It’s the stuff of dreams for music artists: Earning money (and maybe even a living?) from selling their music. With the decline of traditional album sales over the last 20 years, digital music streaming platforms are now one of the first places where artists turn to make their music available to listen. If you’re an artist with music ready to go and want to share your music with the Spotify community, this guide is for you.
PROs and Royalties
Before you bring a streaming platform like Spotify into the equation, it’s crucial that your songs are set up properly to earn royalties. There are 2 kinds of royalties that a song on Spotify can earn, performance royalties and publishing royalties.
Performance royalties apply to songs that are broadcast or performed publicly, such as on the radio. Spotify streams are also included in this category, which means Spotify must pay out performance royalties every time a song is streamed. In order to access performance royalties, your songs must be registered with a Performing Rights Organization based in your country.
The United States has 3 main ones: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. You don’t need to stress too much about which PRO you choose to register your songs with, they all offer a similar level of service. If personal preference doesn’t make the decision for you, taking a look at the perks and discounts offered by each should be enough to help steer you in the right decision.
Publishing royalties will only be a factor if the music you’re distributing is written by you and is not simply a cover of another song. If you have a publishing deal, they’ll handle the rest and you’ll receive your royalties through the publisher. If you don’t have a publishing deal and wish to self-publish, you’ll have to register with your PRO as a publisher as well as a writer.
Spotify currently requires that all music be submitted via a distributor, so once the song registrations are taken care of the next step is finding the right distributor. The good news is that Spotify partners with many different distribution platforms, and you get to choose which one to partner with based on your needs.
Choosing a Distributor
Distribution to Spotify is a service that most if not all providers will offer, and they frequently advertise as allowing you to keep 100% of the royalties you earn. Distributors don’t work for free, however, and often charge based on what services the artist needs and the volume of music the artist would like distributed.
Some charge per song or per album and others offer subscription plans that can include additional services for the artist, such as expedited royalty payouts, music production services and analytics for how well the music is performing. If you’re just starting out and only have a single or two under your belt, a distributor with a budget-friendly per-song fee might be your best bet. If your catalog is bursting at the seams and you need some support navigating YouTube’s Content ID system, it won’t be difficult to find a distributor who can take that on.
A great place to start your search would actually be through Spotify itself, their site has a great directory with preferred distribution partners. You may have already heard of at least one provider on their list!
If your music is registered with a PRO and the distribution is all squared away, then your music should finally make it onto Spotify. If your distributor offers reporting on royalties and song plays for your catalog you should take advantage of that service as well. Having your music available on Spotify is a tremendous step to making your music widely accessible to your fan base, and allows you to take your music career to the next level.