So you recorded a cool song or songs, but so far the only people whom have heard it are you and your next-door neighbor, and only one of you by choice! Some people like to record songs just for themselves, and this is a totally valid endeavor. But if you’re like me, then you’re going to want to share the thing you worked hard with as many people as you can grab by the ear and get to listen to it.
Now, physically grabbing people by the ear and making them listen to your song is far from the most efficient way to build an audience, even without all of the social distancing currently going on. The internet has long since been one of the best tools you’ll ever have of sharing your music with other actual humans, even since before the lockdowns began. There’s a lot of different platforms you can share your music, and the first step is finding the one or ones that are right for you, but if your goal is to share your music is to share it with everyone, then the answer is probably all of them!
When my band War Honey reached the point where we felt like sharing the first song we recorded since the lockdown began, we knew that it was our goal to share what we had worked on with as many people as possible. For us this meant the whole shebang; Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Deezer, Bandcamp, and more. However, our focus was mostly on Spotify.
Whether or not Spotify is your preferred music platform, it is a monolith in the field with over 170 million active monthly users. We figured that Spotify would be our avenue towards reaching as many listeners as possible, and if that’s your goal as well then I suggest putting most of your energy into Spotify over any other single platform.
Unless you are fortunate enough to be signed to a record label, in order to get your music on Spotify you’ll have to work with a third-party distributor. These distributors will upload your music to Spotify for you, as well as those previously mentioned other platforms and more. They will generally also keep track of any royalties earned from those platforms. These third-party distributors all take some sort of fee (remember that they’re all for-profit businesses too), either in the form of money upfront or a small percentage of royalties earned.
Some notable third party distributors that work with Spotify include TuneCore, DistroKid, CD Baby, RouteNote, and AWAL, among others. Each distributor has its own conditions, services, and pricing options, so make sure to do some research and choose the option that works best for you and your current needs.
You can find a comprehensive list of established third-party distributors here.
Also, remember that just because your music is on a major platform does not necessarily mean that people are going to notice it. Spotify alone has over thirty million songs on it, which means that it’s very easy the thing you worked so hard on to get lost in the mountain of data available on the platform. This is why it’s important to put effort into promoting your release and getting it in front of new listeners.
The obvious way to promote your release is to tell your friends and to post about it on your social media accounts, both personal and any publicly-oriented music accounts you may also have. These are important, organic ways to promote your music that should not be overlooked. However, when dealing specifically with Spotify, it is important not to overlook the platform’s thriving ecosystem of playlists.
Although many users use private playlists for their personal listening, public playlists are nowadays how many Spotify users go about discovering new music. So if you are interested in having your recording reach new audiences, you are going to want to get onto some Spotify playlists!
There are two main sorts of playlists on Spotify: Spotify official playlists and user playlists. Spotify official playlists are curated by full-time employees of the platform and have a pretty formal submission process that can be done through your Spotify For Artists account. Spotify official playlists tend to have lots of followers (with the most popular ones numbering in the tens of millions), so getting on a Spotify official playlist can be huge.
While it’s certainly worth taking a shot on submitting to a Spotify official playlists, the competition for getting on these playlists can be pretty steep. It’s certainly doable, as I personally know multiple people whom have done it (and it’s been a pretty big step forward for all their respective music careers), but it’s not something that anyone should count on.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that your first-ever release on Spotify is not eligible to even be submitted to Spotify official playlists in the first place, so there’s a chance this route won’t even be an option for you at this time. This is equally true whether your first release is a full album or just a single. If you’re planning on releasing an album or EP that you’d like to pitch to Spotify official playlists, then a good way around this fact is to release one song of the collection ahead of everything else as a single. That single will then count as your first release, which will allow you to pitch the remaining songs in time for when they come out.
Just make sure that you submit your songs for consideration at least a week before their release date, or else Spotify won’t even look at them.
The second type of Spotify playlists that you can submit to is public user playlists. Public user playlists are playlists that any Spotify user can create and curate themselves. Many user playlists are never listened to or even intended to be listened to by anyone other than their creators. However many others have large followings of regular listeners and serve a role similar to those of Spotify official playlists.
Although they typically have fewer followers a piece than Spotify official playlists, user playlists are far more numerous than official playlists and tend to have significantly less competition from other artists vying for their spots. This means that for many indie artists (War Honey included), user playlists will be their bread-and-butter for finding listeners on the platform.
While the bulk of user playlists aren’t open to unsolicited song submissions, enough are that it can really be worth your while. Many accept submissions through email, Instagram messages, or third-party websites. User playlists that accept unsolicited song submissions can be hard to come across on their own, but a good way to find some is to simply search your genre followed by the word “submissions” into Spotify and then browse through what playlists come up.
Also, be aware that many user playlists may respond to your submissions by giving you a price sheet of what it cost to be on their playlist. While they may try and make it seem like an enticing offer, please be aware that there are enough quality, for-the-love user playlists that won’t charge you a dime that you don’t need to waste your money on this weird micro-industry of paid spots on playlists.
Bandcamp and Soundcloud
If you are looking to share your music through a platform that’s a little simpler, a little less commercially-oriented, and with absolutely no fees to be a part of, then Bandcamp and Soundcloud are both good options. Both user friendly and artist oriented, Bandcamp and Soundcloud are super easy to share music through and have a large and devoted base of active users.
It is worth noting that Bandcamp allows you to charge for downloads of your track in a manner similar to iTunes and to sell merch and physical copies of your music through the same page, features that Soundcloud currently does not have. It is possible to monetize your tracks on Soundcloud, but doing so is difficult and requires a paid-for premium plan. Bandcamp however requires higher quality audio formats than Soundcloud does, so if all you have is mp3s then Soundcloud might be your only option.
NOTE: This piece is part of a broader article on staying musically active during the current climate of social distancing. You can see the other currently published pieces on the topic by browsing through the “Blogs” section of the NYCGS website.
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