Spotify is one of the most important and versatile streaming services for independent artists.
From its direct playlist pitching portal, to its profile customization options, to the way their algorithms throw fuel on the fire for a song that shows strong engagement, Spotify has a host of tools and features that empower musicians to shape their own destiny on the platform.
And the more frequently you release music, the more Spotify rewards you, helping you reach both existing fans and new listeners.
How far can that reach extend? Well, Spotify is a wildly popular, global music streaming platform. To put that in a raw figure, Spotify reported 345 million active users as of February 2021. Just for some perspective, the United States reported a population of 330 million people as of the 2019 census. So the population of a large country is streaming music on Spotify each month.
What’s more, Spotify projects its monthly users will grow to over 400 million by the end of 2021, approaching half a billion users by 2022. What’s even more (or less in this case, but still impressive), 155 million of those monthly Spotify users are premium subscribers, meaning they pay a monthly fee for their higher tier membership.
Why would anyone want to pay for a service they can get for free? What’s the difference between the two member tiers? How can you make your music go further on Spotify? We’ll address all that and more, after a quick trip to Stockholm, Sweden.
How did Spotify start?
In March 2006, Swedish tech entrepreneur Martin Lorentzen’s digital marketing company Tradedoubler bought Advertigo, an advertising service founded by then 24-year-old wunderkind Daniel Ek. Lorentzen had already sold his shares of his company, but befriended his fellow Swede after Advertigo’s purchase. That next month, Lorentzen and Ek decided to start a music streaming service that generated revenue from online advertising.
After over two years of planning and finalizing deals with record labels to secure the rights to host their music on the platform, Spotify finally launched in a few European countries. Though not available in the U.S. yet, Spotify found its way onto the phones of several prominent American tech figures, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who posted a simple endorsement on his Facebook profile in August 2009: “Spotify is so good.”
By the time Spotify reached the States in July 2011, it had over 10 million total users and over 1 million paid (now called Spotify Premium) subscribers. By September of that year, the number of paid subscribers had doubled, pointing to the fervor Spotify had built in the U.S. over its first two years.
Three years after its U.S. launch, Spotify reported 40 million total users with 10 million Premium subscribers, and it finally hit the 100 million total users milestone in June 2016. The math speaks for itself, with Spotify’s userbase tripling in the last five years and continuing to grow exponentially.
Does Spotify Premium pay artists more than Free?
In short, yes. You do earn more revenue when someone streams your music using a Premium account than with a Free one. Paid subscriptions on any platform always pay out more than ad-supported ones.
The actual payment rates on Spotify are determined by numerous factors, including:
- If the stream was ad-supported
- The type of the account
- The user’s territory
- And much more
For a more detailed discussion of Spotify’s royalty payments and the economics of streaming, visit Spotify’s Loud & Clear site.
What’s the difference between Spotify Free and Premium?
Spotify offers two levels of membership for users, each with different abilities afforded the user:
- Free: As its name suggests, Free membership does not cost anything for the user, which is its main benefit. However, there are limits to its functionality, including:
- Ability to only select an album or playlist on shuffle on mobile devices, not specific tracks
- Ability to only skip six tracks per hour on mobile
- Advertisements every few songs
- Lower streaming bitrate at 160 kbps
- Premium: This is Spotify’s paid subscription. Starting at $9.99 for individual users with several other pricing options for students and groups, Premium offers an array of improvements and advantages over Free, including:
- Ability to select specific tracks on desktop and mobile and skip as much as the user wants
- No ads!
- Unlimited number of track downloads for offline listening
- Higher streaming bitrate at 320 kbps
- Access to some songs or albums artists choose to place behind a paywall for the first two weeks of their release
Why should I distribute my music to Spotify?
The simple answer to this is: because hundreds of millions of people in numerous countries around the world listen to music on Spotify every day. Heck, in February 2021 Spotify announced they’re launching in more than 80 new countries, doubling their current availability.
Even if the majority of Spotify’s users are on Free membership instead of Premium, it’s still a numbers game. That’s hundreds of millions of people with access to your music who didn’t have it before. That means possible merch sales, ticket sales for your shows (remember those?) and word-of-mouth promotion from new fans to others.
Aside from the numbers game, Spotify is perhaps the most flexible streaming platform for artists who verify their profile. Once verified, you have a bevy of personalization and customization options to truly make your artist profile your own.
But before you can verify, you actually need to distribute your music to Spotify.
How do I distribute my music to Spotify?
Distributing to Spotify is super easy with CD Baby. Spotify is one of more than 150 digital music platforms we distribute your music to — all for a one-time fee. No paying extra for each platform. No annual fees.
How do I verify my Spotify artist profile?
When you verify your artist profile on Spotify, you get access to Spotify for Artists. Luckily, as a CD Baby artist you don’t even need to go through Spotify to request verification! All you need to do to verify your Spotify artist profile through CD Baby is:
- Distribute music to Spotify.
- Confirm the music has been delivered to Spotify.
- Apply for artist verification in your CD Baby artist account.
Why should I verify my artist profile on Spotify?
Verifying your Spotify artist profile is the single most important thing you can do on the platform. That’s because verifying your artist profile allows you to:
- Share playlists directly with your fans
- Update your artist bio on Spotify
- Customize your artist profile image(s)
- Access analytics for all your songs
- Pitch your songs to Spotify’s editors for playlist consideration
- Pin songs, albums, playlists, or events to the top of your profile with a custom photo
- List tour dates with Songkick
- Add Canvasses for each of your songs
- And more
How do I make my music available for pre-save on Spotify?
A pre-save on Spotify allows users to demonstrate interest in your unreleased song or album before its available on the platform. The music will then show up on its release date for those users to hear in their Spotify music queue.
Creating a Spotify pre-save is easy through Show.co! You’ll need what’s called a Spotify URI code, which stands for “unique resource indicator.” If you use CD Baby for distribution, it’s even easier; you only need your UPC!
How do I get on Spotify playlists?
Securing placement for one of your songs on a Spotify playlist can turn into a huge boost in followers, streams and converted fans. The great thing? It’s a lot easier to submit for Spotify playlist consideration than it used to be.
Just make sure you’re planning your music release far enough in advance to qualify for Spotify’s direct playlist pitching process.
Also, don’t forget indie-curated playlists! Indie playlists are vital to growing your fanbase by exposing your music to audiences outside your immediate circle. Indie playlists can serve as a kind of feeder system on Spotify, as the more quality engagement your songs see (saves, adds, etc.) the more positive signals you’ll send to Spotify’s algorithms, increasing traction for your music on the platform overall.
Pitching to indie playlists takes some finesse, but it can be hugely beneficial to bringing in new fans and eventually getting onto Spotify algorithmic and editorial playlists.
Can I add lyrics to my Spotify profile?
Want listeners to be able to read along with your words while jamming? You can get your lyrics on Spotify through Musixmatch. Once your lyrics are on Spotify, listeners can view them as they scroll in sync to your music.
How do I share my Spotify music on social media?
Spotify has you covered there and then some. Since it integrated with Facebook early on, Spotify offers tons of options for social sharing, including:
- Sharing a Spotify track to Instagram (including IG Stories)
- Facebook (including FB Stories)
You can even copy the link directly to paste anywhere. And you can copy the embed code to embed your link on any HTML page.
Facebook has made it even easier to share your Spotify links on their platform with the Facebook Miniplayer. As Spotify explains, this Miniplayer “is embedded into the Facebook app (iOS & Android) that enables full playback of songs.” It’s convenient for users because Spotify keeps playing even if you scroll down on your News Feed.
To use full playback, the Facebook user will need to have the Spotify app installed and be authenticated with a Spotify account (premium or free). All Facebook users will be eligible for preview clips.
How do I promote my Spotify music?
There are many ways to promote your music on Spotify, including:
- A “follow” campaign: Using Show.co, you can incentivize fans to follow your Spotify profile in exchange for some exclusive content, entry into a giveaway, etc. When a fan follows you on Spotify, they’re now in orbit to hear EVERY song you pitch to Spotify, as those tracks are guaranteed to appear in your followers’ customized Release Radar playlists.
- Embed a Spotify “follow” button on your website: Pretty simple. Cut and paste some code into your website and capture the interest of your die-hard fans when they’re already checking out your music.
- Use Spotify Promo Cards and Spotify Codes: Both of these tools provide you with a quick design assist, helping you draw in new listeners with a visual promo asset you can share online or IRL.
- Show.co’s Interactive Ads feature: an easy way to grow your streams on Spotify through banner advertisements. These ads appear on websites related to your genre, so you know your music is reaching its correct audience. What’s really cool is that the ads embed your song right in the banner, so the listener can just click “play” on the ad instead of clicking a link that sends them to another site or opens an application.
- HearNow smart-links: an elegant one-page promo page that houses links to your music on platforms across the Internet, including Spotify. These hubs are super convenient ways to promote your music because you can just use the link to the homepage and all your links live right there.
One other important thing to note: Sometimes promoting your music on Spotify is as simple as TELLING your fans what’s important and ASKING them to take a specific action.
Lots of Spotify users don’t know the power they have to help a track reach new listeners. Teach them in whatever way feels comfortable: email, social, at shows. Tell them that whenever they add a song to a playlist, whenever they save a song to their queue, these things matter and can make an impact on your music’s trajectory.
Can I promote my livestream or gig on Spotify?
Spotify allows artists to promote their live streams on their artist profiles. This functionality is done through their partner Songkick. And when real, actual live shows (remember those?) come back, you can use Songkick to promote your gigs and tours to the decibel-starved masses!
How else can I make money from Spotify?
In spring of 2020, Spotify added a donation feature called “Fundraising Pick,” which stemmed from their Music Relief project to help generate more income for artists struggling with cancelled tour dates and reduced income from the pandemic. Fundraising Pick allows you to add a virtual tip jar to your artist profile so fans can donate money to you directly.
To add a Fundraising Pick, follow these steps:
- Log into Spotify for Artists on the web
- Go to Home
- Click Get started in the banner at the top
- Fill in the COVID-19 support form and click SUBMIT
And don’t forget the royalties generated from each Spotify stream! Aside from the revenue paid for the sound recording, there are performance and mechanical royalties generated each time someone streams your song. These are paid to the respective agencies, but can’t be collected without harnessing the power of music publishing.