We’ve been covering the slow and painful meltdown of Soundcloud over the last few months whenever something new comes up, but this time it seems like Soundcloud is attempting to claw back some revenue: a subscription service for listeners. The news doesn’t really come as a huge surprise, since rumours have been circulating for a while now, but it doesn’t look good.
The newly launched Soundcloud Go costs $9.99 per month or $12.99 through the iOS app and a discounted $4.99 for the first six months if you have a Soundcloud Pro account. For that, you get the promise of offline play, a bigger library of pop music, and ad-free listening. You can read the official announcement on the Soundcloud blog to drill down into the information.
I still use Soundcloud. Probably daily. I listen to mixes and podcasts on it, and download any I can to listen to on the go. In fact, I’m listening to it right now. I could never see myself pay for this service, on top of Spotify, Netflix, and any other online services I might need. Yes, the bottom is falling out of the web advertising industry, but the most successful paid services are those with real added value. Content on Soundcloud is rarely only found on there. A quick search for a mix I might be interested in would quickly show a copy on YouTube, Mixcloud, as well as any number of DJ mix aggregator sites.
So now that Soundcloud is trying to charge $10/$13 for a premium service once the horse has already bolted, I am seriously pessimistic. It’s simply crazy that even premium users have to pay, albeit with a weak offering of the first six months at a discount. These are people already invested in the platform. Users that have paid a lot of money over the years, and that have been the backbone of the site, creating the breadth of content that the labels are doing their utmost to remove.
We’re going to have a lot of Taylor Swift’s catalogue,” said Wahlforss.
I think this quote says a lot about not only where Soundcloud is headed, but how they understand their core audience. Yeah, there might be more money in mainstream music, but that’s not what Soundcloud has ever fundamentally been about. Even at the height of its popularity, with mainstream listeners choosing the service, the brand identity has been about new music from electronic producers, mixes and podcasts from big and small DJs alike: a go-to place to find your place in the underground. Even at the height of the EDM craze, Soundcloud was where you went for mashups and remixes. This isn’t a pivot. This is crapping on your hard-earned branding. This is New Coke without the huge cashflow buffer.
And that’s why I think this will flop. Hard. We already have plenty of places to listen to Taylor Swift or whichever pop idol is hot right now. Or… as I do, avoid like the plague. And they all do it better than Soundcloud. The reality is that with this move, Soundcloud no longer fits in anywhere. Hearthis and Mixcloud will do podcasts and DJ mixes better (and cheaper). Spotify, Google Music, Apple Music, et al will do charts and albums better (and possibly cheaper on family accounts).
Simply put, Soundcloud is SCREWED. I kinda feel bad for them, even if they did make their own bed. And I really hope it does kill the site and teach the streaming industry what working with the majors does to you. Nobody wins, and that’s how RIAA like it. But that’s a conversation to have with Jared another time.
Since I wrote this (but before publish), the dust settled a bit and a rather alarming ‘open letter’ was posted by Dave Wiskus, a member of New York indie-rock band Airplane Mode, breaking down their views on the situation with Soundcloud Go and creator partner programme, On Soundcloud. He discusses how artists that post content to Soundcloud do not get a penny from plays, ads or any other method unless they’re in the On Soundcloud scheme, which is invite-only with only a small number of artists. Dave makes the point that with Soundcloud Go now launched, the service is now not only profiting from the music uploaded by independent artists, they expect them to pay for the privilege via the Pro account!
What do you think of the announcement of Soundcloud Go? Would you be tempted to pay for it?
Soundcloud Go is out now in the US, costing $9.99 (or $12.99 in-app) on iOS only, With a discount down to $4.99 for six months if you have a Pro account.