How to Distribute Music to Streaming Platforms (Updated 2023)

Production & Music Industry
Updated on
August 14, 2023
Written by
Matt W
<10 Mins
Learn how to Distribute Music to Streaming Platforms such as Spotify - the ins and outs and best distribution platforms - all updated for 2023.

How to Distribute Music to Streaming Platforms (Updated 2023)

Get Your Music on Streaming Platforms!

Here’s a step-by-step guide for distributing your music, and why distributing to streaming platforms is essential for musicians. Want to go further and promote your music? Click here.

How to Distribute Your Music

  1. Choose a company to distribute your music, such as Unchained Music.
  2. Upload your song or album, with all of your music metadata, including your artist name, songwriter name, and track name.
  3. Select a release date 3-4 weeks in the future so you can pitch to Spotify’s Editorial Playlists through Spotify For Artists.
  4. Set up a pre-save link and promote your music on social media.
  5. Wait for release day.
  6. Implement a post-release strategy to make sure your music gets heard.

It’s vital that you get the right free music distribution for your success and to keep all of your streaming royalties.

The importance of music streaming platforms for artist promotion

Streaming platforms have become crucial tools for artists to promote their music, reach new audiences, and establish their presence in the industry. These platforms enable musicians to share their creations with millions of listeners globally, build a fan base, expand their reach, and allow new fans to discover their tracks through playlists and suggestions.

How do I choose the right music distribution platform?

When selecting a music distributor, consider reach and platform availability, pricing and revenue models, promotional and marketing support, and customer service. It's crucial to find a distributor that caters to your specific needs and goals as an artist.

Reach and platform availability

Reach and platform determine the potential audience and accessibility of your music. A distributor with a broad to 200+ streaming platforms is better than one that distributes your music to 20. A good reach can help you get your music on multiple streaming platforms, including popular ones like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tidal, TikTok, and Deezer. This wide availability ensures that your music is accessible to the largest number of listeners in the largest variety of formats, regardless of their preferred streaming service. It is essential to research the platforms each distributor works with to ensure your target audience and niche market are covered. Some music distributors only place your music on Spotify and Apple Music, while others can be more comprehensive and include YouTube Content ID and TikTok.

Pricing and revenue models

Before choosing a distributor, carefully examine their pricing and revenue models, as these can significantly impact your earnings as an artist. Distributors employ various pricing structures, including one-time fees, annual fees, or taking a percentage of your royalties. Some distributors, such as DistroKid, offer a flat annual fee that covers unlimited uploads, while others like TuneCore and CD Baby charge per release but don't take a cut of your royalties. Others, such as Unchained Music, are truly free, not taking a percentage of your royalties, or charging a fee.

Most distributors will also offer a tiered pricing structure, providing artists with different levels of service and features based on their subscription plan. It's crucial to assess your budget, projected revenue from streaming royalties, and the value of the services offered by each distributor to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals as an artist. This evaluation will help you choose a distributor that maximizes your earnings and supports your long-term success in the music industry.

Promotional and marketing support

Promotional and marketing support provided by music distributors can be a valuable asset for artists seeking to grow their audience and increase their visibility on streaming platforms. Some distributors offer additional services that extend beyond distribution, such as playlist pitching, AI mixing and mastering, social media promotion, artist royalty advances, and press coverage. These services can help your music gain traction on streaming platforms and secure placements on popular playlists, which are crucial for attracting new listeners and driving streams. Furthermore, some distributors may provide guidance on best practices for promoting your music, giving you insights into successful marketing strategies and tactics.

Customer service and user experience

Customer service and user experience are important aspects to consider when selecting a music distributor, as many music distributors have a less than stellar reputation. A distributor with responsive customer support can address any issues or concerns you may have during the distribution process, ensuring a smooth experience and timely resolution. Some distributors offer live chat, email, or phone support, while others may have extensive knowledge bases and FAQs to guide you. In addition to customer support, it's essential to evaluate the user experience provided by the distributor's platform, including the ease of use, dashboard design, and reporting tools. A user-friendly platform allows you to efficiently manage your releases, monitor your earnings, and access valuable insights, ultimately saving you time and effort.

Top music distributors in 2023

In 2023, the top 10 music distributors include Unchained Music, DistroKid, TuneCore, CD Baby, AWAL, and Ditto Music. These companies offer various services and cater to different types of artists, making it essential to research and compare them to find the best fit for your needs.

What is music distribution, anyway?

Music distribution is the process of making music available to the public through various channels, such as physical stores, digital platforms, and streaming services. It is an essential component of the music industry, allowing artists to share their work and generate revenue. Artists cannot directly go to most platforms, such as Spotify and place their music on the platform themselves. Instead, artists must work with a music distributor to upload their music.

The role of music distributors

Music distributors play a vital role in the modern music industry, acting as intermediaries between independent artists or labels and various streaming platforms. Their primary function is to help artists distribute their music to popular streaming services, such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and more, ensuring that the music is accessible to millions of listeners worldwide. In addition to distribution, music distributors are responsible for collecting royalties generated from streams and downloads, and then distributing these earnings to the artists or rights holders. Many music distributors also offer a range of additional services, such as promotional support, marketing assistance, and analytics tools, which can be instrumental in helping artists grow their audience, increase their visibility, and navigate the complexities of the music industry.

Traditional vs. digital distribution

The music industry has witnessed a significant shift in distribution methods over the past few decades, transitioning from physical distribution to an increasingly digital landscape. Physical distribution, which involves the manufacturing and shipping of tangible music formats such as vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes, was once the primary means for artists to reach their audience. However, with the advent of the internet and the rise of digital platforms, digital distribution has taken center stage. Digital distribution involves making music available online through streaming platforms and digital download stores, providing artists with a more cost-effective and efficient way to share their work with a global audience. While physical distribution still holds a place in the industry for niche markets and collectors, the growing dominance of digital distribution has revolutionized the way artists share and monetize their music, making it more accessible and convenient for both creators and consumers alike.

How to Prepare Your Music for Distribution

Mixing your tracks

Mixing is an essential step in the music production process, playing a critical role in preparing a track for distribution to streaming services. Mixing involves adjusting and balancing the individual elements of a track, such as the vocals, instruments, and effects, to create a cohesive sound. Proper mixing ensures that each element of the track is clear and distinct, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the nuances of the music. A well-mixed track can significantly enhance the listening experience, making it more likely that your music will resonate with listeners and catch the attention of playlist curators. Streaming services also have specific guidelines for audio quality and loudness levels, making it crucial to achieve a professional-sounding mix that adheres to these standards. Investing time and resources in mixing your tracks can lead to a better representation of your artistic vision, increased chances of being added to playlists, and ultimately, a more successful release on streaming platforms.

Mastering your tracks

Mastering is the final and crucial step in the music production process, ensuring your tracks are optimized for distribution to streaming services and various playback systems. The mastering process involves fine-tuning the overall sound of the mix by adjusting elements such as equalization, compression, and limiting to achieve a polished and balanced final product. A well-mastered track delivers a consistent listening experience across different devices, speakers, and headphones, ensuring your music sounds its best in all environments. Streaming platforms have specific loudness and quality requirements, making it essential for your tracks to be mastered according to these standards to avoid any unwanted adjustments or issues during the distribution process. A professionally mastered track can significantly enhance your music's perceived quality, making it more likely to gain the attention of listeners and playlist curators. Investing in quality mastering can elevate your music's sonic appeal, contribute to a successful release, and help you stand out in the competitive landscape of streaming platforms.

Collecting your music metadata and release information

Metadata and album information are essential components of your music release. Accurate and complete metadata, including track titles, artist name and collaborators, genre and mood, and release date, ensures your music is easily discoverable and properly credited.

When distributing a track to streaming platforms, it's essential to provide accurate and complete metadata to ensure proper organization, searchability, and royalty attribution. Key types of musical metadata to include are:

Track title: The official name of your song. Make sure you follow capitalization and formatting guidelines.

Artist name:
The primary artist or band name associated with the track, formatted consistently across all releases.

Featured artists: Any additional artists who contributed to the track but are not the primary artist.

Album title: The name of the album or EP the track is part of, if applicable.

Release date: When the track or album will be available on streaming platforms.

Genre: The primary genre or style of music that best describes the track.

Sub-genre: A more specific category within the primary genre, if applicable.

Record label: The name of the record label or entity releasing the music, if applicable. Independent artists may use their own name or a self-created label name.

Copyright information: The copyright holder(s) for both the sound recording (℗) and the underlying composition (©).

ISRC (International Standard Recording Code): A unique identifier assigned to each individual track, used for tracking and royalty collection. If you do not have one, the music distribution company will provide one for you.

UPC/EAN (Universal Product Code/European Article Number): A unique identifier assigned to an entire album or release, used for tracking and sales reporting. If you do not have one, the music distribution company will provide one for you.

How to upload your music to streaming services

To distribute music, create an account with a distributor, upload your cover art, music files, and metadata, select the streaming platforms you want your music available on, set your release date and pricing, and review and submit your information for distribution.

Distribution timeframes and expectations

Distribution timeframes and expectations can vary between music distributors and streaming platforms, but understanding these factors is essential for a smooth release process. Generally, most distributors require a lead time of at least 1-2 weeks before your intended release date to ensure your music is delivered correctly and processed by the streaming platforms. Some distributors may offer faster distribution times, but it's always best to plan ahead and allow for ample time to address any potential issues, such as metadata corrections or artwork adjustments. Additionally, scheduling your release with some buffer time can provide you with opportunities to pitch your music to playlists such as to Spotify’s editorial playlists system or coordinate promotional efforts, increasing the chances of a successful launch. It's essential to research the distribution timeframes for the specific distributor you choose and set realistic expectations to avoid last-minute complications and ensure a seamless release of your music on streaming platforms.

Post-release promotion strategies

Post-release promotion strategies are crucial for artists to maximize their music's visibility and reach on streaming platforms, ensuring their hard work doesn't go unnoticed. A well-planned promotional campaign can help attract new listeners, generate streams, and boost your presence on streaming services. Some effective post-release promotion strategies include:

Social media marketing: Regularly share your music across social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, and engage with your audience to create a buzz around your release.

Playlist pitching: Submit your music to relevant playlists, both official (curated by streaming platforms) and user-generated, to increase your chances of being discovered by new listeners.

Collaborations: Partner with other artists, influencers, or creators to cross-promote your music and tap into their audiences, expanding your reach.

Press coverage: Reach out to music blogs, publications, and local media to secure features, interviews, or reviews, raising your profile and credibility in the industry.

Email marketing: Utilize your mailing list to keep your fans updated on your latest releases, concerts, and any behind-the-scenes content, fostering a loyal fan base.

Live performances and virtual events: Organize concerts, live streams, or virtual listening parties to engage with your audience and showcase your music in a live setting.

Ads and sponsored content: Invest in targeted ads on social media platforms or streaming services to reach a wider audience and drive more streams.

How to Make Money on Streaming Platforms

Understanding streaming royalties

Streaming royalties are a key source of income for modern artists, and comprehending how they work can help you better navigate the industry and ensure you are fairly compensated for your work.

There are typically two types of royalties generated from streaming platforms:

Sound Recording Royalties: These royalties are paid for the actual recording of your music and are usually split between the artist, record label (if applicable), and any featured artists. When you distribute your music through a music distributor, they help collect these royalties on your behalf and distribute them to you.

Composition Royalties: These royalties are paid for the underlying musical composition, which includes the melody, lyrics, and song structure. Composition royalties are usually split between songwriters and publishers. To collect these royalties, you must register your songs with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC in the United States or their equivalents in other countries.

Streaming platforms pay royalties based on various factors, such as the total number of streams, the platform's total revenue, and the listener's location. Royalty rates can differ between platforms and regions, and it's crucial to be aware of these differences when planning your releases and promotional efforts.

Strategies to maximize streaming income

As a musician starting out in the music industry, maximizing your streaming income is essential to building a sustainable career. Here are some strategies to help you maximize your streaming income:

Quality over quantity: Focus on creating high-quality music that resonates with your target audience. Well-produced and engaging tracks are more likely to be added to playlists, shared by fans, and generate repeat streams.

Consistent releases: Release music regularly to keep your fans engaged and maintain your presence on streaming platforms. Frequent releases also increase your chances of being discovered by new listeners and improve your overall streaming revenue.

Optimize metadata: Ensure that your track metadata is accurate and complete. Proper metadata helps with discoverability, playlist placements, and correct royalty attribution, which can ultimately impact your streaming income.

Promote your music: Utilize social media, email marketing, collaborations, and other promotional strategies to increase your visibility, attract more listeners, and drive streams.

Playlist pitching: Submit your music to relevant playlists, both official and user-generated, to increase your chances of being discovered by new listeners and generate more streams.

Register with PROs: Register your songs with Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) and other collection societies to ensure you receive all the royalties you're entitled to from your music's streaming and public performances.

Engage with your audience: Build a strong connection with your fans by interacting with them on social media, hosting live events, and sharing exclusive content. Loyal fans are more likely to share your music and contribute to your streaming income.

Diversify your presence: Distribute your music to as many streaming platforms as possible, including global and regional services, to increase your potential audience and revenue sources.

Distribute your music now

In conclusion, learning how to effectively distribute your music to streaming platforms is a vital skill for musicians in the ever-evolving digital landscape of 2023. By following this guide, selecting a reliable distribution company, and providing accurate music metadata, you can ensure a successful release and enhance your chances of being featured on editorial playlists. Planning your release date strategically and utilizing pre-save links and social media promotion will further boost your music's visibility. Embracing the importance of streaming platforms for artist promotion can significantly contribute to your growth and success in the industry.

Learn how to get your music on TikTok or other streaming services.




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