This really all depends on what your specific goals are. But as a general rule, my position is that the average independent artist will typically make more money by only releasing a few songs from each album to the streaming platforms.
MMM is a sales-focused marketing strategy. As someone who has worked with thousands of artists over the years, I have seen many more artists generate what would be considered to be a “reasonable amount of revenue” with a sales model, than I have with streaming models. For example, to generate $5000 you either need to sell 500 albums for $10 or you need to generate approximately 1,000,000 first world streams. The latter is MUCH harder for the average musician. This is supported by my own experiences, and by the data gathered in an extensive survey that I conducted on the topic. That said, there are exceptions to every rule and there is no one right way for everyone.
With that said, if you do decide to pursue a sales model for the release of your album, then should not release the entire album to the streaming platforms. After all, we cannot expect people to buy our music if they already own it.
But I thought nobody bought music anymore? Isn’t the album dead?
No. The album is not dead. It is true that when we look at mainstream industry stats, that we see a dramatic decline in album sales over the last 10 years. However, the buying triggers for independent music are very different than the buying triggers for main stream music.
Those who consume mainstream music, typically do so because a song/artist is trending. No initial bond exists with the artist, and fans will consume music in the simplest, cheapest, most frictionless way possible. This is certainly Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc. Because streaming has become the norm, major labels need to pursue streaming models because they need to attract the masses to recoup the hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars needed to break a band internationally.
However, those who consume independent music typically do so because they feel a bond with the artist. They may have seen them perform live, met them personally, they may have read a review, or they may have engaged with the artist online via email, social media, blog comments, etc. It is a much more one-on-one relationship and reciprocity is a significant factor. Once that bond exists, you’l find that real fans will support us in almost anyway we ask them to, whether that is buying a digital album, a physical album, backing us on Patreon, Kickstarter, or even just streaming our music on Spotify.
The challenge is not getting people to part with their money, it is getting people to care. Once they do, you can ask for their support. And on an independent level, you will almost always do much better asking for that support in the form of a direct sale than a stream, simply because one $10 album sale is the equivalent of more than 2000 streams, and the former is much easier to generate than the latter, with a direct to fan marketing strategy.
That said, streaming still has it’s place. It is important that we have a presence on these platforms because it is still a real income stream, it is the easiest way for existing fans to engage with our music, and it can lead to music discovery. Moreover, most artists will see that a small fraction of their tracks will generate the majority of their income. Therefore, by releasing “the singles” only (typically spread out over several months), we preserve our ability to sell music to the real fans, while also benefiting from all that streaming has to offer as well.