On Thursday morning, Spotify will send invitations to several hundred independent artists in the U.S. inviting them to a new feature that allows them to upload songs and albums directly — without going through a single label company, distribution group or Spotify employee — and automatically receive royalty payments in their bank accounts.
The feature, in invite-only beta form for now, is a major update to the streaming company’s aexisting Spotify for Artists program, through which signed-up artists can manage their pages and view listener engagement metrics. “Artists have told us that releasing their music on Spotify can sometimes be a little nerve-wracking, so we wanted to give as much transparency to the process as possible,” Kene Anoliefo, a senior product lead on Spotify’s creator marketplace team, says. “The new features we built really speak to ease and flexibility. We’re working with independent artists and their teams to own their copyright and distribute their content.”
Spotify consulted with indie artists like Noname and Michael Brun to design the new tools, which let artists upload music without limits on frequency, size or quantity, as well as edit metadata and — perhaps most crucially — review and receive royalty payments every month. There’s also a “future estimated payment” tool that allows artists to see projections on the next month’s earnings.
These new features, screenshots of which Spotify provided below, are almost certainly going to make indie artists as happy as the old music business guard nervous. While Spotify has insisted on its lack of interest in becoming a record label (CEO Daniel Ek said outright in an earnings call in July that “we are not acting like a record label”), the streaming company has taken a number of steps to close the gap between itself and artists, such as quietly striking direct deals with musicians and management companies, as the New York Times reported earlier this month. Now, with a self-upload feature, Spotify is cutting out more of the label’s traditional middleman role and giving some artists more control and transparency over their work (and money gained from it since they don’t have to split royalties with other parties) than a label can provide. But of course, choosing to go that route as an emerging artist still means foregoing the vast resources and backing of a label — which may be too much a risk for most to take.
Anoliefo says the company plans to roll out more invitations in the coming weeks and months, and will tweak and update the features depending on beta users’ feedback. “We have intentions to make it easy for anyone who has music to share it on Spotify,” she says.