SoundCloud users can license their audio through Getty

UPDATED: Although it’s probably best-known as a music platform, SoundCloud has a fast-growing business in other kinds of audio too, from weird field recordings to the spoken word. There are all kinds of sounds in there.

And now that repository is about to pay off for some of SoundCloud’s 20 million users. SoundCloud has just signed a deal with Getty Images that will make it possible for those users to license their sounds to anyone who’s willing to pay – most likely advertisers and other creatives. (Hear more about the future of SoundCloud from CEO Alex Ljung at our RoadMap conference on November 5th in San Francisco).

“SoundCloud’s partnership with Getty Images Music creates a powerful offering to our community of professional and casual creators,” Ljung said in a statement. “Now through Getty Images Music, songwriters and audio creators can broaden their exposure and potentially monetize sounds they’ve shared on SoundCloud.”

The system will be quite straightforward: each user will be able to install a ‘license’ button from Getty Images Music on their SoundCloud players, for tracks that they want to monetize. Those who want to license the track just click the button and send a request.

Beyond that, depending on how much contact information the SoundCloud user has provided, and whether or not they’ve already sent a tax form to Getty, it will take between a few days and a few weeks for the track to become available.

Getty’s rate card details how usage in web or mobile advertising will cost $350, inclusion in corporate marketing will cost $1500, and so on. The creator gets “35 percent of the upfront licensee fee plus 50 percent of Getty Images’ share, as publisher, of any backend performance royalties”.

And what if the user’s sounds get used in something that’s broadcast? Depending on what type of licensing that’s been chosen by the user, Getty registers the track with performing rights organizations and administers the royalties – 100 percent of the ‘writer’s share’ goes to the creator, along with 50 percent of the ‘publishing share’.

Funnily enough, I’d noted before that Getty was sniffing around the Berlin scene, but I’d assumed that the fruits of that interest would be seen first in a collaboration with an image-centric service, probably EyeEm.

SoundCloud is the pioneer and leader in what it does, i.e. being a YouTube for audio. It’s wildly popular, but its monetization strategies appear limited. Audio-player deals and those pro-account subscriptions can only take the firm so far.

Unfortunately, this is still not a new monetization strategy. SoundCloud doesn’t take a cut, nor does it require users to be paid-up members in order to take advantage of the licensing service.

That means it remains possible that SoundCloud will adopt audio advertising, which is something I feel would drive away many users – particularly as SoundCloud does not tend to offer the same kind of continuous listening experience found in the likes of Spotify.

UPDATE: I originally got the wrong end of the stick regarding SoundCloud taking a cut of the licensing fees. To misquote Obi-Wan, this was not the monetization strategy I was looking for.