If you’ve been frustrated while navigating SoundCloud’s draconian takedown process, this news may surprise you. SoundCloud may begin making your upload a streaming advertisement rather than taking it down.

SoundCloud just announced a partnership with rights management outfit ZEFR which will make identifying uploads containing samples from music owned by the major labels easier than ever (and, one hopes, more reliable than at present).

Aimed squarely at the remixes and DJ mixes on the service, the deal between SoundCloud and ZEFR appears to cement the final step in SoundCloud’s transition from a site relying upon user generated content (and revenue, via your Pro account) to selling advertising against streaming music – a model similar to the free version of Spotify.

SoundCloud made major news when they struck a licensing deal with the major labels in November 2014, forestalling legal action and all but assuring the company’s transition into a pure play streaming service. (The pivot of SoundCloud and Beatport into streaming companies and the dramatic shift in their business models is discussed in 5 Magazine’s April 2015 issue, out now.) This deal simultaneously creates a previously non-existent revenue stream for major labels, as well as a great deal more inventory for SoundCloud itself to sell to advertisers.

ZEFR has provided a similar service on YouTube, enabling content owners to locate and either take down or surround clips containing their material with advertising.

What does this mean for you? After you upload a remix of or a mixtape containing a D’Angelo song, say, ZEFR will scan the track. A positive result means ads may be placed (via SoundCloud’s “On SoundCloud” program) on your upload without your consent, enabling the copyright owner to claim a share of the revenue from it.

Theoretically, it may also mean fewer of the random “take downs” that artists on SoundCloud frequently suffer (including ones uploading their own content with no uncleared samples), albeit at the expense of having ads for British Petroleum or granola inserted into your track.

SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung claims the deal enables SoundCloud to continue becoming “a mature platform for labels and advertisers.” Note there’s no mention of “creators” in this statement. With their new streaming model, labels and advertisers are SoundCloud’s business partners.


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