SoundCloud just announced a new fan engagement tool that will help its paying customers directly communicate with their fans on the platform. The new feature, aptly titled "Fans," is now available to all 50,000 musicians who subscribe to SoundCloud's "Next Pro" tier.
Why does this matter? Well, for a few reasons.
For starters, it represents the first time a major streaming platform has opened up direct communication between artists and fans, perhaps since the early days of Spotify when artists could send messages to followers. This underscores just how important it is for artists to create more meaningful engagements with fans.
And while it's not quite as good as having the first-party data of your fans (like phone numbers, emails, zip codes, preferences etc.), being able to directly engage with fans where they discover you is a critical part of turning them from casual fans to advocates.
How The New SoundCloud Feature Works
For starters, you only get access to the feature if you subscribe to Next Pro. That's the premium version of SoundCloud's distribution platform, which allows you to both distribute to other streaming services (like Spotify and Apple Music) and gain increased insights into your SoundCloud performance and additional perks. It's $9.99 per month if you pay annually or $16 per month if you pay monthly.
Artists can still find plenty of value in Next Pro even if they're already distributing their music through somebody else. But you do need to consider if the $120 per year is ultimately worth it if you're also paying somebody else for distribution. Depending on how well the new Fans feature works, it might be worth 100 times that much.
At its core, Fans is a direct messaging and sorting tool. Artists can segment their listeners through different engagement parameters. These include things like comments, shares, location, and listening habits — as well as if the listener may also be an artist they could collaborate with.
Artists can also send messages directly to followers. Of course, followers can also opt out of this feature or report any abuse of the system.
SoundCloud Emerging As The True Artist Advocate
Look, SoundCloud is still a company that needs to drive revenue and build a great two-way experience for both listeners and artists. But of all the different platforms who talk about artist equity, they're also the one seemingly putting the most effort into actually helping artists.
The new Fan tool is just one of several advancements the company has made in the past few years aimed at giving more power to artists. The recent SoundCloud for Artists launch helped outline the platform's position as a hybrid DSP.
In March 2021, SoundCloud launched its "fan-powered royalties" system, which is designed to create a more equitable payout model for music streaming. SoundCloud recently brought Warner Music Group into the fold on the platform and then last week signed one of the largest independent licensing agencies, Merlin, to the system as well.
Altogether, SoundCloud is positioning itself as the company most willing to make big changes in order to benefit artists on the platform.
What Is The True Value Of Something Like The 'Fans' Tool?
Cool, so SoundCloud is making it easier to connect artists with their followers on the platform. That's a huge step in the right direction. But how useful is it in application?
The reality is, it's very hard to scale growth via sending direct messages to each of your fans. Which is why this tool is just the next step in the "funnel" of leading somebody from a person who has never heard of you to a person who buys your merch, signs up for your fan club, and tells their friends about you.
What SoundCloud's "Fan" tool does is simply make it easier for you to usher these people into another system where you can more efficiently communicate with them. Not everybody is going to become a super fan, and that's ok. But if you're going to ultimate own the relationship with your fan, you need it to happen somewhere better than a DSP — even SoundCloud.
So while this is definitely a big step forward in terms of turning listeners and followers into lifelong fans, it's still just one step of many.