SoundCloud

The logo of the music streaming service SoundCloud is displayed on a smartphone on Jan. 16, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. 

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

"It’s about a two-sided ecosystem: Creators bring great content and that content has the opportunity to be discovered," says CEO Kerry Trainor.

In SoundCloud's latest move toward putting artists first, CEO Kerry Trainor on Tuesday (Feb. 19) unveiled a new feature allowing creators to distribute their music directly to all major streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Instagram.

The tool -- which comes baked into SoundCloud Pro and Pro Unlimited subscription accounts for artists -- will pass through 100 percent of earnings from those platforms back to the creator, meaning SoundCloud takes no additional cut, nor will they be charging additional distribution fees. 

"It’s about a two-sided ecosystem: Creators bring great content and that content has the opportunity to be discovered," Trainor tells Billboard. "We use the word 'first' a lot, because I think it defines why the platform is so special. We want to be the first place that creators come to share their work with the world."

The open beta is now open to SoundCloud Pro or Pro Unlimited subscribers at least 18 years old who own or control all rights to their original music, have no copyright strikes and have garnered at least 1,000 plays in the past month. For eligible users, a distribution button will now appear within the track manager section, prompting them to select from a list of distribution channels and schedule their release. 

Spotify debuted a similar feature in September, albiet for only its own service, allowing select indie artists to bypass distributors and upload their music directly onto the streaming platform through their Spotify For Artists account. Trainor says SoundCloud's new offering positions it as a breeding ground for major streaming services, rather than a rival. Over the past year, the company has embraced its reputation as a space where underground artists break through to the mainstream, expanding its monetization options in October and debuting its "First On SoundCloud" rising artist campaign last spring.

"SoundCloud isn’t, nor ever was, meant to be a one-way, mass streaming experience," Trainor explains. "Streaming has risen, people are paying for music again and it’s fantastic what all the major streaming services are doing there. But what SoundCloud has been about, always, is empowering creators and giving that connection between creator and listener. Our overall position is about continuing to invest in that -- it’s not about trying to chase those other mass services." 

And don't bring up the "L" word, either. Though industry folk increasingly speculate whether streaming services are edging in on label territory, Trainor insists that SoundCloud has no aspirations of acting as a record label. Instead, he views the company as a "partner" to the traditional industry side. "We’re not investing in content the way that a label or a publisher would do -- that’s not where we’re heading," he says. "Frankly, we’re very excited when creators are discovered by labels and invested in by labels after gaining traction on SoundCloud."

SoundCloud passed 200 million uploaded tracks last week and now counts 20 million creators on the platform, over half of whom are heard in any given month. "While we are one of the largest listening services, we’re built in a very different way, which is from the creators outward," Trainor adds. "We’re always going to be looking for opportunities to invest in more tools for those creators."

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