Embrace the stream: pushing your music on the big streaming services

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Spotify's Music Discovery Upgrades“Data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal showed that one major record company makes more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both.”The Wall Street Journal

Despite the much publicized ranting of musicians like Thom Yorke against the evils of streaming services like Spotify, streaming continues to grow at a furious pace. The above quote from the Wall Street Journal shows that not only is it growing but it is becoming very profitable for the people behind it.

But what does this mean for musicians? Although Spotify pays out fractions of a penny per stream, can these services offer a valid means of income, alongside the more traditional offerings of CD and Vinyl sales, tour revenue and merchandise?

Here are a few reasons why streaming may actually be a good things for musicians:

Streaming rewards those who create great music, not just those who have the biggest marketing budget.

The democratic principles behind the creation of the internet in the first place follow suit on streaming sites. Listeners can choose what they want, so if your music really starts to resonate with people, it’s going to find its audience. Spotify, as the largest streaming site, allows anyone to upload their music, even if they’re not signed. However, unsigned bands have to go through an aggregator such as CD Baby. So get your music onto as many of the big streaming services as possible, including Spotify, Rdio, Google Play, and more.

Build your profile and followers

[Editor’s note: not all streaming platforms allow individual artists to edit their artist profiles, so investigate each one before attempting to make profile changes.]

Once you’re music’s on a streaming platform, you need to get it heard. Build you profile as completely as possible. Make sure you use a profile image that’s clear and catchy and representative of who you are as a brand. Once that’s done it’s time to start making some social connections within that platform, as you would on Facebook or Twitter. Remember, this is the potential audience that is going to stream your songs and make you money, so be methodical and choosy, rather than using a scattergun approach. Social media networks are about community so you need to align yourself with the right people. Start by making a shortlist of the bands which are most similar to your own, then reach out to their followers. Slow and steady wins the race: don’t try more than 40 per day.

Playlists work

As an unsigned artist with your music now on a site like Spotify, it’s as if you’re in a chess game, just a few moves away from making money. But this is also the point where you need to make a smart move. One great means of getting your music heard is to make playlists. These are the mix tapes of the modern age and if someone types in, for example, ‘blues music’ the internal search engines offer up a number of playlists, as well as the best known artists in the genre.

If you’re an emerging blues band, therefore, and you make a kick-ass playlist, containing 20 artists of your own ilk, you can add in your own band to the mix. Some of these playlists get a lot of listens, so put some real effort into this and you may just be rewarded. If you’re running a blog or other social media profile alongside this, why not tempt other people into making playlists for you by offering gig tickets or a band t-shirt for anyone who creates a playlist using one of your songs which gets a five star rating.

This is savvy digital marketing which is going to translate directly into revenue. Incidentally, Armin van Buuren does this on Spotify, offering a daily updated playlist ‘A State of Trance.’ This has now built up over 120k subscribers as a result!

Push traffic back into the streaming sites from other Social Media

With some four million songs on Spotify which have never been streamed even once, it’s paramount you use every trick in the book to get your music heard. Add links from your website and social media pages, use competitions to drive traffic, even consider Facebook advertising, a surprisingly cheap and highly effective means of finding your audience. You can target everyone who ‘likes’ the Spotify page, for example, which gives you an incredibly targeted reach.

Playing the odds

For many musicians, the numbers simply don’t add up to trying to make money via the streaming music sites, and they certainly have a point. If you do the basic maths, you’re going to need a gazillion streams to make any decent revenue this way, but that’s not really the point. The point is to realise that streaming is now the world’s most popular means of sourcing new music and likely only to gain in popularity. So it’s about embracing the system, playing the system, and using that as one out of many methods for getting your songs out into the world. Spotify, and services like it, isn’t your ticket to riches, but it can put your music in front of a massive audience. Look upon that as the important step, and then when the fan base is in place, your money-making will take care of itself.

Jane McInness is a music industry analyst for Imagem and a frequent contributor to publications like Sonic Scoop and Music Think Tank.

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  • For me Spotify so far looks about the same as AdSense payments did back when I started my site 6 years ago… a penny here, a quarter there. But AdSense turned into a decent supplement as it built up, especially in conjunction with donation and sales of a package of music I sell for media producers. So it all adds up. I’m happy to see the streams every time I log in!

  • hrflikk

    Hi. is People dont buy music anymore, 95% is streaming,like Spotify, Rhapsody,pandora,wimp,youtube. so collecting inncomes from online streaming is the most important feature, sales is not so interesting, the big money do NOT lie with sales from mp3,flac, etc. !!! today cdbaby PRO is the best alternative out there, it’s ofcause $ 99 per album, littel expensive. But ehh, what you can do?!

    • Soooo true hrflikk. The Music Industry as a whole is as broken as its ever been!!! Simply put….how can an Industry that no longer has a product to sell sustain itself???? No CD/vinyl/download sales??? Your music is no longer a product for sale, it’s a free promotional trinket that most people have no desire to buy or even download for free!! That’s what streaming has done to the Industry. It has devalued the product. Spotify is the music industry’s version of Netflix…..$7.00 a month and millions of songs to choose from. A friend told me the other day ” What? spend 99 cents for a download on itunes?? I get millions of songs on Spotify for almost nothing!” Pandora as we know is free and that’s wonderful for the consumer, but it has all but bankrupted the Music Industry! Most people think you can still make a ton performing live, but touring is usually too expensive to be profitable and in most cases you must pay to play unless you’re established! BOTTOM LINE……if you stay in the game, you’ll need an alternative source of GOOD income to fund the music for many Albums, most likely receiving NOTHING in return so you’d better be doing it because you’re absolutely in love with making music PERIOD!!! You can’t let the state of the Industry affect your passion to create because as I see it, every major label will be bankrupt within the next five years. The publishing walls have dropped and there is so much content out there competing with yours, there’s a high probability you’ll never get to a high plateau, but WAS THAT WHY YOU STARTED MAKING MUSIC???…..because if it was, then just stop right now!! For must of us, we started in music because we fell in love with and instrument, or singing, or songwriting. Get back to that love…..get back to that passion….work the new system and expect little from it……but most of all, continue to make great music if you know that that’s what you were put on this earth to do!!!

  • dandy

    Thanks. A very good informative article. Thanks from Texas