All good things must come to an end and SoundCloud's ad-free existence is one of them. The popular music- and podcast-sharing platform is today launching an ad-supported On SoundCloud program to enable creators to monetize the audio they post to it. Starting out in the US and rolling out gradually from there, the new scheme will have users "see and hear" commercials alongside particular tracks. Ads will only be attached to a song if its author is a member of the new Premier tier of On SoundCloud artists and gives explicit consent for it. Though SoundCloud isn't explicit about the numbers and is so far only accepting Premier members that have been directly invited, the ultimate vision is for a revenue-sharing model that helps to keep SoundCloud free for its users — both on the web and on mobile devices — while incentivizing more established artists to use it as a stage.
Popularity will pay
Two further tiers are being made available alongside the Premier class. You can become a Partner On SoundCloud for free, though there's a three-hour limit for content uploads and you're only given basic stats. For more extensive tracking of your music's popularity and a six-hour cap on SoundCloud-hosted audio, there's the Pro option, which costs $6 per month or $55 per year. And to completely remove that upload limit, you can step up to Pro Unlimited for a monthly fee of $15 or $135 a year.
Like Instagram, SoundCloud is entering the commercial world with a slow and cautious approach. The company wants to continue growing and establish long-term revenue streams, but in order to do so it has to at least partially degrade the generous user experience it's been providing so far. That means making users, advertisers, creators, or some combination of all three pay to maintain the service and its infrastructure. SoundCloud's choice has been to insulate listeners from the direct cost for now, though it does plan to also offer an ad-free subscription service in the coming months.