How to get your music on Spotify, iTunes & Amazon etc. for free.
I assume you already have your social media presence dealt with, for musicians I include soundcloud and bandcamp in that. If you are a DJ then add mixcloud as well. I’m a big believer in having a decent amount of content on line to listen to in full and for free. If you have been around a while and have more than one album’s worth of music definitely push people from soundcloud to your bandcamp to buy your most recent and best material.
I’m not here to give you social media advice but please don’t buy fans, likes or plays. We’ve all seen THOSE accounts. 28 followers but they post up a track and it gets 100,000 plays in the first week. Or 200K followers on twitter but only 52 on Facebook. That sort of thing stands out a mile.
New sound of the underground
Sites such as soundcloud and bandcamp both embrace all levels of artist and both have excellent free features and accounts with the option to pay for even more if you wish. (I don’t! I’m a big believer in free all the way!). Both are fantastic platforms for artists to share and sell their music on. They have given underground acts a way to get their music out to a wide audience, in a way that just wasn’t possible up until fairly recently.
What soundcloud and bandcamp have in common is that ideally that as businesses they both really want to become services the casual listener uses, for listening and purchasing. However, there’s always the sneaking suspicion that a huge amount of the users on both sites are artists themselves.
Great! Sharing music with other musicians is good fun. The downside? It can feel like going to a gig where the only audience are the other acts playing that night.
So, if you want to breakaway from the echo chamber of your fellow musos loved up comments where next?
The general public are over on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Amazon music and another 20+ services that our single “Drifting – Into the Light” is available on.
Spotify, iTunes, Amazon etc. don’t have a simple free account creation and log in capability. You must use a content aggregator to be distributed by them. Usually they will charge you a fee (either yearly or one off) and then distribute any sales back to you. There is a delay in the various services reporting back to you. Don’t expect any money or information at all for 2 months at least. That’s even if you are selling well.
The cheapest I’ve seen aggregators offer is around $10 for a single or $50 for an album. Not bad as a one off but I wanted a service that could cope with my obsession with FREE! Plus I want to experiment with youtube licensing and have the ability to release large amount of material with out needing a bank loan.
So the service we found to get us on Spotify and all those other stores is Routenote and it’s FREE!
Instead of charging a flat fee for releases then channelling all earnings back to the artist Routenote’s angle is to charge NOTHING up front but take 15% from any earnings. Something to bear in mind is that the minimum payout is $50, which I’d say is on the high side for a lot of amateur or struggling artists. Also of note is that not only do they get you on the download and streaming sites they will also deal with any rights due from your music being on YouTube.
There are lots of options on where and how you want distribute but most importantly everything on Routenote works as an “Opt in” and they say you can “opt out” of any part of their service and at any time too.
My next experiment is listing a psytrance track just on Spotify and youtube. I’ll report back on how that works out sometime in the future.
Ok, iTunes and Amazon I get but doesn’t Spotify hate artists, dance on their graves and generally behave badly?
There’s a few differing views on this. We’ve all seen those pictures of royalty payments for millions of streams only earning an artist $9.32 and so on. Not too appealing on the face of it.
What’s actually going on is quite complicated, different for everybody and being the music ‘business’ opaque at best.
My understanding of the situation is this, a lot of artists have TERRIBLE deals with their labels, management, publishers etc. either the deals are old enough that streaming had no more been thought of than the concept that someone in your pocket named Siri could direct you to the nearest Chai-Spiced-half-fat-latte just by shouting…………… OR it’s a new deal that’s more than aware of how 21st century music distribution works and it’s just been designed to rob the artist. Either way there’s a contract somewhere and it’s working well to syphon money off any earnings.
I don’t want to do the maths here of downloads Vs. streams Vs. royalties, google will find that answer for you, but if we’re assuming you’re reading this as an independent artist with no deal or management of any kind between you and your sales then there’s good and bad news.
The good news about streaming!
Find the figures, do the maths, it works out at about the same as a PRS royalty does for being played on a radio show, if you work it out per listener. Not bad but you’re going to be wanting to get a lot of plays to see any return. Pushing your music on bandcamp or selling CDs at shows is still a better way to pay the rent. (and yes people still buy CDs directly from acts they like!)
It’s obvious but I’ll point it out again that as an independent all earnings are coming straight back to you. No expensive music video to be paid off before you. No manager, stylist or limo driver getting a cut either.
Get your track onto a few influential playlists and blogs and those micro streaming payments could soon add up.
The bad news about streaming!
If somehow as an independent you could attract the streaming audience that Katy Perry has you’d almost certainly be making far, FAR more money than she is (although I think she’s doing OK anyway……….) for any given number of plays.
The bad news of course is that this is impossible. Chances are in comparison almost no-one will Spotify you.
You’ll upload your track and almost no-one will listen. Some will and I’d really like to know who it is in Denmark plays one of my tracks every night but I guess I’ll never know. What would be really great through if they are reading this is to email everyone they know and tell them about my music!
So what’s the point?
Have you read my paragraph about making life easy for the local radio DJ that stumbles across your song? No? Go read, it’s useful. I’d argue the same is true for a Spotify-er. Possibly more so as there’s every chance they are a fairly casual music consumer.
“Oh hey! I remember Bob in accounts said his son is in a band I wonder if they are on Spotify?Oh no they aren’t………….. oh well, back to my Starship playlist”
My theory on all this is that it’s about being both discoverable and findable as easy as possible. Why agonise about Spotify payments, youtube views or iTune sales if you have no fan base? No-one is buying your album on bandcamp whilst they are cooking their dinner. They might be online with their favoured listening site open dragging music into ‘listen to later’ playlists though. Or using Spotify like a radio listening to other people’s playlists. I genuinely think that if you aren’t on it you are missing out.
It’s a VERY debatable point, civil conversation in the comments please, but I favour the approach of being everywhere online that it’s likely a listener will expect to find you. Along with that download sales are now following the same downward curve that CDs did a few years ago, but streaming services numbers are very much on the up. Both the streaming numbers and the payouts from the sites back to artists. There will always be a place for super fans and how they use bandcamp, just as some people will always do well out of short run 7 inch records, but for most of us streaming I’m assuming for now is going to be here to stay.