Spotify just introduced a dramatic change to the process of distributing music on its platform. The company announced today (Sept. 20) the beta launch of a feature that allows independent artists the ability to directly upload their music to the service, free of charge.

The option, at least when it comes to Spotify, allows unsigned artists to bypass third-party distributors like TuneCore and INGrooves, which charge to place releases on streaming services and digital marketplaces. Indie artists and labels will be able to upload music and edit metadata on Spotify for free.

For now, the tool is only available by invitation. Spotify said in a blog post that a "few hundred US-based independent artists" will earn access to the feature and that the company is "excited to bring upload to even more artists, labels, and teams in the future."

The blog post also reports that a handful of artists, including Noname, have already used the feature to upload recent releases. The Chicago rapper used the tool to distribute her latest album Room 25, which dropped last Friday (Sept. 14).

The update reflects the findings of a study earlier this year which finds that artists make only a small percentage of the overall money in the music industry, primarily because of the complicated nature of streaming payouts. It appears to follow a trend that goes all the way to the Senate, which yesterday passed the Music Modernization Act, allowing a more direct way for artists and producers to make money from streaming.

For better or worse, the feature could function to shrink artist and fan communities on streaming services like SoundCloud, where a sizable amount of music can be easily uploaded for free.

You can read Spotify's full announcement on the company's blog.

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