Should you be putting your music on Spotify?
Ultimately, it’s up to you if you’re an unsigned artist. But Spotify can and should be your biggest priority in building your career in music. In this post I walk you through six popular objections, my responses to them, and what your strategy should be in order to profit in the long-run from having your music on Spotify and other streaming platforms.
In this post, I address the issues of Spotify’s horrificly low pay to artists for their music streams, how crowded the platform has become making getting attention more challenging every day, how holding back your music from Spotify allegedly builds anticipation, why waiting to get signed before putting your music on Spotify is a mistake, how the albums vs singles debate doesn’t work in your favor, and the belief making music free to listen to on Spotify decreases album sales.
The Six Reasons People Say You Should NOT Be Putting Your Music on Spotify – And Why They’re Wrong
Spotify pays too little
This is absolutely true. Spotify is not paying artists properly for the value the platform gets from providing users those streams. Even factoring in for re-investment in the technology, for storing all the musical digital files, and for marketing the service to the three people left in the world who don’t already use Spotify. The platform is still paying artists the bare minumum it can.
How much does Spotify pay?
According to CNBC as of June 2018, “Spotify pays about $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream to the holder of music rights. And the “holder” can be split among the record label, producers, artists, and songwriters.” That’s less than a penny per stream. So, one million streams? That’ll make a payment on the van, but it won’t cover studio costs for the next album.
So then why put your music on Spotify?
Spotify is not going to be a revenue source for you. Or, certainly not a significant revenue source. So, Spotify should be treated like a marketing opportunity rather than a replacement for lost album sales (more on that later). Sure, it’s just ANOTHER way in which musicians and their art are being offered opportunity in stead of money. But Spotify is the most important of these opportunities for a couple reasons.
First, there’s the sheer scale of it. If someone offered you a festival gig performing in front of millions of people, you would take the gig. How much does it pay? Nothing. Fine. Make it up in merch. And in fan-generation. Spotify should be treated the same way. You are trying to develop casual fans into normal fans. And normal fans into superfans. Superfans will buy your merch. So make it available to them. Communicate with them. Nurture them into being.
Second, the music industry takes Spotify statistics very seriously. A million streams might only garner you a few thousand dollars. But it should get you a raised eyebrow from a record label, manager, or booking agent. Spotify statistics are either the first or second thing the industry wants to see. Either they come across you because of your statistics. Or they are introduced to you by other means and their first question will almost definitely be “how are you doing on Spotify?”
Make Spotify your highest priority each and every day. Build your audience there. Get follows and streams and playlist placements. The money doesn’t matter. You’re making an investment. (I know. ANOTHER one.)
Spotify is too crowded
Spotify adds over 20,000 new tracks every day. And its catalogue is tens of millions of songs deep. Your next single is quite literally a drop in a noisy, digital ocean. This means two things:
- You need to work hard to be found
- It’s only getting worse
Most artists upload their tracks and never do anything else. I don’t know what the statistics are on this but, of the 20,000 new tracks being uploaded today, 19,500 of them aren’t being supported in any way. This means there is a great opportunity to work harder for your 1 track than 499 others. And now the odds are closer to being in your favor.
How to get more streams on Spotify as an unsigned artist
It’s a lonely road. You have no social media team, no marketing team. So you’ll have to do these things for yourself. And this is far, far from a comprehensive list. But do these three things and you’ll be most the way there.
Promote your Spotify tracks and channel with graphics and links shared to your social media following.
This should be obvious but it is actually done very rarely. Create teaser videos and graphics. Promote everything you are doing on Spotify. And encourage your fans to share your tracks as well. Spotify makes it really easy. Maybe make a short video or graphic to show them exactly how to do it!
Get on playlists.
There are several great strategies for doing this. Unfortunately, we don’t have the space to share some of our favorites here but keep coming back! It’s on our Things to Blog About list! In short, ignore the Spotify algorithm and Spotify-curated playlists. Find playlists with fair-sized followings and a real, human, normal person curating. Get on those playlists!
Ask peers and industry people you know to share your Spotify tracks.
These people are often called “influencers”. But forget the perfume-reviewers and edgy-commenters with millions of followers. Focus on the people you know. Are there other artists you’ve worked with who would be willing to share your track? Any local businesses who might? What about music industry people who have expressed interest in your band but you don’t have a big enough following / revenue generating yet? There is POWER in making the ask. Cash in those favors!
Holding your music back from Spotify will build anticipation
Unfortunately, this usually just builds frustration. Remember those 19,999 other songs that got loaded up to Spotify today? While it may not be what your fan wants to hear, it’s distracting enough. Your fans will find something to listen to. And it won’t be you.
Meanwhile, you’re losing time. When you are constantly working for streams on Spotify, the returns are exponential. Each track will build upon the success of the last. And each playlist your track gets on will get you closer to the algorithm-generated playlists Spotify makes. And once you have cracked the ceiling of these playlists, each subsequent track you release has a better chance of getting there. The returns in terms of streams can be exponential.
Waiting until you have a recording contract
As I wrote earlier, Spotify stream and follower numbers are the first or second data points the music industry looks at. If you have the goal of a recording contract as one step on your journey, building your audience on Spotify is an almost undeniable method to getting there.
Picture this: you pitch your dream label. You tell them how great your music is. You tell them you’re pulling hundreds in your hometown on the regular. You’ll get – a yawn. Labels and managers hear these pitches all the time. Now try it again. Describe your sound. Now tell them your latest single has 2 million streams and growing. And you are doing it on your own. You’ll be lucky to get out of the room WITHOUT a contract.
I’ve written before on shortcuts to music industry attention. Check that post out here!
Spotify is ruining how people listen to music
Most the time this is framed within the debate of singles versus albums. Because streaming platforms have made it so easy to replace radio stations with playlists, often people are listening to their favorite music one song at a time. For bands who insist on a longer attention-span, this has become a challenge.
Once your music is made public you no longer have control over how people will listen to it. You can’t control the environment they’ll listen to it in. Can’t control the people they listen to it with. You control nothing. You gave that up when you recorded and released your music.
As for contributing to the “problem” of singles at the expense of albums? Again, you are a drop in a noisy, digital ocean. Feel free to only release your music on vinyl, but be prepared to have extreme limitations on your career growth.
Making the music available free to stream will reduce album sales
Yes this is true. But this is only true for the fans that exist today. With a modicum of effort on the Spotify platform, you will grow your fanbase.
Now, you may sell a smaller percentage of those fans on your physical CDs and whatnot, but you’ll be selling more of them.
For example, let’s say you have 1000 fans before you put your music on Spotify. You anticipate selling 20% of those fans the CD. Great. At $10 a CD, you’ve just sold 200 CDs, making $2000. You probably just covered your costs for manufacturing, design, and shipping.
Now, let’s say you increase your fanbase 150% by putting that modicum of effort into your Spotify presence. You now have 2500 fans. But only 10% of those fans buy your CD. Bummer. But you’ve just sold 250 CDs, making $2500. That’s $500 more than you would have made by not having your music on Spotify.
Now, I get these numbers are hella-rough. But I’m trying to make the point you want to be making fans wherever you can. And you want to turn casual fans into normal fans, and normal fans into superfans. Each type of fan will support you in different ways. But the superfan is where the money is at.
Spotify for artists
Gamify your work on Spotify. Make building followers and stream numbers your goal each and every day. Keep track of these numbers. Maybe put a whiteboard up in the jam room. Set aggressive, reachable goals and work hard with the help of family, friends, and bandmates to reach those goals.
You absolutely must have a presence on Spotify. Don’t listen to the excuses from others as to why they aren’t on the platform. Build your following and don’t worry about the money or challenges the platform provides. Being great at Spotify is one of the most important pieces of making your band signable. And will be a key way you grow your audience.
Now, get to work!