Yes, I know, Spotify sucks because they pay essentially no royalties. The CEO is worth billions, and the musicians who create the content get squat. There are a couple of life lessons here, and the sooner they’re understood, the better you’ll be at exploiting the systems in place.
1: You can’t change something that’s that much bigger than you. Don’t whine, especially in public or on social media. That’s the system. In reality, the system before wasn’t any better. You had to grease the DJ’s palm a little to get some airplay for your release. Managers and record company execs added their name to songwriting credits, stealing royalties. Record companies inflated production costs and marketing expenses. The smart ones find their way around it.
2: Everyone is a creator. I realize musicians and artists like to think of themselves as “the creators” of the world, and everyone else is just a consumer of their brilliance. That’s going to have to stop if you want to be successful in the new reality. Everyone who has provided the opportunity for you to perform is a creator: the architects and builders who designed the structure and completed it, the financiers who raised the money to make it a reality. Most important of all, the folks who organized and promoted the performance series that you get to play at invested huge amounts of energy and creativity. And out there in the audience? Who knows what they’ve created: advertising campaigns, some are musicians themselves, inventors, techies, all sorts of creators. They just don’t do music, so don’t hold it against them.
So what do you do with Spotify? For starters, use it like a radio station. In the “everything old is new again” analogy, pre-internet radio stations played a band’s one release. That’s it. Only the rarest of the rare, or hottest of the hot, would get two tunes playing at roughly the same time. Band releases were months apart, and airplay would concentrate on that one tune, hoping it would become an ear worm, or whatever the equivalent of viral was.
Therein lies the problem and the solution. When you put all your work on a streaming service, it’s always available in it’s entirety, and becomes overexposed. There’s no anticipation anymore. Try releasing one tune at a time, and taking everything else off the platform. Publicize these releases to the best of your ability on social media. Then direct fans to where they can purchase your music, either on platforms like Bandcamp or iTunes. Personally, I like iTunes, as I can integrate it into my entire library easily, and get promotional materials put together quicker. That’s neither here nor there, though. The key is to have just a tune or two on Spotify at any one time. You weren’t main any money on the others anyway, so what’s the difference.
Taking this a step further, realize that most normal people put together playlists of different artists. They want the variety, and whether they realize it or not, most assemble the playlists like a band would assemble a setlist. Fast, slow, loud, soft, different instruments, different styles, nothing repeated. It’s essentially an old school radio station where they selected the tunes that would be played.
Here’s the hard part, but one that in time, I believe will be worth the effort, and exploit Spotify’s strengths. Again, heading bak to olden times, where musicians would form a co-op and make their own performance space (this will come back in style, believe me) musicians should form a cooperative Spotify “station” with their own playlist. To do this right, one would need to get together 20-30 friendly musicians of various styles (remember the variety aspect of the personal playlist) and form a playlist where each musician or band adds one or two tracks only. After a few weeks, other tracks can be substituted in by the various musicians.
It will take some time to build up to the proper size, and also build up an audience for the station (hello social media of all types), but once going, will work really well. There’s strength in numbers, and with each band promoting the station, new fans directed to all of your individual projects will dramatically increase exposure.
Yes, there won’t be any royalties to speak of, but it’s free, world-wide publicity of the sort which you would have had to pay for big time in years past. And again, you’re not giving away your discography for free any more.
You won’t stop the streaming train with the concurrent pitiful royalties, but you can use them to promote your music which is something g that musicians from pre-internet times would lust after.