SoundCloud Concept: Promoting Interactions Between Artists and Listeners
When music goes live on SoundCloud
Like many other young adults, I use various audio platforms to explore different types of music and artists that I’m interested in. However, majority of platforms in the market only provide a one-way interaction, in which the users could only passively listen to and discover new music or artists upon friend’s likes as well as the app’s algorithmic recommendations.
SoundCloud is an independent musician community that allows up & coming artists to have an opportunity to share their music and to be discovered by the listeners. However, many users do not have potential ways to engage with the artists within the app, thus being unable to understand and get to know those small and independent artists on the platform.
How might user better interact and engage with the artists? How might the artists gain more exposure across listeners’ group? How might SoundCloud enable artists to spread out their music and their work? It seems that there is currently a barrier existing, which prevents such musical communication from happening.
SoundCloud Doesn’t Do Its Job
Going into this, my original hypothesis was: If SoundCloud provided a better way for listeners to actively explore and engage with the artists, users would be more likely to discover independent and new artists. Therefore, I set out to discover the key pain points in SoundCloud’s music and artist discovery process.
Understanding Why Listeners Don’t Discover New Artists
There are two main user groups on SoundCloud: the artists and the listeners. My goal was to investigate how listeners discover and interact with independent artists and how artists distribute their music and promote themselves. I wanted to learn about the difficulties that both sides encounter during the process. Interviewing 10 users from either of the user groups, I found insights:
- Users wish to discover artists and new music and are not satisfy with the current discovery feature is not enough.
“I often check out the music and artist recommendations on the Home tab, but music and artists that SoundCloud recommended are always catered to a specific and similar type. It’s hard for me to explore something new.”
- Users wish to have more opportunities to engage with and interact with the artist.
“I would like if SoundCloud had features that allow me to discover and understand more about those new artists and their work. ”
- Artists wish to have a channel to promote both their music and their musical related events within the app.
“Whenever I released a new song or had upcoming concerts/musical events, I always promote them through posting on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, or using the word-to-word method by directly messaging my friends. I’m unable to publicize any of them and reach out to a potentially larger listening community within SoundCloud.
- Artists want to promote their musical-related events to their existing listening communities on SoundCloud, as such group may not overlap with the artists’ social media friend community.
There is no way for my fans or people who listen to my music on SoundCloud to know about the events that I’m hosting because I’m not friend with them on Facebook/Instagram.
People Want to Discover and Engage With Artists
At first, I thought that a pain point for users might be that they are not able to fully understand the new artists and their songs through SoundCloud. Instead, the problem is two-way: Listeners seek for a better understanding about the artists and the opportunity to interact, while the artists want to reach out to the existing/potential listening groups to promote their work.
People want to discover up & coming artists, but they can’t do that well because of the lack of exposure and opportunity to engage with them.
As a result, my hypothesis only accounted for one side of the problem. I learned that the fundamental issue was the lack of interaction, resulting in the barrier of musical communication between listeners and artists.
Figuring Out Which Feature to Implement
I invited my friends, Stella and Jessica, as my brainstorming partners. After exploring, we identified three opportunity areas and finally decided on an opportunity:
- SoundCloud Events: How might we better encourage listeners to explore and interact with independent artists? How might we allow artists to promote their musical events within SoundCloud?
Feature Feasibility Matrix
Encourage Listeners to Explore and Interact with Artists
The problem with artist/music discovery was that listeners need better interactions and more active engagements with the artists, instead of passively listening to songs from the artists that they do not know.
I spent my first iteration gauging whether the event feature is able to promote interactions and engagements. To test this approach, I designed the low-fidelity/paper prototype to see if the design served the needs.
The two entry points for this prototype are: 1) “Event” section from Home Screen; 2) a “Event” tab within the navigation bar at bottom.
What I found was that users generally were more inclined to discover events and were fond of the feature. However, they would not click on the “Event” tab intuitively because SoundCloud is mainly known as a music app and user’s mental model is to use the app to build playlist and listen to songs. However, they would look at the “Home” tab frequently and discover new information from the page. Meanwhile, adding elements to navigation bar would be a quite big choice, and would potentially in conflict with the company’s major business goal. As a result, I decided keep only one entry point, which is the “Event” section in Home Page.
Market Research — How Other Products Promote Events
Event feature across several apps carry similar content and actions.
The flow and interactions were quite similar across different platforms, in which the home page gives users recommendations of events, whereas the event page presents a complete list and users could filter or search specific events. When displaying events, they prioritize the Name, Date, Location, and Friends who are also interested in/going.
Determining UI Elements for Events
Taking my analysis from market research, I determined which elements were needed in order to promote events, as well as the overall flow for event exploration.
After brainstorming numerous content requirements for the event feature, I determined important elements such as the name, metrics, location, time. I then began to map out the information hierarchy, which would show how the event feature will be integrated into the SoundCloud’s current structure. I wanted to make sure that the event feature was well-seen, but also emphasize that it located separately from the app’s other functions.
Overall Flow For Event Explorations
I decided the overall flow for the event exploration feature entering from home page. The flow can be described as following: “Event” Section From Home Page -> Enter “Event” Page (containing the entire list of events) -> Detailed Page For a Specific Event -> Like/Going/Repost the Event.
After determining the flow, I then explored different metrics and various design choices that are important to the event exploration feature.
The goal was to maximizing engagement for events and to grab user’s attention from the entry point. Therefore, I explored various ways to display elements and organize the contents that may draw user’s interest.
Choice A is consistent with SoundCloud’s current design feature, which is simply a section called “The Events” that does not contain any detailed information about a specific event. However, this might be difficult to grab user’s attention and prompt them to click the section to further engage and explore the events. Therefore, I decided to make the section consisted of multiple event cards with specific information (B-G).
According to the information architecture presented earlier, I would choose to display the contents that users are most likely interested in about an event and structure the elements in a way that’s most consistent with SoundCloud’s current design. Therefore, I decided to pursue G, which include all important information regarding an event and contains artist’s and event’s name on its cover photo (consistent with SoundCloud’s design characteristic).
One takeaway from the user testing for my mid-fidelity prototype is that users would like to have some kinds of filtering feature when they look at the event list, such that they would be able to quickly find the events that fits their availability and interest.
I decided to pursue A because search function presented in C seems to be redundant to the search page in the navigation tab. Meanwhile, separating the filter and sort in Choice B would be a little in conflict with SoundCloud’s design principle (separating sort and filter into two columns), which is to present minimal elements on the screen. Simply displaying a filter icon is intuitive enough for users to discover and utilize such function.
Top Track from Artists
A fundamental goal for this event feature is to promote the exposure and understanding of the artists. Therefore, by adding the “Top Track From Artists” section, users would be able to gain more understanding about the artists’ music style and the most popular songs they produced.
The main difference between the two design choices is to display information about artist’s music using different metrics. I decided to use choice A because it is consistent with SoundCloud’s playlist feature and would enable users to acquire more information about the songs, such as the play amounts, durations, etc.
How might we use visual elements to differentiate events and signify correct actions?
I explored different ways to visually represent the UI elements in the event page.
Choice A — Similar to the current SoundCloud playlist layout. However, there needs to be distinction between a song’s playlist and the event list in order to avoid potential confusions.
Choice B — Emphasizes the date and time of the event, instead of using a cover photo.
Choice C — Emphasizes the artist, date & time, and the location of the event. The event name is not displayed.
Choice D — Similar to the Home Page, display an entire list of event through event cards (design choice of event cards was justified in the previous section).
Choice E — Similar to choice D, but categorize the events into three main sections: Popular Events, Happening Nearby, and Highlights For You.
I decide to pursuit Choice E, despite that it disturbs the vertical scroll interaction that SoundCloud normally uses to display lists. Such “broken” convention may potentially give more attention to the horizontal scroll of the content. The tradeoff of separating the event list into three categories is that users are unable to see the entire list of events all at once. However, such separation does bring conveniences by helping users sort the events and find the one that fits their interest in an efficient manner.
Final Interaction for Events Exploration
The final interaction encourages listeners to actively explore events posted independent artists. Users can easily access to the event page and discover potential events to attend by accessing the friend’s list, filtering & sorting function, as well as the event cards, thus obtain opportunities to understand more and engage with the artists.
Allow Artists to Promote Their Musical Events
It’s frustrating for artists to always have to use other social platforms to promote when they have new music released or events coming up, as they are unable to access their direct listeners and reach out to more potential listeners.
Overall Flow For Event Library and Creating Events
I decided the overall flow for the event library and creation feature entering from home page. The flow can be described as following: “Events” Section From Library Page -> Enter “Event” Page (access the events that user liked / going; past events that user attended; events that user hosted) -> Create New Events -> Edit/Delete Events.
After determining the flow, I then explored different metrics and various design choices that are important to the event creation feature.
Users will be able to have an access to the events that are related to them, such as the events they liked/going, past events, and the events that they created (designed for artists). The first screen on the left is another entry point to access the event page. When the event library is empty, users would be encouraged to go to the event page and explore events.
The two screens on the right would be the two design explorations on how to display the events in library. Since the users saved/attended those events, they knew the information already. The main purpose of this list is to remind them those marked events. Therefore, I chose to design the event library by using a listing format, instead of event cards used previously in the event page and home page. Meanwhile, it is also important to differentiate between songs and events. Choice A follows SoundCloud’s existing design of the song list, and might be difficult for users to identify the events and capture information. Therefore, my final decision was to go with Choice B, which emphasizes the date of the event.
Final Interaction for Event Library and Creation
Click HERE to access video link
The design of such musical event feature would mutually benefit two main groups of users on SoundCloud. Listeners can explore artists in a more active manner and are able to interact and further engage with the artists. Regarding the artists, they would be able to promote their events within the app, and thus reach out to a larger potential listening community. Therefore, the design would let all major user groups to stay longer within the app and broaden the spectrum of interactions and understandings between both sides.
What I Learned and Looking Forward
From this case study, I learned that it is important to promote various ways of communication for both listeners and artists on the audio platform. Majority of the music apps, including SoundCloud, currently do not have an event feature that enables the artists to directly publish their musical related events within the app. This would potentially shorten the time for users to stay within the app and impede artists from directly interact with their existing listening group and reach out to more listeners.
In terms of design process and thinking, it was quite a valuable learning experience. I was able to iterating my design and improve the product according to the valuable feedback that I have gained from continuous user testing. It should be noted that under the time constraint, I did not implement certain side features such as event editing from creator’s side as well as event searching and notifications. In the future, I would further iterate my design and focus on the exploring and completing those side features.
This is a case study for a project in Intro to Digital Product Design. I am in no way affiliated with SoundCloud.
Many thanks to the entire instructor team :D