On Tuesday SoundCloud 2.0 moved out of beta. Since I’m a fan of the self-described “YouTube of music,” this launch was one I was waiting for.
Here are my quick thoughts on each of the new features:
- Continuous listening. This is probably my favorite new feature, since it makes the service more like radio. You can browse new tracks while continuing to listen to the entirety of a full stream, marking a big improvement over the old YouTube-like format of the past, where streams were halted with any click.
- Reposts. This feature will probably have the biggest impact for SoundCloud because it finally gives tools to curators, not just creators. I felt that SoundCloud 1.0 was heavily biased toward active creators of content and didn’t have a focus on curation outside simple likes and in-track commenting. While some may view the term “curation” with disdain, in an era of Reddit, Tumblr, and Spotify, it’s clear consumers like to curate others’ content as much or more than creating their own. The ability to repost tracks into your account lets you do just that while also helping creators by making content more social.
- Sets. Creating playlists is what curators do. Like reposting, sets gives the curators more tools to be tastemakers, essentially allowing them to make their own mix tapes of audio for the world.
While I like the new features and the looks, not all the comments over on the SoundCloud blog are as positive. While it could be that users are thinking that any change is a bad change, it’s worth at least watching. SoundCloud has kept the option for users to switch back to version 1.0, or SoundCloud Classic, and I have a feeling it will keep this open until the bugs are ironed out.
As David mentioned, SoundCloud is still being coy about its premium subscribers. That said, 20 million total users and 180 million listeners (you can listen to SoundCloud tracks without having an account, which accounts for the difference) are impressive milestones.
While premium accounts for music publishers and podcasters is the company’s main monetization strategy, it will be interesting to see what others it pursues in the future. There has been little talk, if at all, of advertising services, which is not surprising since the user community would reject anything but the most subtle touches here. That said, potential avenues could include expanding the freemium allotment of hours or storage for trade for ad-supported listens or charging for premium placements for publishers.