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Spotify to Musicians: Let Us Be Your Label

The company is offering artists a best-in-class cut of their streaming royalties, but its program is a work in progress.
Coleman earned a couple thousand dollars off Run Around under Spotify’s new program.

Coleman earned a couple thousand dollars off Run Around under Spotify’s new program.

Photographer: Molly Matalon for Bloomberg Businessweek

“Via” Mia Coleman was singing on American Idol at age 17, backing up rapper Anderson .Paak a few years later, and, at 28, still looking for her big break. When she released her first single, Lie, under the name Viaa in the summer of 2017—the extra “a” meant to help her stand out—Coleman had a tough time cutting through the noise. Lie has garnered about 60,000 listens on Spotify, earning her enough to, say, buy a couple of meals and a toy for her black pug, Rex. Luckily for her, she says, one of those listeners was Spotify Technology SA executive Angie Romero, who liked what she heard.

Romero referred Coleman for a new company program that allows a handful of acts to upload their music directly onto Spotify. The service promotes these chosen musicians to its 191 million listeners just as it would major-label artists—because, without quite saying so, Spotify is acting as the label. Coleman now has a direct relationship with the leading paid music service and, without a third party involved, collects a larger share of her royalties. The first song she released under the program, Run Around, has been her biggest success by far, topping 1 million listens in the year since its release and earning her a couple thousand dollars, based on the rough per-stream rates published by the industry blog the Trichordist. “It’s an all-around positive for me,” she says between sips at a Hollywood coffee bar. “I have complete control. I have more money. I choose how I get branded.”