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After a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2017, SoundCloud is on the mend with more features

Getting your mixtape out into the world just got easier–but is it enough to get SoundCloud back on its feet?

After a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2017, SoundCloud is on the mend with more features
SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor [Photo: courtesy of SoundCloud]

After a tumultuous 2017 that saw the ousting of top-level executives, two office closures, and 40% of its staff laid off, SoundCloud has been slowly pulling out of its high-velocity nose-dive. In that same year, the music platform got a drastically needed bailout of $170 million, a new CEO, and a clearer focus on differentiating itself among streaming audio behemoths by catering to creators.

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Cut to today, and that plan has led to a new feature on SoundCloud that will allow creators to distribute their music to all major services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music. It’s a clear move to circumvent services like TuneCore and give creators a more complete toolset.

“We have more audio creators on the platform than any other service. We really built the ecosystem around their needs,” says SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor. “So for us, [distribution] was just a very natural evolution of the services that we offer creators. We’re excited to be saving them time and money jumping between different tools.”

SoundCloud’s new feature is rolled into SoundCloud Premier–the company’s monetization program for its Pro and Pro Unlimited paid subscribers–with no additional cut taken.

The service’s distribution play comes at an interesting time as Spotify announced back in September that it was beta-testing direct upload for artists. It doesn’t necessarily mean immediate competition for SoundCloud, because most artists would probably want a centralized platform like SoundCloud where they can now push their music to all streaming services. But the fact that a major player like Spotify is starting to dabble more in the creator space should make SoundCloud think more about what else they can bring to the table not just for creators, but for listeners as well.

Technically, SoundCloud has a far larger library of music than Spotify or Apple Music: 200 million versus 35 and 45 million, respectively. Of course, while there are still major artists who use SoundCloud, the majority of those 200 million tracks aren’t from any artist cracking the Billboard 100 anytime soon–and that’s just what Trainor wants. What he’s pushing for is more music discovery.

“The way that we like to express the platform is what’s next in music is first on SoundCloud,” he says. “So we want to be the first place that creators come to share their work with the world, and build and grow their careers by monetizing not only on SoundCloud but on all other platforms as well. We also are where passionate music listeners who want to discover something truly new come to connect with creators.”

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Trainor says there are more plans to add services to the distribution tool, as well as new features for listeners. He didn’t offer any specifics on what exactly they might be, but he gave a time frame of sometime this quarter.

It’s difficult to judge whether any of these features will be enough to keep SoundCloud on its modest upswing. It’s always helped SoundCloud’s case that major artists like Kehlani, Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, and XXXTentacion continue to sprout from the platform, lending it clout in the process. Where Trainor thinks SoundCloud can stay vital is by perfecting that ecosystem where creators have everything they need on the platform to push out their music and listeners are able to find and engage with their next favorite artists.

“We always make sure we’re doing the most that we can for creators, but we never neglect the listener experience,” Trainor says. “But that listener experience is a different one where it’s about connection with the creator and the artist–it’s not just about a one-way streaming experience.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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