Streaming platforms - Focus on SoundCloud

Reading time: 5 min

Born in 2007, SoundCloud is one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world and claims more than 76 million active users each month. It distinguishes itself from its rivals by its DIY side: it is possible for anyone to post their audios on the platform. A potential springboard for independent artists, it is an essential tool, whose origins, offers, and payment system we will analyze here.

How was SoundCloud born?

Created in Berlin by sound engineer Alexander Ljung and musician Eric Wahlforss, the SoundCloud application is now available in 190 countries and territories. Originally, the platform was designed for artists only, so that they could share their tracks, give each other advice and collaborate. But in 2008, the tool was opened to listeners, thus becoming a public music distribution site that challenged, then crushed, MySpace. Result: more than 300 million audios are now hosted on the platform.

On the artist side, we'll give you the details of the functioning and the tools in a moment, but the global promise of SoundCloud is to give everyone a chance, with free tools and others accessible from €8.25 per month. 

On the audience side, SoundCloud offers three plans: one free with ad interruptions and limited access to the listening catalog; one at €5.99 per month with no ads and a still limited catalog, but available offline; one at €9.99 per month, with access to the entire catalog as well as better audio quality.

SoundCloud is one of the biggest streaming sites in the world, whose mission is to allow all artists to broadcast their tracks, whatever their resources. The platform has a catalog of +300M tracks and claims +76M active users each month. Conclusion: SoundCloud is a tool for broadcasting and promoting your musical work that is well worth exploring.

How do I distribute my music on SoundCloud?

What distinguishes SoundCloud from other platforms is its accessibility. You can upload your music for free without any intermediary, whereas you need to go through a digital distributor (like DistroKid or TuneCore) to do this on competitors such as Spotify or Deezer

The Basic plan allows you to create a personalized profile with your images and URL, upload a total of three hours of audio, access your listening statistics in real time (who’s listening from where), interact with your audience via a private messaging system and the comments linked to your tracks, and share the audio player of your tracks on other sites, such as your blog or Twitter. 

Three constraints however: 

  • Your tracks can only be downloaded a total of 100 times by your listeners.
  • You have to pay $4.99 for every track that you want to master. 
  • Above all, you are not paid by SoundCloud, no matter how many streams your tracks generate. There is only one way for you to generate income via your SoundCloud profile: your fans can support you financially by making donations.
On SoundCloud, you can distribute your tracks for free, and especially without going through a digital distributor. The free Basic plan gives you access to enough features to get started, but does not allow you to be paid by the streams you generate via the platform. The only tool you have to get income: ask for donations from your audience on your profile.

What tools for artists?

The paid service of the streaming site, Soundcloud Pro Unlimited, costs €8.25 per month and allows you, among other things: to upload as many tracks as you want, to access more precise data on your followers (the number of listenings, of shares of your tracks, of downloads), to allow your followers to download your sounds indefinitely, to schedule your releases in advance, to master three of your tracks each month without paying more, to pin the tracks you want to highlight at the top of your profile.

Above all, SoundCloud Pro Unlimited pays you according to your number of listens and thanks to other complementary services and streaming partners. We’ll explain these advantages below.

The other paid service is dedicated to DJs, and available from €9.99 per month with SoundCloud DJ Go and €19.99 with SoundCloud DJ Go +. It allows you to explore the entire repertoire of the platform without ads and in HD, to remix the tracks you save with the applications integrated into your SoundCloud DJ Go or Go + account. The difference between the two: with Go + you can save an unlimited number of tracks and access them offline to work on them.

SoundCloud also offers a digital distribution service for $2.50 per month: Repost. Here, you don’t have access to the features described above; the tool only serves to distribute your tracks on other music services like Spotify and Deezer or TikTok and Instagram, using promotional tools such as tips to move up in the playlists of these stores. As with DistroKid, you can pay, from your SoundCloud Repost account, the people who collaborated in the creation of the tracks.

SoundCloud offers three paying services for three different needs: SoundCloud Pro Unlimited at €8.25 per month for artists who want to broadcast their tracks on the platform and benefit from all the features; SoundCloud DJ Go and Go +, at €9.99 and €19.99 respectively per month, for DJs who want to explore the sounds available on SoundCloud and mix them with its integrated apps; Repost for those who just want to use it as a digital distributor in order to stream their music on the other platforms.

How do I get paid on SoundCloud?

If you are a subscriber to the free Basic plan, SoundCloud does not pay you. You have to promote yourself to your audience, who can make donations by clicking on the dedicated space on your profile that links to your Patreon or Bandcamp pages.

If you have a subscription to the SoundCloud Pro Unlimited package, you are paid in different ways:

  • Pro rata, which means that you get money according to the share of listens and reposts that your music represents on the total listens of your subscribers – a model that distinguishes the platform from other streaming sites and is supposed to be fairer for artists with modest audiences, but which has not yet had time to prove itself, as it was implemented in 2021.
  • By distributing your music – via SoundCloud – on the other bigger services, including Spotify, Apple Music, TikTok and Instagram. SoundCloud then takes on the role of digital distributor and centralizes your uploads and the revenue they generate (this is your neighboring rights only; to collect your royalties you can use Bridger).

You can also be part of a collaborative artistic team and split your royalties via your SoundCloud Pro Unlimited account.

You can only earn income by opting for: 1) SoundCloud Pro Unlimited, which pays you according to the number of listens and reposts of your tracks and by distributing your music on other streaming sites such as Spotify and TikTok; 2) Repost, which is only used to distribute your music on other sites and to centralize the royalties.

What do I need to remember?

A streaming service born in 2007 in Germany, SoundCloud is distinguished by its P2P ambition since the application is accessible to artists without any digital distributor or label. You can upload up to three hours of audio for free, but only the Unlimited Pro option, at €8.25 per month, and the Repost option, at $2.50 per month, allow you to get paid. Firstly according to the number of listens and shares of your tracks, then via SoundCloud’s features as a digital distributor, where you upload, and then get back the income generated by your tracks when they are broadcast on other big streaming sites and social networks.

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