Coryne Thompkins

Stephen Cirino

Digital Distribution


The History & Future of SoundCloud

Launching in 2008, SoundCloud is an audio distribution platform based in Berlin that allows its users to upload, record, promote, and share their music on other forms of social media. Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss are the founders of this online streaming service and aspired to allow musicians to share recordings with each other, but eventually the concept later shifted into a full publishing tool that also allowed musicians to distribute as well. SoundCloud began to challenge Myspace because the site also allowed artists to distribute their music and interact with fans. SoundCloud began to take off in 2010 after announcing it had one million users, and only a year later it hit 5 million registered users (Wiki, 16). This then doubled in 2012 at 10 million users, and keeps growing and growing today. To accommodate the rapid increase of mobile devices at the time, Soundcloud provided new features such as redesigned profiles, more sharing options, notifications, and continuous play. In 2013, Twitter announced SoundCloud as a third party music partner, alongside iTunes.

The homepage labeled Stream allows users to see what their favorite artists or friends are posting, and reposting. The site give its users suggested tracks to listen to according to what is often played by the user, and even creates stations for a radio-like mix. Another unique feature is SoundCloud’s Charts system, giving users all of the top songs from each genre on the streaming service. The most interesting part of the platform for artists that post their own music are the Stats features. This allows an artist to track how many times their music is play, liked, and reposted, all while letting the user peer in to how it is being played, whether it be through mobile device, laptops, or found through other sources of social media that the song may have been posted on. These features have recently updated with graphs, charts, and a new sleek design.

SoundCloud is free, but comes with either monthly or yearly costs if you want to listen ad-free, offline, and maximize upload limit. The separate these with titles, SoundCloud Go, and SoundCloud Pro. SoundCloud Go is the same SoundCloud just taken to the next level. With an expanded catalog of tracks that are new to the platform, new features and new functionality. With this $9.99 a month payment you get even more tracks from emerging and established creators including the hits, which without paying you could only get 30 second snippets of songs depending on how that user released the track. Users also receive the ability to listen offline on mobile devices without needing internet connection, and can listen ad-free.

SoundCloud Pro gets a little more in depth because it splits into two tiers, the other being SoundCloud Pro Unlimited, one costing $7.00 and the Unlimited plan costing $15.00 monthly (SoundCloud Blog, 16). With this users are paying for added analytics which become even more precise allowing users to see which other users stream that artists music the most as well as view plays by country, so it is easier to tell which countries the music is popular in. In addition to the features of SoundCloud Pro, the Unlimited plan allows paying users to view popularity by city and which applications users are using to play your music.This enables the user to optimize marketing efforts. The main reason people upgrade is to maximize upload quota. The free SoundCloud service allows artists to upload up to 3 hours of content. With the Pro service, users can upload up to 6 hours of content, and with the Unlimited service, users get unlimited time. Customization is another piece added to a paying users list of choices to make when uploading music. With Pro users can choose to turn off comments with quiet mode, because sometimes negative comments are received. This also allows the upload of source files without erasing statistics. Say there is a newer edited version, users can now replace the file without changing a thing. In addition to all of these benefits Pro lets artists reach a wider audience because of its more diverse content ecosystem. New unestablished artists can be queued right next to big name musicians with this, boosting visibility and encouraging the gain of new fans (Johnny, 16).

SoundCloud doesn’t pay its rights holders yet. The company is working on a new feature for artists called SoundCloud Premier so that artists can benefit from the revenue sharing program. As of now there is only a waitlist that users can join before it launches.

Compare and Contrast






SoundCloud Go — $7.00 / per month

SoundCloud Pro — $15.00 / per month


Bandcamp Pro — $10.00/ per month


Premium Plan -$9.99 /per month


($1.99 or $2.99/mo to remove ads or have HQ streaming)

Free — 3 hours of upload time

SoundCloud Go — 6 hours of upload time

SoundCloud Pro — Unlimited

Free -

Bandcamp Pro — Queue up album worth of material to post


Spotify Premium — unlimited upload, option to hold music from non-paying users


Free — no stats/ little Stat info

SoundCloud Go — Some Stats

SoundCloud Pro — Full Stats

(country, city, device, users)

Free — Some Stats

Bandcamp Pro — Sale source, full Stats

(country, city, device, user)

Spotify Premium — Listeners, streams, followers

(have to use other sites like chart metric)

Plays, likes, reposts

Users: 175,000,000

Users: 100,000,000

Users: 75,000,000

Users: 200k monthly streams

SoundCloud comes with a cost, unlike Audiomack, but they have the most amount of users which means more people to listen and more opportunities to get plays, likes, and reposts. SoundCloud has become a universal must have for independent artists. Today if someone asks if an artist has music out, the first place people usually send the curious, is SoundCloud. The paid for features also are accurate and worth it when it comes to marketing and decision making. The platform only grows, and updates for the better. Another reason why SoundCloud is multi-user friendly service is because email doesn’t let you send HQ tracks. SoundCloud lets you upload private tracks and share them with friends, labels and DJs, which is important because people want links, not files. The uploading process is straightforward, and gives the artist control over the metadata as well.

Focus Group Questions

Q: Which is your preferred way of listening to music, place/activity?

Focus Group Participant 1) Pandora — Doing homework, Parks, scenic places

Focus Group Participant 2) Spotify — Walking, Gym

Focus Group Participant 3) Tidal — Car or dark room.

Focus Group Participant 4) SoundCloud — Walking

Focus Group Participant 5) Apple Music — Early Morning and before Bed

Q: Which streaming service do you post to, if you post music at all?

Focus Group Participant 1) N/A

Focus Group Participant 2) N/A

Focus Group Participant 3) SoundCloud, all major platforms

Focus Group Participant 4) Bandcamp

Focus Group Participant 5) SoundCloud

Q: Which Platforms are you paying for?

Focus Group Participant 1) N/A

Focus Group Participant 2) Apple Music

Focus Group Participant 3) SoundCloud Pro, Tidal

Focus Group Participant 4) Apple Music, Tidal

Focus Group Participant 5) SoundCloud Pro, Spotify Premium

Q: How do you get exposed to new music?

Focus Group Participant 1) Friends/Family, Shuffling Pandora, Random Youtube playing

Focus Group Participant 2) Trending lists, Suggested tracks lists,

Focus Group Participant 3) Tidal, SoundCloud, XXL

Focus Group Participant 4) Shazam

Focus Group Participant 5) Spotify, Friends

Q: What is your preferred social media

Focus Group Participant 1) Snapchat, IG, Facebook

Focus Group Participant 2) Snapchat, Twitter

Focus Group Participant 3) Instagram, Snapchat

Focus Group Participant 4) Twitter

Focus Group Participant 5) Twitter, Tinder

The students that participated in my focus group questionnaire showed me that only 20% use SoundCloud in some way, and it was the students that create music and have artist accounts. The people that didn’t mention SoundCloud are basic music consumers. I also gathered that Twitter and Snapchat are very popular being mentioned in 5 times between all 5 people, and that is where I post the most about my own music. More eyes, more links, more clicks.

In conclusion, SoundCloud is one of the top streaming services that independent artists can upload to and is favored by many when doing so. My research has shown SoundCloud’s superiority over the other DSP’s, and the rates that unlock the added features, are rates people are willing to pay for. Regardless of the shutdown scares, SoundCloud manages to stay afloat bring new ideas to the table on how to improve, and bring in paying users. The founder Alex Ljung spoke on the future of SoundCloud stating he has been moved by the outpouring of commentary around SoundCloud’s crucial role in the music industry today. Without SoundCloud, there would be a hole in today’s world of music. Since this shut down scare happened SoundCloud has opened a new partnership. 10 years ago SoundCloud was just an idea. Today it’s a platform essential to the shaping of songs, artists, genres and global culture (Alex Ljung 17). SoundCloud, just like music and the music industry, will continue to evolve.

Works Cited

Audiomack. “New to Audiomack? Here’s what you need to know. — Audiomack.” Audiomack, Audiomack, 14 July 2017,


Johnny. “What You Need to Know about SoundCloud Pro | SoundCloud Reviews.” Buy SoundCloud Plays Reviews, 4 Apr. 2017,

“SoundCloud » Exciting news and the future of SoundCloud.” SoundCloud,

SoundCloud Blog. “Feature.” SoundCloud,

Wiki. “SoundCloud.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Oct. 2017,