SoundCloud just launched SoundCloud For Artists, the company's next foray into artist-centric services. Tracy Chan — the recently appointed Senior VP of Creator, who previously led the music team at Twitch — announced the new platform in a SoundCloud blog update. Chan says SoundCloud For Artists serves as a "centralized home for all things distribution, promotion, monetization, and more."
Unlike other streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, SoundCloud allows users to directly upload music to the platform. That actually makes SoundCloud the music streaming service with the most music, despite Apple's recent claim that Apple Music has the most music in any collection ever. Apple Music recently passed the 100 million track milestone, while SoundCloud claims there are 150 million songs on the platform.
Despite SoundCloud's undeniable importance in the audio landscape, its tools for artists have been lagging. As the platform further positions itself as a hybrid distributor and discovery platform, SoundCloud For Artists hopes to change that.
The Unique Position Of SoundCloud For Artists
To understand why SoundCloud For Artists is a bit of an odd duck in the analytics world, we need to understand why SoundCloud is different from every other music platform. For starters, SoundCloud is the only music platform that directly monetizes the artists using it to upload music.
There's a free tier, of course — that's what made SoundCloud such a popular platform when it launched in the late 2000s. When MySpace went under, SoundCloud filled the gap of a free discovery platform that helped launch the careers of artists from Chance The Rapper and Post Malone to Billie Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion.
But SoundCloud has also been angling itself as a self-service distributor that charges artists for monthly membership plans in exchange for perks. Those include distribution services to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music as well as promotional opportunities, partner perks, mastering credits, and more.
The costs are comparable to other self-service distribution models from companies like DistroKid and TuneCore, depending on what you want. The push towards a two-sided marketplace helped SoundCloud post its first profitable quarter ever in 2020.
And that makes SoundCloud For Artists really only as valuable as your artist membership.
What You Can See In SoundCloud For Artists
What you see in SoundCloud For Artists depends on your plan. Keeping in line with SoundCloud's model, you essentially need to pay for any insights beyond the most basic data.
If you're using SoundCloud's free plan you can pretty much only see your stream counts and one metric from enhanced insights, like your one top city or one top listener. The platform blurs out additional info and implores you to sign up for "Next Pro." (This is probably a good time to talk about the new naming conventions for SoundCloud memberships).
With the launch of SoundCloud For Artists, the company also changed the names of SoundCloud plans. The free plan is dubbed SoundCloud Next (it was formerly SoundCloud Basic). After that, you've got SoundCloud Next Plus, which costs $30 per year (plus tax) and allows you to distribute your music to other platforms and get paid for it through SoundCloud. This is what used to be called "Repost."
Last, you've got SoundCloud Next Pro (formerly "Pro Unlimited"), which costs either $16 per month or $144 per year, which is a 25% savings on the monthly plan. Next Pro is really the only plan that yields valuable information within SoundCloud For Artists.
Next Pro allows you to do things like see who commented on and reposted your songs, as well as your top listeners and locations. This makes SoundCloud pretty much the only streaming platform that directly allows users to engage with their fans and build a community.
So Should I Consider Using SoundCloud As My Distributor?
That depends! You don't have to distribute music through SoundCloud just because you have a Next Plus or Next Pro account. Though honestly there's not much reason to buy a Next Plus account if you don't plan on using the platform as a distributor.
If you like to use SoundCloud as a collaborative testing ground, or as a place to host private links to share your music with press or other people, having a Next Pro account still provides plenty of advantages. After all, most of the insights Next Pro provides are related to SoundCloud.
But because the platform also allows you to distribute elsewhere, you'll still be able to see some data from Spotify and Apple Music in SoundCloud For Artists. That's one of the most unique things about the platform, since obviously similar platforms like Spotify For Artists and Apple Music For Artists don't have any of that information.
Distributors are continually working to differentiate themselves by offering more services and opportunities. SoundCloud isn't terribly different, though the platform's primary draw is always going to be building grassroots careers through the platform itself. That's a different message than a lot of other "gated" distributors who pitch access to things like playlist curators and industry insiders, to varying degrees of success.
There's no one right answer to "who should I use to distribute my music." But as SoundCloud continues to invest in the ways it monetizes and provides benefits to artists, the launch of SoundCloud For Artists signifies some promising developments if your primary concerns are having control over your music output and connecting with fans.