We all know the music industry had drastically changed in the past few years.
Musicians are much more independent than before, they can sell their music online, distribute it in two clicks and promote every new track to millions of social media users.
As many musicians would argue, the greatest change might be the rise of paid streaming. The streaming model creates a unique opportunity for a musician, each play results in the performing artist getting royalties.
The paid streaming market is a busy one.
Several key players are dictating the pace, and out of the top contenders It’s no secret Spotify is the most popular among music consumers.
The service has now close to 130M users from which 70M are paid; It had started trends and is the catalyst behind many musician career launches.
Due to its size Spotify provides a powerful springboard for the starting musician.
Spotify can provide both a source of income and a way for the artist to reach new audiences. It’s different services such as their artist dashboard, the Discover Weekly algorithm and Spotifys’ curated playlists all can kickstart a musician’s career.
Knowing the power of the streaming giant, our goal in this post is to provide a complete Spotify guide for starting musicians who aim to get the most out of their music.
This guide is full of details,hacks and tutorials every starting musician should know - from getting your music to streaming platforms to different ways to scale and grow your Spotify audience.
Now, when you understand the impact a spotify profile might have, it’s time to get things going!
First step, get your music to Spotify!
If you are signed at a label or any aggregator, this is very simple, you do your thing and they’ll take care of this for you.
If you’re 100% independent, you’ll need to tackle distribution on your own..
“The process of delivering your music to consumers” as said by Heather McDonald from The Balance Careers.
Before the rise of online streaming and digital music sales a distributor’s job was mostly taking care of printing records, cds and cassettes.
Nowadays, physical music sales are rapidly decreasing. Distributors quickly evolved and now they mostly take care of digital distribution, delivering artists’ music to services like Spotify, apple music, tidal, deezer, shazam, amazon prime and google music, where it is either streamed on demand or purchased.
Besides the act of spreading one’s music the distributor often takes care of music licensing - which to cut things short - is the act of making sure your music is registered under your own name so you’ll be rewarded with royalties whenever someone is using / listening to your music.
Once your song had been streamed or downloaded the distributor will take care of collecting your royalties, meaning that they’ll make sure you get paid (after most of them take a hefty cut).
Now, that you know licensing / distribution basic let’s land you a distribution deal!
No worries, this is not too complex, there are a lot of services online that can help you with that!
Nonetheless, each service provides a unique approach to distribution and they’ll charge you in different way, so pay attention! ⚔️
To make things even easier we collected 10 digital distribution services we know and love:
Distrokid - MySphera favorites! They offer a great deal for musicians with a lot of unique features to make the whole process much easier.
The deal: Keep 100% of your royalties pay $19.99 to upload unlimited albums & songs for a year.
Where: all major streaming services +150 more sites.
Amuse - A unique distribution that might even sign you for a record deal! learn more about their unique model here https://amuse.io/why-it-is-free/
The deal: keep 100% of royalties pay nothing!
Where: major streaming services
CD Baby - Distribution veterans, might be pricier than the previous, but they offer physical distribution as well.
The deal: one time payment of 9.95$ to 34.95$ per single or 35$ to $69 per album. Besides that they take 9% of total royalties.
Where: major streaming services, sell digital content on cd baby and taking care of your physical distribution.
SpinnUp - A powerful service that provides promotion tools alongside distribution.
The deal: yearly payment of 10EU-40EU for 1-25 tracks with no commission on royalties.
Where: major streaming services
Tunecore - Another force in the distribution game, they provide specific services to songwriters as well.
The deal: First year album dist. 29.99$ with every year after 49.99$ and you keep 100% of the royalties.
Where: Major streaming services + 150 online stores.
AWAL - since 2003, AWAL is helping musicians getting heard, besides distribution they provide marketing help and playlist promotion services.
The deal: 100% free but they take a cut of 15% of your revenue meaning, from every dollar you’ll earn after taxes they’ll take 15 cents.
Where: major streaming services and online stores
Record Union - Relatively new on the field, Record Union provides simple yet very affordable distribution deals.
The deal: 7$-13$ for the most basic distribution deal where you keep 100% of your royalties. Premium distribution starts at 15$.
Where: major streaming services.
Routenote - Routenote provides a nice model, allowing the artist to switch between plans at any point, from free with commissions to paid.
The deal: 10$-45$ one time, 9.99$ annually or 15% commission from your revenue.
Where: all major streaming services.
Ditto - Ditto is the only service that provides solutions for labels as well, providing a multiple artist distribution solution.
The deal: 19$ for a single artist for a year, no commissions.
Where: all major streaming services.
Level - Fresh of the boat service "Level" has recently opened their beta for artists where they provide free distribution as long as they’re still on beta.
The deal: 100% free with no commissions.
Where: major streaming services.
Once you got distribution taken care of and your music got into Spotify time has come to claim your Spotify for Artists profile!
What’s Spotify For Artists good for?
It gives you the tools to customize your artist page, get listeners insight like who’s listening to your music and get early access to Spotify’s newest features.
Check their site to learn more.
Ok, now we know why it’s good, it’s time to claim your artist profile page. Here is the most up to date video on the subject we could find.
Not in the mood for videos? All good, here’s our 2 cents:
Go to this page.
Type your artist name.
Choose the right artist page.
Cant find yourself? Follow this gif 👇🏽
Hopefully you got that classy verified artist blue check mark get ready for the last step!
It’s time to optimize your artist page!
Add your photo. This is the absolute basics. Make sure you upload a quality picture, it’s the prime visual key in your profile! Here’s what Spotify had to say about a profile pic: “Your artist image on Spotify is a chance for expression and another opportunity to show fans who you are” check out the full profile pic guide.
Add a compelling bio. let your listeners know what you’re all about! You have a 1,500 letters limit, so make every word count!
Pro tip: use @ to connect to everything on Spotify.
Add artist picks. this is the essence of your current mood, they could be songs, artists or playlists. Your picks last 14 days on your channel and they’re a great way to share your taste with your listeners and a way to engage with playlist curators and fellow musicians.
Manage your album / artist metadata.
Add track metadata! You can add tags, genres and mood to any of your album / your artist page. This will make a big role behind the scenes when Spotify recommendation algorithms will have an easier time recommending your music. Here's an example.
Add external links! This will connect your social pages and website to your Spotify page.
Make sure you give yourself the highest ranking in the “How do you like this album?” section (next lvl: make all your friends give you the highest rank as well)
Add merch: you’ll need a merchbar account https://www.merchbar.com/artists for that!
Tour dates: the easiest way is to use Songkick Spotify synchronization tool - read about it here.
Great, your Spotify artist page is now extra fresh, but we still got some work to do. Time to utilize Spotifys’ ultimate secret weapon for higher reach - Playlists!
The power of playlists
Anyone in the crowd who’s not a Spotify user? Or Apple Music? Deezer? Amazon Music? If you are that person, congrats, you’re probably one of a kind!
With the ever growing popularity of streaming services, came a new trend, and it’s called playlists.
In recent times playlists are becoming the go-to tool for music discovery, having listeners counting on them to set their audio experience, whether independent or commercial playlists.
What makes playlists so impactful?
Well, first and foremost, the variety. Tons of music is now accessible and every day more and more tracks are pushed into the streaming domain; Finding your way through it to your desired tune, especially for the ordinary non-musician listener is becoming a challenge.
Secondly, the expert factor. Remember the days when radio broadcaster would introduced audiences to a new hit? These days are becoming the past with online streaming.
The typical music streamer is putting his trust on the word of an expert curator rather then exploring new music on his own.
Sounds odd? The thousands of curated playlists on Spotify generate more than 1 billion streams each week!
Long before Lorde got plays on radio stations or features on magazines - she was already a hit.
Thanks to Spotify's independent playlists, Lord's music got featured on some playlists which landed her a spot on Sean Parker's self managed and popular playlist, Hipster International, and since then the rest was history.
Need more proofs? Playlists take a major role in exposing artists abroad too, they’re the reason why Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About That Base’ hit the UK earlier and harder than expected!
Forget everything you know about getting your music heard.
In the online streaming era, the ultimate way to spread your music to potential listeners is by getting it to where music is listened to the most - the online streamed playlists.
Find it hard to believe? Check out this study showing how 90% of Spotify's uses are listening / creating playlists.
How to get playlisted?
Gladly, you have many options to use!
From small following to a massive one, from the independent to commercial, you got a variety of playlists to choose from where the curators (the person who maintains the playlist) approve music submissions.
It might feel like a hassle which has no guarantees, but trust us it’s always worth a shot, the right playlist feature might take your career to the next level.
When it comes to the Official Spotify playlists, start by searching for the playlists you’d like to get featured on.
Once you find them, start following them, and look for their curators. They might be tracked down on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!
Once you get to know them, craft a personalized message with your music!
Besides from the official Spotify playlists, there’s the big shots, such as big labels or brands playlists, just like Sony’s Filtr, Universal’s Topsify, or Coca Cola, Nike and Adidas who’re using the platform to promote brand related audio content.
Although submitting to those has no promises as well, they offer another large scaled path of new music promotion.
Not in the mood for the big dogs? We got something just for you!
Meet the independent playlist curators of Spotif.
Despite not being as shiny as the branded playlists, these curators sure can make an impact; With some curators passing the 100K followers!
Who’re these curators?
Bloggers, DJs, Broadcasters to simply music heads who love listening and exploring new music, these music fans enjoy exploring new music! That’s why they take the time to check it out and curate playlists from it.
Although Spotify itself has over 2b independently curated playlists, you can easily track down some cool playlists to submit to who will actually take a listen to your music!
Here’s a nice batch to start from:
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