Pan-European Licensing Hub ICE Signs Deal With SoundCloud

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One-stop pan-European online rights hub ICE has signed a multi-territory license with SoundCloud enabling rights holders across Europe to receive royalties from its suite of services, including the recently-launched SoundCloud Go subscription offering.

The deal follows a licensing agreement between SoundCloud and U.K. collecting society PRS for Music in December last year that brought an end to PRS' suit against the Berlin-based startup over unpaid royalties.

PRS for Music is a founder member of ICE, also known as the International Copyright Enterprise, alongside two of Europe's biggest collection societies: STIM (Sweden) and GEMA (Germany). Today's deal marks the first time that GEMA and STIM members -- like those of PRS -- will be able to receive remuneration from SoundCloud. Collectively, the three societies represent 250,000 songwriter, composer and publisher members' works.   

"We're pleased to have reached yet another agreement that enables us to continue to build a place for voracious lovers of music and all forms of creative audio content, whilst ensuring rights holders' work is rewarded and respected," said SoundCloud's vice president of content partnerships Donagh O'Malley in a statement announcing the deal.

"The agreement with ICE adds to the growing number of deals that expand our already expansive catalogue of unique content, and strengthen our connected community of creators, listeners and curators who are fueled by their genuine passion for music and creativity," O'Malley went on to say.

Following a much-publicized U.S. bow in March, SoundCloud's subscription tier SoundCloud Go launched in the U.K. and Ireland two months later, offering ad-free access to a catalog of 135 million tracks for a monthly fee of £9.99. The service is also currently available in France, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. 

ICE hopes that the rights covered under the new agreement will help accelerate the roll out of SoundCloud's subscription and ad funded services across more territories in mainland and Eastern Europe, driving up user numbers and, in turn, royalties for its members.

"The deal with SoundCloud marks another significant step forward as ICE continues to work to simplify multi-territory licensing for the benefit of rights holders and digital music service providers alike," said Ben McEwen, ICE licensing commercial director.

For SoundCloud, the agreement further advances its move towards becoming a fully legitimate service to rival Spotify, Deezer and Apple. Earlier this year, it struck a deal with Sony Music -- the last major to sign on the dotted line with the once entirely unlicensed platform that built up a huge following among DJs and dance music producers through its user-upload functions.

It also comes at a time when user-generated platforms, most notably YouTube, are finding themselves under increasing heat from European regulators over the perceived 'value gap' between music consumption and relatively low sums of money paid out to rights holders. 

"I want journalists, publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work, whether it is made in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online, whether it is published via a copying machine or commercially hyperlinked on the web," declared European Commission's president Jean-Claude Juncker at the EC's annual State of the Union address in September in Strasbourg, France.

Included within the address was the EC's long-awaited draft proposals to reform copyright throughout Europe as part of its Digital Single Market strategy. They included forcing sites like YouTube to pay more for the content on its platform and ramping up the policing of infringing content -- complaints that were not too long ago issued by a loud chorus of labels, artists and rights holders towards SoundCloud. 

The platform's latest pan-European licensing agreement with ICE -- which arrived on the same day that German collection society GEMA signed a deal with YouTube, ending a seven year dispute -- further smooths relations between SoundCloud and rights holders, while enabling its continued international expansion. Now all its needs to do is achieve the Holy Grail of streaming services and turn a profit.