In recent months, there’s been a lot of talk about what’s going to happen to Soundcloud, the utopian online music service that didn’t (previously) charge you a penny or serve you a single ad for listening on their website. But a website that massively popular can’t sustain the business model it currently has – that is, no business model for revenue at all. If people want the website to stick around, they have to be prepared for the company to monetize each and every user.
It’s already started happening. Right now, you can go to Soundcloud and see promoted songs at the top of your page. They’ve also apparently started running audio ads in between songs, mimicking what free levels of Pandora and Spotify do. But that’s not all.
Starting in January 2015, Soundcloud will be launching a subscription service, the details around which are still murky. Warner Music Group, one of The Big Three record labels (with Sony and Universal), are the first ones to have signed onto the service. Warner’s inclusion will give artists on the label’s roster “control over the availability of their content,” according to The Next Web. The service will also allow artists to make money from user-generated remixes and mash-ups, as well as generate revenue from each song of theirs played by a Soundcloud user.
Soundcloud’s success has in part been because of the “free music” spirit that young users claw for. But now they’re at a crossroads – without money, the website can’t live on. By charging a fee, they’re risking losing a large number of users. It’s a lose-lose. R.I.P. Soundcloud as we know it.