Releasing a track to a deafening lack of interest is always tough. SoundCloud’s latest feature aims to at least give artists a head start in reaching listeners.

It’s called ‘First Fans’ and involves recommending new tracks to listeners – using SoundCloud’s ‘autoplay’ mode – who its algorithm has determined might like them.

“We’re starting by recommending your tracks to around 100 people with listener profiles that align with your music,” explains SoundCloud’s help page for the new feature.

For now, it’s a test, with the company “exploring rolling this out more broadly to Next Pro users”. The feature uses technology from Musiio, the AI-tagging startup that SoundCloud acquired last year.

In a blog post, chief content officer Tracy Chan pitched ‘First Fans’ as an answer to the ‘zero plays’ problem, citing data from Luminate suggesting that 42% of tracks on streaming services have fewer than 10 streams, and that 24% have precisely zero streams.

Boosting tracks in a streaming service’s autoplay feature sounds… familiar.

Yes, it’s what Spotify is doing with its controversial ‘Discovery Mode’, which pays a lower royalty rate for streams recommended in its autoplay and radio features. Chan addressed that comparison in his post.

“To be clear, any plays from these First Fan recommendations are real streams, so they count and are paid out like any other stream,” he wrote.

“You deserve to get heard and get paid the full amount for what people hear. That’s the right way to do things and as an artist-first company, we feel strongly about it.”

If Chan’s job title sounds unfamiliar, that’s because the former Spotify and Twitch exec has just been promoted to chief content officer from his previous role as SVP of creator.

SoundCloud also announced yesterday that it has hired Devi Mahadevia as its SVP of strategy. She was previously director of partnerships at Meta’s Reality Labs division.

Meanwhile, the company has also promoted Ama Walton to be its SVP and deputy general counsel. It’s all part of ongoing changes under CEO Eliah Seton, who shifted to that role from president in March.

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