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In our article covering the bots that have plagued SoundCloud I said that "[t]he only thing that we can’t discern here is if these seemingly fake accounts are a move by labels to remain competitive, or if SoundCloud plans on giving favorable positioning to platforms as they rebrand their company." Looks like we have our answer. SoundCloud announced their "On Soundcloud" program today, and will be offering monetization to Premier partners.
This seems to be an official move for the SoundCloud Pro Partner accounts, which have been invite-only and in beta for more than a year. Any artist that has the custom graphics on their page has a Pro Partner Account, these have been slowly and systematically handed out on an incredibly limited basis, and the only users that we have seen with these accounts have been successful labels, artists that have savvy management, and artists that exhibit qualities of future stardom.
SoundCloud's Premier level is also only available to accounts based in the United States. The issue here is that records on Pro Partner accounts have custom APIs that draw eyes, and are seeing bigger play counts than they normally would. These Pro Partner accounts have been in the works for more than a year, and the average user simply can't access them. Play counts are shifting towards artists that are already big, their records are showing up in the recommended section, swaying play counts even further.
Artists are booked based on followers and play counts. Lineups are determined by these numbers, and promoters blindly trust them. Not only are these big acts getting booked more and seeing increased revenue because of the Pro Partner accounts, now the SoundCloud community will have to patiently wait as those that have these limited Premier accounts make money, and there's no telling how long it will take for the average musician to have access to take advantage of this advertising revenue. We will see how all of this turns out, and continue to update you as we hear additional word.