Music Digitization and Sharing Platforms
As my band moves from the creation process to sharing, it has started a research assignment on digital music distribution. Music streaming has become a dominating force in the last couple of years so I decided to look at online music platforms such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and Spotify to look at how exactly my band could get our music on these platforms.
Each of these platforms serve a music sharing function, but offer different tools and functions for their artists and fans. It is important to understand in what contexts one, some, or all of them can work synergystically in order to help develop a fan base as an up and coming band.
SoundCloud is extremely popular due to how simple it is to use as an artist and gives users a deep pool of music discovery. SoundCloud’s upload function is super simple and tracks can be uploaded directly to your portal or recorded straight to SoundCloud. A free account limits you to 180 minutes of audio uploads with the option to upgrade to Pro or Pro Unlimited which doubles or eliminates the upload cap on your account. In addition to more virtual space, SoundCloud’s account upgrades include analytical tools which display information such as location of your listeners, what’s bringing traffic to your portal, how many plays your song has, comment activity, and the ability to spotlight specific songs or playlists on your page.
SoundCloud also has a royalties program set up with Music by Getty Images. There is no fee to join the program and royalties are dependent on how much the song is used. Artists receive 35% of the licensee fee +50% of Getty Image’s share of royalties. Each song is entered into this program individually so artists can pick and choose which tracks to license. However, this program relinquishes all creative control to Getty Image and their clients and they can use the music however they wish.
BandCamp is regarded as being the most artist oriented platform currently on the market. Artists can upload tracks or whole albums with additional information quickly such as lyrics and track credits. You can set the price of your music, allow fans to pay what they want, or allow for free downloads in exchange for an e-mail address. In addition to a flat purchase, artists can create a subscription service in which they can use a different format for delivering content on a more frequent basis.
In addition to different purchase options, artists get free file type conversion provided by BandCamp so different file types can be available for fans. BandCamp also has a bunch of different music players that fans and artists can use to embed their favorite music on other websites which are also customizable. BandCamp’s revenue share is 15% of digital sales up to $5000 dollars upon which the revenue share drops to 10% with the revenue share applying up to $100 purchases.
Artists can also create discount codes within BandCamp to share with fans however they see fit. Artists can also create song or albums codes fans can use to redeem and download the artist’s music. Each account comes with 200 free codes artists can make and have the option to purchase more.
BandCamp offers analytical tools similar to SoundCloud’s which includes data like plays, where the plays are coming from, visits to your portal, downloads, and purchases. BandCamp Pro offers deeper analytical tools such as geographic data on sales and downloads and this service also allows you to link these statistics in Google Analytics. Artists can create private stream access for fans, press, or post ad-free videos to your portal. There is a limit to how much music you can upload at one time, but upgrading to a Pro account removes this limit.
Given Spotify’s popularity as an on-demand streaming service, it is a great to look at the kinds of tools it has to offer artists. In order to receive royalties as an independent artist, artists have to utilize a music aggregator or distributor who distribute your music for a flat fee or a cut of the sales such as CDBaby or TuneCore. Spotify offers a variety of tools to help develop your fan base. You can take control of your artist page, customize it, and create your own playlists that you can share with followers.
Some other features include analytical data of your page and listeners, demographics of listeners, where they’re located, and how they’re listening to artists. You can also add tour dates and merchandise promotions to your artist page which helps round out its features as an inclusive artist hub. The most interesting thing is there seems to be no additional costs for any of these features. Spotify offers these absolutely free of charge after you verify that you are the artist.
Of the three, SoundCloud and BandCamp are by far the easiest and fastest to access. SoundCloud is the easiest to begin to use has the simplest, but useful tools. It’s a platform that focuses more on sharing and creating a fan base. BandCamp is the most inclusive of the three providing the most tools and utilities. Nearly all of BandCamp’s services are available for free and upgrading only adds bonus benefits. While Spotify is the most popular of the platforms I looked at, it’s also the most time consuming and potentially expensive to get on. It feels as though Spotify is more for established artists already on a record label.
Financially speaking, BandCamp’s model is a clear winner and offers the most artist friendly approach to revenue sharing. SoundCloud’s royalty programs seems to be geared more toward commercial stock music for general use. Spotify’s revenue model pays out on total revenue brought in by your music, but potentially sees minimal profit as Spotify takes 30% before any other share splits. There’s definite positive notes as all of these services do offers major pros and cons. All three will probably end up being used, but will be progressive and we’ll have to have good timing on deciding when to use each platform.