Over the last year, SoundCloud executives have spoken several times about how the platform’s ‘fan-powered royalties’ user-centric payouts was not an endgame in itself, but rather a building block to further opportunities for artists and their teams.
“When the economic model cuts these cohorts [of fans] into their own scenes, rooms, that’s when the model really flies. That data, let alone the royalties, becomes even more valuable,” SoundCloud’s VP strategy Michael Pelczynski told the NY:LON conference in January. “That knowledge, or that data of you as a fan, is also incredibly valuable. The model needs to build a commercial opportunity on top of itself.”
Pelczynski promised that SoundCloud had plans “to surface those fans: you will actually be able to see those influencers who are high-value contributors to the model”. Now those plans have been announced in the form of a product called simply ‘Fans’.
It starts with analytics. Artists will be able to see their most valuable fans in terms of royalties, but also sort them by comments, listening behaviour and sharing habits. But the layer on top of this is communication: messaging those fans through SoundCloud.
“Say thanks, share previews of upcoming releases, sell tickets and merch, or just open up the opportunity to chat,” is how SoundCloud’s SVP, creator Tracy Chan described how artists could use this. The new feature is available to more than 50,000 artists who are paying for SoundCloud’s ‘Next Pro’ subscription.
There is a careful line to be walked here. It’s easy to assume that of course fans would like to be messaged by the artists they follow and listen to. For those that don’t, there is the ability to opt out. Even for those initially happy to be pinged, problems will ensue if too many artists are too spammy.
Still, establishing a sort-of direct (there’s still, after all, a platform in the middle) line of communication within a music streaming service is a welcome move. As SoundCloud has been stressing in recent months, too, more granular access to data on their most engaged fans is valuable in itself for artists.
‘Fans’ is interesting even just as a one-way promotional channel for artists, but that surely isn’t its full potential. Artists messaging their most engaged fans is one thing, but enabling a two-way conversation may be the most powerful aspect.
This isn’t happening in isolation on SoundCloud: it’s one of the reasons why many artists and their teams are so interested in Discord servers all of a sudden too. Today’s music superfans love privileged communications from their favourite artists, but they’re also superkeen to talk back.
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