Secrets of a Spotify Artist and How Much I Make
I think we each go through many "pinch me" moments throughout our lives. Seeing my face on Spotify was one of them.
Now let me say, just about anybody can get their artist profile on Spotify now. There's what seems like dozens of platforms that will send your latest music to arguably the top music streaming platform out there, at least for people my age. When you start as an artist though, you go through an internal conflict of imposter syndrome: the feeling you don't belong where you are. Everybody puts on the facade of establishment, that they have an audience, a clear brand, and routine listeners. With Spotify's services, it's easy to paint this picture because it operates on the line between social media and streaming platform.
Personally, I've used both Apple Music and Spotify, both great platforms, but ultimately my monthly charge comes from Spotify because of how they treat artists. As of now, you could read a lot more into how artists are paid. Truthfully, Apple Music has always paid me more per stream. Spotify pays their artists by dividing a monthly allocation of funds by the total streams across Spotify.
Spotify has around 250 million active listeners. That's a lot of music everyday. I'm paid (roughly, as it changes per month) around $0.002 per stream. Not a lot, right? It's not, and it's certainly not my main source of income. My most popular song, "A Little More Than Just Friends" has gathered around 45,000 streams in a year. That's only about $90 for the song. Apple Music pays around $0.004 per stream, but isn't as public about its number of streams. It doesn't sound like a lot, but think of Ed Sheeran. "Shape of You" has 2.5 billion streams. That's at least $5,000,000 for one song, on one platform. It's likely another $10,000,000 from Apple Music. And again,... that's ONE SONG.
For young artists whose typical monthly income doesn't come from music, Spotify is your best friend. Their algorithms, playlist features, and more social user experience is more friendly to artists fighting to be discovered. Discoverability is what Spotify uses to differentiate itself. Where listeners crave to find the next big hit before anyone else, Spotify updates weekly, and even daily, playlists that uncover hidden musical gems from all around the world.
They allow you to connect all social medias, add a bio, link to concerts, and suggest music directly from the artist themselves. It's a unique way to engage fans and keep listeners coming back, while also encouraging "stumble upon" listeners to follow the artist across more platforms, and when growing your base is the goal, this is unbeatable.
Since Spotify is so public with its numbers, showing monthly listeners and streams per song, it's a great resource to pull data and statistics when marketing yourself. When pitching to radio stations for interviews or music venues to play a show, sharing your numbers helps a lot. For me, saying I've reached nearly half a million streams on my own is usually enough to get their attention.
It's for this reason that when it comes to all my music marketing that I choose to promote Spotify. Because of its social interface, it will suggest similar artists to listeners. My monthly listeners have always fluctuated, of course peaking during months in which I release new music.
More recent to Spotify in their quest to bring indie music and smaller artists to the spotlight is their editorial opportunities. In my three years distributing to Spotify via TuneCore, I've seen large improvements to artist experience. Apple Music for Artists originally followed Spotify for Artists. Spotify's platform breaks down as much data as you could imagine. From daily streams overall, to the daily, monthly, or lifetime streams of a song/album, to the top cities your music is streamed in, to the top playlists which your streams come from. I've learned the value of playlists for discoverability. Spotify has roughly four billion playlists.
Listening to other people's playlists encourages new artists to gain a monthly listener. It's these numbers that support the algorithm Spotify adopts, and how long users listen and if they'll "like" or "favorite" the song to add to their library. This is why pre-save features in which users can save music to their library before its release are popular. It's basically an algorithm hack, making the service think a lot of users instantly like the song.
Just this past week I was added to Spotify's New from New York: Pop playlist, a moment that has already been a turning point in my career.
When you submit a song or album to Spotify, they allow you to pitch it to editors, basically suggesting it'd be a great fit for a playlist they curate. I take you through the whole process in an upcoming YouTube video, which will be linked below upon posting, but basically you describe the genre and meaning of the song. It's just like any other cold pitch you do. If the editors like what they hear and find you a spot, you'll appear on the playlist upon release.
You have to submit the song at least one week prior to release, but I always shoot for about a month in advance to ensure the song makes it to the platform for release day.
Ever since they added this feature, I've submitted music. It's no additional cost, and can only help your exposure. As an independent artist with honestly not overwhelming numbers, I never anticipated a song of mine to even make it to the ears of an editor.
However, last week I saw a spike in my listeners and wondered why. My latest release was weeks ago and I hadn't done any press or event that day. Turns out I was added to my first editorial playlist. It was a new project by Spotify: personalized playlists. This means that their new curated editorial playlists shuffle. Therefore, if somebody has listened to me before or artists similar to me, then they'll add that song of mine to the playlist. Some users' playlists won't have me on it.
"Can't Say Sorry" was the song that made the cut. Interestingly though, it came out three months ago. The one that was heard by an editor and deemed worthy. After years of self-doubt and doubts from people I trust about the actual value of my music that I pour my soul into, it was such a rewarding feeling that I can just skip over. It was validation. It was a moment when I realized that the imposter syndrome wasn't necessary - I belonged there.
Artists will say it's not about the numbers. It's about the craft. It doesn't matter how many people listen. But it does. It's just like anything else you'd create. If you paint something and one person sees it, it may be worth your time, but a gallery of people admiring your work is more fulfilling. With so many users on Spotify it feels so possible. As the platform advances to support younger artists, I hope more people get the feeling I did: feeling recognized for what you love.
There's no way I'll quit my day job anytime soon, but small steps in an industry as crowded as music is like winning the lottery, especially from editors who know a thing or two about music, and where it's headed.
I shared even more tips and ideas in the video below, and if you'd like, help support my journey by following me on Spotify here.