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  • Mark A. Skoda

The Silent Streams: How Artists Can Amplify Their Music in the Digital Age


The music industry, like any other, is packed with statistics that can often paint a daunting picture. With the advent of the internet and democratization of music distribution, there's a surfeit of music available online, making it increasingly difficult for artists to stand out and reach their potential listeners.

This digital saturation is not only a challenge for artists but also a considerable concern for the music industry and streaming platforms. One such platform, Spotify, spends a significant sum on cloud hosting services to keep the vast catalog of music available. The revenue to cover this cost comes from three primary income streams: advertising, subscriptions, and on-service marketing fees paid for by the music industry​.

However, despite these challenges, the digital age also offers a wealth of opportunities for artists to reach global audiences like never before. As an artist, it's essential to adapt to this digital landscape and employ strategic efforts to maximize your reach on music streaming platforms. The rise of Spotify and other music streaming platforms has revolutionized the way artists distribute their music, connect with fans, and build their careers. No longer are artists solely reliant on physical album sales or radio airplay to gain recognition. Instead, Spotify offers an accessible platform for musicians to share their work with the world, irrespective of whether they're seasoned artists or emerging talents.

However, while the benefits of this global exposure are clear, navigating Spotify's vast ecosystem can be a challenge for artists. With millions of songs being played daily, standing out from the crowd and reaching the right audience requires strategic planning and a deep understanding of the platform's features and algorithms.

In the following sections, we will delve into some of the critical aspects of Spotify that artists need to understand and leverage to maximize their visibility and engagement with listeners. We'll explore the importance of a comprehensive artist profile, the role of playlists, Spotify's algorithms, and how to effectively promote music on the platform. Stay tuned as we unpack the intricacies of Spotify's role in the modern music industry.

The strategies highlighted in this article will help you navigate the digital music industry and improve your chances of being heard.

The Current State of Music Streaming

The landscape of the modern music industry has been fundamentally transformed by the advent of streaming services, with platforms like Spotify providing unprecedented access to a vast catalog of music from around the globe. A staggering 158 million tracks are readily available for listeners to discover on Spotify, a testament to the platform's dedication to supporting a diverse array of artists and genres​.

However, the sheer volume of music available on these platforms can also present unique challenges. The massive library of tracks leads to a phenomenon often referred to as the "unheard" tracks. Nearly a quarter (24%) of the total tracks on Spotify, approximately 38 million songs, attracted zero plays in the course of the year 2022. This represents a sizeable portion of the overall catalog that remains untouched and unexplored by listeners​.

This discrepancy between the sheer volume of available music and the portion that is actively listened to raises questions about visibility and discoverability in the music streaming industry. In the following sections, we'll explore how artists can navigate this landscape to increase their visibility on Spotify, attract more listeners, and make the most of the opportunities that streaming platforms provide.

The Economics of Streaming Services

The financial mechanisms that power music streaming services like Spotify are multifaceted. The company's primary sources of revenue are threefold:

  • Advertising: Free users of Spotify are served ads in between songs. These ads are a significant source of revenue for Spotify. In fact, in the second quarter of 2021, Spotify's ad-supported revenue reached $275 million, a significant increase of 110% compared to the same quarter in 2020.

  • Subscriptions: Spotify operates on a freemium model, offering both a free, ad-supported tier and a paid subscription tier. As of the third quarter of 2021, Spotify had 172 million premium subscribers globally, making subscriptions the largest revenue stream for the company.

  • On-service marketing fees: Spotify also generates income from marketing fees paid by the music industry for promotional activities on the platform. However, this represents a much smaller portion of the company's overall revenue.

One of the significant expenses for Spotify is cloud hosting. Storing and streaming millions of songs to users worldwide requires substantial computational resources, which Spotify pays for by using Google's Cloud services. These costs are continually rising as the volume of content on the platform increases. The revenue from Spotify's three income streams must cover these costs, which directly eat into the company's profit margin. This has implications for Spotify's long-term sustainability, particularly in light of demands from Wall Street for the company to increase its margins​.

Given these financial pressures, it's worth exploring whether the cost of cloud hosting could be passed on to artists, particularly those whose tracks see little to no engagement. This hypothetical scenario raises many questions, such as how such a policy would be implemented and the potential impact on artists, especially those who are just starting out or have a smaller following​.

Currently, Spotify's financial relationships with artists are mediated through middlemen such as record companies and distributors. However, the idea of a direct billing relationship between Spotify and artists, where artists might be charged for hosting their music on the platform, could transform the economics of music streaming. While this concept is purely speculative and has many ethical and practical implications to consider, it illustrates the complex financial dynamics at play in the world of music streaming​.

The Role of Distributors

Spotify's relationship with artists is not a direct one but is instead facilitated by intermediaries, such as distributors and record companies. These entities are essentially the gatekeepers that connect artists to platforms like Spotify. They help artists get their music onto these platforms and manage the logistics of how revenues from streams are divided and paid out to the artists.

Distributors often have agreements with streaming platforms that allow them to upload music in bulk. They also collect and distribute the royalties generated from the streaming of the music they distribute. Record companies, on the other hand, often have more complex relationships with artists that may include responsibilities beyond just distribution, such as marketing, promotion, and sometimes even creative control over the music.

Importantly, the majority of new music being added to streaming platforms comes from DIY distributors. These are services that allow independent artists to upload their music to platforms like Spotify, often for a small fee or percentage of their streaming revenue. These platforms have democratized the music distribution process, allowing artists who may not be signed with a traditional record label to still get their music on major streaming platforms. However, because these artists may not have the marketing and promotional support that comes with a record label, their music may be less likely to get significant attention on the platform, leading to fewer streams and thus lower revenue​8†source​.

This setup has implications for how costs might be distributed if Spotify were to start charging artists for hosting their music, especially for those tracks that receive few or no plays. Currently, Spotify's relationship with the millions of artists on its platform can only take place via these middlemen. If Spotify were to begin charging artists directly for hosting their music, it would need to somehow navigate this web of relationships, potentially requiring a restructuring of how the platform interacts with artists and their representatives. This could be a significant hurdle to implementing such a change​8†source​.

Spotify for Artists – A Powerful Tool for Visibility

Spotify for Artists is a powerful tool that can help artists boost their streams and visibility on the platform. It provides artists with a platform to promote their music, see their audience stats, and manage their artist profile.

One of the key features of Spotify for Artists is its ability to help artists gain followers. Once an artist's music is on Spotify, it can be discovered through a variety of paths including search by artist name, album, or track, algorithmic playlist recommendations, thematic curated playlists, friend activity, saved music, and notifications about new releases for followers. This multiplicity of discovery paths can help increase an artist's follower count, which in turn can expand their influence on Spotify​.

Playlists are particularly important in driving Spotify consumption. There are three main types of playlists on Spotify: user-generated independent playlists, algorithmically-generated playlists (such as Discover Weekly, Radio, Release Radar), and editorial playlists. User-generated independent playlists grow more organically and can help artists increase their popularity. Algorithmically-generated playlists recommend music based on listener's taste, and editorial playlists, which are curated by Spotify, can reach a massive audience due to their advertisement to millions of listeners across the app​.

Artists can pitch their music to Spotify's playlist editors for their new releases, which could be included in the list from which the editorial team picks for their playlists. In addition, the new release will also be added to the followers’ Release Radar playlist​.

Spotify for Artists also provides a range of marketing tools such as Ad Studio and Marquee. Ad Studio is a tool for creating audio and video ads for free listeners, catering to different budget sizes. Marquee is a full-screen sponsored recommendation for new releases, targeting both Premium and free listeners​.

A potential solution suggested by some in the industry to address the issue of a significant number of tracks on Spotify receiving zero plays would be for Spotify to establish a direct distribution relationship with artists and potentially bill artists for essential B2B services.

Gaining Followers and Promoting Tracks

Spotify operates as more than just a service that pays royalties when someone plays a track; it's a platform that music fans use to discover new artists. Spotify provides numerous ways for fans to discover an artist's music. These include:

  • Searching: Fans can directly search for an artist's name, album, or track to find their music.

  • Algorithmic playlist recommendations: Spotify uses complex algorithms to generate playlists that match a user's music taste. These playlists, such as Discover Weekly or Release Radar, can include tracks from artists that the user hasn't listened to before, thereby helping them discover new artists.

  • Thematic curated playlists: These are playlists curated around a specific theme, genre, or mood, such as "Study Beats" or "Songs to Sing in the Car". If an artist's track fits the theme of these playlists, it can be included, providing another avenue for discovery.

  • Friends Activity bar: On the desktop version of Spotify, there's a Friends Activity bar that shows what tracks a user's friends are listening to. If a user's friend is listening to a track by a particular artist, it can lead to that artist being discovered

  • Saved music: If a user has previously saved a track from an artist to their music collection, they can re-access it, leading to further plays.

  • Notifications: If a user follows an artist, they will receive notifications about the artist's newest releases, providing a direct link between the artist and the fan​.

Gaining followers on Spotify is critical to an artist's success on the platform. When a user follows an artist, they are guaranteed to see the artist's latest releases in the algorithmically-generated Release Radar playlist and in the "What's New" section of the app. This increases the chances of the track or album being displayed prominently on fans' homepages. Thus, encouraging users to follow an artist on Spotify can be crucial to expanding their influence.

Even if a user doesn't follow an artist, if they stream the artist's tracks, they're more likely to hear the artist's music across the app, such as in Artist or Tracks Radios, Discover Weekly, and Artist, Genre, and Mood Mixes. Spotify's algorithms take into account factors like how much a user has streamed an artist recently, whether they've liked the track or added it to a playlist, and whether the user's music tastes align with the artist's music. These factors help determine whether Spotify will display a track to a user in a playlist​.

Overall, gaining followers and effectively promoting tracks are key to an artist's success on Spotify. The more followers an artist has, the greater their visibility on the platform, and the more likely it is that their tracks will be promoted by Spotify's algorithms.

Practical Steps for Artists

To make the most of Spotify, artists should first create an artist account through Spotify for Artists, a process that includes several straightforward steps​. Once an artist's music is available on Spotify, they need to access Spotify for Artists to get verified and acquire the famous blue tick on their Spotify profile. This verification is available to all artists, and it certifies their profile, giving them greater visibility and credibility among users.

After creating an artist account, artists have a variety of ways to promote their music on Spotify. One of the first steps to take is pitching to Spotify's playlist editors. Artists with upcoming releases can submit a song to Spotify's editorial team for consideration in their playlists. If chosen, these tracks can be included in popular playlists curated by Spotify's team, thereby reaching a larger and potentially new audience​.

Building followers is another crucial step in the promotion process. Sharing music and encouraging fans to follow the artist on Spotify can significantly increase the artist's reach. Spotify notifies followers of new music releases, upcoming tours in their area, and features them in personalized sections of the app, thereby increasing the chances of fan engagement and music discovery​.

Furthermore, Spotify provides several marketing tools to help artists develop their fanbase. For instance, Spotify's Ad Studio enables artists to create audio and video ads for free listeners, catering to different budget sizes. These ads can help artists reach a wider audience and gain more streams​. Additionally, Spotify's Marquee feature offers a full-screen sponsored recommendation for new releases, targeting both Premium and free listeners in select markets, making it a powerful tool for album or single promotion​.


Navigating the Spotify platform can seem daunting for artists, especially given the vast number of tracks available. However, understanding the mechanics of the platform and how to leverage its tools and features can significantly improve an artist's visibility and success. From understanding the importance of followers and how they influence an artist's reach, to creating a Spotify for Artists account, and using promotional tools like Ad Studio and Marquee, the opportunities for artists to flourish on Spotify are immense.

Yet, the reality of music streaming platforms means that a substantial number of tracks go unplayed each year. Therefore, artists must strive not only to create great music but also to understand and navigate the digital landscape effectively. By doing so, they can increase their chances of standing out in an increasingly crowded field, reaching new audiences, and achieving success on platforms like Spotify.

And while the sheer volume of music on Spotify presents a challenging environment for artists to navigate, the platform also offers numerous tools and opportunities for artists to maximize their visibility and reach. Utilizing features like Spotify for Artists, pitching to playlists, building a follower base, and effectively using Spotify's marketing tools can all significantly enhance an artist's presence on the platform. Despite the challenges, with the right strategies and understanding of the system, artists have the potential to reach an unprecedented global audience through Spotify

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It's crucial for musicians to employ strategic approaches, leveraging social media, streaming platforms, and innovative promotional tools to amplify their presence. You can also buy soundcloud plays: . This article seems like a comprehensive guide, potentially offering insightful tips on navigating the complexities of the digital realm, empowering artists to make their music heard amidst the digital noise.

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