There’s another digital horse in Australia’s online music subscription race.
On Thursday, SoundCloud Go launched in Australia and New Zealand where it will face off against market incumbents like Spotify and Apple Music.
For A$11.99 or NZ$12.99 a month, users will get access to more than 135 million tracks. Like its rivals, SoundCloud Go offers offline, ad-free listening and a free trial period.
SoundCloud’s free service, long beloved by independent and emerging musicians, will now also be supported by ads and promoted profiles. The company is building a local sales team to manage Australian ad sales.
Already up and running in the U.S., the UK, Ireland and France, the new SoundCloud subscription service can be seen as an attempt by the company to find some kind of business model to satisfy the big end of town, without annoying fans.
Launched in 2008, the platform gained a reputation for being user-generated and artist-friendly, and did little to make money of its user base besides minimal ads. The “YouTube for Music” had become the target of legal action in recent years, however, thanks to hosting a fair portion of copyrighted music uploaded by users.
Shortly before it launched SoundCloud Go in the U.S. in March, the company signed a major agreement with Sony Music. The studio had yanked the catalogues of artists like Adele and Miguel from the platform in mid-2015 amid a breakdown in negotiations on its way to a subscription deal.
According to Billboard at the time, the collapse had something to do with “a lack of monetization opportunities” on the platform. Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group had previously signed up.
With SoundCloud Go, the company can now presumably pay per stream like Spotify. And on the free version, “Each time an ad is heard on SoundCloud, an artist will get paid,” according to Sonia Flynn, SoundClouds Vice President of International. That should make the studios happy.
In a nod to the ongoing controversy about how little Spotify, Apple Music and the like pay artists per stream, Alexander Ljung, SoundCloud cofounder and CEO, said in a statement creators were “at the centre of everything we do.”
“The launch of SoundCloud Go and the introduction of ads to the free service enables us to continue to build the most progressive artist remuneration system in the world,” he added. “While offering listeners everything from emerging creators, new tracks from indies, global hits as well as hits in the making, all in one place.”
The company declined to provide further information to Mashable, saying it does not disclose specifics on the deals it has in place with the record labels or around artist payments.
Since anyone can upload songs to SoundCloud, it has an army of fans who love the depth of music discovery it allows. But for free. Whether its subscription play works out remains to be seen.