Spotify will let artists upload their songs directly
But "Spotify is not becoming a label," an exec says.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
ExpertiseStreaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation onlineCredentials
Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
It could empower artists you love -- and those you haven't heard of, yet -- to explore their creative freedom and make more money off their creations. Partly thanks to the growth of streaming, independent unsigned artists are reaching heights of popularity that were once limited to stars backed by a major label. Chance the Rapper, for example, rose to prominence without a label via mixtapes posted to
and won the Grammy for best new artist last year.
The upload feature could also take
a step toward eroding the power of labels, putting it in a delicate position of chipping away at the dominion of its partners that supply the vast majority of its music.
The feature, which is in beta test mode, lets some artists -- those who own the copyrights to their own music and thus unlikely to be signed to a label -- upload directly to Spotify via the service's creator hub, Spotify for Artists.
The artists who've already tested the feature include Chicago rapper Noname, Haitian-born producer Michael Brun, LA-based singer VIAA, and New York electronic act Hot Shade. Noname, Brun and VIAA all put their latest releases in the last couple weeks on Spotify via direct upload.
But this feature won't be turning Spotify into SoundCloud or YouTube anytime soon. It will be invitation-only for a few hundred artists in the US initially, though the company says it wants to expand it to more artists and more countries in the future. (It wouldn't specify a timeline for the rollout.) Even when the feature is theoretically open to all, artists must own the copyrights to their music in order to upload it -- a barrier to entry that may keep Spotify from being quite the free-for-all of SoundCloud and YouTube.
Another thing that Spotify says it won't be: "Spotify is not becoming a label," Kene Anoliefo, senior product lead for Spotify's creator marketplace, said in an interview Wednesday.
Watch this: Apple Music vs. Spotify: Music streaming battle
Labels were rankled in June when a report indicated that Spotify was directly licensing music from indie artists. That report said that Spotify was paying artists in the form of advances. That would have brought Spotify closer to the role of a label, which typically pays large advances to produce artists' albums. Then the label holds the copyrights to the recordings and shares part of the sales with the musician.
On Thursday, a Spotify spokesman said that no artists participating in the direct-upload test were paid advances.
The Spotify upload feature doesn't have any effect on copyright. The feature also doesn't have any exclusivity terms: Artists are free to post their works to other streaming service, or any place they want. Spotify doesn't charge any fees or commissions to upload directly, which artist tend to incur when they use a service like CD Baby or Distrokid to upload their tunes to Spotify and other platforms.
Spotify is sharing 50 percent of revenue with artists for the streaming of their songs. That's reportedly a little lower than what Spotify generally pays a label, but an independent artist who uploads directly to Spotify won't have a label taking a large cut of revenue.
Originally published Sept. 20 at 6:30 am PT. Update, 6:57 a.m. PT: Adds more details.
The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.
Tech Culture: From film and television to social media and games, here's your place for the lighter side of tech.