SoundCloud is an online audio streaming and music sharing platform founded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2007.
The interactive nature of SoundCloud allows creators – from musicians to podcasters – to connect with listeners and fans through its various sharing tools. That includes a feature SoundCloud is perhaps most known for – its popular commenting feature. It allows users to share their thoughts on specific moments in an audio stream, which are then visible by anyone who listens to the track.
What you need to know about SoundCloud
SoundCloud is available online and for iOS and Android devices, and the basic version is free. Here’s everything else you need to know about SoundCloud.
How much does SoundCloud cost
While anyone can sign up and use SoundCloud at no-cost, there are advanced features that will require a monthly subscription.
The first premium tier on the platform for users is SoundCloud Go, and it costs just $4.99 a month. With SoundCloud Go, users can save an unlimited number of tracks for offline listening and enjoy an ad-free listening experience.
SoundCloud Go+ is the next level up. For $9.99 a month, subscribers enjoy all the benefits of SoundCloud Go plus higher quality audio and access to SoundCloud’s full catalog.
For creators, there’s the option of SoundCloud Pro Unlimited. SoundCloud Basic allows you to upload three hours of audio content and access to stats like the number of track plays and likes.
But SoundCloud Pro Unlimited offers even more listener statistics, unlimited audio uploads, opportunities to monetize and distribute audio tracks across other platforms, and more. SoundCloud Pro Unlimited costs $12 a month if you sign up for a yearly subscription or $16 for month-to-month billing.
How to use SoundCloud as a listener
Go to SoundCloud.com or download the SoundCloud app and create an account. You can do this by entering your email address and choosing a password or signing up via your Facebook, Apple, or Google account.
To edit your profile, click your display name on the top right of the screen, then click “Profile.” Upload a header image and profile image to personalize your page. To edit your display name or profile url, click the “Edit” button underneath the header image. Here, you can also add or edit your bio and note your full name, city, and country if you’d like. Click “Save changes” when you’re finished.
To start listening, navigate to the “Discover” page by clicking the “Home” tab to see what’s trending or search for specific content using the search bar. Comment, like, and repost tracks you like; these options are all found underneath the waveforms of individual audio tracks.
You can create playlists by clicking the “More” button, then click “Add to playlist.” Click the “Follow” button under an artist’s name to follow their new tracks, playlists, and reposts. These will appear in your “Stream” tab alongside the tracks you upload and repost. Your likes and playlists live in the “Library” tab.
How to use SoundCloud as an artist
Using SoundCloud is a bit more involved for creators, as there are many tools at your disposal to share your work and grow your audience.
To upload a track to SoundCloud, click “Upload.” You can drag and drop files into the upload box or choose files to upload from your computer. Consider setting the privacy for your audio track by clicking “Public” or “Private.” You can also choose to enable downloads for your track and add or change track information.
The SoundCloud Creator Guide offers a comprehensive look at all of the tools and resources available to artists to help them get the most out of the platform. It includes tips on optimizing SoundCloud tracks to make them easy to find, instructions on how to share your SoundCloud tracks on social media and embedded players, and more.
Over the last decade, several downloadable streaming platforms (also called DSPs) have emerged, including Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and Pandora. Spotify in particular has made its name as a streaming juggernaut.
But how are musicians faring? For all the benefits that Spotify gives listeners, they aren’t tremendously generous when it comes to paying artists. They also aren’t transparent about how much artists should expect to make per stream.
Many factors affect how much you’ll be paid per stream on Spotify, including where your listeners live, whether they have a Spotify premium account, and what sort of distribution contract you have.
Here’s what you should know about payments on Spotify.
How much Spotify pays per stream
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), paid subscriptions have taken the place of album sales. And if physical sales weren’t struggling enough, the RIAA also reported that the pandemic decreased revenue from physical products by 23%. With that part of their income declining and in the face of industry-wide shutdowns on live events, music streaming revenue has become even more critical for artists.
“This is why rappers make their money through merchandise, endorsements, and features,” 27-year-old New Jersey-based rap artist Brandon Pain told Insider.
This hasn’t always been the case – Spotify’s payout rates have changed over time. In 2014, they paid $.00521 on average, but two years later, the average rate dropped to $.00437. By 2017, the average pay rate had been reduced again to around $.00397, according to artist-rights site The Trichordist.
How Spotify’s streaming royalties work
Royalties are the payments that an artist earns from streams. Spotify royalties are specifically distributed from the net revenue collected from ads and Premium subscription fees.
Artists are paid monthly. When Spotify pays artists, they tally the total number of streams for each of an artist’s songs, and determine who owns each song and who distributes it. First, the rights holders are paid. Next, the distributor is paid (this may be the same as the rights holder in some cases). And finally, you’re paid.
“Each DSP has its payout, and it’s your distribution company’s responsibility to get the correct payout. They help set you up and walk you through how much you’re being paid per stream, and the royalty payout process,” Pain said.
Independent artists and their managers typically use distribution services like Tunecore or Distrokid to get their music onto Spotify. Bigger artists signed to major labels go through an in-house process.
“Now that there are more distribution outlets, that sector of the industry is starting to scale. Meaning the cost is starting to lower,” said Sharlea Brookes-Keyes, manager for Boston rapper Vintage Lee. “Tunecore does 100% royalties [meaning they don’t take any of your streaming revenue], but you have to pay an annual fee of $50 for an album and $10 for a single.”
How to increase how much you earn per Spotify stream
A study conducted by Digital Media Finland in 2017 focused on the pro-rata system used for Finnish Spotify Premium subscribers. This system pays rights-holders according to how their streams hold up against popular songs during a set amount of time.
More popular artists have their music streamed more, which means they earn more. So for artists to obtain more money, they need more streams.
The most surefire way to grow a fanbase, many artists have found, is by releasing music consistently and often. A new magnum opus every year is great, but a sporadic release schedule will mean a smaller pool of listeners.
But other factors can influence how much a musician earns, too.
Not all listeners are the same. Spotify Premium listeners pay more per stream than Free tier listeners. And the pay-per-stream also changes based on what country a listener is from; according to music distributor iGroove, listeners from the US pay $0.0035 per stream, for example, while Italian listeners will pay $0.0019.
The role of Spotify’s 4 billion playlists shouldn’t be sold short either. “Popularity and getting on their editorial playlists are two huge factors,” manager Brookes-Keyes said. “[Vintage Lee’s] song was already hot in the streets and doing relatively well, but when ‘NBA 2k18’ came out [and it was put on the official playlist], her streams grew and are still steadily consistent.”
RapCaviar, curated by Tuma Basa, is one of the most popular editorial playlists. His strategic curation has helped propel artists towards a wider audience and showcased underground music, with Vulture even dubbing it “the most influential playlist in music.”
If artists are on smaller playlists like Mellow Favorites, there’s still an opportunity to move up to a larger, better-known one like Chill R&B. Once an artist makes it to a more notable playlist, it increases the likelihood they’ll gain more followers and more streams.
In 2018, Spotify also introduced their playlist submission tool. The feature gives artists a choice to submit unreleased music to Spotify, for a chance at having that music put on a playlist as soon as it comes out.
Once an artist chooses their track and submits it, they can tailor the song’s settings according to mood, style, genre, type of recording, and more. This helps Spotify decide which editorial and algorithmic playlists your music belongs in and how to introduce the track to more fans.
Shares of Spotify Technology climbed 6% on Monday as the audio-streaming company announced plans to expand in 80 new markets, targeting one billion users worldwide.
The Swedish company will nearly double its presence in parts of the world including Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, as part of a “sweeping expansion.”
Spotify outlined its plans during a streamed event on Monday, which included appearances by Billie Eilish and Barack Obama, among others.
In a statement after the event, the company said it is seeking to grow its footprint in untapped markets. It also plans to add 36 languages to its platform.
“So as we enter new markets, we’ll accelerate the discovery of more genres like K-Pop, reggaeton, and amapiano that have earned a place in the global music arena,” the company said. Amapiano is a genre of music that emerged in South Africa.
Spotify, which already operates in 93 countries or territories, said it plans to collaborate with local creators and partners to expand its music offerings and “deliver a Spotify experience that meets the unique needs of each market.”
The audio-streaming company has 345 million users, yet fewer than 20% come from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Bloomberg reported.
Another major announcement was Spotify’s offering of new tools for podcasts to earn money beyond advertising revenues.
Spotify has been far outpaced by movie streaming services such as Netflix due to the complicated nature of securing music rights.
Spotify is trading 2.33% higher, at $373.08 as of 2:58 pm ET Monday.
Spotify has become one of the most popular streaming platforms thanks to its near endless amount of curated playlists.
Personalized playlists like Discover Weekly and Wrapped are different for each user, based on algorithms that track listening habits. Editorial playlists are curated by Spotify employees, who carefully sift through the music library to craft playlists for moods, holidays, and more. Listener playlists are made by users who have complete control of what they add and are offered recommendations based on that.
You can share these playlists with family or friends, or save them to your Library to listen to anytime. You can also collaborate on these playlists with other Spotify users.
But with so many playlists to choose from, it’s easy to end up with a clogged Spotify library. That’s why Spotify makes it easy to delete any playlist.
Just note that when you delete a playlist that others have subscribed to, it’ll only be deleted from your Library – your subscribers will still have it. You can fully delete it for them too by removing all the songs.