Talking Heads: The Spotify Upload Debate

Art & Culture

A recent announcement saw Spotify unveil a new iniative as part of their interface. The worldwide music streaming platform is set to allow users the opportunity to upload their music direct to the site. Some might ask how this is different to the present? However, what this actually means is that artists will be able to share and monetise their music without the obligation of labels or third party distributors. The new system is still in production and is undergoing testing but it has sparked the interest of a number of sectors within the music industry who might be about to witness a cosmic shift in the distribution model. 

Spotify has been at the forefront of online streaming since their launch in 2008. Active fan bases and network growth have been an asset to many an artist using the platform. As a major presence it offers independent artists the opportunity to promote their music regionally, or worldwide. However, until now it has followed suit by the book that an artist must be represented by a label and thus their music can only be featured on site if it's been signed. At present, without working with digital distribution platforms or a label it is almost impossible to upload your music to these services by yourself. In turn using the facilities offered by a distributor or label comes with the added set back of reduced royalties and overall depletes the ideology of being a truly independent artist.

We asked a number of independent artists and labels for their view on the announcement and the platform as a whole. 

Jad & The of Beats Of No Nation…

How much do you feel Spotify has had a part in building your fan base?

“To be honest we probably under utilise Spotify as a tool to build fans and reach a wider audience. But like most of the selling or streaming platforms – the bigger already established labels are the ones getting the most help, when in reality they don’t need the extra help. It’s the smaller up and coming labels which need the help getting noticed but unfortunately its not the case."

With this new tool put into play, how do you feel it will benefit your engagement and overall release planning?

“I guess a lot more freedom having the ability to upload yourself on your own schedule etc. Think it’s definitely for the better.”

Finally, would you agree in saying this technology could be essentially damaging to third party distributors?

“I guess so yes. But I’m guessing some labels might still use the distributor as the admin of doing it yourself could be quite high. The distributor is sometimes used as a label manager type role for smaller labels like us!”

With the notion of larger labels being able to utilise streaming platforms more, it comes with a statement released by Spotify’s Senior Product Leader 'Kene Anoliefo’ that this particular system will be free to use, and will offer 50 percent of Spotify’s net revenue and 100 percent of royalties for the songs each artist uploads. In terms of drawing more users to their interface, this could potentially be a huge selling point to independent artists that would regularly face the set back of label/distribution royalty rates..

Max from Craigie Knowes…

From a label stand point, do you feel this new technology may have an impact on your usual release planning?

“In terms of planning, I see little change to my process of releasing music on Craigie Knowes. In the initial talks with artists I always check that tracks I sign haven’t been made available for streaming (in a commercial sense), uploaded in decent enough quality that could have been ripped and distributed illegally, or offered for download or free or purchase. This system’s services fall within those brackets, so I doubt my planning process will change much.”

If so, do you feel this is an advantage or set back and why?

“I’m honestly pretty indifferent, I think it’s cool for artists to have a different way to monetise their music but I’m a firm believer in label backing being a key ingredient in making many (but not all) releases successful.”

How do you feel your current digital distributor would be impacted by this new service?

"I can’t say with certainty that they will or they won’t, but I would like to think it’ll make very little difference to their business. I think that Clone Distribution have earned the respect of the label’s and artists that they work with, enough so to have faith that their network of labels and artist’s loyalties won’t be shaken by subtle changes or new products available within the industry.”

In terms of operating and planning releases, another huge talking point we face in the music industry is the resurgence of vinyl. With vinyl sales spiking over the last 10 years, the commodity of physical records has never been so large. According to Discogs SVP ‘Ron Rich’ – it is now estimated that in 2017 roughly sixteen million records were bought. What does this mean to modern day independent labels?

Paul of Of Paradise…

Are physical releases important to you as a label?

“Yes. The physical product is what everyone wants, well, producers certainly want to see the music pressed to wax. As a label vinyl as a medium is still so important and exciting and its been amazing to see it come full circle again. Its important to remember though that not everyone can press records or navigate their way through the industry with ease. Digital is a great way to get music out there, whether you're doing it through Bandcamp or you have a full digital distribution service in place.”

Going back to Spotify, is there anything else you feel they could implement into their system to help independent labels like yourselves?

“I think that, much like Beatport, Spotify realise the value in working with independent labels to help build upon their existing frameworks to enable progress to be made in terms of digital streaming. For a lot of labels digital services are to avoid, but once you scratch the surface and do some research, you can find ways to really grow your label / business in a positive manner. Maybe a stronger focus on label content and input would be good. Features on new labels, artists, easier to navigate playlists could be good too. I think that with a lot of digital music services (Beatport, Spotify and SoundCloud) the people working there are from a tech background and don’t have any real musical knowledge, certainly in relation to underground electronic music, so there is always hurdles to their understanding of how things should work for labels.”

Finally, would you be interested in using this new system or do distribution services still seem more appealing?

“Right now the way we work with our physical and digital distribution services is great for us as a label. We have so much other stuff going on so having things managed and reported in a timely and efficient manner takes a load off us weekly. The world is constantly changing so who knows what's around the corner.”