Streaming for Artists: How to Get Your Music on Spotify
As a musician, you want to find the best way to get your music out to fans. You invest a lot of time and energy to create music you truly believe in and work hard to connect with your audience. In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to get your music online and gain fans using streaming services. I’m often asked about how artists can get their music onto Spotify, one of the most popular streaming music platforms. It’s actually quite easy to do, but there are some technical requirements and procedures to be aware of, which I will describe below.
If you want to earn money streaming your music on Spotify, it’s not enough to just upload your music. You will also need to promote your music. You will need a strategy for Spotify and other streaming services that goes well beyond just making your music available and discoverable by fans. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources available to assist you with marketing your music and engaging with your listeners. Spotify offers some great tools to enhance your chances for success. Streaming your music on Spotify and other platforms is an effective way to build a fan base and earn money from your music. It should be part of your overall strategy for moving ahead with your performing and recording career.
What Is Spotify?
Spotify is a music streaming service which uses a freemium model. The free version forces listeners to hear ads, similar to YouTube. Like other freemium platforms, Spotify tries to get users to upgrade to a premium subscription, currently priced at $9.99 per month. Headquartered in Sweden, the service is available in 65 regions, according to Wikipedia. Music can be browsed on the platform using genre, artist, and album, and playlists can be generated and shared via social media channels. As of September 2018, Spotify provides access to more than 35 million songs for 180 million active users worldwide, of which 83 million are paying subscribers. Spotify earns money from its paying subscribers and also from ads from third-party advertisers on the site.
Spotify pays artist royalties based on the number of streams of their songs as a proportion of total songs streamed on the platform. This is different from traditional song royalties, which calculate fixed payments to artists based on the number of times a song is played or a recording is sold. While Spotify has received criticism from artists such as Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke who claim artists are not compensated fairly, the company announced in 2016 that it had paid out over $5 billion to the music industry, representing 70% of its revenues. They also promised at that time to pay out another $2 billion over the following two years. According to recent news reports, they paid out much more than that in 2017 alone. A study has shown that the bulk of Spotify’s revenues are paid to independent labels, not artists, and the labels keep a significant portion of the money. While this has been good for the labels, it hasn’t helped the artists as much.
While artists have complained that they are not paid fairly for their streams, in its defense Spotify claims to be beneficial to musicians and their labels by working to lure listeners away from piracy sites while encouraging them to upgrade to premium listening services. Overall, there is a feeling that Spotify has been good for the music industry as it offers a new model for monetization of music content. Since revenues from recorded music had recently fallen to historic lows, the consensus seems to be that anything that can get people paying even small amounts for listening to music is a good thing.
In the end, streaming has increased revenues from recorded music compared to several years ago. The company still hasn’t turned a profit, again, according to Wikipedia. Spotify is doing all it can to be the dominant player in streaming music subscription services.
While it’s not difficult to upload your music to the Spotify site, if you want to make the most of the opportunity you will need a defined strategy to promote your music and regularly engage your listeners.
Music Labels, Aggregators, and Digital Distribution
Another piece of good news for musicians just starting out is that you don’t have to be signed to a label to get your music uploaded to Spotify and get paid for it. If you are signed to a record label, the label can get your music uploaded to Spotify. If you aren’t on a label, you can directly upload your music to Spotify’s site as long as you have the ability to license your music (more on that below). Without a music label, the easiest way will be to use a music aggregator such as Tunecore or CD Baby to get your music streamed on multiple sites, including Spotify.
Spotify has a list of their preferred digital music distributors (called “aggregators”) on their website. If you visit the websites of these aggregators you will find step-by-step instructions to get you started. The “Spotify for Artists” page on the Spotify website also offers a series of helpful videos covering the basics of how to upload and promote your music, form a team, and use their site to your best advantage. I’ll share more about the information they provide later in this article.
How to Upload Your Music
Prior to submitting music to Spotify, you should make sure of the following:
- You must own the master recording rights.
- Songs using samples must have permission from the owner of any sampled music.
- For covers or songs written with someone else, you must have permission from the other writer(s).
- You must have the rights to any artwork you use, and make sure to check the specs on any images you submit with the recording.
- Make sure your name is spelled correctly so your music doesn’t end up on multiple profiles (this happens a lot).
It takes five business days for your music to be available for streaming on the site, as Spotify wants to make sure that the sound quality is good and that the music will be discoverable. Aside from the submission process, you should think about the best strategies for releasing your music, such as frequency and timing of releases, sharing on social media, building your artist profile, using playlists, and how to effectively engage your audience. While it’s not difficult to upload your music to the Spotify site, if you want to make the most of the opportunity you will need a defined strategy to promote your music and regularly engage your listeners.
Make Your Spotify Game Plan: Artist Profile
We’ve established that it’s not enough to just upload your music to Spotify and that you’ll need a solid game plan to make sure your audience can find you. You want people to know who you are, and it’s up to you to tell them. Your artist profile on Spotify can be an effective tool for this. Think of it as a quiver, filled with arrows to be aimed at a target audience. You want to create a buzz that will help you to initiate and maintain audience engagement. The Spotify artist profile is designed to help you do this.
First impressions matter and your artist profile tells audiences who you are and what you do. Your profile is also where listeners go to connect with you and your music. You should use your Spotify artist profile to create a personal brand identity that feels natural and unique. Spotify profiles allow for a 1,500 character artist bio, avatar image, background image, and photo gallery for promo shots or concert photos. You can also list your concert and gig dates; Spotify will post these automatically if you have tickets for sale on Ticketmaster, Songkick, AXS, or Eventbrite. These live gig listings will also show up on your fans’ personalized concert section. You can also sell concert merch on Spotify. These are some of the really cool features Spotify offers artists.
According to Troy Carter, Head of Creative Services at Spotify, the biggest key to success with streaming is having good music. Having a strong belief in your product will help you and others to promote it. Use your artist profile to convey your passion and dedication to your music to your listeners, and tell them why they should care and be interested in what you have to say through your music.
You want people to know who you are, and it’s up to you to tell them. Your artist profile on Spotify can be an effective tool for this. Think of it as a quiver, filled with arrows to be aimed at a target audience.
More Resources to Promote Your Music: Playlists and Social Media
Now that you have your music up on Spotify, it’s time to get your hustle going, create a buzz, and directly engage listeners. Besides the artist profile, Spotify offers some other crucial resources to make this happen. Two of the most important are playlists and artist’s pick. The purpose of both of these is to keep fans coming back to listen to your music again and again. The artist playlist tells fans what you are listening to, and the artist’s pick is a song or album which can be pinned to the top of your playlist. You can use either to show off your music or just share with your fans what you enjoy listening to at the moment. You can also add a line of text to the artist’s pick to promote a live gig.
Making changes to your playlist can be a way to stay active on Spotify, especially if you can’t release new music every week or month. Tweaking your playlist helps with fan engagement. Using social media, a playlist can create community, and stimulate interaction with your fans. Fans can make listening recommendations for you and other playlist followers. Think of it as your own radio show, where you get to express yourself through ongoing curation of the music you listen to and love. A dynamic playlist helps fans to feel connected with you and appreciate what you do even more. Also, the more fans add your songs to their own Spotify playlists, the more likely that the site’s editors and algorithms will notice and add your music to even bigger playlists.
Spotify’s website shares some useful strategies for using social media platforms together with Spotify:
- Plan around your calendar. Studio sessions, video productions, interviews, creative meetings, travel — all provide opportunities to craft a compelling story and visual for each event.
- Time your releases carefully. Releasing music frequently is a good way to attract new listeners as Spotify urges fans to look for new music using their “release radar” function, plus their Friday new music playlist.
- Use your personal network. Direct message all your contacts asking them to share your music. Monitor your sharing and viewing activity carefully.
- Use Calls To Action (CTAs) to drive regular traffic to your artist page on Spotify. Tell fans where to go to listen to your music.
- Use incentives with your CTAs. Offer your most engaged fans chances to win merch or special music.
- Use “follow CTAs” before releases, so fans will get notifications every time you release new music.
Everyone starts out listening to your music as a passive fan. It’s your job to convert them into an active fan who enthusiastically shares your music with others. Achieve this by engaging your fans with continual messaging to reinforce their connection with you. It’s also important to be interesting as this will help with your fan engagement.
Spotify Codes and Data Analytics: Other Tools to Engage Your Audience
Spotify codes are scannable codes that link to your song, album, playlist, or artist page. Codes can be put on posters, flyers, stickers, postcards, confetti, or business cards which could be passed out at shows. These codes allow listeners to later hear a song on Spotify that they enjoyed at your show.
Data resources offer analytics tools on Spotify. The artist insights page shows the data to help you time your releases for maximum effect. For example, a good time to release a new single might be when interest is peaking from a previous release. You can use data on Spotify to track your fan engagement, gain insights as to the appeal of your music to fans, and prolong fan engagement.
Who’s On Your Team?
Keep in mind that any time money is being exchanged, you are in business. In the music business, it helps to have a team. One of the more interesting videos on the Spotify for Artists website is called “Building Your Team.” On the video, Spotify employees talk about your potential team members, such as an Accountant, Manager, Lawyer, Booking Agent, and Road Manager. They point out that every artist’s needs are different, and the composition of your team also depends on where you are in your career. (I’ve written about artist development and building your team in other articles on careersinmusic.com.
A few points made in the video are worth repeating:
- Once you have music you really believe in, your team should be as hungry as you are.
- When building your team, you should look for people who share your passion for your music, because you are asking them to care about your art and craft as much as you do.
- You should be the hardest working member of the team since nobody can care about your music more than you do.
Now that you know what it takes to get your music streaming on Spotify, upload your music and work harder than anyone to attract and engage your audience.
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