Now is a great time to be an independent musician, you can post videos on Youtube, communicate with fans on Twitter and list your gigs on Live Unsigned. Another useful way to spread the word is Spotify, a streaming service for music available in the UK, Finland, France, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden and soon to be launching in Denmark, the USA and across the world.
For fans Spotify is a brilliant way to listen to music and discover new artists. Users can even download their playlists to their iPhone, Android or Windows phone to listen offline if they pay a subscription. Standard free subscriptions limit the number of hours of listening and play listeners adverts alongside the music. There are many services that allow you to get your own music onto Spotify for a small fee including Reverbnation and CD Baby, they offer it as part of their standard distribution deal that includes iTunes, Napster, Amazon etc. Some artists are happy to have their music on Spotify, some less so. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages:
The advantages are:
- Exposure to the Spotify users – Some people use Spotify as their main way of listening to and discovering new music, so in your attempt to build a following it is probably best to have at least some music on there. Spotify is a great way of sharing music across social media and there is a community of people sharing Spotify playlists on blogs and forums.
- It discourages illegal file sharing – By allowing a great deal of the music available to be be streamed virtually free, some argue that Spotify goes some way to stopping torrenting and other forms of illegal downloading.
The disadvantages are:
- The royalty rates are awful – The system is set up to most benefit Spotify’s business partners, the major labels. Unsigned artists and indie/micro labels get a much lower rate, the major labels had to get a higher rate to get them on board with Spotify. So don’t expect to make much money, even if you get thousands of plays.
- It discourages legal downloading (possibly) – If you can listen to music free online and download it as an offline playlist to your phone, why do you need to pay for downloads? If you are an artist who makes part of their income from paid downloads this is a major problem.
- You don’t get the fans email addresses – If your music is given away free through for example Bandcamp you get to keep the fan’s email address in exchange for the download. These email addresses allow you to stay in touch with your new fans and let them know about future releases and gigs which may well provide an income stream. With Spotify you don’t get any of this information.
You have to work out if for the exposure gained on Spotify is worth the money lost in sales of downloads. One of the worst things about Spotify is that fans think they have “paid” for the music and don’t need to download it, when in fact indie artists make very little in terms of royalties. Some artists are removing their music or not uploading it to Spotify for this reason.
Each band needs to work out if Spotify is worth being part of. It looks like some sort of streaming cloud based music service could well be the future of music distribution, whether Spotify is this service nobody yet knows.