Which Music Streaming Services Best Serve Indie Artists?

Since time immemorial, the most important things for artists has been to make their music available to the largest audience possible. In the modern era, nothing has been more effective as the internet in providing a massive audience to artists. Music streaming services are at the forefront in offering artists an opportunity to tap into a broad audience while still earning income from that audience.

When it comes to those music streaming services, however, most internet platforms tend to give more exposure to established artists. Independent and self-releasing artists usually find enormous hurdles when submitting music to streaming services such as the need to have a record label or a digital distributor, which locks out many talented artists.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular services:


One of the oldest streaming services on the internet with arguably the largest listenership of all streaming services at 81 million a month, you could not do any better. Pandora asserts that its mission is to connect artists with an audience that will love their music regardless of popularity or style of music. With its Music Genome Project driven recommendations and playlists, you are sure to get listenership on the platform. Its latest acquisition of Rdio means that your music can now find a greater audience even if it not in English as it now holds an audience in more than 60 countries.

When it comes to independent artists, Pandora is a pioneer in this space launching its open submission process in 2014. The open submission process is an easy process that allows any artist to submit their work to the service. It requires no CD release or prerequisites since your contact information and a link to your tracks will be enough for submitting your music on the website’s submissions page.

Google Play

While a relatively late entrant to the music streaming industry, Google Play Music is a good option for independent artists due to its straightforward submission process. As an independent artist, all you have to do is register a Google Play artist hub account (anyone with a Google account can register) that you can use to control distribution, downloading and streaming settings, and retail prices. The service offers a simple step-by-step process to create an album on your account that you can complete in minutes.

My favorite aspect of the Google Play Music service is that unlike other services, every track on Google Play has a generous 90-second preview that your listeners can listen to before making s purchasing decision. Moreover, you can reach 35 million streamers who can instantly purchase and stream your music from the cloud. If you want to do something different, you can change your distribution, retail and streaming settings for tracks and albums at any time.


Tidal is the new kid on the block with innovative ideas. Acquired by Jay-Z and 16 other big name artists, its mission is the promotion of artists and equal and fair pay for those artists. This assertion alone makes this a service that you need to check out as an independent or self-releasing artist. The many features of the Tidal platform including Tidal Discovery, Tidal Rising and the short articles and videos to entertain and inform listeners about music genres, artists, producers and studios could come in handy to boost your profile as an independent artist.

However, the bad news is that while Tidal declares that you do not need an intermediary to submit your music, in reality, they only remove record companies and introduce a requirement for digital distributors instead. After signing a contract with one, all of these distributors charge either annual fees ranging up to $50 per year or a portion of your royalties. Moreover, while Tidal says that Discovery artists that perform well on the platform will be in the featured section of Tidal Discovery, this section is a subpage rather than the homepage. This means that your exposure will likely be minimal.


Boasting over 60 million active monthly users spread over 58 countries, Spotify is one of the fastest growing streaming services. Unlike other services, the service allows users to generate their own playlists and customize their radio station options. It even integrates with social media with few difficulties. On the other hand, the lack of an auto-generated playlist may be a negative. Your music may never be discovered on the platform as it would on a site such as Pandora.

Similar to Tidal, Spotify does not allow independent artists to upload their submissions directly on the platform which really is a shame given that it is one of the industry leaders. To submit your music to Spotify, you have to go through either artist aggregators or label aggregators that have deals with Spotify. The aggregators are in charge of the distribution and licensing of your music. This includes handling all royalty payments that your streams generate on the platform.

Apple Music

The newest entrant to the music streaming industry, Apple Music does not seem to offer much to indie artists. While it has a radio station, it is likely to favor established artists. The only main advantage the service has is its massive growth since its inception.

The main gripe I have with Apple Music is that it will not allow Indie artists to submit music to the platform but instead directs users to independent aggregators. Apple Music offers little control over distribution, retailing and royalty payments. The most you can do as an independent artist is upload your videos and backstage performances to your Apple Music profile to connect with fans. The aggregators are in charge of all aspects of distribution and licensing.

Streaming from Geo-Blocked Countries

If you are an artist in a country not known for an open internet and open expression, you may run into some problems online. A drawback of using streaming services is that not all of them are available in every country. If you are in a country in which your favorite streaming service is not available, a VPN service is your best bet. With a wide-reaching VPN, you can change your IP address with a click of your mouse to a country that the service supports and get access to the tools you need. Don’t let your location get in the way of reaching a wide audience.

The Verdict

Overall Pandora and Google Play Music have the best platform for an independent artist. Tidal offers artist power but it has yet to be convincing. Apple Music and Spotify have exponential growth and huge audiences in their favor, but they still require aggregators as intermediaries.

What streaming service do you believe is best for the independent artist in offering a level playground? Join the conversation below.

This Guest Blog was written by Cassie Phillips, a CultureCoverage.com blogger and writer for LifeHack.org

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