In the music world today, there are plenty of ways to take the wrong step. You mix an album incorrectly, take unflattering photos, or just not spend enough time honing your songwriting. There's one step that might feel like a no brainer, but where you release your music is an important step many artists seem to trip over.
Today, you can place your music on multiple platforms — for instance: Soundcloud, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Bandcamp, and Apple Music — which you should do without hesitation. While some of these might not monetize you in a way that you're comfortable with, choosing just one is almost as problematic as not choosing any.
The one thing I hear from promoters more than anything else, is "if they use Reverbnation only, I just assume they're terrible."
This is not a knock on Reverbnation, just like it's not a knock at any one of these places. The truth is, as an artist you should want as many avenues as you can ascertain to promote your work. When you look at these websites, you should know that each has positives and negatives.
Soundcloud, the German based music distribution platform has become quite popular in the hip hop and electronic world since it began in 2007. Soundcloud has bonus features such as unlimited downloads, advanced analytics, and the ability to disable comments. It has garnered the attention of the world from artists like Chance The Rapper using the platform, and now has a paid streaming platform starting at $5 per month.
Through subscriptions and advertising revenue, the service can revenue share with artists, though no percentages were available at press time. However, one of the negatives has been that Soundcloud has never really been profitable for those who own the site, and there have been rumors for more than a year that the service may shut down.
Spotify is the largest online streaming platform in the world, with more than 140 million monthly users, and 70 million paid subscribers. The platform has been around since 2008, and since launching in Sweden it is available the world over with ties ins to multiple record labels and Facebook. There are plenty of tools for artists including metrics to see where the biggest listeners are, multiple tools to sell merch through your page, and developer tools for playlists.
One of the biggest advantages to an artist is the user base size. One of the harshest criticisms is about the pay. The streaming site has received multiple complaints that labels get paid more or that the stream figures are too low per stream. There are countless articles on the subject from here, here, and here that you should be aware of before using the service.
Pandora is a different set up, with a streaming service and a personalized radio option as well. The company is reported to pay artists well, and offers subscriptions to users from Free to $10 per month. as far as tools go, they offer a program called AMP. This lets you see who your fans are and offers metrics in how to market to them as well as how to best interact with them. The platform has more than 80 million active users, but is only available in the United States, meaning it might not be the best option in getting your music out to the world.
At one time, Google Play Music had the highest revenue per stream amount in the music business. Since that's changed, the service is available in more than 60 countries, and is the go-to service for many users tied to the Android operating system. Now fourth in data currently available, the site offers a tie in with YouTube, there'a an easy one-time fee of $25 dollars, and an easy to use set up. The only downfall to Play, is that it's not the biggest user base but a rather popular option. By being paid only, you can guarantee that you'll have revenue streams from pretty much any play your music gets.
Bandcamp is possibly the most artist friendly site of all of the music streaming platforms. For starters, they have the lowest store cut of any site, meaning you earn more there than anywhere else. They offer digital and physical releases side by side, as well as artists shops to sell anything you want. They also have metrics in real time, they can sell in almost any currency, and they offer features such as limiting how many times people can hear a track for free.
You can also offer minimum amounts for payment options, which includes making albums or songs for a "pay at least this amount" price. The platform also reports to all of the chart systems throughout the globe, and they offer multiple quality downloads at your discretion. The only downfall to Bandcamp is that they are small in the grand spectrum. But getting used by pretty much every indie label in existence, they give artists plenty of tools and control over their art, their prices, and how it's all distributed.
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iTunes was once the premier place to buy music, though now that they've ventured into streaming with Apple Music, they have to play catch up to Spotify. While the service has a smaller user base, they seem to do much better in terms of mobile users, and has recently offered analytics that seem to go really far. The new metrics system offers all sorts of information for artists to track who and where their listeners are. While the site isn't the largest, they do offer a very strong royalty pay rate as well as plenty of tools for artists to reach those who use the IOS platform, as well as others on multiple systems throughout the 161 countries that the service operates in.
This brings us to Reverbnation. While the service is the smallest listed, they're also the longest running. Started in 2006, the service based out of the United States has a little under 4 million users. For artists, they offer plenty of promotion and marketing tools as well as analytics and multiple programs for promotion. Features like Promote It which helps users place ads, the Gig Finder which gives artists a database with more than 600,000 venues, and EchoMusic, a music discovery app. While they're easy to make fun of due to some of the terrible acts that call the service home, they offer plenty of tools for artists getting started in the music industry, and they are good for learning if nothing else.