In the seemingly never-ending battle between musician’s rights and those of people who stream music online, a new blow has been struck. Music streaming service SoundCloud is considering adding a paid subscription plan, according to an article on consequenceofsound.net.
Outside of YouTube, SoundCloud is probably one of the more popular music streaming services given that nearly any song can be accessed from it, as well as a ton of remixes that you can’t find anywhere. SoundCloud also lets artists who are just starting out upload their own music, so it’s a great place for them to gain exposure and a fanbase. SoundCloud also has mobile apps for iOS that could pretty much replace the premium music streaming apps that users would otherwise have to pay for.
Consequenceofsound added that there have been early signs that SoundCloud will switch to a paid plan; namely, the fact that labels are making their music unavailable, and monetizing the service is the only way to keep record labels interested. Needless to say, no labels means no music and therefore no SoundCloud.
It’s easy to see where artists might have a problem with their music essentially being offered for free via streaming sites like Spotify, Pandora, and SoundCloud, but where the artists’ complaints intersect with the rights of those who love streaming is less clear. The response of many musicians to their work being streamed has been to take their albums off of said services, and SoundCloud is no exception. According to Billboard.com, Sony has been striking out against SoundCloud by pulling some major artist names like Adele, Miguel, and Hozier from SoundCloud.
Some musicians have also gotten in on Jay-Z’s brainchild Tidal Music, a streaming service that lets artists take control of their own work by charging a monthly subscription fee. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Tidal has largely been disastrous for Jay-Z et al. It remains to be seen whether Tidal will be able to go to bat against the bigger players like SoundCloud. However, if SoundCloud doesn’t move to a paid platform, it will likely lose business from musicians who want to be paid fairly for their work. On the other hand, SoundCloud could risk alienating the section of their users who don’t want to pay for a music streaming service or think SoundCloud is charging too much on a monthly basis.
According to stereogum.com, a leaked SoundCloud contract hints at there being a three-tired subscription plan, with the first tier offering the most music to users (at the highest price), the second tier offering a slightly cheaper cost and no ads, and finally the cheapest plan, which would offer a limited amount of songs and bother users with ads. SoundCloud has also been free of ads up until this point, but its transition to a paid platform could be a hint that SoundCloud’s owners now see it as a more serious platform for music streaming, as opposed to the simplicity SoundCloud was created with.
Free services like Pandora and Spotify are already offering paid subscription plans with similar benefits; Pandora One provides users with an ad-free experience, while Spotify Premium lets you play just about any song you want on your mobile device for “free” with the cost of the subscription. Initially, SoundCloud had offered its services completely free of cost, making it a viable streaming service. Even with SoundCloud potentially reversing its decision to allow free streaming, it could become an important player in the streaming game in the near future.
These ”freemium” (free to use with an option for a paid upgrade) services are a good way to go for people who might be hesitant to pay for music streaming. The problem for artists is that even when they do get paid, everyone wants a piece: managers/agents, record labels, singers/songwriters, and music publishers are just some of the people who need to earn a living with money from the same pot. And therein lies the rub: (most) streamers don’t want to pay for premium subscriptions, and artists want to get paid for their work.
SoundCloud, which has been completely free since its inception, likely doesn’t have a lot of revenue right now to pay the artists it represents. Since many are indie artists with relatively little exposure (compared to, say Taylor Swift), they need royalties to continue funding their passion. So, what’s the solution? There is no easy answer; for the foreseeable future, streaming services will likely continue trying to recuperate the cost of their services, while free streaming sites like Grooveshark will probably be shutting down more and more.
[Image Credit: Engadget]