SoundCloud has always been a distinct outlier in the online streaming music industry. What has set them apart is how they allow anyone to upload and stream music without any annoying ads or monthly fees. For the past six years, SoundCloud has continued to thrive, even in a market dominated by competitors. However, despite their success, the company has shifted gears and recently launched their new creator partner program, called On SoundCloud.
Similar to YouTube’s Partner Program, the new service will allow artists to monetize the content they upload to SoundCloud through paid advertisements. The paid ads will appear on either the SoundCloud player or within a streaming audio file. When the program was first introduced, there were no specific terms to outline how exactly the revenue sharing would work. But from what I’ve read, it sounds like the artist will be compensated for each time an ad appears on any track they uploaded.
One thing I really like about SoundCloud’s platform is that since the company has always been an artist-centered community, we can expect that the revenue generated will support the artists and not just the brands and publishers paying for the ads. Another cool feature is that SoundCloud offers a tiered services structure, so each accountholder can subscribe for the specific features they want.
Here is a breakdown of each service tier they offer:
Partner – This tier is free, but it only allows you to upload 3 hours of content. It also comes with online support and basic reporting and statistics (play counts, likes, comments and downloads).
Pro – This tier will cost you $6 per month (or $55 annually) and you’re upload limit is bumped up to 6 hours of content. The Pro tier allows you to enable Quiet Mode, which allows you to manage comments and stats for your tracks. This tier also lets artists “Spotlight” their best work, by pinning your top track(s) and playlist(s) to the top of your profile.
Pro Unlimited – This tier gives artists unlimited uploads – hence the name – and it costs $15 per month (or $135 annually). In addition to all of the aforementioned features, you also get some advanced analytics perks. With Pro Unlimited, you can see who’s playing/downloading your tracks, which countries/states/cities you’re most popular and which social networks are providing the most traffic or engagement.
(Note: If you use a Partner, Pro or Pro Unlimited account, no audio ads will be placed on your tracks and you are not eligible for revenue sharing.)
Premier – The premier level is available by invite only and this is the tier where artists can start making money from the tracks they upload.
If you didn’t receive an invite from SoundCloud yet, fear not. SoundCloud has hand-selected a small group of artists or “creators” to participate in the initial rollout. Eventually – hopefully sooner than later – SoundCloud intends to fully rollout the new ad format, making it available to all account holders.
In addition to limiting the pool of artists, SoundCloud has also limited the number of brands that will be participating in the first run of advertisements. Some of these companies include Red Bull, Jaguar and Comedy Central. Some of the initial content partners include Sony/ATV, BMG, Funny or Die and Washington hip-hop artist Goldlink.
It will be interesting to see where this all leads. I’m sure there will be plenty of users that aren’t happy with the ads. But at the same time, I think SoundCloud has made it abundantly clear that it’s a service for artists – not consumers. So as long as they keep that same ideology, they shouldn’t have too much resistance from users. In the meantime, I heard rumors that SoundCloud accountholders can actually apply for an invitation. I haven’t been able to verify this, but I would imagine it’s only a matter of time.
Author bio: Brandon Seymour is founder of Beymour Consulting – a Florida-based SEO and content marketing agency. Brandon has a passion for live music and has played in several different bands and hundreds of shows over the past 15 years. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.