It’s always a shock when I hear it.
It shouldn’t be, because I’ve heard it hundreds of times.
But it surprises me all the same, whenever I ask an artist if their music is on Spotify or Apple Music, and they say, “No, I’m only on Bandcamp.”
Or “I’m only on SoundCloud.”
Or sound.xyz, or BandLab, or Beatport…
Only this. Or only that.
The problem isn’t those platforms. They’re all great and have incredible music communities with distinct habits, cultures, and opportunities.
The problem is that word “ONLY!”
I’ve been around long enough to guarantee one thing: YOU might only be in one place, but your potential fans are NOT.
I get it though. It may feel more manageable, streamlined, and connective to concentrate on a single platform and user-base. You might think it’s saner and more community-minded. Which is probably why it’s such a common mistake artists make.
Now, let me caveat this argument by saying the obvious: It’s your music, and you should do whatever is best for you, your creativity, and your fans. However, when your music is available in ONLY one place, you’re not accounting for three constant challenges in the digital age:
1. The fragmentation of listenership
We used to only have a handful of options:
- CD or cassette or vinyl (depending on the era)
- Live shows
- And then (following the Napster years) “download” mostly implied a single dominant platform — iTunes
Today listening is spread out across:
- Dozens of DSPs
- Livestreaming platforms like Twitch
- Video platforms like YouTube and TikTok
- Video games
- Digital AND terrestrial radio
- Artist and label websites
- Music blogs
- And yes, music services like Bandcamp and Soundcloud
But even diehard fans of a particular genre aren’t all loyal to the same platforms and apps. And among a single category such as DSPs, different platforms are dominant in different countries.
You should NOT assume all your potential fans prefer what you prefer. You also can’t assume they’ll change their habits or subscriptions to meet you where YOU are at.
The world is full of too much music, and too many competing forms of entertainment. Your music has to be readily available in the places they ALREADY spend their time.
Proper music distribution solves this, by releasing your music everywhere that matters.
2. The changing of terms & features
Another problem with putting your eggs in one basket? It assumes things will stay the same (or improve) when it comes to your ability to grow and nurture an audience on that platform.
But how often has that happened since the days of MySpace?
Eventual platform risks include:
- Your organic reach gets throttled
- The rev-share percentages tilt towards the platform
- Staff gets laid off and the tech suffers
- The algorithm starts recommending other kinds of things
- You’re asked to subscribe for tools you used to take for granted
- You have to pay ad costs to compensate for lost attention
That’s not even meant as a knock against companies that need to monetize. Of course they do! They’re businesses. But you can’t count on the terms remaining the same. Because you are not in charge, and the audience you build on any platform is only partially your own.
I’m also not arguing that such platforms won’t be valuable to you once they change. META, for instance, is now an absolute expert at taking money from labels and artists in exchange for reach and conversions. I’d still argue it’s one of the best ways you can spend money as a musician.
But if ALL your activity is isolated to a single platform, the risks to you are all the greater, if and when the platform evolves.
Proper music distribution helps limit these risks, because your music has already been sent to many competing platforms. And by extension, that means you may already have audiences on those other platforms too.
3. Platforms aren’t forever
Unlike diamonds, platforms don’t last.
Attention shifts. Habits change. Formats die. Companies merge, or go extinct.
And while it may sound absurd to you today to consider that (insert your favorite music or social platform) will be out of business tomorrow, it’s happened before. And it’ll happen again. Over and over.
Music distribution future-proofs you against this risk. Because while any distributed catalog will likely go down with the ship on those dimming or dead platforms, who cares? Because those same songs will ALSO be delivered to all the new upstarts who stand to replace the former giants.
Keeping your music and your community engagement limited to one platform may sound like the easiest, most focused, or even hippest path forward.
But it’s shortsighted.
You want your music to last a long time, right? Then don’t rely on ONLY Bandcamp, or SoundCloud, or any other single platform.
Proper music distribution is one of the best ways to outmaneuver those three big challenges mentioned above. And thankfully, it’s pretty easy today to release your music the right way.