by Ben and Eric
SoundCloud is an online audio sharing platform where users can upload, collaborate, promote, and distribute their audio.
What can it do?
SoundCloud makes sharing sound files super easy. Once you register for an account, you hit the upload button, where you are free to either 1. record a sound right then and there using your device’s microphone or 2. upload any sound file from your computer. By any, we mean AIFF, WAVE, FLAC, OGG, MP2, MP3, AAC, AMR and WMA. So yeah, pretty much any.
When you’re done uploading your track, you’ll get something like this.
This is the Waveform Player. This represents the basis of the SoundCloud platform.
This is how your sounds looks like on SoundCloud. The player provides a graphical representation of your sound’s waveform. What’s really cool however, is the commenting system. Other users can comment at any point in the duration of your sound. Imagine you have a song with a really atmospheric intro, or you have a track with an epic buildup that suddenly lets loose at the drop. Any of these points can be specifically commented on, to connect the comment with the experience. We always find commenting on the best time positions in the track fun.
The player has a share button, that gives you the unique URL for your track on SoundCloud.com or an embed code, to effortlessly share your tracks wherever you want throughout the web, be it personal music website or Facebook. Optionally, your player can have also have a download button if you’re feeling generous, but even a buy button if you’ve got your sounds hosted at an online marketplace, making SoundCloud a great way to promote your music.
The Social Network
Sure, you can upload tracks to SoundCloud. But SoundCloud is a social network, not a file uploader. So let’s get social.
First off, you’ve got your standard profile. The profile showcases all your different tracks. People can also send you private messages and private tracks through your profile using a DropBox like feature.
Next are people and groups. You can follow other users and have other users following you, pretty similar to the Twitter experience. One more thing similar to Twitter, famous people. Rather, famous musicians. DJs such as Diplo and bands such as The Foo Fighters. New tracks from users you follow will show up on your main dashboard, again similar to a musical Twitter feed.
Groups help users connect over shared music tastes or interests. There are groups for different music genres like house, techno, and dubstep, and even for different music professions, such as producers and DJs. Users can post their tracks to group pages for feedback and collaboration. While groups can be great place for discussion, there are a few downsides to the system. For one, the aforementioned genres? They dominate the types of groups out there. Electronic music tends to be over represented in the groups. Also, with thousands and thousands of groups out there, many with very similar titles and purposes, it’s hard to distinguish which groups to join. With little differentiation, and thousands out there, it’s hard to go about truly exploring groups, especially since a random set of them loads every time you try the “Explore Groups” link. The group discussion boards tend to have a lot of “check out my new track” or “let me know what you think” type comments. It’s usually well-meaning musicians, but you can feel overwhelmed by people asking for feedback. Of course, there are also the self promoting spam comments which can bog down popular tracks, similar to YouTube spam (even though YouTube is better utilizing filters).
Beating out the Competition. Does anyone do what SoundCloud does?
With Myspace, Spotify and a variety of other competitors out there in the market, there are certainly a lot of options out there for the average music consumer. Yet even with the plethora of alternatives available, SoundCloud manages to distinguish itself from the pack by predominantly focusing on user-authored content. In doing so, SoundCloud emphasizes not just an essential niche in the music landscape, but an ever-increasingly popular one as well.
Applications like Myspace and Spotify really emphasize sharing and streaming mainstream music and content. Also, while Myspace lets musicians upload their music, it doesn’t allow for the awesome embedding options that SoundCloud gives you. When logging on to Myspace using my Facebook login, you are immediately inundated with music from the major artists and bands that you have “liked” or shown interest in on Facebook. With Spotify, that option to link your Facebook login information is also available. Once that is done, you are given the option to download Spotify, as it runs on the operating systems level – not through the browser. After downloading and logging into the application, Spotify thrusts you into an interface where you can either upload your own playlists/songs or stream mainstream songs (similar to Pandora). So yes, both Myspace and Spotify offer the ability to share playlists and enhance the music listening experience –on a mainstream level. But all that being well and good, where Spotify and Myspace come up short to SoundCloud is in the ability for consumers to both upload their own user-authored content AND find user-authored content from other consumers. And honestly, the more content we have access to the better, right? Right.
A price plan for everyone
With the help of this specific concept of focusing mainly on user-authored content, SoundCloud has managed to lay out a very thorough and well-crafted business model for their premium content. SoundCloud has intelligently divided up its features into 5 premium tiers that users can purchase. Of course, the first tier is the most basic and it is free, which we feel is a productive way to attract beginner users. From there, users can choose to purchase even more upload time and more ways to customize their uploads. By clicking on each account level, SoundCloud gives a very thorough description of each premium subscription in terms of privacy, storage space and downloadable content to give you exactly the amount of power you need. Understandably, the more experienced a user gets, the more he or she would pay to satisfy his or her musical requirements and upload limits (soundcloud.com/premium/pro-plus). It’s one of the most comprehensive plans we’ve seen from these types of site – which we like. Most other applications, such as Spotify for example, only offer a couple subscription packages beyond the basics which obviously limits the users options. Even with a free account, (what we have) you still get to upload two hours worth of audio.
In addition to the great premium content set-up, SoundCloud also has an extensive “App Gallery” on their website, where users can access other third-party apps (such as Avid ProTools) to enhance and maximize their SoundCloud experience. Of course, users will still have to pay for access to many of these apps, but just the fact that all these options to enhance the uploading experience are confined to one page is a big plus.
SoundCloud on the go. The Mobile App
Increasing the social networking appeal even further, SoundCloud has a mobile app which allows you to continue your experience even on-the-go. The smart phone application allows for users to keep track of what users they are following and even gives the option to record sounds straight the phone. We don’t envision too many users utilizing the latter part of this feature considering the smart phone is not optimized to record sound, but it’s a nice option to have. Users can also do a basic search for songs/artists they might want to hear on SoundCloud which is especially helpful. Overall the app captures the basic SoundCloud features very well. So long as users aren’t set on recording high quality content on their mobile phones, this app serves it’s purpose and functions without any hiccups.
- Sharing and embedding audio online has never been this easy
- Really cool music player and commenting system
- Thriving community
- Variety of paid accounts to get exactly what you need
- The app does justice to the full site
- Difficult to explore groups
- Spam comments
There’s no better solution for sharing user-generated audio on the web, period. SoundCloud has a unique and useful product out there. If YouTube is for sharing your videos, and Flickr for sharing photos, SoundCloud can be seen as the standard for sharing your audio. We give SoundCloud: