Photo courtesy of Sara Kurfeß
With 286 million monthly users on Spotify alone, streaming is overwhelmingly the most popular method people consume music in 2020. Any artist serius about building their career needs their music available on as many streaming platforms as possible.
Adam Hignell investigates how to get your own music on streaming services in 3 steps:
Streaming is the process of ‘borrowing’ a song from a streaming platform, to play on your own device. The file itself never actually downloads to your computer (unless you’re using an Offline Mode’ feature). Instead, it plays over the internet, and your device accesses the stream, hence the term ‘streaming’.
There are several platforms that offer streaming services, with Spotify being the market leader, amassing 36% of the total market share. Rivals platforms include Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music and Amazon Unlimited. Every time a song is streamed, it generates a very small payment for the rights-holder. While individual play revenue is miniscule, high play-counts can generate significant income. Estimates vary, but 1 million streams generates somewhere around $2500. With so many users and the ability to generate significant revenue, it’s no wonder artists of all sizes want their music on streaming services.
You’ll need a top-quality product to begin with, naturally. Ensure your music is professionally mastered and in a lossless file format. There are automatic mastering tools from companies such as Landr and Soundcloud, which can do an adequate job in many cases. However, the results from a professional human should always be superior.
Once you have your mastered file(s), you can move to step 2…
Whether you are representing a record label, or solely your own music as an artist, you’ll need a distributor to place your music on streaming services.
The options are slightly different in each case, with many distributors solely working with labels. Meanwhile, there are several distributors that cater to both labels and artists. The job of a distributor is to send music to sales and/or streaming platforms, and manage the revenue generated. Some distributors can even help your music get submitted to playlists and automatically add your music to Youtube.
Choosing a distributor will depend on the services you want, and are eligible for. Some charge a one-off fee, while many take a split of yur revenue. There are additional services that many offer, for a price, such as promotion, royalty-management, physical media and website-building.
With dozens of distribution services available it’s impossible to list them all, but here are some reputable companies you may want to try:
Selected distributors for artists:
Offers comprehensive services for all aspects of release management and promotion. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. Charges an annual fee per track. Artists keep 100% of revenue. Particularly useful for artists looking for an all-in-one distribution, accountng and promotion platform.
Prides itself on advanced AI-powered mastering. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. Can also arrange for licensing of cover songs. Pricing depends on whether mastering is included, and is charged either monthly or annually. Artists keep 100% of revenue.
Integrates a distribution portfolio of 150 sites, includng all the major players, with regular sync/licensing opportunities for Pro members. Ideal for artists with an eye on achieving advert, film and TV placements for their songs. Charges are tiered, from a basic free package up to $49 per year which includes ISRC/UPC codes, unlimited distribution and keep 100% of all royalties.
Boasts the fastest submission speed available. Offers royalty-split options, accounting and value-added extras like promotion. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. Charges an annual fee per track. Artists keep 100% of revenue, paid monthly.
Offers comprehensive services for all aspects of release management and promotion. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. Charges an annual fee per track. Artists keep 100% of revenue.
Offers comprehensive services for all aspects of release management and promotion. Enhanced social network with placement and performance opportunities and listener feedback. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. Charges an annual fee per track. Artists keep 100% of revenue.
Specialises in user engagement driving traffic. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. OneRPM retains 15% of revenue, even for paid tier plans.
The largest distributor that focuses on the Chinese market. Distributes to over 150 stores including all the major players. Charges an annual fee per track. Various revenue splits and pricing plans.
A new player – also offers AI-powered mastering. Distribution limited to Soundcloud plays. Pays out a stream fee per play, monthly.
Some distributors will create ISRC and UPC codes for your music. These are useful if you have registered your music on publishing societies such as ASCAP, PRS and BMI. When a track has an ISRC code, it acts as a barcode, to ensure that all revenues are collected for the correct song, and that dulicates do not exist. For this reason, you can’t use more than one distributor per territory.
Once you’ve chosn a distributor, you’ll need to upload your music to them, and sign the relevant contracts. This should be a strightforard, sinple process, but make sure you read the sall print, as there could be a dealbreaker lurking. For instance, some distributors forbid you from using alternative distributors, even if they don’t distribute to the same platforms – so you could be stuck with a track unable to be added to a high-value platform like Spotify.
Once your music is submitted to your chosen distributor, you can expect a delay of up to 5 weeks for processing. But the hard work is just starting – your music may be on streaming services but now it’s time for promotion! This is an art-form in its own right – for more tips, see our article How to promote your music.