Audio platform SoundCloud announced changes to its subscription plans today, as well as a new plan aimed at content and brand partners. The company had previously offered five different tiers to its service, making things somewhat confusing for more casual and pro users alike. It’s now dropping its available plans to just three for individual users: free, Pro and Pro Unlimited. There’s also one new beta plan called Pro Partner, which includes an interesting feature SoundCloud calls “Moving Sounds.” This allows for images to run behind SoundCloud’s streaming tracks, and sets up the potential for brands to run advertisements.
The three new plans will replace the previously existing Lite, Solo, Pro and Plus accounts, and for paid users, they’ll now have access to higher upload limits and more comprehensive analytics at lower monthly and yearly rates, the company says. Pro will be available at €3 ($3.90) monthly and €9 ($11.70) monthly for Pro Unlimited. Basically, the new Pro plan is the same as the old Lite plan in terms of cost and storage limits, but offers improved analytics. Meanwhile, the Pro Unlimited plans, as the name implies, allows unlimited storage. Discounts are available to those who subscribe for a year upfront.
For yearly subscribers on the now deprecated premium plans, they’ll be able to continue with their current plan until expiration, and can switch back to the “Classic SoundCloud” experience until their renewal. Monthly paid users, however, will be pushed to upgrade to one of the newly introduced paid options as soon as they’re due to renew.
Overall, the shifts in subscription plans will make it easier for new users to understand their options for upgrades, while also making it more tempting to do so – as you’ll now get more for your money on the new paid tiers. The tiers go live starting tomorrow, says SoundCloud.
The bigger news, perhaps, for SoundCloud as a business, is the “Pro Partner” beta. Early testers on this tier, whose pricing is on a case by case basis, include Red Bull Sound Select, artist and producer Snoop Lion, audio partners including Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist, not-for-profit organization The Recording Academy producers of The GRAMMY’s, musician The-Dream, Kevin Smith’s SModcast, The Guardian, Blue Mic, KQED, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Partners will have the ability to create more visual profiles with banner images, which also include the above-mentioned image functionality called “Moving Sounds.” This allows still images to appear behind a track when it plays. It’s an interesting twist on the music video – a format which has now long since successfully transitioned from the TV screen to online channels on places like VEVO and YouTube.
In fact, listening to music is such a popular use case on YouTube, that the company is now working to launch its own take on a music subscription service, according to a report from Fortune earlier this month.
With SoundCloud’s option, the “Moving Sounds” feature allows its artists to head into creative territory, but without the bigger costs associated with doing a well-produced music video. If YouTube is the Facebook of music videos, then maybe SoundCloud is aiming to be the Tumblr. That is, the under-the-radar indie alternative that almost takes you by surprise when it really starts blowing up.
Moving images can also be reposted with a click of a button to be shared with a user’s followers on the service. It’s a functionality that seems similar to the way the way gifs are reblogged on Tumblr. During the Pro Partners beta, users will only see the “Moving Sounds” when they’re reposted by a friend, and they don’t work within embeds yet either. But given the opportunity for the creative expression which such a feature introduces, there’s a chance that these images could go viral in a day and age where users seem to prefer the brevity of gifs and Vines to long-form content.
The other possibility which comes from having image content with streams is advertising, and the company confirmed to GigaOm that it’s exploring the possibility.
The company says that the Pro Partner beta is the its first big brand push. In the past, the it has worked with a few notable names, including Red Bull, Coca Cola, and the London 2012 Olympics.
Today, SoundCloud reaches over 180 million users per month, or as the company tells us, 8% of the Internet. Users also post up to 10 hours of audio and music every minute.