If you’re an artist, you know all too well the difficulties of getting heard. When confronting listeners and fans and asking them to check out your work nowadays, their first question always seems to be the same: “Will your song be on _____?”
Usually, that blank is a premium streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music. Of course, this is no surprise considering how much streaming sites have grown. Apple Music has built their brand to an astonishing 40 million subscribers over the last three years and Spotify has over 157 million users. It’s what fans and listeners are familiar with, and an almost exclusive source of where their music discovery happens. For that reason, artists have looked to services like CDBaby, Routenote, and Distrokid to get their music published on streaming services and music marketplaces. Up to this point, the offerings for publishing usually required artists to incur upfront costs or pay annual subscriptions to publish their music. Even then, artists would often wait weeks to get their music published and even longer to get the royalty reports from their music.
However, a new entrant into the music publishing scene has offered up a product which solves most of these woes—costs, publishing, payments, and time. It’s called Stem, and it’s a music distribution platform which helps artists create release contracts, and get their music published. From there, Stem does the rest by pushing the music to platforms like iTunes, Spotify, TIDAL, and so on. Then, Stem automatically distributes royalties according to splits and contract components the artists and songwriters agreed on. While it sounds complicated, it’s undeniably simple: you plug in your metadata (title, artist, genre, cover art), put in everyone who gets a percent of the royalties (producers, writers, etc), and Stem does the rest. Which, by the way, did we say that Stem has no upfront costs or subscription fees? Instead, they take 5% of your earnings and call it a day.
It sounds great, and it really is, but the one real con is the offerings: some distro services offer dozens of outlets. While Stem does offer a good selection of outlets (including YouTube Content ID), their offerings are really only “essential” ones like Apple Music/iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and a few others. But, if you’re really not bothered by their offerings—and most people won’t, because that list above covers virtually all streaming subscriptions & users—then you might want to seriously consider signing up for Stem. You can see Stem’s website for information on how to join.
Stem is definitely a great service and making moves in the industry which are making the difference for artists so they can focus more on their music and less on worrying about paying for releases or getting their music out there. If there’s anything to be said about Stem, it’s that artists without a label or intermediary—new and old alike—would greatly benefit from using their service to get their music out to the masses quickly, transparently, and affordably.
[EDIT, 3/27/18: We corrected a factual error which labeled Stem as a “blockchain” company. We also corrected an error which said Stem is invite-only. Stem is open for anyone to register.]