There’s not that one simple answer to this question. It relies on a multitude of factors.
First of all, we should acknowledge the fact that people love to stream. It’s easier for them than to play CDs, cassettes, and vinyl. Fans still buy plenty of these mediums but they prefer to listen on their streaming platform of choice — out of sheer laziness.
So this answers part of the question.
By the way, not everyone uses Spotify. They only got 1/3 market share. So it’s not at all Spotify vs the rest. But even with “only” a third, they have an incredibly high amount of monthly users. And artists want to make more people find them. One way to find new artists is by listening to their music.
Why do users prefer Spotify over other digital service providers (DSP)?
First things first, it’s free.
Further, Spotify also offers a great user experience. Spotify provides its users with playlists, recommendations based on their likes and plays, and a simple but straightforward user interface. People love that.
(I do, too. That’s why, as a listener, I currently prefer Spotify over Apple Music, Napster, Amazon, Google, or any other alternative. And I regularly check out the “About” section of artists to find out more about them, including their website, social profiles, and whatnot.)
This results in another fact. There are many potential fans for independent artists on Spotify. All these people can find independent artists through playlists or by recommendation. Which artist doesn’t want to get found?
Having a great user experience is a huge benefit for artists. Because they know that people will stick to Spotify. This in turn gives artists security. So when they promote themselves on Spotify, they can scale it over time due to algorithmic logic.
Yes, there are other big streaming platforms, too. But there’s more to Spotify.
Let’s take a look into it.
What are Spotify’s other benefits for independent artists against its competition?
From all the different streaming providers out there, Spotify got the most indie artist-friendly algorithms. Their programmer’s code is written in such a way that they push smaller artists into the listening spectrum of their users. Once the songs or artists reach certain thresholds, the algorithms jump in to help. These thresholds can be a specific amount of plays, additions to playlists, or others.
Aside from that, Spotify offers great insight into where people stream your music. Also what other artists these users stream, where they found you (referral links), and more.
This helps artists even more to scale. Because once you understand how to reach these thresholds, you can scale with a positive ROI.
So now we know why out of all streaming services independent musicians should put their music on Spotify: gigantic reach, growing user base, indie-friendly algorithms.
Last, let’s look into how you get paid for your streams in general.
For what do you get paid on Spotify?
Spotify, Napster, Apple, Pandora, Amazon, and many more mostly pay you from what they earn from their subscribers. Google’s main income is through paid ads revenue, though, they have an increasing amount of paid subscribers.
As for Spotify, they also have some paid ads-revenue but it’s significantly lower per user than their subscriptions.
(Did you know that Soundcloud recently launched their new royalty model which focuses more on fan engagement? I’m interested to see how this works for them and how the industry is picking it up — or not.)
When we take into account that Spotify offers a free tier and pays out what they earn, it’s clear why you get less per stream on Spotify than on Napster, Amazon, or Apple Music. However, I would never recommend excluding any of these platforms. Use them as fan-building tools — do not treat them as record stores.
This leads us to the second part of the question.
Why should independent artists promote on Spotify and pitch to playlists?
Even though I already answered most of this question above, let’s dive deeper into why it’s so good for artists to promote their music through Spotify playlists.
Before we do though, here are three mistakes artists make when they think of their audience.
One, do not think that people behave like you do (assumption vs. validation).
Two, people are curious (help them the most you can, and more).
Three, do not limit your creativity to your music (people love to support creative businesses).
With these three things in mind, it’s way easier for you to understand why it can be so valuable for you as an independent artist to promote your music on Spotify and pitch it to playlists.
You never know what happens when someone listens to your song in a playlist. Maybe they have a blog and write about you.
Or they become a fan, stream all your content, follow you on Instagram, and, two months later, buy your First Album Bundle including vinyl and cassette for $100.
Or they are working for a tv show and want to use your song for their next production.
Or your song simply picks up momentum and gets 500k streams from people all over the world which would give you an estimate of $2k.
So where does this leave us?
Never assume you know when you don’t. I know that’s true for everything in life but I still need to tell it myself now and then.
Of course, your music has to be good, too. But that’s a given (and if not should be a conversation for another time).
In conclusion, independent artists should use Spotify to reach more people, grow their music business, and help users find them elsewhere.