I have been a long time supporter of SoundCloud, using them for about 90% of the streams over on on sister blog The Blue Walrus, but the recent Flattr announcement adds something completely new to the mix – money.
SoundCloud has grown massively since its founding in 2007, with it now the go-to place for musicians to share both streams and downloads of their songs. Artists like it because it allows them to offer streams and/or downloads of songs, with great listener statistics for a pretty low price (the free plan is fine for many people). Music bloggers like it because it means they don;t have to host the mp3s themselves and so don;t have to pay for bandwidth and don’t get the legal threats from a different arm of the same record company that gave them the mp3 to stream. Whereas in 2007 every band had a MySpace profile, now they all have SoundCloud (often alongside Bandcamp to sell their digital wares).
Flattr has come from very different roots – being foundered by an ex-Pirate Bay founders and starting off as a very egalitarian way for people to become part of a paid content ecosystem. To be paid by Flattr you had to first put money into your Flattr account to pay others – a very idealistic model with the idea that the amount you paid in monthly would be divided up between the number of people you Flattred that month. More recently however, and to partly help people donate to WikiLeaks after Visa and Mastercard cut them off, Flattr has allowed people to also donate any amount they specify – which can mean much higher sums for their Flattry. They have also removed the buying-in part of Flattr, in an attempt to become what would be best described as a “Like” button with money.
Now Flattr and SoundCloud have teamed up to let people Flattr their favourite bands and artists through SoundCloud. This means not just a simple adding Flattr buttons to artist profiles, but actually adding the buttons to the embeds to – so fans could here a song they like on a music blog and Flattr the artist there and then. This opens up two possible business models for bands and artists using SoundCloud+Flattr:
- Fans can pay what they want for the music, a little like that Radiohead experiment a few years ago
- Fans can pay a subscription each month and then Flattr all the bands and artists they enjoy – making it somewhat of a pay what you want monthly subscription model
This is a replacement for record sales or anything on that scale, but this is another revenue stream for musicians – and the more ways to accept payment for their art the better for music as a whole.