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SoundCloud subscription service is Go

By | Published on Wednesday 30 March 2016

SoundCloud Go

SoundCloud’s long-awaited subscription service is live in the US. Is it the saviour of the music industry? Is it even the saviour of SoundCloud? Who knows, but at least we can now see why Sony Music wasn’t convinced it would ever make much money.

But with Sony Music at least convinced – as of earlier this month – to give SoundCloud’s premium set-up the old college try, the on switch for SoundCloud Go was formally flicked yesterday. US users can now pay $9.99 per month (after a 30 day free trial) to remove ads from the website (which occasionally appear on SoundCloud Stateside), download tracks to their phones, and access premium-only music provided by the streaming firm’s newly engaged major and indie label partners.

“SoundCloud Go represents our vision of the future of music streaming: a platform for creators to collaborate on; for fans to discover the latest tracks, enjoy legendary music and connect with their favourite artists; and for our unique creative community to have the opportunity to be paid for their work”, said SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung. “We are proud to offer the ultimate music streaming choice for both artists and fans and, together with the music industry, enable artists at all stages of their careers to be heard on SoundCloud”.

The key selling point for labels and artists is that they can now have their tracks on SoundCloud but hold them back from free users. Which is basically what some industry execs want from Spotify – use the free level for promo only, while putting full catalogue behind the paywall. So, for example, Adele’s profile now features her first two albums, as well as the singles from her latest, ’25’, but unless you’re paying for access, all you’ll hear are 30 second previews (and outside the US the profile sits empty).

So, that’s a clear benefit for the rights holder – the ability to decide what is and what isn’t added to the free promo platform. But for the user? Well, the benefits are harder to see.

In fact, once signed up, it’s difficult to work out what’s different at all. I had to go back several times to check I’d actually managed to set up my free trial of Go, because once you’re signed up the site looks exactly the same as it ever did.

I was even pushed to sign up for a Pro account as soon as I got back to the main site – that being the tier for creators that offers more functionality when publishing content – which is a bit confusing, given there are now two premium products, and users are meant to know the difference between Go and Pro.

It then took a while to work out that I could only download tracks and playlists I’ve ‘liked’ through the mobile app, which is rather irritating. Plus it appears that you can only choose to download either all or none of your individually liked songs, for now at least.

So the biggest revelation was finding some of that expanded catalogue that I was promised (ie the Adele tunes), but only because I hadn’t really been sure what I was looking for up to that point, and I was starting to worry that I’d somehow missed all and everything Go had to offer.

All in all, while there is a logic to having your classic-set-up streaming platform alongside what is probably the most popular music discovery service online, it seems that, in many ways, SoundCloud now faces ‘the Myspace problem’. It built something that basically worked, then it decided it wanted to be something else, but it was stuck trying to fit the new thing onto an old platform which wasn’t really built with that in mind

So for now, as a user, it’s hard to see what SoundCloud Go offers that is of any real value, let alone $9.99 a month (and presumably £9.99 a month if and when it reaches the UK).

Most of the tracks you want from SoundCloud are still there for free. And the extra music that the $9.99 unlocks is already over on Spotify et al, alongside a load more functionality. And while creators might stop putting so much content onto SoundCloud for free – which on one level makes Go more attractive – at the same time, it arguably ruins SoundCloud’s one big USP.

The fact Google has been so very quiet about subscriber numbers for YouTube Red, after its US launch, possibly highlights how difficult it is to successfully move from being a completely-free-platform to a mostly-free-but-pay-us-$10-a-month-anyway platform.

Find out more about SoundCloud Go here.