How to: Get your music on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and beyond

Tuesday, 24 Jul 2018

Streaming now accounts for more than half of the overall recorded music market in Australia. That’s a hefty piece of the pie, and one you probably want to share in. If you have a record deal, it’s likely that your label takes care of getting your music on to digital services like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and more. But digital music providers rarely deal with individual artists, so if you’re an independent songwriter, composer and musician looking to release your music, you’ll need a digital music aggregator.

Aggregators are a conduit to help you distribute your music globally through digital stores and streaming platforms. They make their money by charging upfront fees and/or charging a percentage of revenue earned from the streaming and downloading of your music.

In some cases, aggregators will also charge an ongoing annual fee to keep your content online. New subscription models are also starting to appear, where an annual fee is charged and set according to the number of songs or albums you want to distribute.

So how do you choose an aggregator?

The first thing to note is that there is no one standout aggregator that works for all.  

The best option for you may change over time, and what might work at the start of your career may not be the best option down the track. You should spend time researching each aggregator so you can make an informed decision that works best for your needs.

Apple has a dynamic list of its recommended aggregators listed here and Spotify also provides information about suggested aggregators here

Things to look out for:

  • Term: Make sure you understand how long the contract is for and what termination clauses are in place - especially regarding penalties if you terminate your contract early.
  • Fees: What are they and how are any additional charges applied?
  • Rights: What's covered and what might you be liable for? Understanding the difference between the sound recording and mechanical (underlying musical work) rights is imperative. For example if you make any cover versions of songs available for sale in the USA, you should be aware digital 'mechanicals' are often paid back to labels, or in the absence of a label, you the artist, by your aggregator. This means you could be responsible for paying those mechanicals to the rightful copyright owners. Also be wary of an aggregator that may ask you to waive your performance or 'communication to the public' rights.
  • Publishing and synchronisation: Is your aggregator asking you to assign synchronisation rights, and if so, what benefits are they offering to you in return? Ensure you are fully aware of what rights you are assigning if you engage an aggregator to provide you with publishing services.
  • Digital service providers: Does your aggregator service the music stores you want your music to appear on? For example if you create electronic music, does your aggregator service Beatport?
  • Submission criteria: Some specialist stores do not accept all music. Beatport, Pandora and Juno are notorious for screening. Therefore there's no guarantee your music will be distributed via these channels.
  • Delivery times: How long will it take before your music appears on a digital music service?

Most importantly, you should always read the terms and conditions. If legal jargon is not your thing, make sure you seek independent legal advice. The Copyright Council and Arts Law Centre of Australia offer great legal resources.

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