Is the higher fanbase, lower royalty tradeoff worth it? Too Lost doesn’t take a stance on Discovery Mode, Spotify’s controversial new marketing tool. Instead, the company offers a direct and simplified integration of the promotional platform, effectively handing the keys — and the decision — to indie artists.
Music distribution company Too Lost has now directly integrated Spotify’s Discovery Mode tool into its platform, a move designed to facilitate submissions for indie artists and give the company a competitive advantage. Discovery Mode enables artists to receive additional algorithm-boosted plays on Spotify in exchange for reduced royalties.
Aldo Davalos, Head of Business Development at Too Lost, spoke about how the distribution platform is streamlining access to Discovery Mode. “We integrated it directly, so there’s no latency. Our distribution isn’t gatekept, and we’re offering artists an automated process to opt into Discovery Mode — anyone can sign up for it.”
Too Lost is an a-la-carte music service that provides SaaS solutions to independent music creators, specifically within the realms of distribution and publishing. The company aims to help artists monetize songs across the globe.
Speaking about the Too Lost ideology, Davalos said that within the beast called the music industry, “There’s no guarantee that if you’re a musician, you deserve a living wage. Through our platform, we aim to level the playing field for artists, the end result of which empowers them to have long, fruitful careers.” Just recently, DMN joined forces with Too Lost to further expand artist opportunities.
True to that philosophy, Too Lost’s Discovery Mode integration is a serious attempt to bring monetization opportunities to indie artists. Despite the controversy surrounding Spotify’s new tool, Too Lost is directing the spotlight on one undeniable benefit of Discovery Mode: artists get to market their tracks without an upfront marketing budget — a budget most indie musicians cannot afford anyway.
Davalos believes this royalty-exposure tradeoff is worth it to independent musicians trying to get off the ground, adding, “When trying to succeed and get that traction, all bets are off.”
Discovery Mode has faced criticism and controversy ever since its launch last year, with musicians and labels now questioning the core credibility of Spotify’s recommendation engine.
Songwriters also slammed Spotify, going as far as calling Discovery Mode music ‘payola,’ which conventionally refers to the practice of bribing a radio station or disc jockey to increase plays.
Davalos took a moment to touch upon Discovery Mode’s most controversial features, saying, “As a company, we have no stance. I don’t have to tell you Discovery Mode is controversial. You know it is. But this integration is all about seizing the pros of Discovery Mode — especially for independent artists.”
Labels, musicians, and songwriters have jumped on the bandwagon of protest against Discovery Mode. But is this a one-size-fits-all scenario? “The independent music landscape is by no means the same as the major label landscape,” Davalos notes.
Davalos continues, “Spotify should be credited with championing the independent music landscape, giving indies a more level playing field in terms of exposure. Besides, most majors have a no-Discovery policy. I commend Spotify for giving the tools to indie artists to allow them potentially more exposure than they would get without Discovery Mode.”
It’s also worth pondering whether Discovery Mode even makes sense for major label acts. Do major label artists like Drake, who enjoy massive exposure and marketing budgets, need the Discovery tool? Probably not. For an indie musician making 90% of revenues from streaming, Discovery Mode could make a lot more sense.
Moreover, it’s essential to note that Discovery Mode isn’t available to everyone. Spotify has set up vetting processes and eligibility criteria for getting tracks algorithmically boosted.
While having an overarching philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of Discovery Mode is worthwhile, the tool could prove to be a powerful weapon for indies.
Although reducing royalty payouts on these algorithmic-boosted plays sounds like an unfair payola trade to labels, for indie artists, this tradeoff could mean wider reach and exposure. It’s precisely the traction they want.
Davalos thinks Discovery Mode “could potentially drive the next wave of tech innovation to allow artists who haven’t quite blown up [to] go from being unheard to reaching a larger fanbase.”
It’s no secret that some sensational tracks stay buried under the noise of enormous amounts of music, never earning even moderate traction. But with Discovery Mode, new artists could avoid getting lost on a giant streaming platform.
Unsurprisingly, Spotify concurs. Charlie Hellman, a VP at Spotify, spoke more on the potential upside in store for deserving and talented indie musicians. Hellman said, “Our data shows that Discovery Mode provides an average of 1.5 times the streaming uplift for artists with less than one million monthly listeners than for those with more than one million.”
So far, artist demand for this integration has been notably positive. With major labels refusing to engage Discovery Mode, that creates more opportunities for independent musicians.
If musicians gain exposure and build a fanbase off Discovery Mode’s back, a royalty reduction doesn’t sound like a painful tradeoff. Spotify exposure could also simmer a boost in streaming numbers on other platforms, resulting in touring opportunities bubbling to the surface. The crux of this hypothetical new fanbase? Accepting a lower royalty payout could mean the difference between having an income stream or having none at all.
Davalos sums it up by saying, “If you don’t like the idea of Discovery Mode, that solves the issue right there. Discovery Mode is a tool just like anything else. How you utilize that tool is up to you. Ultimately, it’s all about having the option — if you want it, it’s there.”