SoundCloud Hopes Users Meet Them Halfway With New, Mid-Priced Tier

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SoundCloud unveiled a third tier on Tuesday that it hopes will attract users of its free service who, though content with what's on the menu, are tired of the interruptions. Called SoundCloud Go, the new subscription essentially takes the Berlin streamer's ad-supported platform offline and nixes the ads for $4.99 per month. The move "marks a music industry first," according to the company.

The old SoundCloud Go, its fully licensed premium plan in the vein of Spotify and Apple Music -- i.e. full access to albums and songs from labels -- now becomes SoundCloud Go+ and keeps its industry standard $9.99 per month price tag.

The new SoundCloud Go gives users on-demand access to its ever-expanding core catalog of 120 million-plus mixes, mashups, DJ sets, radio shows and traditional tracks from both indie and label artists. The ads are gone, and on-the-go users will be able to download their playlists, albums and tracks for offline listening. Just like the free offering, however, short previews of premium tracks remain.

SoundCloud launched the original Go in late March 2016 after nailing down licensing deals with most recording stakeholders. Speaking with Billboard at the time, co-founder Alexander Ljung described the platform as a creator-friendly space, giving artists the choice of what songs to put where. "You could imagine a case where superstar x has a brand new album, one track in free and have that run across the entire internet, generating ad revenue and promotion... and put the rest of the album behind the paywall," he said.

Indeed, many artists do that kind of windowing. Many don't. For example, Future's new self-titled album is fully locked for anyone but SoundCloud+ subscribers paying 10 bones a month. Other new releases found on SoundCloud, like Ryan Adams' Prisoner, offer a few tracks to free and mid-tier Go subscribers, but sequester the rest for Go+ users. Some major albums, like Chance the Rapper's self-released Coloring Book, are made available to anyone and everyone. Paying for Go (the $4.99 one) means you'll be able to listen to those normally-"free" tracks without ads.

"SoundCloud Go answers the call from our users who want the ability to take the huge catalog of content found in SoundCloud's free, ad-supported offering with them anytime, anywhere, without interruptions, at a very affordable price," said Alison Moore, chief revenue officer at SoundCloud. "And at the same time, we're now giving users who haven’t made the jump into a music subscription plan, a robust, fully on-demand option at an accessible price."

SoundCloud also sees the addition of a mid-range subscription tier as a way to "unlock new revenue opportunities to further expand our creator-payout program," said Ljung in a statement accompanying the rollout of the new Go.