SoundCloud takes a page out of MySpace’s playbook

SoundCloud is refreshing its creator suite and plans to launch new tools to let artists connect directly with their biggest fans. The company is betting that interactivity will set it apart both from giants like Spotify and Apple Music and other distribution services like TuneCore and DistroKid, as the market catering to DIY music artists gets more crowded.

The first phase of “SoundCloud for Artists,” as the rebrand is called, is a new creator dashboard. The old version required users to toggle between stats like earnings, streams, and top tracks. The new version allows artists to see all those stats at a glance. While that may be easier, it doesn’t offer anything new yet.

What will be new, according to Tracy Chan, who leads SoundCloud’s creator division, is a feature that will show artists their top fans. Last year, SoundCloud debuted a new system for allocating royalties in which a listener’s subscription revenue was divided among the artists to which they actually listen. This is different than the standard pro rata model at Spotify and Apple, where all subscription fees are pooled and allocated to artists based on who has the largest amount of streams. Soon, SoundCloud will show artists who their top contributors are. Chan says the expectation is that allowing artists to connect with those superfans will open up opportunities to monetize on other platforms by selling merch, tickets, or Patreon subscriptions.

“We can actually go back to that concept of you don’t need scale. You need to focus on your 1,000 [or] 100 true fans,” says Chan.

It’s an acknowledgment of how hard it is for artists to make money off of streaming and how difficult it is for new acts to break out. About 100,000 new songs are added to the streamers every day, which makes it more difficult for new artists to gain traction. According to Luminate, the research firm behind the Billboard charts, consumer listening to new music has actually decreased despite the glut of new tracks.

So SoundCloud is looking back to the golden days of MySpace, when building fandom was the key goal. “This really helps us make SoundCloud kind of a companion to other music streaming services, to creator economy services, and to live streaming platforms,” says Chan.