SoundCloud has transformed itself from a simple depository of audio into the largest single audio platform in the world—and the home of a thriving audiophile community. It is the preferred place of DJs, musicians, and other creators, who upload 12 hours of content every minute, find gigs and collaborators, and reach 175 million unique listeners per month. And last summer, SoundCloud gave all those creators a good reason to continue making it the largest single audio platform in the world: Taking a cue from YouTube, the streaming service began offering its creators a way to share in the revenue from ads that play before audio clips. “That, for me, completes the circle,” says cofounder Eric Wahlforss. “If an artist is really big on SoundCloud, they should be able to make a living off that.”
That spirit of partnership is extending to the top of the music food chain as well. The company inked a deal with Warner Music Group in November, and this year is rolling out a paid subscription service that could include ad-free music, subscriber-exclusive audio, and offline listening. That builds upon the platform’s increasing reach: In June, it released an immersive iPhone app that’s designed for listeners to discover new audio—one of SoundCloud’s greatest assets—with options to also explore trending audio and genres. And in October, it worked with Twitter so that SoundCloud players can be embedded to and played directly from the timeline. All of this sets SoundCloud up for a central role in audio creation—the place where anyone, no matter how big or small, can be easily heard.
The first “SoundCloud singles” nominated for Grammys.
A recording of the first-ever comet landing.
The viral Comcast customer service call from hell.
Zhu began 2014 as an anonymous producer. His work was discovered last year, and he is now signed to Columbia Records. “Faded” has been played 14 million times on SoundCloud.
The most streamed and downloaded podcast, ever.”
[Illustration: Joshua Davis]