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SoundCloud aims to pay 'hundreds of thousands' of artists

SoundCloud's CEO says its invite-only Premier program, which gives artists a share of revenue, will include hundreds of thousands of artists in two years.

Kerry Trainor, CEO of SoundCloud, talks to Lil Uzi Vert
Kerry Trainor, CEO of SoundCloud, has refocused the service on DIY musicians and those who break through the platform, like Lil Uzi Vert.

SoundCloud expects to have hundreds of thousands of artists in payment program SoundCloud Premier in the next couple years, CEO Kerry Trainor said in an interview Tuesday.  

The invite-only program launched in 2014 to begin paying back artists a share of revenue for ads that run alongside their audio. At launch, the company said its goal ultimately was to let any creator who wants to participate to join. Since then, Trainor said, SoundCloud has switched its strategy to value the gated approach. 

"The power of open platforms is a double edged sword," he said on the sidelines of the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California. "We're very passionate about the democratizing power...but the other side of it is you have to vigilant about people abusing that system."

"When you add monetization, it's gas on the fire for bad actors," he said. 

The ability of artists to make money on SoundCloud, sometimes referred to as the YouTube of audio, is crucial to the company's future. SoundCloud has been the breeding ground for a new model of musician, one whose career more resembles a start-up entrepreneur rather than a performer aiming to get signed by a label. SoundCloud doesn't disclose how many creators participate in the program currently, but Trainor said its alumni have booked 10 Grammy nods and three Grammy wins.

SoundCloud faced the prospect of shuttering last year, before Trainor joined in August as part of a reshuffling that also infused the struggling music service with funding. Trainor has adjusted the company's strategy to focus on creating tools for the artists who upload to the service, rather than the previous direction that launched SoundCloud into the business of a Spotify-like streaming service. 

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