R.I.P. Soundflake

Why SoundCloud killed our free Music-App

Patrick Schneider
Jun 23, 2014 · 5 min read

It’s official, Soundflake for SoundCloud will never come back. Last Thursday we got word that, after months of back and forth, SoundCloud came to the conclusion that Soundflake is too close to their own official app and therefore won’t be allowed to be back on the AppStore.

Soundflake was a two people project trying to create a better listening experience for SoundCloud on the iPhone. The people behind it are Stefan Kofler (Development) and me, Patrick Schneider (Design) with support from my colleagues at 9elements.


Here is what the press said about Soundflake:

“Soundflake is a brilliant SoundCloud client for your iPhone” — TNW

“Soundflake for iPhone is a delightful app for experiencing SoundCloud on the go” — BeautifulPixels

“After trying Soundflake for about a month, I don’t see why (…) I would go back to using SoundCloud’s app for iPhone” — MacStories

“Soundflake got me using a service I thought I had no need for. Is there a higher praise for an app?” — GuidingTech

The main reason why we had to remove Soundflake from the AppStore two months ago was the fact that it was a paid app. SoundClouds Terms of Service (TOS) state that you have to serve their content free of charge. We also enabled users to save songs for offline listening, also not allowed, but since there is a plethora of SoundCloud Downloader Apps on the AppStore we were hoping to get away with it too.

However, SoundCloud asked us to temporarily remove Soundflake shortly after our launch, while they would figure out how we might be allowed to return— we obliged.

Our solution: In App Purchases (IAP)! We put in a night shift to adapt our App as soon as possible, we planned to make Soundflake free, thus complying with SoundClouds TOS. Features unique to our App (the queue, resume playback etc.), that have absolutely nothing to do with SoundClouds API would have been the IAP part.

SoundCloud told us that they would think about it, we were pretty confident since there were other Apps on the store with that exact business model, free to download but with purchasable features. I’m still puzzled that those Apps could stay on the AppStore while ours couldn’t.

We’ve never got a green light for that version of Soundflake, so after a few too many weeks of no progress we told them that we’d just make the whole thing free. We gave up on the idea of making any money for all the after-hours that we put into Soundflake, but we we’re hoping that we would at least be back on the AppStore, rather than being stuck in a feedback loop forever.

This brings us to last Thursday. We got word from SoundCloud that they were finally ready to share some news with us regarding their improved TOS.

Manolo (VP, Platform), our contact at SoundCloud finally told us that there was no place for Soundflake, given their API’s TOS. He seemed bummed as well and mentioned that they never took this much time for any prelaunch 3rd party app before. He liked Soundflake very much so I’d like to think that he tried a lot to make it work, but sadly it just didn’t.

The way SoundCloud plans to deal with 3rd party apps has a strong resemblance to what twitter did, but worse.

They could have come up with harsh restrictions, they could have copied our features, they could have made it a pain in the ass to develop something thats beneficial to their users — but they chose to just kill us off entirely.

Most of all, one would think that a company with $ 120 Million in funding and strong developer ties could come up with a better solution than shutting us down. Us, two guys building an App that many people preferred over their official one. Two guys willing to give that App away for free.

Oh and about that copying thing, they got that covered anyway, just in case:

You hereby acknowledge that SoundCloud may currently or in future develop apps and services that may be similar to or competitive with your app. — SoundCloud TOS

I really hope that they will release an update to their current app soon, and that it will be a hundred times better than Soundflake.

Stefan and I built something more desirable in our spare time in just a few months, so please SoundCloud, don’t make an ass of yourself by not delivering something truly amazing after making us give up Soundflake.

(…)we reserve the right to revoke API access for any app that we determine is not providing added benefit to SoundCloud® users and/or is not in the best interests of SoundCloud or our users. — SoundCloud TOS

I’m starting to wonder how SoundCloud defines “best interest”? We wanted their service to be simple, beautiful and easy to use, we did everything to be in compliance with their TOS and we were willing to give it away for free— if that isn’t in the “best interest” for SoundCloud and their users, then I don’t know just what the fuck “best interest” means.

We are incredibly sad and disappointed, we dedicated a bunch of our spare time to an App that we thought was dearly missing on the AppStore. We thought we built something cool, something that people would enjoy using. It’s really hard to see all that go to waste, we still get emails and tweets every day from people asking where Soundflake went and how they could get it.

We’ve kept telling them we’d be back “soon”, but starting today we’ll have to link them to this very article.

While Soundflake for SoundCloud will never be, there might be a few other directions where we’ll take what’s left of Soundflake. If you’d like to stay in the loop make sure to follow Soundflake on twitter.

If you made it this far into the article - thank you, seriously. After all this is just me whining about getting screwed over by a “startup”, who’s trying to make money in favor of supporting their developer ecosystem.

You know, like that never happened before.

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You can’t blame SoundCloud for trying to make money, but yeah…

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