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HOW TO: Master Class: Make Spotify Work for You

July 8, 2016

spotify is the current king of the music streaming universe, boasting 75 million users, 30 million of whom are paying subscribers. (By comparison, the next largest competitor is Apple Music with 11 million paid subscribers.)

The service is not without controversy: With so much music being played, and so much money at stake—more than $3 billion was paid out to labels and independent musicians through 2015—Spotify has found itself at the center of the streaming royalties war. It takes many, many streams on Spotify (or any streaming service) to match the income from a fan purchasing music on iTunes or Amazon. Because of Spotify’s low royalty rates and the potential for streaming to cannibalize physical sales (the company is also accused of having lack of transparency regarding label agreements), some high-profile artists, like Adele and Taylor Swift, have removed their music. But unless you have the kind of fans who will crawl over glass to get your music and you can survive without streaming, Spotify’s 75-million-listener audience, and the resources it offers musicians, provide a huge opportunity to get discovered, grow your fanbase, and generate some royalties where there weren’t any before.

If you’re new to using Spotify as a promotional tool, consider the following strategies to make the most of the service. Many of these techniques serve as best practices for internet streaming services, so work them into your master music plan.

STREAMING, SPOTIFY, AND SOCIAL TOOLS

We all know that the internet has changed the way fans discover and consume music, and artists need new strategies to take advantage of these new models. Spotify was one of the first streaming services on the scene, offering an enormous catalog and a simple, streamlined interface. But much of Spotify’s success is due to the fact that it’s a social network that happens to be a jukebox. Because of its robust social tools, it has changed nearly everything about how people listen to—and promote—music online. Platforms like iTunes and Amazon have been great channels for distributing digital copies of your music globally, but in the end they serve as storefronts, with no way for artists to engage with fans, and they don’t offer much communication back to the artist beyond a revenue report line item. Spotify’s features empower artists to interact and build fan relationships in the same place where 75 million people listen to music.

In the past, musicians relied on a “sugar rush” of attention for new releases. While this model saw spiked initial press, album sales, and perhaps radio play (with the accompanying royalties), interest would usually quickly fade, along with the revenue. Streaming works differently: Because fans “follow” the artists they like on Spotify, they are notified when there’s a new release. Releasing music more often to create steady, consistent engagement with your audience will keep your music “alive” and generate royalties longer as people discover and play it over a greater period of time.

Because playlists are so popular, more than two-thirds of all songs played on Spotify are presented as singles vs. albums. If one of your tracks is added to a popular playlist, it can remain there indefinitely vs. disappearing from radio airwaves. The track stays in the long tail forever, generating a bit of income each time it’s played. And, as your fanbase and streaming subscribers increase, the income will follow.

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