SoundCloud’s ambitious goals for being the place where people share and discover music has always left it with a challenge. On one hand, it has to keep encouraging you to upload music – your tunes, your remixes, your DJ sets. It can’t just be a site for major label content, because then it loses to Apple and Spotify by default. On the other, it has to satisfy the needs of right holders – including when you upload music that they own. That’s an issue with your DJ set, of course, but it could eve be an issue with your own music, if you’re signed to a label.

Musicians and DJs have often assumed that these two interests conflict, but that’s not necessarily so.

First, the more SoundCloud attracts popular, major label content, the more likely it is that people listening to that content will find your music, too. That’s true in theory, anyway – and SoundCloud’s discovery algorithms are specifically tuned to introduce other music. SoundCloud has popularized a breakthrough track here or there, and there’s even word via Chance the Rapper that streamed music (including SoudCloud) could be up for Grammy awards. So this is really a thing.

Second, SoundCloud’s legal battles have actually made it easier for DJs and producers to upload their music without annoying takedowns.

But the ultimate prize is, SoundCloud will pay you for streams. That on its own might not be relevant, but SoundCloud gives individual artists far more control than Apple and Spotify. Only SoundCloud lets you upload content directly, at will, and the statistics and social controls available far exceed anything else. So combined with the ability to get paid, even a little, this is a big deal.

Obviously, the way this works is for SoundCloud to use its paid options (and presumably advertising revenue, though we’ve not seen a lot of that) in order to direct funds to the artists.

The details are a bit sketchy, and the rollout isn’t instantaneous. (That’s unfortunately been a pattern with SoundCloud, though I don’t know to what extent to blame the Berlin company and to what extent to fault the byzantine entities of the record industry.)

Basically, what SoundCloud are announcing is that the Premiere offering will soon be available to DJs and producers. For now, you can sign up; there’s no word yet on who will get included when.

Maybe the most interesting detail here is actually that SoundCloud specifically calls out DJ mixes (that’s the first time they’ve done that on the record, officially), and remixes. The sets are a big deal, because licensing them has been a hurdle in the past. And while Mixcloud ostensibly offers better tools and more solid licensing, I’ve never once talked to a DJ who was as happy with the plays and engagement they got on Mixcloud as they were with SoundCloud.

Here’s the signup:
https://on.soundcloud.com/premier

The news comes at an interesting time. It seems increasingly likely that SoundCloud could soon face heated-up competition, especially as DJ mixes spread. Apple took some (small) steps into that space as far as licensing, and more recently, Spotify purchased technology that lets it better identify songs and stems.

The acquisition alone is bad news for SoundCloud – even if Spotify doesn’t use the tech, they just blocked SoundCloud from getting to it. (And in acquisition-happy tech, sometimes even that’s the goal.) But it could also be the basis of Spotify adding features that compete with SoundCloud. I doubt seriously that you’d get a Spotify/SoundCloud mash-up, but it could cover something like DJ tech.

I’m surprised, though, that no one has speculated that a Spotify acquisition of SoundCloud could go hand in hand with buying Sonalytics, since the latter would shore up the legal basis of the former.

Meanhwile, there are the usual swirling discussions about SoundCloud running out of money, which we’ve heard now for years on a regular basis. Since the company was founded, it has routinely had to go ask investors for more cash to extend runway – to the point of maybe “runway” isn’t really the word for it any more.

In other words, running out of money isn’t news. It’s a question of whether investors want to keep investing. But I wouldn’t trust anonymous sources for reliable information there, which is what some more speculative sites of relied upon.

Getting bought would be another route, and all of this could simply have to do with negotiations and asking price. Some of this uncertainty I think isn’t just a reflection of SoundCloud and their business model, but the uncertainties of streaming music in general. Because performing rights organizations and publishers and labels effectively set their share of money, and consumers have set their expectations of what they want to pay so low, businesses get badly squeezed in the middle.

Anyway, it’s a good thing we’re musicians. We have none of that uncertainty – we know most of what we do won’t make any money.

But I’m totally biased. I’m rooting for SoundCloud because they provide tools for musicians that no one else does, for the moment. And this move makes the stuff they make for us more useful. And for all SoundCloud’s flaws, right now, we need all the tools and control we can find.

DJs and Producers now invited to SoundCloud Premier

I will see if we can get SoundCloud management to go on record about any of this; stay tuned. At press time, SoundCloud promised some additional follow-up; given the public announcement, it seemed to make sense to go with this story – we’ll provide updates available. -Ed.

  • Sokio Sokio

    I can’t see any difference from a couple of years ago and today.
    Still invitation only, and there’s no clarity about how you can be selected.

    My guess is Soundcloud wants to know how much interest exist from the community to be part of a monetization program.

    I started using Soundcloud at the very beginning and having the luck of being sponsored by them for some years with all my label. But today streaming has gone to a different place, It doesn’t make sense to stream for free, when you know you can obtain something (little, but something) in exchange.

    I have the bad experience of dealing with the possibility of being part of the program and the funny thing “my numbers weren’t enough big”, but was the total opposite. So basically if they don’t like you, there’s no premium and that’s no fun at all.

    • Yeah, we need more information.

      So, the change as I understand it has to do with the legal basis for offering mixes and remixes in particular – and that they presumably now have a framework to pay individual artists. It could be that this means they address the problem you’ve had – I’ve no idea, so this would be one of the first things to ask.

      There are a lot of questions here, no doubt. And I do want them answered – I’m just going on the information that I have, rather than going to unnamed sources and raw speculation, as so far I don’t think those have panned out for the outlets that chose them.

      But that’s no excuse – I do hope to get some of those answers.

  • Ahmet Tez

    Venture-backed company with “Cloud” in its name promises to be one-stop shop for musicians getting paid online. What could ever go wrong? Let’s just blindly trust our artistic reputation to them!

    “But I’m totally biased. I’m rooting for SoundCloud […] right now, we need all the tools and control we can find.”

    But you were reminded of the “dangers of centralization” just two weeks ago. Has the danger passed? Was that just a “let’s relieve our conscience by being reminded and reminding others and totally not do anything about it” moment?

    • I’m rooting for SoundCloud, unfortunately, partly out of a certain degree of cynicism. Because the alternative with Apple and Spotify looks even worse.

      I think the major issue now isn’t even monetization – it’s even being able to upload your music to a wide audience and have control over presentation and stats.

      So we can start getting into archaic discussions of blockchain or whatever, but right now if you’ve just finished a track and you want to share it, SoundCloud is the only game in town. Things aren’t perfect, but if they go away, they get worse – in a hurry.

      • Sokio Sokio

        Your point about the stats is good. But that’s such a valuable information, I can’t see artists/users having access to that. Just recently we can have access to a little portion what Spotify workers see on their desktops and is really great but not close to what they have. In an informal conversation with somebody in a good position inside Spotify, that person told they aren’t developing anything similar to artists and users or labels, simply because “is too much info” and they want it for them. So the secretive aspect of the music biz still there, and will remain forever (I guess).

  • JustSayNo

    “But I’m totally biased. I’m rooting for SoundCloud because they provide tools for musicians that no one else does, for the moment.”

    uh.. just no. Bandcamp. Hands down. And if we’re talking money or whatever passes for revenues these days, I make probably more in a month on Bandcamp than I make in a year on Apple Music’s streaming ( and more than I ever made in Spotify over …. since it exists maybe..).
    Frankly it’s the only place right now that doesn’t seem to be built from the ground up to screw-up musicians.
    Perhaps for DJ’s Soundcloud is a better option, but for musicians…It’s hard to beat Bandcamp.

  • strudel

    i’m a composer and have been with SC since the beta days, in 10 years although the sites features have evolved a bit i’m still amazed that they still haven’t come up with anything remotely useful for helping composers, producers and why not session musicians to make a living. It would be so easy to leverage all the independant content by giving artists a simple promotional and monetizing framework and listeners better ways to explore and buy music. But somehow SC insist of staying this anonymous filesharing platform stuck in its initial minimalistic state.

    What SC needs desperately is:
    1. a better, modern and reponsive UI
    2. a more beautiful and fun content experience for listeners, better search tools, content curation, radio stations, etc
    3. massive advertising to push SC to Mr & Mrs Everyone as an alternative to Spotify, Apple, etc
    4. licensing tools to help artists manage and protect their copyrights, licensing and ad placements
    5. a proper artist ‘homepage’, the ‘spotlight’ feature from 2009 .. really, that all you got ??? give us at least ONE PAGE where we can express ourselves visually and artistically

    But i really have no hope for SC they have shown so little vision, inventiveness and marketing expertise in 10 years that it would be amiracle if anything ever came out of this

  • NRGuest

    Does monetization mean we’ll finally get payed for all the fake plays from spam bots? Maybe they can start paying every time I get an annoying message from one as well…

  • Strange because a DJ plays somebody else’s music. Those musicians don’t receive the money but the DJs does. Or am I reading this wrongly or do I miss something?

    • James

      Yup, that’s my first question. No hint of soundcloud developing music detection and license monitoring. There, spotify seems to be on better ground. So we’re still betting on which horse is going to bring home, not just legal standing, but props to the arts and fans of the music that the DJ is pollinating.

      So my thought is, without some detection technology, the track list will work either like mixcloud where you plug everything in by hand, or like soundcloud premier was supposed to work, where mixes are built from discrete track uploads (which sucks for dj’s whose skills fall in the transitions.) And the main things the dj should be paid for is offering advertising space and putting in some work to manually identify tracks, because that sort of sucks.

      Otherwise, spotify is already edging them out. And with their gobs of money, should stop being cheap and really just acquire soundcloud if only for the traffic. And then we can get on with it. Dubset is so dead in the water, due to their velvet rope attempts at selecting the content creators, it’s practically a submarine patent at this point.

      Why doesn’t shazam create their own platform?

  • Sinisa Radovcic

    check out my analysis what would happen in Spotify or Google/YouTube still decided to acquire SoundCloud https://medium.com/p/what-if-soundcloud-were-acquired-by-spotify-or-youtube-c34ad7fa5ce6