Media & Entertainment

Music streaming pioneer SoundCloud raises $75M from Pandora owner SiriusXM

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Image Credits: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek / Getty Images (Image has been modified)

SoundCloud, the music streaming company that has been described as the “YouTube of audio” because of its profusion of user-generated content, has some big, strategic investment news today. The company has raised $75 million in funding from satellite radio giant SiriusXM, owner of streaming giant Pandora, which has an ad partnership with SoundCloud.

The funding will be used towards product development and launching new services, the companies said in a statement.

We’re asking what the valuation is with this round and will update when and if we hear more. According to PitchBook, SoundCloud was last valued at $500 million back in 2017. SiriusXM describes the deal as a minority investment that is related to the ad partnership in which Pandora resells SoundCloud’s inventory on its programmatic platform. Together the two serve an audience of 100 million unique listeners in the US, the company said, and SoundCloud hit a forward revenue run-rate of $200 million for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The deal with SiriusXM is a positive development for SoundCloud and could represent a reversal of fortunes for the business.

Originally founded in Berlin in 2007 — one of the early movers in music streaming startups that also saw the rise of Spotify — SoundCloud has seen some significant ups and downs in its life. Reportedly once an acquisition target for Twitter and later Spotify, the company never quite converted those talks into deals, in part because of the asking price and the overhang of licensing issues and related business models.

Indeed, as an independent startup — and despite its surge of viral popularity and obvious street cred with a long roster of creatives using the platform to try out new things and send their songs and other sound-based work into the world — the SoundCloud of yesterday never really managed to surmount the licensing and larger monetisation issues that all streaming companies face, despite raising a hefty $404 million in funding before today.

Close to running out of money at one point, it restructured, laying people off, with one founder, Alex Ljung, stepping down as CEO as it raised emergency funding (he is still chairman), and the other co-founder Eric Wahlforss leaving last year. It’s been a much quieter business in recent years as a result.

But even as it has laid low, it has continued to grow, and this deal is evidence that it’s definitely not done for yet.

“SoundCloud’s three consecutive years of strong financial performance directly reflect the success of our creator-led growth strategy,” said Kerry Trainor, current CEO of SoundCloud, in a statement. “We have an exciting roadmap focused on deepening the connections between creators and listeners that fuel creator discovery, career growth and the evolution of music culture on SoundCloud. We’ve built a great relationship with SiriusXM through our highly successful Pandora ad sales agreement, and their investment gives us added capital flexibility to accelerate our vision and take advantage of strategic opportunities as they arise.”

It’s a tempting thought to wonder if this could convert into an acquisition of SoundCloud by SiriusXM. Indeed, it does provide a complement to Pandora and potentially fills a gap both for international audience — over 200 million tracks from 25 million creators with listeners in 190 countries — and also more original content. Those who have used the platform to debut original music include Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Bad Bunny, Khalid and Lil Tecca.

“SoundCloud’s unique platform serves a vital role in today’s music ecosystem where new artists are discovered and build their fan base, and established artists experiment and connect directly with their fans in highly effective ways,” said Jim Meyer, Chief Executive Officer of SiriusXM, in a statement. “We admire SoundCloud’s loyal and growing audience, its offering for creators, and its reputation and popularity in global music communities. We believe this is another opportunity to continue creating value for SiriusXM stockholders by investing in expanding digital audio platforms.”

No word on any exits in today’s announcement, of course, but what we can see is that SoundCloud has bought more time, and has more strategic buy-in now, for its future.

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