If you’re a serious musician making music today, you just happen to be creating in one of the most exciting times in music history.
More music is being made today that at any other point in history thanks to accessible music distribution and affordable DIY home recording tech (TuneCore artists reached a total of $1.5 Billion in revenue in 2019!).
This means that musicians who couldn’t afford to create and share music a few decades ago are finding audiences online on their own terms. The Swedish digital music platform Spotify is a major part of this trend, and it’s a mandatory platform to partner with if you’re an unestablished musician looking for an audience.
But how exactly does an ambitious musician get their music on Spotify? Fans often often think artists have to be signed to a label or otherwise connected with the music industry in order to add their music to the platform, but it’s actually quite easy if you use a distributor like TuneCore, and the opportunity is open to all musicians.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the process of sending your music to Spotify. From how much Spotify pays to how long it takes for them to post your songs, we’ve got you covered.
Why is it important to add my music to Spotify?
Good question. If you’ve been creating music for a while, you might still long for the good old days when fans paid $20 for CDs, but unfortunately, we’re living in a completely different musical world today.
If you’re a serious musician releasing original work or covers, you’ll need to feature your work on Spotify in order to find a large audience. Spotify is not only the world’s largest music streaming platform, but it’s also the most influential. According to Fortune Magazine, Spotify “saved the music industry” after it collapsed in the early 2000’s. Millions of people around the world follow Spotify’s massively popular editorially curated playlists like “Today’s Top Hits” and “Rap Caviar,” and landing a spot on one of them could transform your career in a remarkably short time.
Music fans have lots of options when it comes to streaming music, but more often than not they flock to Spotify for its chic platform and helpful music discovery tools. Spotify has pioneered technology like the Discovery Weekly playlist, a tool that’s aimed at pairing listeners with music they’re likely to want to hear. This is good news for artists because Spotify is always on the hunt for new music to share with users.
But even without Spotify’s special initiatives aimed at connecting audiences with artists, you can’t ignore the fact that millions of people around the planet use it exclusively to listen to music. For many users, if an artist’s work isn’t on Spotify, it might as well not exist at all. This means that being featured on Spotify is mandatory for the world’s biggest music stars down to new artists trying to find an audience.
Adding your music on Spotify requires working with a digital music distributor. Here’s how to choose the right one
Back in the days before the internet, music distributors were responsible for sending CDs, vinyl records, and cassette tapes to music stores around the world.
As we all know, physical listening formats still very much exist, but not in the influential ways they used to. The overwhelming majority of today’s music fans listen to music digitally instead of through CDs and records. Digital music distributors are companies that can essentially transport your music from your computer to large streaming platforms like Spotify.
Can you add your music on Spotify without the assistance of one of these companies? Possibly, in theory, but it wouldn’t be worth the time, money, and research to get it done. Between knowing the right submission procedures to contacting the right people at a massive company like Spotify, virtually all musicians are far better off spending their time making music and working with a digital distributor to add their music to Spotify. We’re indeed making music at an incredibly exciting time in history, but the music industry is also more fiercely competitive and saturated that it’s ever been. Spending your time trying to figure out how––or even if––you can add your songs to Spotify by yourself will be something that makes your life harder as a musician.
There are lots and lots of music distributors out there. Some are companies with solid reputations and thousands of users, and others are unproven startups. To help you choose the best digital music distributor for your needs, here’s a brief rundown of some of the most widely used companies in the music industry:
TuneCore (our top pick)
TuneCore has been around almost as long as music started transitioning from physical to digital formats.
Founded in 2005, the New York-based distributor enjoys a solid reputation on behalf of artists, and currently works with over 250,000 artists. Unlike companies like ReverbNation, digital music distribution is virtually all TuneCore does, and by most accounts, it’s pretty good at it.
Commonly cited downsides from artists are the company’s old-school music uploading platform and yearly fees. You’ll soon learn that every distribution company works differently. Some require up-front fees for distribution, but TuneCore and others require artists to renew their subscriptions with yearly fees.
However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As any DistroKid, Awal or Amuse customer can testify, “cheap” doesn’t always rhyme with “good deal”. Tunecore actually makes it a point to deliver high-quality services to its customers by providing cutting-edge tools and great support.
This company has been around for less than a decade, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular and accessible options for distribution in the music industry.
DistroKid is affordable, tech-forward, and in appearance more user-friendly than TuneCore. It’s also a great deal for modern artists who want to release as much music as humanly possible for a low annual fee. The only drawback is that if you’re a serious musician that needs fast, human customer service, you’re out of luck. DistroKid keeps prices low by automating just about everything on their platform, including customer service.
This shouldn’t be a concern for most musicians, but you should consider the downsides of using this company if you’re a career musician likely to make significant amounts of money through streaming revenue. TuneCore and Cd Baby are much more expensive, but artists who distribute with them have a better chance at getting issues resolved in a timely manner.
If you’re looking to work with the world’s oldest music digital distributor, Cd Baby is the company for you. Founded way, way back in 1998, Cd Baby helped pioneer the technology the music industry now relies on to add independent artists’ music to Spotify and other streaming platforms. With a mostly favorable reputation among artists, Cd Baby is more affordable than TuneCore, but less than DistroKid.
For modest one-time fees, you’ll be able to add your music to Spotify and have access to the company’s publishing and social monetization services. There’s a few lackluster elements you’ll find with Cd Baby (analytics, annoying ads packaged as included marketing benefits, etc), but it’s not a bad way to go for most unestablished artists.
iMusician describes itself as “an all in one solution for independent musicians and labels.” Servicing over 250 digital streaming platforms including Spotify, iMusician offers multiple tiers of service ranging from $5 single uploads with 30% royalty splits to $500 all-you-can-release yearly subscriptions with loads of extras.
It’s important to note that iMusician offers customer service support over the phone, but only for artists who subscribe to their most expensive tier of service. While some musicians will like iMusician’s extras, most will favor more affordable options.
A quick Google search of “Ditto Music Review” leads to some pretty nasty reviews of the English digital music distributor. Ditto Music offers a deal similar to DistroKid, with low yearly subscriptions giving artists the power to distribute as much music as they want to Spotify and other music streaming platforms.
However, recent complaints over non-existent customer service and rampant payment and billing issues make this company an unsafe bet for serious musicians looking for a reliable digital distributor to partner with. Every digital music distribution company gets complaints from artists, but Ditto Music has enough to worry artists considering their platform.
Like we mentioned before, these are just a few of the distribution platforms out there for artists looking to get their work featured on Spotify. Newcomers to the music industry include companies like Amuse, which offers musicians unlimited free distribution to Spotify and other streaming platforms. Sounds ideal, right? The only catch is that Amuse and companies like it operate on an unproven business model that could fail at any time. The music company Stem offered musicians easy, affordable access to digital distribution services only to unexpectedly kick most artists off their platform soon after. Signing up with Amuse leaves you at risk for having your music removed from Spotify without warning.
How long does it take to add my music to Spotify?
The time it takes to get your music uploaded to Spotify entirely depends on the digital music distribution company you’re working with.
Companies like Ditto Music and TuneCore recommend giving yourself two weeks before uploading music to their platforms and seeing it show up on the platform. But instead of asking how long music will take to show up on Spotify, musicians are better off giving themselves as much time as possible during this process.
The reason for this comes down to promotion. Telling your fans exactly when your music will show up on Spotify helps build momentum for your music and creates accurate expectations. Most digital distributors work a lot quicker than you probably think, so you’ll need as much preparation time as possible. It’s also important to note that giving yourself two weeks or more during this process is the only way to officially submit music to be considered for Spotify’s editorially curated playlists. There are no benefits to releasing music as quickly as possible and loads of positives to be found when you give yourself time.
The music you upload through a distributor is vetted not only by the company you work with, but also Spotify’s processing team. It sounds like this process would take a long time, but it actually doesn’t. Depending on the company you distribute with, your music could show up on Spotify’s platform in just a couple of business days.
How much does Spotify pay?
This question sounds like it should be simple, but it’s actually not. Let’s start with factors on the side of artists first. If you write, record, produce, or collaborate with other musicians, have a manager, or are signed to a record label, the streaming revenues you collect from Spotify will probably be split up in multiple ways. Some distribution companies offer royalty splitting features for this exact reason, and others don’t.
Now, let’s delve into how payments work on Spotify’s end of things. Spotify pays per play, but in a complicated way. According to a recent article from Business Insider on the topic, “One way to think about it is to think about divvying up a pie. For instance, if there are a million eligible streams in a month, and you have 100,000 streams in that month, then your stream share is 10% of the revenue pool, or pie.”
The exact amount Spotify pays artists changes frequently, but a recent blog estimated that the average artist receives $0.0032 per-stream. That’s an undeniably low number, but rival music platforms like YouTube, Yandex, and Tencent pay far lower. With streaming payouts this low, artists need to generate hundreds of thousands of streams before they’re likely to see meaningful money come from their music.
When and how do you get paid by Spotify?
This completely depends on your chosen music distributor. Some companies pay monthly, and some send out payments multiple times a month or even weekly. However, just because a company promises quick Spotify payments doesn’t mean they’ll have much to send if you aren’t generating high numbers of streams.
The vast majority of digital music distribution companies pay artists straight through their platforms online. With companies like TuneCore, musicians can pay yearly fees straight from their music earnings posted on the platform. Some offer direct payment transfers to checking and savings accounts, and the payment process is even simpler if you have a PayPal account and can accept payments straight from your distribution profile.
Virtually all the major distribution companies make streaming payments relatively easy, and most show you what earnings come from Spotify directly. If you’re a new artist without a large audience, chances are the Spotify earnings you generate yearly will go directly towards paying annual fees for platforms like TuneCore or Cd Baby if you go with one of them, and the money you make early on might not be enough to cover the costs for releasing albums or singles. But you of course have a choice where your money goes, and the better your music is promoted, the more earnings you’re likely to see.
How to get verified on Spotify?
Before 2017, Spotify made it tricky for artists to get officially verified through their platform, and the platform reserved the exclusive status for larger artists. If you were new to the platform and hadn’t racked up 250 followers or more, you had no way of getting verified.
But a couple of years ago, it streamlined the process and opened it up to any musician or manager that set up an artist profile through their platform. Verified artists get some nice perks by setting up their own profiles, including the ability to create and share playlists straight from their account and the ability to tell their fans that it’s really them behind the music.
Spotify for Artists: What is it and how to use it
Whether you’ve been making music for a couple of months or have been leading a thriving professional career for years, the Spotify for Artists analytical platform is an incredible asset you should be taking advantage of. When it comes to data, audiences see broad strokes of information about the artists they listen to, including stream counts for their top ten most popular songs, average monthly listener stats, and the number of Spotify subscribers who follow them.
Spotify for Artists gives musicians a far more detailed and helpful view when it comes to who listens to their music, like the age and gender of their listeners, what part of the world they come from, and what sources they listen to the music through: playlists, Spotify’s music discovery tools, your artist platform, etc.
How is all this information helpful? Let’s say you’re a band planning a tour to promote a new album, and you’re not sure exactly where to go. SFA’s platform gives you the locations of where listeners are enjoying your music the most down to the city. Paying for expensive radio campaigns used to give artists an idea of where their fans were, but Spotify helps them by showing them for free.
Detailed listener information can also be a big help when it comes to broader music promotion efforts. Through the Spotify for Artists platform, you’ll be able to see how old your fans are and whether they’re discovering your music through playlists or your own profile. Instead of spreading your efforts thin by promoting your music everywhere and to everyone, the data Spotify will give you will help you target your resources more effectively and where they’ll matter the most.
The Spotify for Artists platform also gives artists a minute-by-minute picture of how many listeners their music is getting in real time as well as vital information like how many streams and library saves your songs receive. When fans love your music and want to keep hearing it, they’ll save your songs to their personal Spotify libraries.
When it comes to fully understanding how well your music is performing, this information is vital. It shows you what songs Spotify users are gravitating towards and which ones they’re not paying attention to. But it’s important to remember that streaming counts and saves aren’t everything. Just because some of your songs don’t get played doesn’t mean they’re bad or unlistenable necessarily. Listeners pay close attention to public streaming stats, so if one song is getting noticeable momentum, it might snowball and get played far more than your other tracks.
How do I set up a Spotify for Artists page?
Spotify has made it extremely simple for artists to set up their own Spotify for Artists pages. Doing so is the only way to become officially verified through the platform. Assuming you already have a Spotify account, visit the Spotify for Artists page and select “SIGN UP” to get started. You can do this on your own as an artist and manage the profile yourself, or you can designate duties to a trusted manager or your label.
How to add your music to Spotify playlists?
We can’t overstate how influential and important Spotify’s official playlists are. Millions of listeners from every corner of the globe rely on these editorially curated playlists to find new artists and hear music from the ones they already know and love. In fact, these playlists are so large and influential that many music experts credit them for the decline of the traditional album format.
Only songs that haven’t been released before are able to be put up for playlist consideration on Spotify. To formally submit your songs for playlist consideration, first login to your Spotify for Artists profile. Click the “MUSIC” link at the top of your profile, and then click “UPCOMING.” Choose your best song (you can only submit one song at a time) and fill out the details.
Important note: if you don’t’ set the release date for your music out two weeks or more from the time you upload it with a distributor, this process won’t give Spotify enough time to review your music, and it won’t be considered. Like we mentioned before in this guide, there are many benefits to giving yourself lots of time to promote your music, and pretty much nothing but drawbacks by releasing it as quickly as possible.
Finding an audience on Spotify
Spotify might have millions of music-hungry users, but it also has an incredible amount of music competing for their attention.
Don’t get discouraged if you find it difficult to find listeners who connect with your music easily or quickly. Traditional music promotion methods like PR and radio campaigns will help, and you’ll also find a benefit from pitching to unofficial playlists and music blogs. Remember, plays, follows, and saves can’t measure your worth as an artist, but they are significant indicators of how your music is being received.
By creating your best work and working hard to promote it, you’ll have the best shot at finding an audience on Spotify.