Will SoundCloud Go Be Your New Music Subscription Service?
As of today SoundCloud is changing in the UK. The company have long kept the service completely free, but have decided to introduce a freemium model. So if you don’t want to be interrupted by adverts throughout your listening, you’ll need to sign up for SoundCloud Go for £9.99 per month. Users will have access to officially licensed tracks as well as the catalogue of 125 million covers, remixes, dj sets and podcasts. We recently posed the question; is there enough room in the music industry for YouTube Red? We aren’t sure there is. Will SoundCloud be able to differentiate itself in an already highly competitive market?
SoundCloud Go claims to do everything Spotify does, but gives users an entirely different experience and it definitely has some credentials that set it apart. Firstly, it has a social element that competitors envy. The platform allows for collaboration, there’s a strong comments system and interaction between artists and fans is facilitated. Founder Alex Ljung describes SoundCloud as the Snapchat of the music industry, as opposed to being a spreadsheet.
All the Djing activity, remixing and mash-uping, cover music and podcasts can live on the platform next to premium content. Users can have access to artists’ works in progress. Artists including Kanye West often drop tracks, snippets and reworks onto his SoundCloud channel which can’t be found anywhere else. From the artist’s’ perspective they can have track by track control over who can access what, something which Spotify have refused to do up to this point, and what led to Taylor Swift removing all her music from the platform. So artists can put some sounds behind the Go paywall and make others available to everyone. They can put something out for free and move it behind the paywall two days later – they’ll have complete control.
At last users will be able to store tracks on their phones for offline use, which was the top requested feature. However, critics were quick to slate the fact that songs aren’t organised into albums so you have to make a playlist if you want to listen to a full album. In fact it’s more like listening to Youtube in that you can’t meticulously organise your music collection, and if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for it will likely be difficult to find. Also, too many big artists are missing. While there are 125 million tracks, according to The Verge around 110 million of these are remixes and other user-uploaded tracks that were already there, leaving SoundCloud Go with 15 million tracks, i.e. about half of what Apple Music, Tidal or Spotify offer. A search for Lady Gaga will result in a 30 second snippet of a song form 5 years ago for example.
SoundCloud is the third most popular app on iOS and with 170 million people using the platform every month they have the customer base for sure. But as a company it shunned the corporate image and stayed outside of the big-label bubble, so it is questionable whether the subscription service will just put distance between SoundCloud and its artists, contributors and consumers. It’s a big move for a company that built its core business by allowing artists to upload and share music with fans, but only time will tell.