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We love how the deals with distributors have made the track uploads process easy. We hate how we have very little shot of making an editorial playlist on music alone, (hint: it’s your pop index + score x first week streams). We love how we have a Spotify for Artists Dashboard to see our entire roster, monitor streams and audience data. But we hate how some of the crucial marketing features used by larger labels to reach those markets and increase audiences are not available to us. We love how Spotify offers tips for optimizing profiles with pictures and bios. But we hate that we can’t sell merch or show upcoming dates right there.
Above all, independent artists and labels have become frustrated as we’ve watched Spotify roll out countless initiatives, dedicated support and features–not to mention, cold-hard cash–to thousands of podcasts, while the artists who prop up this thing just keep pouring our own resources into driving subs and listeners.
Here are the big changes Spotify is rolling out which will affect you, right now. Many of you will have immediate access to most of these, depending on your streams and listeners. Here’s my main advice: use as many as you can. Realize that Spotify is not primarily run by people, it’s run by algos, and the more you impress the algos, the closer you will get to the people. The best way to “impress the system” is to use the toys and tools in its sandbox.▼ Article continues below ▼
You can now show upcoming concerts under Live Events on your profile pages, but there’s a catch, it can only be from Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Songkick, and AXS listings. However, Spotify will also include these listings in emails sent to your followers. You’ll also be able to see stats on listeners and followers in cities you’ll be playing as part of the “Audience” page. For listeners, they won’t have to visit your profile page, it will also show on the “Now Playing” screen when they are listening to your tracks if you have tickets and/or merch available.
You can now display and sell Merch from your profile. Again, just like Live Events, you are limited as to how. Right now, you must have a Shopify store to sell merch directly to fans and can connect to your store.
Similar Artists will now be found in your Spotify for Artists Dashboard under Audience. Note: you must have enough streams data to trigger this. But you should always use these when pitching to Spotify editorial, even if it’s actually what your “listeners also listened to” and not necessarily a similar artist.
Spotify Clips is a new feature allowing artists and labels to add 30-second videos to their profiles and album pages. This is kind of like the Amazon Music “Spotlight” offering, in that it will enable you to personalize a release by talking about it, but Spotify also allows pairing it with exclusive video (think behind the scenes stuff). No word on whether this is on the distro side or still “coming soon” to Artists Dashboard, but it is not live today.
Countdown Pages Spotify is also launching a feature that will be promoted within artists’ profiles as well as in its homepage feed. It will look like a hub where fans can pre-save albums (native pre-saves on Spotify actually matter, but not that much) – as well as watch videos, pre-order merch, and preview tracklists.
Discovery Mode (hugely controversial, as it is basically payola for placement on Spotify Radio – meaning you get paid less or nothing for streams from placement) was limited to only select labels and artists, but now will be “directly available for artists on select distributors” within its Spotify for Artists dashboard. Pretty sure Distrokid is one of these.
Advertising tools for artists and labels are expanding. Full-screen Marquee ads are available in the U.S., U.K., and Australia now. But, artists must have at least 5,000 streams in the past 28 days, or at least 1,000 followers, in a country that campaigns can target.
As Spotify tries out the new Homepage scrolling stream (a la TikTok), there will be opportunities for Showcase. This is basically an ad on the Spotify homepage when logging in. Some artists and labels will get this “opportunity.” Showcase will “introduce an artist’s music – whether a new release or catalog – to likely listeners”.
Fans First Some of you may already have access to this, but Spotify is supposedly expanding it out to most artists/labels. The option can be used to send emails and notifications to the “biggest” fans of an artist offering ticket presales and exclusive merch. Now, how Spotify determines that (streams, repeat plays, longtime followers, # of engagements with new tracks) no one really knows.
We also got a huge data dump via Spotify’s Loud & Clear page. There was one piece of information which really caught my eye and is something that should embolden you as an independent artist and label. “A quarter of artists who reached $10,000 in earnings on Spotify self-released music through an artist distributor in 2022. These 14,700+ artists represent a 200% increase since 2017.” That is very good news.
We can still bitch about Spotify not showing deep credits, and not allowing a new listener to sample the song they clicked by tricking them into other songs and playlists. And there are countless other things we need.
However, Spotify deserves credit for listening to many of the concerns in the independent community and rolling out changes. Selling merch, showing upcoming concerts, offering more inside-the-app advertising outreach programs, integrating some short form video–these are huge changes which have been needed for a very long time, and if you put the work in to use them effectively, I think they can help you carve out a more sustainable career in music.
–Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.