Heading upstream

In 2016, sales of vinyl reached a twenty-five year high as well as old school tapes and CDs beginning to make a major comeback. As the physical market finds some stability once again, running parallel, streaming has rocketed 500% since 2013 with 45 billion streams in 2016. With the growth of Spotify and Apple Music, over 100 million people globally now pay for streaming services with revenues predicted to double between now and 2020.

For independent artists, the future of the music industry has never been in a more exciting and pivotal position.

Here’s our top tips to optimizing the opportunities streaming brings:

1 – Why should I focus on streaming as opposed to physical sales?

Streaming is always-on and defies time zones, so, whilst your music is online you’ll always have an audience. With the stable and growing communities within the major streaming platforms, illegal downloads are now more policed and less relevant. New music discovery has been placed at the forefront of the likes of Spotify and Apple Music with intricate algorithms and carefully curated playlists giving new artists the opportunity to be heard by a wider audience. Releasing music has never been more economical with digital distribution available for free and music rights and revenues falling straight back in to the hands of the artists. Online streaming also gives you instant data. It is possible to know who your fans are, where in the world they are and how they listen. In turn meaning that live dates can be targeted and listeners clearly understood. Your music reaches your audience not only conveniently but instantly.

2 – Which store is the most profitable?

When it comes to subscribers, Spotify leads the way with over 40 million people paying to use its service adding to that another 55 million people that are using it for free. As of September 2016, Apple Music reported that around 17 million people were using their subscription service. Spotify boasts a catalogue of over 30 million songs with around 20,000 new songs being added each day. Apple’s catalogue rides at 40 million whilst investing heavily in artists projects and securing high-level exclusives. The Guardian stated recently that Spotify says that its average payout for a stream to labels and publishers is between $0.006 and $0.0084 but Information Is Beautiful suggests that the average payment to an artist from the label portion of that is $0.001128 – this being what a signed artist receives after the label’s share. It is reported that Apple Music pay outs increases based on the territory:


Updated in 2015, the report from Information Is Beautiful gives a thorough breakdown of each service and the potential revenue that artists can earn distributing through each platform showing creative ways to promote music:


3 – How can I make sure that my music is discovered?

We are in an age where online sharing has become part of our daily lives. Good music travels and fast. Ensure the tracks that you upload and release are not only well produced but also fully mixed and mastered. Create your brand, artwork and imaging and then start to build your following across all of your social networks. Cross pollinate links to your music and create unique content that can be shared throughout your network. Add a music streaming widget to your website and research key playlists where your think your music could be heard. These playlists can be key as places to promote your music, not only giving you a break as an artist but guaranteeing you future revenues. Sharing the music that you love as well as building playlists of your own music is a creative way to connect with your followers. The most successful ones have between 20-60 songs and are updated regularly. As a start, you can follow a theme and add the artists that you love. This can form the start of future collaborations. Let those artists know that you rate them by sharing your playlists on other social networks. Who knows, you could even end up supporting them on tour or jumping in the studio together.

4 – How do I get my music on to key curated playlists?

When it comes to Spotify you have to reach two hundred and fifty followers on your discography page before you can be verified. Ensure that you download the app to your computer, have your latest pictures or logo uploaded and have let your fans know how to find you. There are five types of playlists on Spotify. Curated Spotify playlists, Branded playlists (for example FreshTunes), Collaborative playlists, other people’s playlists and also your own. Decide where your music fits, follow them, watch how they are updated and then find out who is responsible for switching up the music that is heard. You will then need to start to build a relationship with those curators. Bombarding people with links to music and hounding on social media isn’t always the wisest move so learn to be not only smart but patient. Many of the people that you are contacting will be inundated with new music so when you approach them be polite, straight to the point and send one or two of your strongest tracks. Most of the time, if people rate what they hear they will reply or add your music to their playlists. If you don’t hear back, don’t be offended. Your music may not fit with their vision so research more deeply and refine your contacts further.

5  – What does the future of streaming look like?


With Spotify and Apple Music currently at the forefront, the market is opening up with the launch of Amazon’s music streaming service and SoundCloud’s paid service and that’s not taking in to account the already launched Tidal, Deezer and YouTube Red. The way in which music is released continues to evolve from the thriving single and EP market and the less pressured album format with visual albums becoming more prevalent. Streaming is beginning to make its way out of our laptops, tablets and phones with the introduction of smart speakers in our homes and in-car synchronisation. Virtual Reality and AI are also going to create huge moves within the streaming markets with more and more gigs, festivals and events being filmed in 360. The industry has adapted and it’s more versatile than ever with one thing for certain: right now the artists are in the driving seat.