As an aspiring musician, one of the most exciting moments in your career is when you’re ready to share your music with the world. With the rise of music streaming platforms like Spotify, artists now have direct access to millions of listeners globally.
In the past, it might have been necessary to sign with a record label to reach such a wide audience, but today, with the help of music distribution services like DistroKid, you can independently manage your music and reach your fans worldwide.
This blog post will provide a step-by-step guide on how to publish your own music to Spotify using DistroKid. But before we dive into the how-to, let’s look at some interesting statistics that highlight the importance and growth of self-publishing music in recent years.
The Rise of Self-Publishing in the Music Industry
Percentage of Independently Published Music
Global Revenue from Independent Music (in billions USD)
The figures above demonstrate a steady growth in the percentage of independently published music as well as the global revenue generated from it. This trend only highlights the importance of platforms like DistroKid in today’s music industry.
Publishing Your Music on Spotify Using DistroKid
Now, let’s go through the steps to publish your music on Spotify using DistroKid:
1. Create an Account
The first step is to sign up for a DistroKid account. Visit their website and choose the plan that suits your needs the best. They offer three different plans, each with varying levels of features and pricing.
2. Upload Your Music
Once you’ve created your account, click on the “Upload” button on the top of the DistroKid dashboard. You will be directed to a page where you can upload your song or album.
3. Fill in the Song Details
Enter the necessary information about your song or album, including the title, artist name, release date, and more. DistroKid also allows you to choose the platforms where you want to distribute your music. Make sure to select Spotify.
4. Upload Your Cover Art
A great album cover can catch a listener’s eye. Upload a high-quality image that represents your music well. Remember, Spotify has certain specifications for album art, so make sure your image adheres to those.
5. Review and Finalize
Before submitting your music, review all the information you have entered. Make sure everything is correct, as changing details after the song has been distributed can be a complicated process.
6. Pay and Distribute
After everything has been reviewed, you can proceed to pay. The cost will depend on the DistroKid plan you’ve chosen. Once payment is complete, DistroKid will distribute your music to Spotify and any other platforms you selected.
7. Monitor Your Music
After your music is live, you can use DistroKid’s stats and analytics tools to see how your songs are performing.
Additional DistroKid Features
One of the reasons why DistroKid is a popular choice among independent artists is because of the additional features it offers to enhance your music distribution and promotion. Let’s take a look at some of these features:
HyperFollow is a free promotional tool that DistroKid offers to all its users. It’s a link that you can share with your audience even before your music goes live. When fans click on the link, they can pre-save your music on Spotify, and they’ll automatically follow you and get an email notification when your new music is released.
2. Spotify for Artists
Once your music is live on Spotify, DistroKid makes it easy to get verified on Spotify for Artists. This gives you access to additional features on Spotify, such as detailed streaming data and the ability to manage your artist profile.
3. YouTube Money
DistroKid can help you earn money when people use your music in their YouTube videos. When you opt into the YouTube Money program, DistroKid will add your music to YouTube’s Content ID database and monetize matches.
If you’re collaborating with other artists, DistroKid’s Splits feature makes it easy to divide royalties. You can assign a percentage to each artist, and DistroKid will ensure everyone gets paid their share.
Self-publishing your music is a great way to maintain control over your work and connect directly with your audience. While it might seem daunting at first, music distribution services like DistroKid make the process straightforward and accessible.
With the rise in independent music as shown by the statistics above, now is a great time to take control of your music career and share your creativity with the world. Whether you’re a solo artist or part of a band, publishing your music on Spotify using DistroKid can give you the platform you need to reach millions of listeners and turn your passion for music into a successful career.
Remember, publishing your music is just the first step. Make sure to promote your work and engage with your listeners to build a loyal fanbase. Good luck with your music journey!
The Internet has provided countless opportunities for people to make a living doing the things they love. Of course, it was always possible to become an A-list actor or a platinum-selling musician. Possible, but not likely.
If we’re being honest, it’s still not likely that you will be able to become an Ed Sheeran or Dua Lipa-tier global superstar, even with the Internet—which is not to say you shouldn’t try—but being able to make music for a living is far more attainable than it once was because of the Internet. Thanks to the ease with which people can discover your music, and your fans can connect with your content; it is possible to build up a healthy fan base that can support you as you live out your dream of making music.
Will you be selling out global arena tours? Probably not—though, once again, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try; prove me wrong!
But if your dream is just to be able to write and play music and have an audience that wants to listen to it, you can definitely achieve those goals.
Let’s take a dive into how to make money online as a singer or musician.
Understanding Audience Dynamics
The first hurdle to get over is one of outdated methods.
Traditionally, a musician would have to have built up a substantial following before they could start to make real money from their passion, and even then the majority of their money would come from live performances.
This means that to make a respectable amount of money, you not only would have to attract enough people to individual shows, you also have to have enough interest for multiple shows, since you can’t keep playing the same venue over and over.
There is only so much desire to see the same act repeatedly.
Even today, with digital distribution platforms cutting out the middle-men and allowing musicians to sell directly to their fans, the rates of pay are painfully small, and you would have to be getting hundreds of thousands of streams on a service like Spotify to make ends meet.
Fortunately, thanks to the ease with which the Internet makes connecting with people, there are new models for musicians to make their living. In particular, there is a general movement towards smaller, more invested audiences, rather than simply aiming to get as many fans as possible.
To explain how this works, consider an artist releasing an album on Spotify. The rate of pay for a single stream of a song on Spotify (assuming the artist is the full copyright holder) is around $0.00318.
That means that to make the equivalent of the minimum wage in America, you would need over four hundred thousand streams of your songs. That may be small fries for someone like Eminem, but it’s a substantial goal for unknown artists.
Now let’s consider an alternative approach.
Instead of relying on Spotify, let’s say that the artist above puts out a special edition physical copy of the album that can be bought through their website, priced so that they make around $10 profit for every sale. That artist would only need to sell around one hundred and thirty physical albums to make the same amount of money as nearly half a million Spotify streams.
Four hundred thousand streams is a daunting task, even when you consider that someone listening to a full ten-track album counts as ten individual streams. But having a little over a hundred people willing to pay a bit of a premium for your latest album is a very attainable goal.
This is the basic premise of choosing quality over quantity when it comes to your audience. Rather than trying to get pennies from a large number of people by keeping the costs low and releasing your music everywhere, focus on giving the fans that are willing to pay a premium as much as you can.
Give them extra goodies, signed merchandise, and whatever else they might be interested in. Make sure they get their money worth, of course. Nothing will turn a fan off quicker than the feeling that someone is trying to take advantage of them.
Build An Audience
Before you can worry about the quality of your fanbase, you need to have a fanbase. It has never been easier to build a following, but that does not mean you won’t have some hard work ahead of you if you’re going to succeed.
Hone Your Craft
It should go without saying, but if you want to be successful at anything, you should strive to be as good as you can at that thing. This is even more true of creative endeavours in the Internet age due to the sheer number of people there are online who are looking to achieve the same things. In the days before the Spotifys and YouTubes, it was possible to succeed in music even if you weren’t the best musician. Things like the right look, good songs, and a bit of luck could lead you to success.
These days, on the other hand, there are so many budding musicians out there that it is not hard to find someone who has the right look, makes excellent music, and is very skilled at what they do.
Fortunately, looks are not as big a deal as they were in the traditional music industry models, and there’s no reason to go trying to change yourself in this regard. And as for the music, you should make what you want to make. In fact, these two points will be two of the more significant factors behind gaining that dedicated audience we talked about. You want your fans to be there for you.
The point is you can’t—and shouldn’t—try to change your style to appeal to different audiences. There are niches for everything these days; find yours. But when it comes to skill, that is something you can help. Practice makes perfect, and you don’t want to give music lovers a reason to choose someone else the next time they want to listen to your style of music.
Find Ways to Stand Out
Getting noticed on the Internet isn’t easy. As we mentioned above, there are lots of people out there trying to get noticed at the same time, and it is very easy for you to get lost in the shuffle.
A good way to start building an audience is to start off making cover songs. This gives you an opportunity to show off your style and ability while simultaneously piggybacking off of the popularity of an established song.
People aren’t interested in seeing a note for note replica of their favourite blink-182 song; they want to see something new, like what YouTuber, Alex Melton, has been doing with his “Country Version” covers of songs that are decidedly not country. Alex has enjoyed an explosion of popularity in recent months, even getting his videos shared by the very bands he’s been covering.
You can even release your cover songs as an additional way to make money through your music, though there are rights issues with cover songs that will need to be addressed.
If you use a reputable digital music distribution platform, such as DistroKid or CDBaby, they will be able to take care of that for you.
Another way to get noticed is to make tutorials. If you are making good music, you must have a skill, whether it is songwriting, producing, playing instruments, or maybe all of the above. We’ve already mentioned that there are lots of people online who are looking to make these same moves, and they are eager for any help in that department.
If you can put together good YouTube guitar lessons, or a podcast about songwriting, or perhaps a sample pack for electronic musicians, then you can start to build an audience that way and parlay the success of that into ears for your new music.
One of the most critical aspects of building an audience or fanbase is being active. If you release a fantastic song that takes the Internet by storm and then vanish for six months, you lose all of the momentum that success gave you.
Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean putting new music out every week. Consider other avenues to connect with your fans. If you are touring, you could keep a video diary of the tour. If you’re not touring, you could make regular vlogs. Posting snippets from your latest project, live streaming and playing song requests, basically anything that gives your fans more.
The idea is to keep giving your fans a constant stream of what they want; you. That way, even when you are not releasing new music, you are keeping in touch with your fanbase.
Make it Easy to Support You
This is more of a general tip for anyone who wants to earn their living through creative endeavours on the Internet; make it as easy as possible for your audience to support you.
You might be surprised at how many people decide they will donate or buy a piece of merchandise on a whim to support an online personality they like, only to shrug and not bother because the process of getting to that stage was awkward or difficult.
Make your music and merchandise easy to buy, with clear links on any videos or websites you have. Consider starting a Patreon account to give your audience more ways in which they can support you.
And, while it’s not strictly a rule for success, it always helps to be gracious when people choose to send their hard-earned money your way.
How to Make Money Online as a Singer or Musician as a Non-Creative
Given that this blog is primarily a YouTube blog, it makes sense that we’ve focussed on making money online as a musician from the perspective of someone wanting to perform and release music.
There are other ways to make money from your music online, however.
For example, you can make music for other people, such as jingles, and intro stingers. You could do this as an out-and-out freelancer, though you would need to work hard to market yourself. Or you could use services like Fiverr.
You could also give personal music lessons over a video call, or, though we mentioned it as a way of building your audience, there is nothing stopping you from making tutorials and lesson videos and having that be the main thing that you do.
There are plenty of successful YouTube channels out there working from this model.
Another option is to make music and sell it as stock audio. This is where people making content who need music can come to certain sites and buy the rights to a song. If you have a flair for making music that is particularly suited for use in video clips and scores, this may be a good route for you to take.
Ultimately, there is no real barrier to succeeding financially as a musician in today’s interconnected world. Sure, you may have to moderate your idea of financial success down to something a little more grounded than whatever Lady Gaga is making, but it is certainly possible making a living from it.
Try to remember that the key to success as a smaller musician or band is to build a strong, invested fan base, not necessarily a big fan base.
A smaller number of fans who like you and your music enough to buy albums and merchandise will be a far more reliable source than a huge audience that might only stream your songs a few times a week. But perhaps most importantly, because you are looking to build an authentic, invested audience, be you.
Don’t look to change your look, personality, or style of music to attract different fans. Make the music you want to make let the fans that like that music come to you.
One of the best things about the Internet for creative types is that there is something for everyone; you just have to let the people who want your music find you.
Covering popular songs is an excellent way for musicians to gain exposure through YouTube.
The popularity of the song can draw people into your channel where you can show off your talent, skill, and, hopefully, your unique style.
Unfortunately, copyright is a serious roadblock to monetising this kind of content.
The music industry has been and still is one of the most aggressive industries when it comes to protecting their intellectual property, which has led to some less-than-fair policies being put in place by YouTube in order to mollify record labels. Policies such as granting copyright owners the ability to claim ad revenue from your video, even if the video contains more than just their music.
This may save YouTube a great deal of expense compared to paying people to hunt through an absurd amount of video, but it can lead to problems for cover artists, such as Seth Everman’s cover of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy. As Seth’s pinned comment states, the cover was instantly flagged for copyright despite being made using household items such as couch cushions and pots and pans.
So how, then, do you go about monetising this kind of content? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways, so read to discover how to make money doing covers on YouTube.
Before getting into how you can make money doing covers on YouTube, it is important to have a basic grasp of the legalities of cover songs. We say “basic” because we’re not going to attempt to explain actual law to you—this is a YouTube blog, and there are no lawyers here.
The long and short of it is that in order to legally make money from a cover song, you would have to have agreements in place with the songwriters and publishers, and the licenses you would gain from this would almost certainly require you to pay royalty fees.
This may be fine for an established musician who is going to release a cover song through traditional channels, but it is not exactly practical for a small YouTube musician who is just looking for a little added exposure, or merely wants to cover their favourite song.
YouTube have mechanisms in place to remove the need for every YouTube cover to have an individual licensing agreement in place in the form their Content ID system, but this doesn’t help with monetisation and, depending on the rights holder, can result in your video being blocked in certain countries—or blocked altogether.
So, now we’ve told you why you can’t make money from covers on YouTube, let’s get into how you can make money from covers on YouTube.
YouTube Partner Programme
Here’s the good news; the YouTube Partner Programme has provisions for cover songs that allow you to share revenue easily between you and the relevant entities with little more than a few clicks.
The bad news? This only applies to songs that are part of an agreement with rights holders to enable this kind of thing.
Now, granted, there are a lot of songs included in these deals, with plenty of popular songs and current hits among them. But it is not everything, and you may find yourself wanting to cover something that is not part of YouTube’s deal and thus cannot be monetised in this way.
For the songs that are part of the deal, you will be able to share the revenue with the rights holders, and you will get be paid on a pro-rata basis.
This is one example of how to make money doing covers on YouTube, but it is not exactly a reliable method, and even when it works, you are getting a reduced percentage of YouTube revenue, which has already gained a reputation as a less-than-stellar way to get paid for your time.
The actual rate you get paid may vary, but you shouldn’t expect to see more than 40% of the revenue your videos generate. So let’s look at other ways you can earn money from your cover songs.
Promote Original Music
It will likely seem obvious to many YouTube cover artists since a lot of you will have gotten into cover songs as a means to bring attention to your channel and promote your own songs. This very method is one of the best ways you can parlay your cover song success into YouTube revenue.
Be sure to put your own spin on the covers you perform, however.
The goal is to draw people in with your unique style and take on the song, and then providing your viewers with a call to action like, “If you like this, why not check out my original song…”, and it will be considerably less effective if your original songs are entirely different in tone and style to your cover songs.
There is no barrier to monetising original content, so you are free to monetise an original song through YouTube’s Partner Programme, get sponsors, or do anything else you would be free to do with your own intellectual property.
Promote Live Performances
In much the same way your cover songs can be used to promote your original music, they can also be used as a means of getting eyeballs on any upcoming shows you are playing.
It is common for established musicians to make a substantial portion of their income from live performances, so it will likely be something a serious musician will want to get into regardless—especially since live performances can make up almost all of your income as a musician just getting started.
If you go to the trouble of creating a cover song for YouTube, don’t feel like you have to limit it to just that platform. There are many outlets to sell music digitally these days, without the need for recording deals or record labels. If you make a popular cover, giving viewers the option to buy the song or listen to it on other revenue-generating platforms like Spotify and iTunes is a great way to earn some extra money.
Of course, the issues with licensing and ownership are still there, and we would not recommend you just putting a song out there without ensuring you go through the proper channels. Fortunately, there are plenty of music distribution services out there for small artists, and many of them have provisions set up for cover songs, meaning you can release them entirely legally.
Every platform is different, and this is a YouTube blog, so rather than explaining the process, here are a few of the top music distribution platforms that allow you to release cover songs to services like Spotify.
This is an excellent method of earning money through YouTube regardless of what the actual content is because it serves not only as a revenue source but also as an endorsement of your channel.
Since people who contribute are actively choosing to do so, you will benefit from a dedicated fanbase who are more likely to want to support financially.
There are several ways to go about setting this up, with Patreon being the most prominent and popular example. There are also platforms like Ko-Fi, as well as simply accepting donations directly through a payment processor like PayPal.
If you decide to try this method of earning money from covers, consider giving incentives to your supporters. Such incentives can be as little as a thank you at the end of a video, or they can be as much as tickets to a live show, or merchandise included as a thank you.
It could also be early access to videos or exclusive content.
The point is that by providing supporters with something extra, you not only make them feel appreciated, but you incentivise others to support you as well.
Making Your Cover Videos
Knowing how to monetise your covers is a relatively small part of the battle. Before you worry about that, you should be working on giving your videos the best chance of success you possibly can.
Now, as far as the music goes, that’s all on you.
Music is a very subjective medium, and you will no doubt have your own style and genre preferences when you perform.
All you can do there is make the technically best version of whatever it is that you want to make.
But regarding the video itself, there are things you incorporate that will help you succeed as a YouTube cover artist.
Create Engaging Videos
While it is generally true that the content speaks for itself, it is not that simple with cover songs. It is not merely a matter of making great music and hoping that the quality will shine through because there are so many talented musicians making music on YouTube.
Consider including the lyrics in your video, possibly in a fun animated way, and at the very least shoot something with you playing the song.
You want viewers to connect with you, and they are unlikely to do that if they never see you.
There are only so many ways you can cover a song in a way that is still appealing to a large enough number of people. And, with the amount of YouTube musicians out there doing cover songs, the number of unique takes there are left for popular songs are starting to become a little scarce.
Of course, you can always cover less popular songs, but the problem there is that less popular music means less interest in your cover song.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your cover.
We mentioned Seth Everman’s Bad Guy video earlier on. Even though that particular cover was a comedic video, rather than a straight music video, it nevertheless generated a lot of interest for the unconventional way he played the song.
We’re not saying you should cover a song using furniture exclusively as your instrument, but looking for new and creative ways to make your cover videos is an excellent way to get noticed.
Another great example of this is Postmodern Jukebox, a channel that exclusively creates covers of contemporary songs in the style of classic genres from as far back as the early 1900s. Their videos feature a full band accompaniment with everyone dressed in the style of the era they are emulating and make for a fascinating watch.
Another example is mashups, where more than one song or style is brought together to create something new. A very popular example of this is 10 Second Songs, where the talented Anthony Vincent performs songs in the style of a variety of different artists.
Keep An Eye Out For Trends
Trend-chasing can feel a little “dirty” to some, but cover videos are an extremely competitive space, and it will take a lot of effort—and not a small amount of luck—to get established in this niche. By putting out your own take on a popular trend, you can bring new viewers to your channel.
And the good thing about this kind of viewer is they will have subscribed because they liked your take on the song, which means they are more likely to stick around.
Trends can come in many forms, such as old songs that inexplicably get a second life (see: Rick Rolling) or new viral hits that take the world by storm.
Whatever the trend, be sure to stay true to your unique style because ultimately, you want people to come to your channel for you, not a version of you that you put on once.