The SoundCloud Creator Guide is a comprehensive resource that will help you get the most out of your SoundCloud experience, with instructions and tips on everything from setting up your account, to finding your audience, to making money from your work.
What is the SoundCloud Creator Guide?
Your SoundCloud profile is your visual and auditory introduction to followers, fellow creators and industry execs. It’s where you represent your brand, through photo and sound. Completing your profile setup is the first step toward building your presence on SoundCloud. To edit your profile, sign in to your account on SoundCloud.com and look for your username in the top right-hand corner of the page. Select Profile from the dropdown menu, and then click the Edit button on the right hand side to update your information.
How do I set up my profile on SoundCloud?
Selecting a Display name and Profile URL for your account
Your Display name and Profile URL are what the public first sees before even
streaming your tracks. Similar to an in-person introduction, this is your chance to make a memorable first impression.
Your Display name doesn’t need to be unique, so no need to use the word “official” or any numbers (unless of course numbers are part of your name). The cleaner your display name is, the better your profile will look on SoundCloud and other sites and apps when it is embedded. It will also be easier for search engines and listeners to find you.
Your Profile URL needs to be unique, similar to your social media handle on platforms like Instagram or Twitter. It’s what shows up in your profile link after soundcloud.com/. Choosing a memorable and easy-to-share Profile URL can help establish and grow your brand. It betters your chances of search engines like Google finding you, it helps fans understand what they’re clicking through to, and it’s how other users can tag you in comments, track info and profile bios on SoundCloud. Would you rather click on a profile that is called @User9482837482 or @BillieEilish? Pick a Profile URL that represents your brand and makes it easy for users to start streaming and sharing your content. To learn more about setting up your Display name and Profile URL, click here.
Choosing images for your profile page
The images you choose to represent you are an important part of your brand. You may have been taught “not to judge a book by its cover” but with so much music out there, sometimes you need a quick visual to decide what you’re going to listen to. SoundCloud provides two different opportunities to represent your brand through imagery. The Profile avatar is your SoundCloud profile image, representing you throughout the platform. It’s a circular image, so choose a photo that is clear, hi-res and fits in the given space. The Profile header is a banner image on your profile page and is a great space to feature the project you are currently promoting, like a track, album or tour. Remember, the Profile header image is a landscape banner that is shown behind your Display name and Profile avatar.
To learn more about setting up a great Profile avatar and Profile header, click here.
Crafting a bio and adding social links
Your SoundCloud profile is your introduction to fans, fellow artists and industry
reps. Through music, images and a bio, current and future followers can get to
know more about you the minute they land on your page. You can keep your bio
general, or use this space to keep visitors updated on your latest
accomplishments, recent releases or upcoming shows.
You can include your location, contact info, external links to your socials or
websites in this section – and can even connect your SoundCloud profile with
Songkick to automatically pull in your tour schedule.
To learn more about setting up a bio, adding links and integrating with Songkick, click here.
Watch and learn more about setting up your profile on SoundCloud.
Whether you're an artist, label, podcaster or beat-maker – we have an account for you. If you’re a serious creator trying to build your career and need all the stats and upload time you can get, SoundCloud Pro Unlimited is probably the way to go. If you want to record the sound of your own voice and put it out there for the world to hear, Basic might be your best bet. Read on for more info on these options, and everything in between.
How to choose the right SoundCloud account
Type of Accounts
The Basic account is free and gives you three hours worth of uploads, basic stats, and basic embed controls. It’s a great place to start and figure out exactly what you are doing before you upgrade.
The next level up gives you six hours of hosted uploads, advanced stats, and advanced embed controls. SoundCloud Pro also includes the Spotlight feature that allows you to highlight up to five tracks, the Replace Tracks feature that save the stats for a track if you upload a new version of it, and Quiet Mode, that allows you to turn off public stats and comments. If you are a creator of original music content and have zero copyright strikes, SoundCloud Pro also may enable you to earn money from your work with SoundCloud Premier monetization. Find out more about SoundCloud Pro here.
We’ve done the math for you and this option is the best value for most users. You get all the options from a Pro account PLUS you get an increased upload quota, you’re able to schedule your releases, and you can access SoundCloud Go+ at half the cost of a normal subscription. Find out more about SoundCloud Pro Unlimited here.
SoundCloud Go allows you to listen to SoundCloud wherever you are - even offline. You get 120,000,000+ tracks from established and emerging artists, you can save tracks offline on mobile, and get ad-free listening. Find out more about SoundCloud Go here.
SoundCloud Go+ allows you to save tracks offline on mobile, and get ad-free listening, as well as access to select DJ integrations, allowing you to instantly discover and mix millions of tracks. You can try SoundCloud Go+ for free for 30 days and find out more here. And when you’re a Pro Unlimited subscriber, you get Go+ at half the price.
Make your tracks easy to find by giving them clear titles and detailed metadata when you upload something new. Eye-catching high-resolution artwork will also help you stand out.
How to optimize your SoundCloud tracks
Keep your track, album, and playlist titles clean (we’re not talking about curse words - that’s on you)
A clear track title helps your fans know exactly what they’re listening to. Avoid duplicating information that’s displayed elsewhere. There’s no need to add track numbers to your title when uploading an album.
When uploading to a label or editorial account, title your tracks as “Artist Name – Track Title” to ensure the artist is identified and a track isn’t attributed just to the SoundCloud account.
If you are a podcaster or a journalist who is sharing audio on SoundCloud include important information such as the names of guests and discussion topics in the title. This helps with searches and discoverability.
Make the most of images and descriptions
Your music shouldn’t just sound good, it should look good, too. Upload artwork for your tracks and albums - the higher resolution the better. You can zoom and reposition your artwork or images during the upload process to get the perfect fit.
The descriptions of your tracks and albums are the perfect place to share extra information: think about including a track’s backstory, add credits, lyrics, gear lists, or guest lists. Give a shout out to collaborators and feature artists, by linking to their SoundCloud profiles.
Whatever way you choose to present your tracks - be consistent with your information and in your style. It will look more professional and be more.
SoundCloud genre and mood tags are important
Tagging your tracks with relevant genre information is important and helps get your tracks in front of the right people. SoundCloud uses an algorithm to suggest tracks to users and it is important to tag your tracks with accurate genre information. Genre tags are also required to qualify for charts.
For genre, select the chart category that best suits your tracks and playlists. If nothing fits, you can add a custom genre.
In addition to selecting a main genre, tag your tracks with a few relevant sub-genres and any moods that you think describe the track. It’s better to add a handful of relevant tags rather than go crazy and add as many as you can.
If you are an audio creator, make sure that your first tag corresponds to one of the main audio categories in Charts. Next, work your way from general terms such as “podcast” to more specific ones such as “NPR.” It helps to include the names of guests or geographical places that are discussed.
Build your own SoundCloud discography
Playlists marked as an album, EP, single, or compilation will be displayed in the albums section of your profile. They will be listed in order of release date to make it easier for your fans to find what they’re looking for and save it to their own collection.
If you want to dig into your own archive and upload some old tracks they will be displayed in your discography without taking attention away from your most-recent tracks.
How to edit multiple tracks at once
We have good news if you think updating tracks one at a time seems like a drag. You can make changes - update settings, tags, and artwork - to multiple tracks at once and also create a new playlist from a selection of multiple uploads. To update multiple tracks go to soundcloud.com/you/tracks. Select the tracks you want to change and then click Edit or Add to playlist to make your changes.
Watch and learn more about optimizing your tracks on SoundCloud.
Hosting your podcast on SoundCloud is a great way to reach your target audience, make new fans, interact with listeners, and keep the overheads low. A few simple steps can get you started and get your podcast into the world.
To encourage listeners to follow your SoundCloud profile and leave comments on your podcast, you should promote your SoundCloud URL in the introduction or credits of your podcast. That way, fans who discover your content via iTunes will know you’re on SoundCloud.
Podcasting with SoundCloud
Set up an RSS feed for your SoundCloud podcast
You can reach new audiences for your podcast through distribution platforms like iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn by setting up an RSS feed of your podcast.
1. Create an account
This is very similar to setting up a regular SoundCloud account with one main difference: activating an RSS feed that will get your podcast out there.
If you haven’t yet created a SoundCloud account, go to SoundCloud:
- Use an active email address to create an account.
- Use the name of your podcast for your profile Display Name
- Check your inbox for a confirmation email to activate your account
2. Complete your profile information
Go to your profile and click the Edit button:
- Upload a profile image that is at least 1400 x 1400 pixels.
- Add a description of your podcast to your profile's bio. This is important because the description will be used as your RSS feed's description.
- In the Your Links section, add links to your podcast website and any podcast social media accounts.
To optimize your profile further, refer to the Set up your profile page.
3. Adjust the content settings
On the Settings page, click the Content tab:
- Choose a category for your podcast.
- Select the language of your podcast.
- Check the Contains explicit content box if your podcast contains what might be explicit content.
- Select the Upload default settings that you want. You can override these settings on the edit page of any track. If you intend to primarily upload podcasts, enable the RSS feed setting.
Adjust more content settings (this is optional)
- Custom feed title: Display a longer podcast title in your RSS feed. If you leave the custom feed title blank, your SoundCloud display name will be used.
- Custom author name: Add a byline to your podcast, such as “StartUp podcast by Gimlet Media” (if you are the Startup podcast produced by Gimlet Media). Your SoundCloud display name will be used if you leave the author name blank.
- If you are using a third-party stats-tracking service insert its URL in the Stats service prefix URL. If you are using Podtrac, enter http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3. If you're using Blubrry, log in to your Blubrry dashboard and click the 'Getting Started' link in the Podcast Statistics section. Copy your Blubrry stats redirect URL from the Media Redirect URL box and paste it into the SoundCloud Stats service URL prefix field.
- Email address displayed: Some podcast apps require an email address to be displayed in your RSS feed. This is where you enter yours.
- Add your first track to your RSS feed by uploading or editing an existing recording.
- On the Permissions tab, check the box next to where it says Include in RSS feed.
Submit your SoundCloud podcast feed to other distribution platforms
Add your SoundCloud RSS feed to your social media networks:
- From the Content tab, copy your RSS feed URL.
- Submit your feed to Stitcher.
- Submit your feed to TuneIn.
- In iTunes, submit your podcast’s RSS feed URL to the iTunes store. If you don’t have iTunes installed, download and install it. Paste your RSS feed URL where it says Podcast Feed URL and follow the subsequent onscreen prompts.
How to map SoundCloud information to iTunes directory fields
- SoundCloud profile image
- SoundCloud display name, or custom feed title
- SoundCloud display name (default), or custom author name
- SoundCloud profile description
- SoundCloud track title
- SoundCloud upload date
- SoundCloud track description
- SoundCloud profile URL (default) or the website address listed in the Your links section in Settings
Use SoundCloud Stats to understand who your audience is, where they are located, how they listen, and what tracks they like. Start by downloading the Pulse app to monitor your numbers. Alternatively, access them through the Stats page on the SoundCloud website. You can upgrade your account to get deeper stats.
Stats help you measure the success of your tracks. You can review your plays, likes, comments, reposts and downloads, discover which of your tracks are performing best, and what countries and cities they’re most popular in.
The play counts of your tracks include plays on SoundCloud as well as embedded players, and third-party apps that use the SoundCloud API. Play counts also include streams and downloads via your RSS feed.
If you have a Pro Unlimited plan, you can see how many plays come via your RSS feed by looking at the Apps tab in your stats. From the RSS tab, you can see the RSS apps that your subscribers use to listen to your podcast.
Learn about your audience with Stats
How to take a deep dive on your SoundCloud stats
When viewing stats for your account, you’ll see a bar chart showing activity over a specific period of time. The chart highlights the five most-popular tracks for the selected period of time. Other activity is displayed in gray and and marked as Others.
Hovering over the bar chart provides more detailed information and provide totals for each day. You can filter your view so that only stats for a specific track are displayed: click on a track title and you’ll see a line graph plotting activity over time.
Use the calendar feature at the top right hand of the page to review your account and see activity over a specific time period. You can customize a time period to coincide with your release or campaign cycles to see how any track or artist performed on SoundCloud.
Click on a track and select the All Time option for a detailed look at a track’s stats over its lifetime. Analyzing a track - especially around key moments in a campaign - is a great way to help you make informed decisions for future projects.
Pro and Pro Unlimited users can access even more stats
With stats, you can grow your career – with strategy. Find out where your plays are based so you can swing by those cities next tour, or track down that loyal fan who likes everything you do and say, “thanks.” You can upgrade to SoundCloud Pro or Pro Unlimited, and find out more about stats below.
Click the Top Cities tab next to Top Countries to see a breakdown of which territories your plays are coming from. Use these details to help plan your next promotions or tour and help prioritize resources around a release.
Who (People stats)
Switch between the plays, likes, comments, reposts, and downloads tabs in your stats to see which fans are bringing you the most of each.
Websites/Apps displays your referral sources. This includes details of where your tracks have been embedded and a breakdown of what apps in the SoundCloud ecosystem your tracks are being streamed from. Using the Calendar option to select specific dates shows which blogs are generating the majority of your plays over the course of a campaign.
Charts and what they mean
Charts is a new and easy way to stay plugged in to what’s trending on SoundCloud. With unique lists for both the top 50 tracks of the week and new tracks that are getting lots of buzz on SoundCloud, the feature is your destination for the latest and greatest sounds out there. Charts replaces Explore on the web, so you can get there from the link at the top of your Stream, or by going here.
The Top 50 chart updates every day and shows the 50 most-played tracks for the past week. The “New & Hot” section updates multiple times each day, and shows tracks that are trending on SoundCloud right now, focusing on tracks that were uploaded more recently.
If you are a creator and want to get your track trending, we recommend authentic interactions with your followers, and timely promotion of your recently uploaded tracks to increase your chances of reaching your audience and getting chart action. It also helps to have the track tagged correctly with the genre you want it to appear and chart in. The first tag should be the main genre, ideally taken from the list of genres shown in the corresponding charts.
The charts algorithm takes a day to recognize private tracks that are later made public. For greater visibility, we recommend uploading these tracks publicly to increase listens and your chances of getting onto the charts.
How to share your SoundCloud tracks with the world
Share your tracks on social media
SoundCloud integrations with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr make it easy for fans to listen to your music quickly and easily.
Sharing to Facebook allows your fans to stream your tracks or playlists and get information about you in the track/playlist description. Include details about your recording process, upcoming tour dates or include a link to buy your tracks in your track description - all this information is displayed on Facebook when your track is shared. SoundCloud links embed directly into Facebook so that users don’t have to leave the platform to check out your music.
Connect your SoundCloud account to Twitter and each new track you create will automatically be tweeted from your account. SoundCloud links also embed directly into Twitter Cards. Any embedded track starts playing automatically as the Twitter Card is clicked and expands with the embedded player.
Use the Audio post function when sharing to Tumblr - your tracks and playlists will stream seamlessly in the user dashboard this way. The SoundCloud visual player is the default on Tumblr so include your album artwork in every upload. Tumblr also uses tags to help users discover new tracks. ‘Music’ is a good place to start; include your genre, name and the subject matter of your sound, too.
Google+ displays the artwork for every track you share, so make sure you’re including high quality artwork on your profile and in your uploads. You can also add relevant hashtags to your posts so they’re more discoverable on Google+.
Share your tracks on an embedded player
SoundCloud embedded players help you share your tracks on blogs and websites. It’s a very simple process to add an embedded player to a website or blog. Click the Share dialog on your track or playlist, copy the embed code, and paste it into your site. That’s it.
There are two styles of embedded player:
The visual player puts your artwork front and center. The large image ensures that tracks look as good as they sound. Autoplay functionality and continuous playback are both available with the visual player. If you have a Pro Unlimited plan, you also have the option to display your Spotlight tracks as related tracks - or disable the feature.
The default player is a customizable option that allows you to edit the color of your player, scale its size, and display or hide comments, usernames, and algorithmic suggestions.
The Mini Player is a smaller, sleeker option available to Pro/Pro Unlimited users. Select between a light and dark scheme and choose from a variety of colors for the play button and playing progress.
Share your SoundCloud tracks privately
Maybe you want to get feedback on a track from your OG superfans before sharing it with the masses. Or maybe you’d like to pitch your beats to a vocalist you found while skimming the Folk & Singer-Songwriter Charts. Or maybe you’re shopping around your EP to music blogs to premiere exclusively before releasing it publicly. We don’t need to know why you want to keep your music a secret, the important thing is this: we have a way for you to share and collaborate discreetly before it’s 100% ready to be unleashed.
Click Share on any private track or playlist and copy the automatically generated secret link. Only people with this secret link will be able to access the track or playlist. If you want to revoke access and generate a new secret link click the Reset secret link button.
You can also send private tracks and playlists as a SoundCloud message. In the Share menu click the Message tab, select who you want to send the message to, and hit send.
To generate a private embed code that can be exclusive to any webpage, click Share on any private track or playlist. The track will be private on SoundCloud and only visible via the private embed.
Other ideas to expand your SoundCloud fanbase and reach a wider audience
Reposting a track or playlist by another creator adds it to both your profile and stream and pushes it to the streams of your followers. You can repost tracks that inspire you so that your followers can hear them too. Encourage other artists and fans to repost your tracks to help grow cross-profile promotion and heighten exposure on SoundCloud.
‘Like’ any track or playlist to easily find it at a later date, and to let the original creator know their work is appreciated.
Curate your favorite tracks, show off new songs from upcoming releases, or create back catalog playlists as a way to contextualize new projects. Build a dialog with your followers between releases with playlists that showcase your taste, or give fans a sneak peek at content they’ll want to repost in their feeds. The more active and accessible you are on SoundCloud, the more likely you are to be discovered. So keep creating and sharing so that your future followers can easily can find you.
Timed Comments allow discussion and feedback on tracks. Fans can communicate with their favorite creators by showing support or offering feedback while creators can reply to comments and strike up a conversation with fans. Engage with people who comment on your tracks - building a community of fans helps your work gain traction.
Copyright is a word that pops up a lot in the music industry and on the internet - and maybe you’ve seen it on SoundCloud if you’re reading the fine print - but what exactly does it mean? Copyright is legal protection for original works (e.g., music, books or movies) – like the original content you’re uploading to SoundCloud. Anytime you create something and share it publicly, there’s a chance that someone else might like it so much that they try to take it and make it their own. Copyright protects your work and ensures this doesn’t happen to you.
The moment a piece of work is created, copyright protection is automatically granted to the owner of the work AKA the rightsholder. Copyright gives a creator exclusive rights to make copies, distribute, perform or display the work publicly, or make “derivative works” such as modifications or alterations of the work (like a remix).
It’s important to us because a) it’s the law, and we’re required to comply in order to exist as a platform for expression, and b) because we respect creators and want their work to be recognized and protected.
Copyright infringement is when someone else’s work is used without permission. If we receive an infringement report from a rightsholder, we are required to take down the reported content in order to be in compliance with copyright law. If the infringer is not able to resolve their dispute with the rightsholder, they will be issued a strike. Just like baseball, it’s a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, and accounts with three strikes will be terminated.
SoundCloud’s copyright policies
How to promote your SoundCloud tracks:
After you upload a new track or album on SoundCloud, it’s important to put in the work to make sure it gets heard. Here are some tips on getting started:
Make sure your metadata and genre tags are correct:
The first tag should be the main genre, ideally taken from the genres shown in the dropdown menu. This helps SoundCloud’s algorithm correctly place your track in the right charts.
Use your SoundCloud tools to help your track gain momentum:
Send your track to other creators and listeners via comments or DMs, get your friends and fans to repost and like it, and share your track to social media by using SoundCloud’s Instagram integration. Remember, SoundCloud works hard when you do too, so don’t just upload and hope to go viral – make it happen for yourself.
Promote your music with Promote on SoundCloud:
If you’re a SoundCloud Premier member, you have even more opportunities to promote your music on and off SoundCloud. Promote on SoundCloud is a self-service promotional tool that enables you to get your music in front of SoundCloud’s massive tastemaker community, increasing your exposure and driving more interactions with your listeners. Once you start monetizing a track, you can use Promote on SoundCloud to give that track a boost in plays and visibility.
Setting up a promotion is easy:
Name your promotion
Select one of your public, monetizing tracks
Decide if you want to use Simple or Advanced targeting
Pick a budget for how much you’d like to spend
Select your start and end date for the promotion
Choose the audience you want to reach
Check availability and add to your cart
The result: your promoted track will be highly visible, at the top of your target audience’s homepage (on mobile) and stream (on mobile and desktop) giving listeners more opportunities to discover your music. Combine your Promote on SoundCloud results with your SoundCloud Stats to get a full view on how your promotion is working.
Promote on SoundCloud is a great way to get your monetizing tracks in front of new fans on SoundCloud and drive up those plays.
Getting on SoundCloud’s editorial playlists:
If you are a SoundCloud Premier user, you can submit your tracks for placement consideration on SoundCloud’s editorial playlists like Drippin’ or Ear Candy. While we can’t guarantee placements, our editorial staff listens to everything submitted and also takes into account the promotional work you’re doing on your own.
After you sign up for SoundCloud Premier and start monetizing your first track, you’ll receive an email with a link to submit your music to SoundCloud’s editorial team. Remember to keep the link to yourself. The more submissions we get, the harder it is for your music to stand out.
How to promote your SoundCloud tracks
If you’re creating on SoundCloud, you know that you can upload a track and it’s readily available for your fans to stream. With SoundCloud Premier monetization, you can now get paid for those uploads, in a quick and seamless way.
When you monetize with SoundCloud Premier, we provide the following things:
- Leading revenue share: SoundCloud meets or beats any other streaming service.
- Faster payouts: You’ll have more cash in your pocket because we pay you directly each month.
- Comes with Pro: The program is accessible to all eligible Pro subscribers at no additional cost.
- Instant availability: Your uploaded tracks are available for immediate discovery and monetization.
- Direct access to your fans: Get real-time feedback from our massive global community.
You retain all rights for the music you choose to monetize with SoundCloud Premier and are free to make that music available across other platforms. Note, you have the option to enable downloads for any of your tracks as long as you have the necessary rights to do so. However, SoundCloud doesn’t charge users for downloads and so isn’t responsible for the payment of royalties on downloads. If you choose to make one of your tracks available for download, you will be responsible for any publishing royalties that are due on those downloads.
Why you should monetize with SoundCloud Premier
Who can monetize with SoundCloud Premier
We know you put in the work because creating is your passion, but now all that time and energy spent fine-tuning your latest track will literally pay off – because with SoundCloud Premier monetization, your next payday could start today.
To qualify for SoundCloud Premier monetization:
You must be an independent creator of original music (at this time we cannot accept mixes or podcast content) and own 100% of your rights (publishing, master, distribution)
You must have zero copyright strikes at the time you enroll (You would have received an email from us if you have a copyright strike. Learn more about our copyright policies.)
You must be a SoundCloud Pro or Pro Unlimited subscriber
You must have at least 1,000 eligible streams in the past month
Monetizable streams come from at least one of these eligible countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand and any other territories designated by SoundCloud as eligible
Humans are listening to your tracks (bot streams will not be counted)
If eligible, you’ll receive an email or in-product notification to opt-in your tracks. Note you must meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years old or age of majority in your country to get paid.
The more your tracks are played, the more you get paid. So use all the tools included with your SoundCloud Pro subscription to tap into SoundCloud’s massive global audience and drive up your play count.
How monetizing with SoundCloud Premier works
You’ll receive a share of revenue based on plays in eligible countries. That means that plays used to calculate payments will differ from the total plays you see in the app. You can make sure you have monetization enabled by checking in the respective track’s settings.
Please note, any money earned on tracks that have been distributed to SoundCloud via a label or distributor will be subject to your label or distributor deal, and should appear in your regular royalty statements from the label or distributor.
Code to know: ISRC
ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is a unique code that is assigned to a sound recording. It is used when monetizing music, and is required in order to enable a track for monetization. Use the same ISRC for a given sound recording wherever you make it available, across all territories and music services.
If you don’t already have ISRCs, you can have them created for you when uploading or editing a track.
As ISRCs are unique per track, first make sure you don’t already have a code through one of your partners. Ask about ISRCs for your tracks if you:
- Work with a record label or distributor in some but not all territories
- Work with some but not all music services
- Work with record labels / distributors / music services but have retained the right to upload, make available, and monetize the tracks on SoundCloud yourself
Music publishing 101
It’s always best to get an expert opinion when it comes to your career – but to get you started, we’ve summarized some basics of music publishing here.
Just as every rose has its thorn, every song has two parts.
- Musical composition: instrumental without lyrics, or music and lyrics (lyrics alone would be a poem) that you’d see on a piece of paper
- Sound recording: an artist’s performance of the composition; what you’re hearing
The way you probably think of a song is as a recording, because that’s the experience of hearing a track. The recording is the sounds themselves as an mp3, or a CD or any other listening format. The composition is the ideas, words and musical structures that make up the framework of a song.
Let’s travel back to 1984 when Prince wrote the song “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Maybe he didn’t record it right away, but he wrote it down. Its existence is the composition. In 1990, Sinead O’Connor made a recording of Prince’s song, and it became a smash hit.
Both the recording and the composition have rights associated with them that are worth money. Generally, record labels administer rights in the recordings [Master Recordings], publishing companies administer certain rights in compositions.
So when Sinead O’Connor recorded “Nothing Compares 2 U,” her record label owned the recording and paid her a royalty for her work on it as the recording artist. Her label sold her recording of Prince’s song, and since they were using Prince’s composition, they paid Prince’s publisher, who then paid Prince – whereas collecting societies and PROs (if you read to the bottom, you will find out the definition of this acronym) administer other rights in compositions.
For public performances of the song, such as when the song was played on the radio or in a bar, the collecting society or PRO that controlled public performance rights in the musical composition was paid royalties by the radio station or bar.
The publisher’s role in this example is to ensure Prince has registered his composition correctly with the copyright office and the PRO, and that the record label has properly licensed the composition and is accurately reporting what is owed to the publisher.
How music publishing affects you
As an artist on SoundCloud today, if you wrote and recorded everything in a song you upload to SoundCloud (and you own all of the rights in the song) and are monetizing – you’ll get paid for both the recording and the composition. You’ll get paid for the recording by SoundCloud directly. But before you get paid for publishing rights of your song (the composition), there are a few things to know. You might want to copy / paste the following section into your notes.
Being a music publisher means you have a publishing company that you use to administer your publishing income streams. There are two basic kinds of income streams for music publishing rights: public performance and mechanical reproduction.
Public performance = any time your composition is “performed” in public. In addition to concerts, this includes plays on the radio and TV shows (which include additional Synch license fees that we won’t get into now) as well as interactive streams.
Mechanical reproduction = any time someone makes a copy of your composition for distribution, whether this is a CD or download or vinyl record.
How to collect publishing royalties for your composition
In addition to earning royalties from your sound recordings, you may also be eligible to collect royalties from the compositions underlying your sound recordings if you own or control the applicable rights.
The most effective way to make sure that you can collect public performance royalties for your songs is to choose a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) as soon as the composition is written, as a PRO’s main responsibility is to collect public performance royalties for songwriters. There are three major PROs in the US (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) and a few smaller boutique ones, so do your research. In Europe (and in other regions around the world) there is typically one performing rights organization or society per territory, with a few exceptions.
Mechanical reproduction royalties will be paid to you either directly (if you have not signed an agreement with a music publisher) or by a music publisher (if you have signed an agreement). The most effective way to make sure that you can collect those royalties is for you or your music publisher, if applicable, to register your songs with the parties that use your music and/or companies which administer royalty payments on their behalf. SoundCloud currently uses Music Reports Inc. (MRI) to administer payment of mechanical reproduction royalties in the US.
To find out more about MRI, visit https://www.musicreports.com/
Why you should distribute with SoundCloud Premier
Uploading your content to SoundCloud is only the first step of your career. In order to be a successful artist, your content should be available anywhere your audience might be, on SoundCloud and beyond. That’s why SoundCloud Pro/Pro Unlimited now includes off-platform distribution, helping you get your content to all major music services including Spotify and Apple Music.
As an eligible Pro or Pro Unlimited subscriber, you can distribute your uploaded tracks on SoundCloud in a few clicks, without ever leaving your account. Craft a release to be shared across all platforms, and collect your payments in one centralized location, directly from SoundCloud – while keeping 100% of your rights and 100% of the earnings we receive from music services (SoundCloud doesn’t take a cut).
Defining a release
A release is considered a single (1-3 tracks), an EP (4-7 tracks or 3 tracks if one track is at least 10 mins long), or an album (at least 7 tracks or longer than 30 minutes). With SoundCloud Pro Unlimited you can distribute unlimited releases (it’s the best option if your release strategy includes singles, followed by an EP or album) and with SoundCloud Pro you can distribute 1 release. After you define your release and develop a release strategy, it’s time to put your content out in the world.
ISRC and UPC
When you distribute your content through SoundCloud Premier distribution, we’ll assign ISRC and UPC codes to your content. If you already have an ISRC code for a track, be sure to include it in your release to avoid duplicates. These codes are requirements for distributing your music and are needed for your content to be sold or streamed on any digital service provider. Both ISRC and UPC codes are important because they help track revenues and manage reporting for your content. Without them, you might be missing out on money!
- ISRC - ISRC is an “international standard recording code” and identifies a particular recording of a musical composition. Each individual track in a release has its own ISRC code.
- UPC - UPC is a “universal product code” and is a lot like a barcode or serial number, providing your release with a unique identity. Each release has its own UPC code, and a UPC code is required if you are selling your release in a digital or physical store.
Uploading high quality audio
Keep in mind that SoundCloud Premier distribution requires you to upload high quality audio files as FLAC or WAV formats. This ensures that your music will be heard in the highest quality on all other music services. If you want to distribute content that you already have on SoundCloud that’s not uploaded in FLAC or WAV, don’t worry – you can still use the same release for distribution, you’ll just need to replace the original track file using the Replace File feature on each track’s edit page. You won’t lose any stats or comments, and your track will be distribution-ready in minutes. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Promoting your content on other platforms
Some of the biggest names in music have broken on SoundCloud, using our unique engagement features such as likes, reposts, comments, DMs and more to build their audience. But it’s important to make your content known on other platforms, too. Own your promotion and understand your audience on Spotify and Apple Music by using the tips below.
Making changes to your release
SoundCloud Premier distribution allows you to send your release to all major music services. But we understand that sometimes mistakes can happen, like an incorrect version of your artwork gets uploaded or a track title is missing a letter or featured artist. While other distributors require you to reach out to customer service, wait for a response, and then wait some more for changes to take place, SoundCloud Premier distribution lets you make changes directly on SoundCloud. Keep in mind that each store/streaming service has a different turnaround time for implementing your changes, but at least you can kick off the process by submitting the changes on your own time.
Using a different DIY distributor?
If this isn’t your first release, chances are you’ve used another DIY distributor - like DistroKid or TuneCore - to get your music out there. As long as you don’t have an exclusive deal with a distributor or label, you can move your previously released content to SoundCloud Premier distribution and pay one price for all the tools you get with SoundCloud Pro, including monetization and distribution. SoundCloud Premier distribution will get you in front of our massive audience of artist-breaking taste-makers - and future fans wherever they’re listening.
If you are worried about losing your stats by moving distribution services, contact SoundCloud support and we'll help you switch over.
Now that you’ve understood the basics of SoundCloud Premier distribution, start planning your release strategy and be ready to submit your release for distribution 2-4 weeks before your scheduled live date.
So developing an overarching strategy before a release is really important to help you map out a plan for the release while understanding what tools are at your disposal. To get started, hold focused brainstorms for different aspects of your project focused on the release, creative, socials and promotion. You can start with these questions: When is your release going to come out? What will your art and visuals for the release look like? What social platforms do you want to use to promote it? What blogs do you want to target for press? The notes you take from these brainstorms will feed directly into your Strategic Overview, a handy resource you can make yourself, that covers your entire release strategy. The following steps will aid you in making the most of your release and help you develop a Strategic Overview:
- Create strategy buckets - Release, Creative, Socials and Promotion
- List out your goals for each bucket
- Add the tasks needed to accomplish each goal
- List out the budget and/or tools required for each task
- Create a timeline with due dates for each task/goal
- Have a section within each strategy bucket to list out any other creative concepts or general brainstorm notes that might come up. Write everything down because you never know when an idea might come in handy.
Defining and developing your release
While all the other pieces of your strategy are important, the release itself is obviously the key - it’s the product of all of your hard work and the sound you’re putting out into the world. As you create the release, you’ll want to think all the different aspects that feed into the audio of the release. Do you have a place to record? Will there be features on the project? Consider all possible scenarios you might face when recording your release.
This section of your Strategic Overview should include things like your release date (you’ll want to submit your release for distribution about 2-4 weeks before your scheduled release date), where you want the release to be recorded, who you want to be featured on the release, and anything else related to the creation of the release itself.
Building out your visual creative
Your artist brand goes beyond the music. Every release you make will need artwork at the very least, but can also be accompanied by social assets, music videos, behind the scenes content, posters, stickers and even merchandise. It’s good to start thinking about the visual aspect of your release while you are creating the music – it’s all connected and you want the imagery to feel authentically tied to the music. Consider using the same artist, photographer or designer for each asset so they have a similar look and feel.
This section of your Strategic Overview should include things like due dates for creating artwork and making GIFs and production timelines for recording a music video, organizing a photoshoot, developing merchandise and anything else related to the visual aspect of your release.
Creating a social calendar
Your release and your creative will come together on the social platforms you use. As we mentioned earlier in the guide, using your socials is a key way to build and grow your audience so think about which platforms you want to use to promote your release and develop a content strategy specific to those platforms.
This section of your Strategic Overview should include a content calendar with live dates for social posts, the types and sizes of assets you want for different platforms, development of snippets of audio or video assets, and anything else related to your social platform strategy.
Promoting your release
Once your release is out in the wild, you want as many people to see it. Consider developing a press strategy with a target list of outlets you think would be interested in your contact. Most blogs have a submission form, others require you to do some digging on your own. When submitting for press consideration, do your research first. Find blogs and editors who have shown interest in music similar to yours by looking at their other posts. When you reach out, be concise and share your SoundCloud link to your tracks (you can even share a private track link if you are sharing before your release comes out).
Platforms like Spotify and Apple also have curated editorial playlists that are great for promoting your content. Look up playlists you like and send a submission to Spotify’s editorial team for a scheduled release.
This section of your Strategy Overview should include your target press outlets, potential playlists you want to be included on and anything else related to the editorial promotion of your release.