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SoundCloud Revenue Rose 19% in 2021 Thanks to Subscriber Growth, Creator Tools Adoption

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SoundCloud Holdings GmbH and its subsidiaries reported revenue in 2021 of 230.7 million euros ($273 million at the average exchange rate in 2021 of 1.18308), up 19% from the prior year, according to audited financial statements published by the privately held company in Germany on Tuesday (Dec. 13). 

SoundCloud, which originally gained popularity for its embeddable streaming widget, has a unique business model that mixes tools for music creators and listening for fans. Fan revenue — from advertising and subscriptions — improved 16.6% to 143.3 million euros ($170 million), or 62.2% of total revenue, down from 63.5% in 2020. Revenue from subscribers grew 20% year over year and exceeded internal expectations, according to the financial statements. Advertising revenue was in line with expectations, with 12% year-over-year growth. 

Revenues from creator tools grew 23.7% to 87.3 million euros ($103 million) and increased to 37.8% of total revenue, up from 36.5% in 2020. The company attributed the improvement to the number of artists that chose to self-release music through the platform to take advantage of organic growth at major DSPs such as Spotify, as well as improving monetization of platforms such as Meta, TikTok and Twitch. 


Founded in 2007, SoundCloud originally gained popularity through its ubiquitous, embeddable music player. It eventually launched a subscription streaming service, SoundCloud Go, in 2016, but did not rank in the top eight music subscriptions in the second quarter of 2022, according to figures released on Dec. 7 by MIDiA Research. Deezer was the eighth-largest subscription service with 9.5 million subscribers and a 1.5% global share. Spotify had the largest share with 30.5%, equal to 187.8 million subscribers. SoundCloud’s financial statements did not reveal the number of subscribers to its streaming service. 

Unlike its peers, though, SoundCloud has always been a unique destination for artists to connect with listeners. The platform offers SoundCloud Next Pro, a service that allows artists to upload tracks to the platform and distribute them to other streaming services as well as pitch music to SiriusXM, which owns a minority stake in SoundCloud following a $75 million investment in 2020.  A 2019 acquisition of Repost Network, an artist rights management and distribution platform, provides SoundCloud with a subscription product that offers creative services such as promotion and marketing.

In January 2022, SoundCloud added a third business segment, called roster, to connect fans and artists. Roster provides support services for emerging and developing artists. Its launch coincided with the announcement of a joint venture with artist management firm Solid Foundation Management to “identify, invest in, and foster the careers of artists featured.”

Gross profit margin — defined as gross profit as a percent of revenue — improved 12% to 35.4% on the strength of growth in subscriptions. Content costs — mainly royalties paid to record labels, publishers and independent artists — totaled 120.8 million euros ($143 million), up 14.1% from 105.9 million euros ($125 million) in 2020. As a percent of fan revenue, content costs declined to 84.2% from 86.1% in the prior year. 

Despite the improved gross margin, operating loss deepened to 21.1 million euros (-$25 million) from 15.4 million euros (-$18 million) in 2020. SoundCloud increased its marketing spending 69.7% and made “significant investments” in headcount to help “propel the company into its next phase of growth.” Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created uncertainties and disrupted supply chains, it has had a limited impact on SoundCloud’s financials, as direct business with partners in Russia accounted for only 0.5% of its annual revenues. 

Since the end of the period covered by these financial statements, SoundCloud announced in August its plans to lay off 20% of its workforce due to “a significant company transformation and the challenging and economic and financial environment,” a spokesperson told Billboard at the time. The company had an average of 451 employees in 2021, up from 392 in 2020, with growth spread across its technology, business and operations segments. 

SoundCloud expects slower growth in 2022 due to inflation and other macroeconomic trends that could stifle consumer spending levels. It expects gross profit “to grow slightly” with a similar or higher gross margin as in 2021. Free cash flow from operations is expected to be “slightly negative” in 2022. 

It also believes it has opportunities to find acquisition targets. In April, it acquired Musiio, an artificial intelligence and machine learning company, for approximately $7 million cash and an undisclosed amount of equity, according to the financial release. SoundCloud believes Musiio allows it to “further leverage its vast data to identify what’s next in music trends and talent” and create playlisting tools for the music industry. 

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