SoundCloud launches new version, is it now the “YouTube of audio”?

By | Published on Wednesday 5 December 2012


After more than six months of private beta testing, SoundCloud has opened up its new upgraded platform, previously known as ‘Next’, for all to use. The digital firm’s co-founder and CEO Alexander Ljung announced the news at the LeWeb conference in Paris yesterday.

The redesign sees the online audio service shift further towards being more of a social network and discovery tool. Its aim, said Ljung, is to become the “YouTube of audio”.

Ljung also revealed some stats to show how much his service has grown since its launch in 2008, confirming that now around 180 million people (or 8% of the world’s internet users) come into contact with the platform each month. Also, over ten hours of audio is uploaded to it every minute, and that continues to grow.

Amongst the new features available are the reposting of tracks (similar to retweeting on Twitter), continuous play of related tracks, automatic following within SoundCloud of artists that users have already liked on other connected platforms (eg Facebook) and improved search. From tomorrow the company will also start adding new features to its mobile apps.

Said Ljung: “There’s no other platform out there that lets everyone get so close to such a diverse community of music and audio creators. From today, ‘Next’ is now simply SoundCloud. It’s a platform for people to discover new, original music and audio, for creators to build audiences, and for everyone to share what they hear whether online or on mobile”.

Co-founder and CTO Eric Wahlforss added: “Everything’s new: [this is] much more than an aesthetic redesign, the latest SoundCloud is a state-of-the-art, re-engineered platform that feels so different from before and offers an even better music and audio experience. Our passionate community’s feedback during the beta has gotten us to where we are today: ready to turn on the new SoundCloud for everyone”.

Of course “YouTube of audio” is an interesting line, in that on one level in makes perfect sense. Creators who make videos distribute them on YouTube and creators who make audio use SoundCloud. Though, of course, the Google-owned video site is more than just that. It helps creators monetise their content, and, on the music side, by having its own licensing arrangements with both record labels and music publishers, it provides an albeit limited freedom for artists, labels, publishers and fans to upload and share music content, with YouTube ensuring that relevant rights owners are cut into ad revenues.

SoundCloud has never shown much of an appetite to become an ad spot seller, or a licensee of music rights, and from a business point of view that makes perfect sense: the upselling of premium accounts to more prolific audio creators is arguably a much more secure business to be in, than trying to enter the high-cost online jukebox and low-profit web ad space.

As SoundCloud has started to become a destination site for creators, labels and music fans alike, many have anticipated some kind of impasse on rights issues between the digital start-up and the big rights owners, though that has never occurred, possibly because SoundCloud has circumvented infringement claims by operating a pretty effective takedown system, while making clear it sees itself as a service provider to the music industry, rather than as a customer of its music rights.

Which sort of makes SoundCloud more the “Vimeo of audio”, while Mixcloud can probably make a better claim to being the “YouTube of audio”. Although, there’s also an argument that YouTube is the YouTube of audio, given research to suggest young music consumers are playlisting tracks on the video site, minimising the browser window, and using the Google-owned site as an alternative to Spotify et al.