SoundCloud is finally growing up.
In an announcement on Wednesday, the seven-year-old free music platform known for its minimal cool announced a new creator program that will help music-makers earn money from users hitting “play.” Of course, that means ads.
The revenue-sharing program is called “On SoundCloud,” which, yes, is a confusing name. On the surface though it isn’t so different from YouTube, which subsidizes the projects of its most popular users, and has made a few of them famous and very, very rich. SoundCloud’s new program is not available for everyone yet, however. In a blog post, SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung says it will first roll out for a small group of creators, and then, “over time we will roll this out across the creator community.” And ads won’t be played against user tracks without their consent.
In order to seriously dive into it, though, it looks like creators will have to pony up for professional-grade SoundCloud accounts. While users will still be able to post music for free, they’ll be capped at three hours total. An unlimited membership costs $15/month or $135 a year, and there is a “Pro” membership model that offers six hours of uploaded content for $6/month.
Some of the community’s 75 million fans are complaining, and it’s unclear what those audio and banner ads will look like. Commercials were always in the forecast for SoundCloud. Let’s hope they’re executed in a way that doesn’t drive users away.