Skip to content
Home » Blog » Music Streaming Platforms That Pay Creators

Music Streaming Platforms That Pay Creators

Person recording a song that can be uploaded to online music streaming platforms

In some ways, it’s easy to be a musician right now. You shoot a video of yourself singing your song in your room with your guitar and post it on YouTube. Singers have been discovered this way, after all. But in other ways, it’s not that easy. Let’s say that you’re getting some views of your little homemade video. Maybe you want to put your music on Spotify. Or Apple Music. How do you do that? Some of these places say you have to have a distributor to be able to put your music on their platform. So where do you find a distributor? How does the whole thing work? In this article, we’ll go over how to make money from your music, including how to find a distributor to help you get onto some of the larger music streaming platforms.

But first, let’s start with a little history of the music industry and the internet. This way, you’ll understand better how and why things are done the way they’re done.

A Brief History of How the Internet Interrupted the Music Industry

Before the internet, there was the radio. And the radio was one of a very few ways a music artist could get broad exposure.

Not everyone’s songs got onto the radio, of course. You’d have to be discovered first. And maybe sign with a label before they do anything for you.

In the Old Days, Many Artists Signed Away Their Rights in Order to Make an Album

But there was a price for signing with labels. You’d have to give them the copyright to your works. And often it’s not just the songs you’ve already written, but future creations as well. In return, they’d pay you an advance and you could live off that advance while you write more songs for your album. The contract could also obligate you to do the same thing for your next album, and the next, and possibly the next after that.

You pay back your advance with future album sales. Once you’ve paid the advance back, you could start earning a revenue share for that album. But if the sales weren’t as good as hoped, then you don’t get anything other than the advance. You also shouldn’t have to pay back your advance, if you were dealing with a reputable label. The label made a business investment in you and your songs, the investment didn’t pan out, and that was that. But the label did end up with all the IP rights to the album.

Then, the Internet Came Along and Changed Things

When the internet became easily accessible by everyone, things changed for both the labels and the artists.

All of a sudden, artists could connect directly with an audience. There was no need to be discovered and go through big labels anymore. This was good for those just starting out. But some of the fans also uploaded copyrighted music and shared them with others for free.

The labels were pretty mad about the free sharing because they were losing out on sales. Some of the artists were mad too because they were successful enough to be earning money from their albums. So they sued those who were playing or sharing music without paying for it.

It was a mess. Some felt very strongly that the labels were taking advantage of the artists and the fans. They argued that the labels were charging too much to get rich and the artists were forced to give up all their rights for an advance. So, it was alright to share the music without paying. They were merely setting things right.

Others felt every copyright owner had the right to do whatever they wished with the copyrighted work. This included giving the music away for free or suing those who were giving it away without permission.

The music and film industries were in turmoil. YouTube came along and all the free sharing on the platform didn’t help.

Then two things happened fairly quickly, one after another. Google bought YouTube in 2006 and promised to make software that policed copyright. In 2007 BMI decided to offer their music DRM-free.

The way music was played and downloaded off the internet changed drastically after that.

The Internet Changed the Business Model for the Music Industry and It Turned Out Good for Everyone

Today, there are a lot of music streaming platforms where fans can listen to or download music for free. But artists are compensated too. If they’re not compensated, usually it’s the artists themselves who gave permission for the free stream or download. As for YouTube, that software that Google promised to build to police copyright, it’s called Content ID. They’ll pay a royalty if you sign up for it.

And that’s how independent musicians operate today. Yes, there are still music labels looking for new talent to sign exclusive deals. But, if you can gather a fan following while you wait, you might not have to wait for so long and you might be able to make a little spending money while you’re at it. In this article, we’ll cover some of the music streaming platforms where you can upload your own music and build an audience.

Still, the music industry has its unique ways. For one, large outlets like Apple Music and Spotify won’t work directly with independent artists. Instead, they work only through music distributors. Fortunately, there are music distributors who will work with independent artists. We’ll show you a few of these distributors.

Note that we’ll focus on music files only. If you want to upload DIY music videos, take a look at our YouTube article and our video platforms article.

Music Streaming Platforms for Independent Musicians

There are quite a few music streaming platforms where independent musicians can upload their music. On all these platforms, you retain the copyright to your music and your performance. Some will help you make money. Others offer a tipping function so listeners who like your music can voluntarily pay you. Yet others will let you do both.

At the very least, these platforms have users who like to explore new music and new artists. So, if all goes well, your music will be heard and you might find a following.

We won’t be able to cover all the music streaming platforms out there, of course. If the platform doesn’t help an artist make money, we left them off this article. And we tried to limit the number of platforms we cover so it’s not too overwhelming.

Here are some of the platforms we investigated. They don’t appear in any order of preference.


Bandcamp offers musicians a free starter account. With this account, you can set up a shop and upload your music. You can sell your music as digital downloads, vinyl, cassettes, or CDs. Bandcamp will help you set things up. The account will also let you interact with your fans. You can do livestreams too, so you can set up a live concert from your account.

Bandcamp makes money when fans buy from you. On average, you’ll get 82% of the earnings, and Bandcamp takes the rest. The percent is an average because the cost of making and selling physical goods is different from the cost of a digital download. Bandcamp takes care of the payment processing fees.

You decide how much you want to charge for your music and your merchandise. You can even set a minimum payment but then give your fans the option to pay or tip you more. Bandcamp says that 50% of the time, they do.

Payouts of your earnings are to your PayPal account. You’ll see the money usually 1-2 days after a purchase.

Bandcamp does have a Pro plan. It costs $10/month and you can use your own domain name for your artist’s page.


Soundcloud makes money through listener subscriptions and artist subscriptions. It also runs ads on their platform.

For musicians, there are three tiers of artist subscriptions: Next (free), Next Plus ($2.50/month), and Next Pro ($12/month). If you have the Plus or the Pro plan, Soundcloud will give you a revenue share when fans listen to your music. Soundcloud doesn’t disclose the percentage of revenue share, but it’s based on the ads that play while your music is playing or from the portion of the listener’s subscription that month.

The Plus and Pro plans also give you a limited number of online music outlets that you can distribute to. They have all the bigger platforms like Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon, Spotify, and so forth. If these outlets are all you need, then you might not need to sign up with a music distributor. But you can if you want to. Your relationship with Soundcloud is not exclusive.


Audiomack’s artists can open a free account and upload their music. The music streaming platform makes money from advertising and subscriptions.

Artists get a revenue share when fans listen to their music. Audiomack calls this monetization program AMP (Audiomack Monetization Program). To join AMP, you have to have at least 2 uploads and 25 followers. Then, you can apply to be authenticated. To be authenticated, you have to have a profile picture and link to and authenticate your Twitter or Instagram account.

Once you’re in AMP, you can earn money in 2 ways. You get a revenue share from the ads that run when fans listen to your music. You also get a percentage of the earnings when your supporters buy Badges to specific songs or albums.

The ad streaming rev share is based on “revenue per stream” for that month. This number is different every month because the number of streams is different every month. The revenue per stream number is then multiplied by the number of streams of your music for that month. Then you take 50% and Audiomack takes 50%.

When your supporters buy Badges to one of your songs or albums, you also get a percentage of the money. The Badges cost from $1.99 to $249.99. If your supporter buys a Badge through the Apple App Store, then Apple takes 30%. For Google Play, Google takes 15%. If they buy through the web interface, then the payment processing fee for Stripe is 2.9% + $0.30 of the transaction. You get 85% of what is left.


Artists can upload to NoiseTrade for free, and fans can listen to music for free. But fans can tip their favorite artists to help the artists keep going. The artists can also collect fan emails and zip codes to build a mailing list to notify the fans about upcoming events.

NoiseTrade makes money by running ads on the website, in emails, and on featured albums. They also take a percentage from fans’ tips to artists.

For each tip, you keep 80% after the payment processing fee. The fee is 5% + $0.30 per transaction, but this fee is reviewed every 6 months. NoiseTrade processes payments through the popular payment processor Authorize.NET.

Here’s more information about working through NoiseTrade.


There are two parts to Jamendo’s business: a music streaming platform and a music licensing service. If you’re an artist, you can sign up for music licensing and then upload your music for anyone to stream for free.

An artist on Jamendo can earn money in 3 ways: In-Store licensing, Catalogue licensing, and YouTube Content ID. For each type of licensing, you have to submit your music for review. If they accept your music, then your music will be available for licensing under the type of licensing you pick.

For In-Store licensing, your music is placed in a “radio station” where it can be streamed or downloaded to play in a bar, a store, etc. Jamendo switches out 10% of the music in each radio station every month. So, once you’re accepted, you may have to wait a little bit before your music is played and you start earning. After a while, Jamendo can switch your music out and then add it back in later. Every month, Jamendo shares 75% of their entire In-Store earnings with the artists whose music they play. Payout is one year later, on a quarterly basis.

For Catalogue licensing, Jamendo places your music in a catalogue and those who need music for TV shows, games, or even private videos can buy a one-time, paid-up license to your music. (They call this royalty free.) You can earn 30%-65% of the fees, depending on the number of sales you’ve made and whether you’re licensing exclusively or non-exclusively to Jamendo. The more sales, the higher your percentage.

For YouTube Content ID, Jamendo submits your music to YouTube. If YouTube’s Content ID software finds your music on YouTube, you get a revenue share from the ads that play with the video. YouTube pays Jamendo, and you get 80% of Jamendo’s share from YouTube.


On Soundclick, fans can stream music for free. The music streaming platform makes money by running ads, taking a cut from the artists’ sales, or through artists’ membership fees.

You can set up a basic Soundclick account for free. You can sell your songs, albums, or beats from this account. The price is up to you. You can also take tips from your fans too.

You can upgrade your basic account to the Silver ($8/month) or Gold ($15/month) tiers. If you upgrade to the Gold tier, you get 100% of your sales or tips. Otherwise, Soundclick takes a 15% cut from your song or album sales. It takes a 30% cut when you license one of your beats.

We couldn’t find a lot of other information on the website. Here’s the information we did find.

Music Distributors for Independent Musicians

Let’s say that you upload your music to one of the music streaming platforms we profiled above. You begin to get some listeners and a few of your songs start to do really well.

Now, you want to sell to a bigger market to see if you can make more money and get more fans. You look at Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, and some of the other bigger music streaming platforms. And you find out that they won’t deal with individual artists directly. You’ll need to go through a music distributor.

What’s a Music Distributor?

Music distributors are to musicians as wholesalers are to retailers of physical goods. Instead of something physical, music distributors deal with licensing of musical works. The bigger platforms only want to work with distributors because they don’t want to deal with millions of individual artists. Instead, they just deal with a limited number of distributors and labels. Each distributor then keeps track of licensing fees of their artists and pays the artists accordingly.

There are a lot of different types of distributors. Some are pretty selective on which artists they take. So, they pick you; you don’t pick them. But there are other distributors who’re willing to take smaller and lesser-known artists. We profile some of them below.

Distributors Often Provide a Suite of Similar Services

Most music distributors offer similar services. So, we’ll talk about them generally here. It’s important to realize that some distributors offer more and other distributors offer less. If you’re interested in a particular distributor, you’ll need to double check to see if they offer the services important to you.

All of the distributors we profile will be able to put your music on the big music streaming platforms like Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, and similar. You’ll be able to distribute world-wide because some of the platforms they work with are in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East.

All of the distributors we profile will also be able to put your music on the big social media platforms for other creators to use. These social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and similar. Most, but not all, of the distributors will work with Snapchat. If Snapchat is important to you, double check on the distributor’s website before signing up with them.

The distributors we profile all focus on independent artists. Your working relationship with them is usually non-exclusive. This means you can license some songs through one distributor and other songs through another distributor.

With all the distributors, you’ll always own your copyright. You won’t have to sign your copyright to them before you can work with them.

Most of the distributors will help you collect license fees from Google’s Content ID on YouTube. They’ll also work with performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to collect mechanical royalties all over the world for you.

A lot of these distributors will or will help you pitch to TV, films, games, and similar. This way, you might be able to license your music to these bigger projects.

Music Distributors for Independent Artists

Below, in no particular order of preference, are some of the better-known music distributors who work with independent musicians.

All the distributors charge a fee for their services. Some charge per song or album. Others charge a yearly fee. Yet others will have revenue share arrangements. We’ll cover the specifics under the section for each distributor. We’ve linked them to the pricing page of each service.

CD Baby

CD Baby charges artists per piece of music to be distributed. Distributing a single or album through their Standard service costs $4.99. Distributing a single or album through their Pro service costs $24.99. The Pro tier offers a lot more services, of course.


Tunecore offers a free tier and 3 other paid tiers. The free tier only lets you distribute to social media platforms. So, if you wish to distribute to online stores like Apple Music, you have to upgrade to at least the Rising Artist tier, at $14.99/year.


DistroKid doesn’t help you register with performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. They seem to provide a more bare-bones service than the other distributors. An account costs $19.99/year.


ReverbNation has more of a social platform than the other distributors. They help you promote concerts, find gigs, and build a following. Music distribution comes with the Premium package ($19.95/month) but you can buy the service separately too.


You can distribute your music for free on RouteNote, but you would have to share your revenue with them. You get to keep 85% of the royalties. Or you can pay a fee and keep 100% of the royalties. The fee starts at $10 and goes up to $45, depending on whether you’re distributing a single or an album.


ONErpm has a free tier that is supported by rev share. Most of the time, artists keep 85% of the revenue. If you want to distribute to YouTube, you get to keep 70%. For videos sites other than YouTube, you keep 50%. There are two more tiers, each with more coaching and support. The two higher tiers are by invite only.

Ditto Music

Ditto Music’s distribution plans start from $19/year and can go up to $299/year. The price depends on the number of artists you want to include in your account.


Stem doesn’t disclose how they make money—by revenue share or by subscription. They do offer something interesting: they can pay advances to artists. They’ll charge a one-time fee of 18.50%, and you get to decide the percentage and how long you’ll take to pay back the advance. Payout is on the 15th, for earnings from the previous month. Stem uses Wise to deposit the money into your bank account.


Symphonic offers a lot of services, but most of them cost extra. The Basic plan starts at $19.99/year and lets you distribute your music to all the big platforms. You keep 100% of your royalties.

They have a higher tiered Partner plan. A lot of the fees for the Partner plan are based on a percentage of your royalties. You have to apply and be approved before you can join the plan.

Symphonic also offers artists advances through a program similar to Stem’s.

Should Music Artists Have Their Own Website?

We believe every creator should have their own site. But music artists have to meet some unique requirements from their fans.

For one, fans expect to be able to sample your music. They’ll either want to stream it along with other artists’ music or they’ll want to download it. Both these activities need a fairly fast computer server and connection.

As with creators who work in video and photography, setting up a fast website can get expensive. That’s why we recommend you use your artist’s page or let the platform host your domain.

If you only have an artist’s page and you don’t want to let the platform to host your site, you should build your own website. Here’s our article on your options on building a website. Here’s another article on how to build a very simple website for free. Just put your bio information on your website and then give a link to your artist’s page so your fans can go listen or download your music.

Today’s Internet Gives Musicians a Lot More Ways to Find an Audience and Make Money

For a while, the music industry was the poster child of growing pains created by the rise of the internet. Those who had power held on tight. Those without, rebelled. Eventually, the industry stopped fighting change. And music flourished.

It’s still hard to earn a living as a musician. You still have to be good, and you still have to be able to gather and hold on to an audience. But with music streaming platforms, you have a larger reach and better chance to do so.

The music streaming platforms and the distributors we profile here will all help you make money. With some musicians, you’ll be able to license your music commercially to businesses that need music in their stores, TV shows that need music for different episodes, games that need in-game music, and much more. With others, you’ll have to depend mostly on your fans.

But no matter which way your music leans, the internet has made it more possible for you to make a living doing what you love. So go create.

Interested in starting and running a small business? Here’s the beginning of our step-by-step guide: What to do right after getting that great business idea.

We give unbiased advice, so we don’t do affiliate marketing. We limit the ads we run to give you a better reading experience. So, we need your help to keep going. Please consider sending us a $3 one-time tip through Ko-fi (or support us on Patreon). We appreciate every dollar!

Questions? Comments?