We’ve known for a long time that music streaming royalties are fundamentally broken. As revenue has shifted away from sales of physical music, it’s become increasingly difficult for many independent artists to make a living off recorded music. But all of that has come to a head as the pandemic has stripped live music out of the equation entirely.
Some services have looked to buck the trend. The immensely popular Bandcamp Fridays are a notable example, offering all revenue to artists and labels one day a month. And now SoundCloud is looking to shake up how it pays its own independent creators — a move that could prove a nice boon for musicians on a service that’s lent its name to at least one popular musical subgenre.
The site will institute a new revenue structure at the beginning of next month. Soundcloud breaks down “Fan-powered” royalties thusly,
Fan-powered royalties are a more equitable and transparent way for independent artists who monetize directly with SoundCloud to get paid. The more fans listen on SoundCloud, and listen to your music, the more you get paid.
Under the old model, money from your dedicated fans goes into a giant pool that’s paid out to artists based on their share of total streams. That model mostly benefits mega stars.
Under fan-powered royalties, you get paid based on your fans’ actual listening habits. The more of their time your dedicated fans listen to your music, the more you get paid. This model benefits independent artists.
The service is available for independent artists who monetize their pages through select Pro accounts. There are a number of factors that go into the final payment (the first of which will arrive in May), including whether listeners have a subscription, the amount they’ve listened to one artist relative to others and ads they’ve listened to. The fine print is available here.
Musicians have become increasingly vocal about their inability to live off of streaming revenue as the pandemic has cut off major income sources over the past year. Spotify, in particular, has drawn harsh criticism as the company has spent hundreds of millions on podcast acquisitions while maintaining old revenue models for musicians.