The Tempestuous Relationship With Spotify
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
At Rollerblaster we unashamedly release music that is made to be heard loud, in clubs where you can dance. As a label owner promoting underground music I have some issues with Spotify. It must be said that some of them are nothing to do with Spotify themselves, although some obviously are. Spotify are innovative, business minded and offer some opportunities that artists and labels can’t get elsewhere. What I have concluded is that Spotify undoubtedly has its place but that stressing over and prioritising Spotify plays simple isn’t worth it. These are my thoughts after nearly four years of trying to navigate a way through……
Artists Want to Prioritise Spotify
Spotify have a significant market share of the music streaming market in most countries across the globe and so of course music producers want their music on the platform. What Spotify have done very cleverly is allowed almost immediate transparency to the number of streams (or at least those generated by a user with a premium account, and up to a certain number of streams per user per hour). Other streaming services don’t have this and so it has become a benchmark of success or failure for many. And that “failure” part is a real problem - it saps confidence on a platform where the odds were stacked against you as a house or techno producer.
So you spent hours perfecting on the mix and spent money on getting that perfect master so your track can sound amazing on a massive club system, home speakers or headphones. Unfortunately streaming your high quality work takes a lot of data and a lot of bandwidth and Spotify aren’t up for that. So that file is getting compressed pretty heavily and that carefully crafted sub bass and those lush mids are going to be extinguished. I mean it’s “OK” but it isn’t what you made.
Spotify is Unlikely to Put Your Music in front of New Fans
If you do get picked up by by a Spotify editorial playlist then it can be, possibly, an absolute game changer. Spotify lets you submit your track prior to release and they’ve big editorial teams so I’m pretty sure every track get a fair hearing. There are however tens of thousands of electronic music tracks released every week so standing out is hard.
If you have genuine “followers” Spotify will put your new releases in front of them through the Release Radar. But these are those that you’ve already converted to fans, they aren’t new ones. And if you let Spotify “do its thing” and pick songs or you after you’ve streamed one could that be yours if you’ve been listening to similar artists? Experience says it is much more likely to be an established or major label artist.
So that leaves curated playlists outside of Spotify as the best source to reach new fans.
Some Playlisters are Great But……
So in theory Spotify doesn’t allow payment for placement in a playlist even with an external curator. But you can pay a “broker” who will approach curators or pay a fee for a response from a curator in a given timeframe and in truth, you can still buy placement.
There are some excellent and very diligent playlist curators out there who are well worth your time and engagement (I'm going to name check Blaze U and Adam Heaton as excellent examples). Equally there are playlists who earn money with no intention of ever featuring your track, playlists with fake followers, “bots” and “click farms” generating false plays and playlists where the total length the tracks is in excess of 24 hours (and where your track sitting 17 hours in isn’t going to get you many plays). It's a risk business and you have to be clear about what you want to achieve because.....
The Finances Don’t Stack Up
Whilst there isn’t a “rate card” for the amount that Spotify will pay per stream can be assumed to be just below $0.004 for a stream by a premium user, so about 300 streams equal a dollar (or about 400 for £1 GBP, which is the same as you'd get for a sale of one track on Bandcamp). So if you are investing in playlist placements or even Facebook or instagram adverts and you want a direct return on income you need to be generating over 4000 streams per every £10 spent. Of course if you can get new, genuine fans who will return time-and -time again then the investment may be worth it. Just be careful of those bots, fake plays and fake followers! And with FB and IG ads growing and audience just became harder given the default position on Apple IOS around data sharing. So even some of the very credible strategies about follower growth may not hold up in the future.
I’m not arguing Spotify should be ignored - making that editorial playlist submission is a no brainer and making sure your profile is up today, you use it as a place to advertise shows you are playing is all great. Just make sure that you invest your time and money wisely and don’t obsess over the numbers and certainly don’t take the number of Spotify streams you have as any indication of your artistic or personal worth.