SoundCloud: The Tour from SoundCloud on Vimeo.

SoundCloud, an online sharing community for sound and music, is now hours from public launch. I’ve been playing around with a closed beta for several months, and have to say, I’ve been really impressed. SoundCloud isn’t the first attempt to provide places to share music files with others, but previous attempts have been lackluster when it comes to easy sharing, features necessary to make music listening more enjoyable, and upload capacity. Most importantly, none has accomplished the community “stickiness” that has been the cornerstone of successful media services like Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube. In fact, there’s been so much of a noise-to-signal problem with the Web space, I expect a lot of you have simply tuned out new Web services. There are some good reasons to pay attention to SoundCloud, though:

  • Singing telegram, anyone? Music on SoundCloud acts more like a messaging service. Tracks from people you’re following appear in an inbox for you to sort through. You can even create a DropBox for other people, so this could be huge for people running labels or live events. (That’s especially welcome now that a lot of people have given up on individually clicking myspace links to hear what someone sounds like.)
  • Easier uploads and sharing: Getting files on the service in your favorite format, with whatever length you want, is a whole lot easier than on competing services.
  • Smart player interaction: Services like this now live and die on their embeddable player. SoundCloud’s is really clever and attractive. Download links are everywhere. Also, SoundCloud attacks the biggest problem with music – it’s invisible. There’s a waveform view, and people can comment on specific points in your music. That feature has been annoying in a lot of video players, but here comments appear only if you want them to, and I’ve found them really helpful in getting feedback. (See my example track below, for instance.)
  • Open API: A full API means you can built interesting apps atop SoundCloud. Check out the lovely Radioclouds by Matas Petrikas for an example of how interesting this can be; source code is available.

SoundCloud, indeed, seems to have all the kinds of features that made Flickr stand out from a crowd of photo services. Labels are already onboard, too: Compost, BPitch Control, and Goldie are already making it part of their workflow, says SoundCloud.

One very significant missing feature: it’s not yet possible to embed licenses in your music, so it’s not possible to tell what’s copyrighted and what’s Creative Commons-licensed. SoundCloud founder Alexander Ljung tells us this feature is coming very soon, though, and as on Flickr, you’ll be able to set a global default for your music, so if you want to release everything under a CC license, you can. That should make SoundCloud absolutely explode as a place for CC-licensed remixing.

Now, the only bad news: pro accounts are a bit pricey when compared to a service like Flickr, priced at EUR9-EUR59 each month. The EUR9/mo account is actually probably what most people will need: 15 tracks per month (that seems like plenty), plus basic stats, dropbox, and support. If you were a beta tester like me, you probably got a complimentary Light account through the beginning of next year. And importantly, there’s no limit on file sizes on any of the accounts. That means you could easily upload 15 live/DJ sets a month, so no complaint here. My guess is that the rates are a reflection of what it costs now in bandwidth for an ad-free site. And you can always go for a free account and see how the service works. But I do expect price to be the major obstacle to this service’s popularity. Update: comment to that effect in, what, five minutes of me posting?

Alex and the team say they’re CDM readers, and I’ll get to meet with them next week while I’m in Berlin. So if you’ve got any questions or feedback, let us know. I’d also love to see this stuff integrated more tightly in other communities; Facebook is there, for a start. Stay tuned.

SoundCloud

SoundCloud Tour

SoundCloud Blog

Here’s an example of my player (just an informal live improv set, not a full track). I need to go upload more content but plan to do that over the coming weeks. But it gives you a sense of how this works in action.

 

Here’s the upload interface, which I find quite usable. Note that you can also use SoundCloud for private files:

  • http://actueldesign.com actuel

    ya know, i was a SC beta tester and while i enjoy some of the web 2.0 social networking possibilities within the site, the newly proposed pricing scheme led me to send them my request for deleting my account.

    it's gonna take more then sherbert colors, waveforms, commenting, and rounded corners for me to spend money. i'm sure some will enjoy SC and good for them.

    there are so many other free options for displaying music, file sharing, etc. maybe not with some of the same slickness but having someone comment a 3:32 in my track, "i like your bassline" isn't really with the funds they're asking. at least not to me.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ha, just followed you, actuel.

    You know, I definitely agree that pricing is going to be their major stumbling block. Anyway, the founders are likely to read this post, so if others in this community have that feedback, please don't be shy — they need to know.

  • papertiger

    I agree with Actuel. I think if SoundCloud are targeting unsigned or serious/performing hobbyists, they've missed the boat on the pricing. I really like the service, but I'm not sure it's worth the amount they are asking. I'll be interested to see how it works out for them.

    As a cheap bastard, i'll stay on with Virb.

  • http://actueldesign.com actuel

    heh. too funny peter!

    while SC may have other shortcomings but the only thing that led me to my decision to leave was the new pricing scheme.

    the flickr model is a far better scheme imo. you can have a free account and then pay for a pro account with ___ features. i recognize that technology, development, and file space for files cost money, but there are alternatives that are free, and typically the option to pay for more space and features per a fee.

    i guess it just comes down to if you value the 2.0'ness (laughing as i type that)enough to associate a cost to it.

    so for now peter, we will trail each other via Twitter :)

  • http://Hundertmarknow.bplaced.net Hundertmark

    A massive thing of programm. For me as a DJ it seems just perfect. can't wait anymore.

  • http://www.radek.koshimazaki.com koshimazaki

    I totally agree with papertiger and actual it is not worth the price however it is fun to use. I actually was looking for free option since I got an email from them. I can't believe there is none.

  • Martinrp

    When I started reading this I was beyond stoaked. This is what I've been looking for for a long time, a good place for musicians/DJs (made especially for us). A community to share and comment on music, get crit, and to learn… but the fact that there is no free option totally destroys it for me. So many other options which are…

    TBH I'd rather have some subtle/relevant/minimal ad placement (even if it was just on the free users pages) then HAVE to pay…

    I really hope they change this.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hang on, before people get overly worked up … there is a free option. I'll work on getting more details on that and will follow up.

  • http://actueldesign.com actuel

    excited to see what you find out peter. though i already emailed the 'leave@soundcloud.com' address, i would be happy to hear if their is free option.

    i think such an option would dramatically improve the registration ratio and interest.

    is their a 'holdonthatdeletionduetonewinformation@soundcloud.com' address? :)

  • http://ardour.org/ Paul Davis

    We're looking seriously into Ardour integration. It fit into nicely to our existing integration with Freesound too. The APIs look reasonable, we just need to find the person-hours.

  • http://soundcloud.com Eric Wahlforss

    Peter, this is Eric, one of the founders of SoundCloud. Thanks for a great post.

    It's been our vision from the very beginning to make SoundCloud more or less ad-free and totally streamlined for the needs of musicians and labels. Like other websites that provide real value to people/companies and unlike slow/bloated/ad-ridden/"free"-but-oh-we'll-waste-your-time-instead sites, we do charge for our services.

    Again to clarify, there will *of course* exist a free account. Sorry about the vague communication on this so far. It will hopefully be clear tomorrow. The free account will have certain limitations that I will list here (you're really among the first ones to know). You can:

    - Send 5 tracks/month

    - See the 10 latest sent tracks (they will also show on your profile)

    - Get a DropBox, but you'll only see the last 5 tracks dropped (you can always remove tracks to see more)

    - Make contact lists with up to 20 people in them

    The free account will work fine for quite a lot of use-cases. And you will always be able to go back to it, should you realize you don't need a PRO accounts. Easy. We won't delete any of your stored tracks, or anything else for that matter.

    I should also mention that we're working on a few *very* cool things that will land in the PRO accounts later this fall, like sets uploading/sharing, versioning of tracks, and more…

    cheers // eric [currently working the nightshift on perfecting the site before the release...]

  • http://www.wiretotheear.com/ Oliver Chesler

    I'll chime in here too. SoundCloud is drop dead gorgeous, fun and has some sweet features. Unfortunately I think they are pretty off target with their pricing. Maybe I am wrong… we will see in a year. In general aren't musicians the ones who have the most trouble paying their bills? One thing that would make it worthwhile to me would be shop integration. I know they have a buy link that takes you to your choice store but something more and they may have me.

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  • http://www.marcoraaphorst.com Marco Raaphorst

    I tried it but not really liked it. comments on the track, I hated. http://bandcamp.mu seems to be the killer right now for external hosting.

  • http://www.nk-e.com George Napier

    I've been using the beta for a bit over a month. I think the service is fantastic. I agree that sometimes the comments can be a bit shallow. However, shallow comments have their place too! It's great to get some feedback/encouragement from others "in the business". My concern is that people are overly nice…it is easier (and maybe given the social context) "safer" to follow the old saying: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". I hope not. All comments are helpful.

    I'm finishing up a release and will definitely post it there and – given the nature of the pieces – there will be a lot of very short works. So one of the pro accounts probably works better for me. Pricing IS steep however. Come January when the complimentary beta tester account ends, I'll have to see what makes sense.

    All I can say is: Good job Eric and crew you deserve to make lotsa $$ (er Euros) and a difference.

    nk_e
    http://www.nk-e.com

    PS

    Peter, Nice tracks you uploaded to SoundCloud, but it was a while ago! I hope you upload more. I really liked what I heard. (And I started following you.)

    Also, I was going to do a little piece on SoundCloud on my blog over the weekend. I'll link out to your article also if you don't mind.

    Cheers!

  • Max

    What about Tunerooms?

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  • http://www.marcoraaphorst.nl Marco Raaphorst

    now a few weeks later I can see the possitives about having comments lined up, not that I would really need it, but it can be useful somewhat. neat service!

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