After seven years as an ad-free service, SoundCloud will start using advertisements to help pay the bills--both for itself and for content creators.
SoundCloud, which lets anyone upload music and audio for public streaming, is inviting "a small group of creators" to participate in its On SoundCloud ad platform. Eventually, anyone who wants to advertise will be able to use the service.
"Every time you see or hear an ad, an artist gets paid," SoundCloud wrote in a blog post. "If you're in the US, you'll start to experience occasional ads from our brand partners."
SoundCloud says it won't allow users to opt out of the ads right away, but will roll them out "very gradually with attention to your listening experience." Down the road, the company plans to offer an ad-free subscription service.
A FAQ page suggests that the audio ads will play before the track begins, though creators will have to give explicit permission to play ads in front of their tracks. Display ads may also run alongside the music player. The Guardian reports that creators will get "the majority" of the revenue.
Until now, artists have used SoundCloud mainly for promotional purposes, with even well-known acts uploading unreleased material for their fans. It's also a popular service for electronic dance music, as both established DJs and amateurs can upload lengthy remixes.
But as the service grows, it may be facing pressure from record labels to ramp up revenues. Last month, Bloomberg reported that SoundCloud was in talks with all three major labels for a possible equity stake in company. In exchange, the labels would reportedly agree not to sue SoundCloud for copyrighted material that users had uploaded. (Some users have complained recently that their remixes are being taken down due to copyright complaints.)
At the same time, SoundCloud is trying to make the service more user-friendly without alienating its existing users and creators. A redesign of its iOS app was particularly contentious, as it removed some familiar features and focused on listening. While listeners may be disappointed by the new ads, they'll likely go a long way toward keeping creators on board.