Spotify started life as a digital music platform. It has now grown into a global hub for music, podcasts, playlists, and videos — giving users access to millions of songs and other content from artists all over the world. In less than ten years the Swedish company has grown to become an indispensable tool for millions of people; changing the way we consume music, and how the music industry works, forever.
Created in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, by Daniel Ek and entrepreneur Martin Lorentzon, Spotify was born from the idea to create a musical platform that would give its users immediate access to all the songs in the world. Building a music platform from scratch was the easy part for Daniel Ek. Convincing the world’s biggest record companies to sell their catalogs in exchange for equity in the company was a whole different story. Yet, after two years of negotiations, an agreement was found and Spotify was officially launched in October 2008.
With currently more than 271 million monthly active users worldwide — which includes around 113 million paid subscribers — Spotify leads the music streaming business, way ahead of similar competitors such as Apple or Deezer. With such a wide audience, it’s easy to see why Spotify is the best place to get your music discovered and heard.
1.1 HOW IS SPOTIFY DIFFERENT THAN AN ONLINE RETAILER?
Unlike a traditional online store where customers pay to download individual tracks or a full album, Spotify works via streaming. Unlike traditional digital music retailers like Amazon or iTunes, customers don’t purchase the music; instead, each user pays a monthly fee to Spotify for an ad-free version — or they choose a free subscription with ads playing every few songs.
Spotify is not the only streaming platform. Its competitors include TIDAL, Deezer, Qobuz, Pandora, Apple Music, and YouTube Music. Each one offers its own unique experience. TIDAL, for example, was created by Jay-Z as a place to find higher resolution streams with higher percentages paid out to artists. Deezer is popular in Europe and plans on paying artists directly from user plays. The Swedish platform, Spotify, however, is currently the most popular.
Part of its popularity comes from its features. It has a rich catalog of over 40 million tracks that users can organize into playlists. Spotify also has its own playlists, curated by their editorial team and by the platform’s algorithm. The algorithm also shares songs and artists similar to the ones users already love, making it a great place to discover new music. In fact, lots of users say that Spotify “knows them” — and it does. The algorithm follows user likes, plays, and playlists to make sure each song is perfectly tailored to the listener’s taste.
1.2 WHY IS SPOTIFY IMPORTANT TO MUSICIANS?
In the past, musicians had to work with big record labels to be able to get on the radio. Today, any musician can get exposed to millions of listeners by finding a distributor and releasing their music on Spotify. As the number one streaming site, it’s important for any serious DIY musician or independent label to have a presence. Plus, because of the low cost of investment for artists and its wide reach, Spotify is the perfect place to get discovered, both by fans and record labels. And with the right playlist strategy (see Chapter 4 onwards), you can earn enough revenue to keep you doing the fun part — making music.
Spotify also has an artist only app, Spotify for Artists. In addition to building your artist profile, it allows you to track your streams and revenue, your fans’ behavior, and find out the top places where your music is listened to. We will go more into that in Chapter 3, so stay tuned.
1.3 HOW TO GET YOUR MUSIC ON SPOTIFY?
Spotify only works with distributors. That means you can’t upload your music directly to the site. A digital distributor, like iMusician, can connect you with the major platforms and help get your music on Spotify.
If you want to distribute your music on Spotify via iMusician, it's easy. Just grab your audio files and project artwork, and upload them to our app. From there, you can choose a release date, and you’re good to go. We recommend you upload your music two weeks before your requested release date to be able to submit to the Spotify editors. You can also choose priority delivery if you need something faster.
1.4 WHAT MUSIC IS PROHIBITED ON SPOTIFY?
Spotify is a platform for artistic expression. While everyone has the right to make their voice heard, there are certain requirements that must be met. Illegal, explicit, or hateful content has no place on the platform (or any platform for that matter) and can be removed or filtered from Spotify.
Content that is protected by copyright or royalties. This means if a copyrighted track is published without the consent of the copyright holders, or if a sample has not been cleared in advance with the owner of the sample.Hateful content which incites racial hatred, violence against individuals or communities.
1.5 CAN I SUBMIT REMIXES AND COVER SONGS TO SPOTIFY?
For remixes, if the original song is not yours, it will be necessary to obtain the authorization of the copyright owners of the original version (author, composer, publisher), and also the authorization of the owners of the audio recording of the original version (very often the label that produced the track). Your track will be considered a remix if you have used part or all of the original recording. So if you want to upload your own interpretation of Lady Gaga's “Shallow”, or your remix-to-end-all-remixes of “Old Town Road”, in principle it's possible. Just make sure you have permission beforehand.
For cover versions, if the songwriters are not from the United States, you can distribute your release freely. However, the holders of the original rights always reserve the right to request the removal of your cover version. However, the situation is more formalized if the songwriters are from the United States. In this case, you will need to obtain a compulsory license from a collecting society (e.g. Songfile) with payments based on the number of units sold or streams played.
Your track will be considered a cover version if: your track is identical (lyrics, melody, basic arrangement) to the original version — with the difference being that you are the performer of that cover version. As soon as the lyrics, the melody, or the basic arrangement are changed, the song is not considered a cover. Rather, it becomes an adaptation or an edit that needs the clearance of the songwriters.