Spotify to Allow Indie Artists to Upload Music Directly to Service, Bypassing Distributors
Beginning today (Sept. 20), Spotify will begin allowing a select group of independent artists the ability to upload their music directly onto the streaming platform through their Spotify For Artists account, the company announced. The program, which is launching in beta format, has been quietly tested with a small group of artists — including Noname, Michael Brun, VIAA and Hot Shade — and will be made available by invitation to "a few hundred U.S.-based independent artists," according to a blog post, with more artists able to sign up for a mailing list to receive invites in the coming weeks or months.
For those artists who control their copyrights and do not have label or distribution agreements in place, they can log into their Spotify For Artists account, upload their music, fill in relevant metadata information, preview how the upload will look on their page and set the song to go live at a pre-scheduled time.
"We've focused on making the tool easy, flexible and transparent," Spotify For Artists' senior product lead, creator marketplace Kene Anoliefo tells Billboard. "There will be no limit or constraint on how often they can upload. We think that can open up a really interesting creative space for artists to begin sharing their music to their fans on Spotify."
Through payment-processing provider Stripe, Spotify will facilitate royalty payments, which will be accounted each month. In an email, a rep for Spotify clarified that artists who directly upload their music will receive 50 percent of Spotify’s net revenue (the service will also account to publishers and collection societies) and will keep 100 percent of royalties on that music. Artists will be able to track historical payments, as well as see projections for future payments, and track when those will be deposited in their bank accounts.
"One of the things we've heard from the tests is this level of transparency really helps artists be able to plan and budget for the future as well as connect their overall performance on Spotify -- how their music is performing, how their fans are discovering their music -- using all those existing tools along with these additional tools to release music and get paid," Anoliefo says. "There's not that much information needed other than the music and the metadata associated with it, and then we'll take care of the rest."
What this new tool would do is effectively allow indie artists to bypass traditional digital distributors when uploading to and collecting royalties from Spotify. Previously, in order to get music onto Spotify (or most other digital streaming services), artists would have to go through a distributor like DistroKid, CD Baby, TuneCore, Record Union, EmuBands or Kobalt’s AWAL. (Labels either have their own distribution arms, or can use services like the Orchard.)
DistroKid, for example, also allows those it distributes to collect 100 percent of royalties and earnings, accounts monthly and allows unlimited album and song uploads, all for $19.99/year — and, as a preferred distributor, gives its users instant access to Spotify For Artists. Services like TuneCore and CD Baby generally charge a flat fee per album or single, with additional options for publishing administration and social media services, for example. But those distribution companies service all streaming services and digital download stores on a global basis.
Now, through Spotify For Artists, copyright-owning indie musicians would be able to do all that on Spotify alone, for free, through Spotify For Artists, with all the data that Spotify would provide to the distributors available directly to the artist via their own dashboard. For convenience’s sake, it’s a one-stop shop to check streams, fans, royalties and payments coming from the world’s largest streaming service.
It’s also one more step that the company is taking towards assuming the responsibilities of a traditional record label, while keeping distance from the words "record label" by maintaining that it does not own any copyrights. It’s unclear whether any of Spotify’s distribution partners were consulted ahead of time about the new offering; when Billboard reported in June that the streaming service had been offering direct deals to independent artists and managers, it caught many record executives by surprise, and has had them fighting back in myriad ways. (In August, Billboard reported on the terms that many of those deals entailed.)
Similarly, Spotify’s rollout of its hate content and hateful conduct policies, which Billboard reported in May, also caught many in the music business by surprise, and caused a swift backlash. Ultimately, the company walked back its hateful conduct policy, though its hate content proviso remains in place.
Check out Spotify’s blog post announcing the new direct uploading option right here.