Today, SoundCloud announced that it is opening its direct monetization program to the public, finally giving most artists the opportunity to earn money from the platform. The program, called SoundCloud Premier, was created four years ago but has been limited to an invite-only beta until now. SoundCloud’s self-monetization move follows Spotify’s recent announcement that it would begin allowing independent artists to earn money from songs that are self-uploaded onto its platform.
To qualify for Premier, you must be an independent creator with a Pro or Pro Unlimited account and have played at least 5,000 times in the last month from countries monetized by SoundCloud (which, for now, is limited in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and New Zealand). Your account is not eligible for any copyright strikes and you must be 18 years old (or the age of majority in your country). Only original content will be accepted, but there are hints that in the future other content, like podcasts, remixes and full DJ sets, will be considered. All songs monetized with SoundCloud Premier are non-exclusive and the creator retains all rights.
As for the payout structure, SoundCloud’s press release says it offers a “leading revenue share” that “meets or beats any other streaming service”, with monthly artist payments. Participation in Premier is free (apart from the required subscription) and eligible downloaded tracks are immediately available for monetization.
The edge contacted SoundCloud for clarification on Premier’s payment structure. A company representative said creators who monetize with SoundCloud Premier will get a 55% net revenue share for the songs they upload and own the rights to. Additionally, SoundCloud will pay publishing royalties to rights holders and corporations. This is the same rate given to Premier artists when the program was in beta, and it’s worth noting that the 55% offered by SoundCloud is higher than the split Spotify offers to self-uploading independent artists ( representing 50% of Spotify’s net revenue and 100% of royalties). The rep also said Premier songs will be available to stream everywhere, but will only monetize when played from the countries listed above.
Additionally, some Premier artists may also see revenue through brand partnership opportunities, which has been tested in the service’s beta. These brand partnership opportunities are sponsorship packages offered to Premier artists, sometimes for tens of thousands of dollars. SoundCloud says the path to getting involved in these partnerships is varied – a brand may already have an artist in mind, while sometimes SoundCloud will recommend artists to brands.
However, even if the share percentage of SoundCloud is higher, it does not necessarily mean that the payouts will be higher. Premier’s payment system is based on revenue generated from advertising and subscriptions, so how much money you make is directly related to how much money SoundCloud makes. This also means that SoundCloud’s payout rate can fluctuate from month to month. This is different from music traditionally streamed on most other platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, which pay flat rates per stream, by negotiation and by agreement with labels.
Historically, these payouts based on net earnings for SoundCloud Premier artists have been lackluster, a prominent artist manager recounts. The edge last year that “payouts are less than a tenth of other platforms”. Today another official said The edge that they usually choose not to monetize their artists’ songs on SoundCloud because the friction “isn’t worth the $50 we’d make”.
It remains to be seen how profitable SoundCloud Premier’s new public program will be for independent artists. Although limited to a few countries, the expansion is a necessary step for SoundCloud, which has always positioned itself as a priority outlet for creators. Let all artists do directly any money from the original work they upload to the platform is crucial for the company, especially following Spotify’s announcement that it will allow artists to upload themselves and monetize their content.
But allowing independent artists to make money is a whole different notion from SoundCloud being as profitable for artists as other streaming platforms (which many already perceive as not paying enough). A management company that manages several major independent artists who participate in SoundCloud Premier tells The edge, “We’ve always operated on the assumption that SoundCloud doesn’t pay anything. So if that changes, we would like to know how.