platforms continues as usual.

And I want to make this clear: leaving any platform means a loss of listeners. All I’m claiming is that you can minimize that loss by maintaining your listing on Spotify, with a listing that provides your listeners with links and resources for continued listening on other platforms.

Switching podcast apps is a pain for listeners, it’s true. But in over a decade of podcasting, I’ve learned that there’s a surprising number of listeners who will do whatever it takes to keep listening. And your goal should be to make it as easy as possible.

Important: this article assumes that you have permission to control your podcast’s distribution. If you have a distribution deal with a network or brand or whatnot, you’ll need to consult your contracts first, since I am not a lawyer and can’t advise you on legal matters.

Who are you and what gives you the right?

My name is Jeff Emtman. I make a long-running independent podcast about fear and the unknown. It’s called Here Be Monsters. I don’t have formal computer science training, but I’ve been through enough distribution deals and whatnot to have gotten pretty used to rolling my sleeves up and digging into the (surprisingly) simple tech that makes podcasts work. More on that in a second.

I want to get off of Spotify. Why shouldn’t I just delete my listing?

You can do that if you want! It’s definitely the most direct method.

As of publish date, there’s not way to immediately remove your show via Spotify for Podcasters. Referring to this help article, Spotify states that the only way to remove your show is to reach out to support. They say they’ll help you remove it from there.

Direct removal is a bad method though. By deleting your show, you’ll unceremoniously dump any existing subscribers on Spotify. And while it’s possible that some of those listeners might eventually notice, and seek you out elsewhere, the scarier prospect is the idea that potential new listeners would search for your podcast on Spotify, not find it, and just give up trying to subscribe. Not good. Read on.

Quick side note: If you do take this route and you wind up communicating with customer service, then don’t be a jerk. It doesn’t matter how mad you are the platform, they’re normal people who don’t get any say in whatever bad policy their employer’s enacted. Be kind and direct with customer service employees. It’s always worth it.

A Better Way: Replace your Spotify listing with a different feed.

This method involves setting up a new podcast RSS feed. But what exactly is RSS? RSS is the technology that makes podcasting work. If you have an audio podcast, you (by definition) have an RSS feed. In the case of podcasting, your RSS feed is mostly your episodes’ metadata text, along with links to the audio files for each episode.

Here’s what some of my podcast’s RSS looks like. Generated automatically by the site where I host my shows.

It’s quite possible to have been podcasting for years and never have actually seen your own RSS. That’s because most podcast hosts take care of making this file for you, seamlessly. The RSS file itself is just a text file with all the information about your podcast in it. It’s in a standardized format that all podcasting apps can understand. It has information about all your episodes, some URLS for audio files, a link to your cover art, etc. When this file updates, podcasts apps know that that a new episode is out and push them out to listeners.
Again, most podcast hosts (Libsyn, Podbean, Anchor, etc.) generate the feed file for you. It exists at a URL. The URLS can look different, but yours might follow one of these common conventions:
https://mysite.com/podcast/format=rss
https://mysite.com/podcast/feed.rss
https://feeds.feedburner.com/my-podcast-name

Okay, so we’ll be setting up a new podcast feed. It’ll be pretty much the same as your current one. The only difference is that this feed will have just a single episode on it. You can use this episode to tell your listeners why you’ve left Spotify, and how to keep listening.

What’s key about this approach is that you’ll avoid removing your show from Spotify. Instead, you’ll just be swapping out the feed that Spotify looks at when tries to find your episodes.

Why bother? Well, it solves the discovery and retention problems mentioned above. Again, instead of deleting your listing, you’re replacing it with new content that instructs your listeners how to subscribe elsewhere. This has the added benefit of being pushed out to all your current Spotify subscribers too, they’ll see it the same way they see all your new episodes.

1. Set up the Spotify-Exclusive Feed

There’s a whole lot of services that allow you host a podcast for free these days. Luckily, the limitations of these free accounts usually come in upload limits. Since you’ll be making a single episode podcast feed, there’s no real downside of using a free option.

Sign up for one of these services. Add all your same top level information from your Original Feed (show art, description, contact info, etc). Take note of the URL of this new podcast’s RSS Feed.

Important Note: Some services may automatically try to submit your show to various podcast directories (Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, etc.). For your Spotify-Exclusive Feed, you’ll want to avoid doing this, so that you don’t have multiple listings on those platforms.

2. Record your announcement for the Spotify-Exclusive Feed

It’s always scary to fracture or disenfranchise your listeners. My advice to you: make your case, be kind, be concise. Tell listeners some other services where they can find your show. Don’t make the listener feel like they messed up.

3. Upload your recording to your Spotify-Exclusive Feed

Upload this to the new feed you set up. I recommend getting pretty heavy handed in the show description. Use clickable links to to guide your listeners to other apps where they can listen. Make it crystal clear in the text that you are still making shows, but no longer uploading them to Spotify.

4. Switch out your feed URL in Spotify For Podcasters

This is the magic part where we do the ol’ switcheroo. Steps are accurate as of publish time.

  1. Log in to Spotify for Podcasters
  2. Click “Catalog”
  3. Click the name of your podcast
  4. Click “Details”
  5. Here you’ll find a section called “Podcast Settings”. You’ll see a link to your current RSS feed. Click “Edit Podcast”
  6. Copy Paste the URL of your Spotify-Exclusive Feed into the popup box and click “Next”
  7. You’ll be asked to confirm your hosting provider. They say that this is for stats purposes, but it also determines whether or not Spotify allows pass-through on your feed, or whether they’ll re-host your audio on their own servers. Make a selection and click “Next”.
  8. You’ll be asked to confirm your info before submitting. Click “Next”.

5. Whamo-blammo, you just did it!

Okay, well, kind of. RSS, by nature can take a while to propagate and Spotify is no exception. In the best case scenario, you might see your episodes disappear within an hour. But, Spotify also has the annoying trait of downloading and re-hosting your episodes (aka “caching”). So, it’s totally possible for them keep playing the old audio from their own servers. They don’t necessarily mean to do this, but it’s certainly a possible outcome. When I made the switch, it took about 30 min for the episodes to come down. And it took a bit longer for the Spotify For Podcasters interface to show the changes. I say give it a full day before you panic. If your stuff hasn’t updated by then, I’d say you should send them an email to ask for a “manual refresh” on your listing.

A semi-final note on writing your own RSS feed: A very optional approach.

You may have read the stuff above and heard a little voice in the back of your head saying “wait, if an RSS feed is just a text file, then why can’t I write my own?” Well, you can. And that’s actually the approach I took. It’s a bit nerdier, but it’s also more granular. I’m not going to write a whole treatise on it here, but I’ll just drop a couple tips below in case you try it.

This method involves knowing the precise URLs of a handful of things, such as cover art and episode audio. It also involves poking around with some basic computer code. Here’s a quick skill test: RSS is a type of XML. XML is visually similar to HTML, which is a common language to come across if you ever had like a MySpace profile or a Geocities Site (sorry, my age is showing). Regardless, the important thing is that it’s a language of nested tags. And if that makes sense to you, then you’re probably just fine to edit an RSS feed. Alternatively, if the term “nested tags” doesn’t mean anything to you, then I’d suggest sticking to a traditional podcast host for now.

Tips for generating your own podcast feed RSS:

  • You’ll need some web space to host your own RSS. I’ve got my own website, so I just uploaded my RSS file and my announcement audio into a folder on my website.
  • Writing RSS for podcasts is a bit arbitrary. So, do yourself a favor and just re-use the skeleton of your current podcast feed. Download your original feed manually by going to its URL (it’ll probably be a .xml file, or .rss file, or no extension at all). Open this file in a text editor. It’ll likely be pretty garbled looking, so copy paste it into a tool like XML Beautifier to convert the jumble into something readable with nice indentation.
  • A full fledged “source code editor” like Notepad++ (free) is better than regular text editors like Notepad or Text Edit. You can still use the latter options to edit code, but they lack the benefit of syntax highlighting, which colors different elements of code accordingly for easier reading/editing. Also, do not attempt to edit the code in a word processor like Microsoft Word, as it will quickly teach you a painful lesson about the difference between curly quotation marks and a straight ones. Very painful.
  • GUIDs are important. A GUID is just a serial number for a podcast episode (or anything online really). The GUID is randomly generated for each episode, and to write your own feed, you’ll need to generate a GUID for your episode. Here’s a GUID Generator. Again, it’s not important what the number is, just that it’s different from every other one on your feed.
  • Some stuff in the feed’s going to feel redundant. You’ll enter the episode name at least two times. IDK why, I’m sure there’s a reason.
  • In the tag called <enclosure>, you’ll be specifying the URL of the actual episode audio. This has a length attribute. I was confused by this. It’s not an audio length, it’s a file size length, in bytes. So, if you’re on windows, just right click your file, click properties and look for the file size. Depending on the episode’s duration and bitrate, it’ll probably be a number in the millions or tens of millions. That’s normal.
  • Validate your RSS before you publish it. Copy-paste the code into the W3C’s RSS validator. It’ll analyze your code for errors. If you get errors, try to understand and fix them. If you get warnings, try to understand them and think about whether you can live with the consequences of those (my feed has 3 warnings, all minor. Not worth fixing IMHO).
  • Validate your RSS after you publish it. Cast has a great feed validator service specifically for podcast compatibility. The only catch is that you can’t put raw text into it like you can with the W3C’s. So, once your RSS feed is online, paste its URL into the Cast Podcast Feed Validator. Fix any errors that it tells you about.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a step by step guide on writing your own RSS feed, but trust me, it’s doable, and worth it, if you’ve got the knowledge and web space to spare.

Conclusion

I hope this all works out for you. I’ve just made the move off of Spotify myself, and I’m happy to say that most listeners seem to be supportive. I’m sure I’ve lost some though, too, so I’ll be watching my stats for a bit to see how it all shakes out.

I haven’t posted on Medium before, so I’m not sure how commenting works here. If you can comment here, please do. I’d love to hear your questions, corrections, and stories about transitioning off Spotify. I’m also on Twitter @jeffemtman.

I’m an independent podcaster. Since 2012, I’ve made documentaries about fear and the unknown on my podcast Here Be Monsters. I also make a generative podcast called Neutrinowatch, which is a show that completely regenerates itself daily with new content. You can listen to both shows (nearly) anywhere you listen to podcasts.

With care,

— Jeff

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Creator of Here Be Monsters Podcast (HBMpodcast.com). On Twitter twitter.com/jeffemtman

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Jeff Emtman

Jeff Emtman

Creator of Here Be Monsters Podcast (HBMpodcast.com). On Twitter twitter.com/jeffemtman

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