As MySpace prepares to stage a comeback, another music-sharing website is making sure it continues to be heard. SoundCloud, the Berlin-based platform founded in 2007 as a place for users to upload recorded sound of any type, be it a podcast, found sound or song, is now innovating with an impressively social iteration entitled SoundCloud Next.
SoundCloud currently boasts 18 million registered users, with countless more accessing the platform daily via embedded widgets and shared links. Founded by Alexander Ljung, 31, and Eric Wahlforss, 32, while engineering students in Stockholm, the website first gained popularity for the ease with which it allowed artists to share tracks and give feedback on each other’s work.
“We were both frustrated with the tools available for sound creators on the web,” explained Wahlforss, co-founder and CTO of SoundCloud. “We were discussing what could be done in the world of music and sound and that’s how we started.”
Fast-forward to January this year when SoundCloud raised what Tech Crunch and the New York Times reported to be $50 million in funding, placing the company at a $200 million valuation. SoundCloud would not confirm these figures but Ljung, former sound designer and co-founder/CEO of SoundCloud, estimated the site now gains 1.5 million new users a month.
“Every day the user base doesn’t just grow, it broadens in terms of who those users are,” explained Ljung. “It could be Snoop Dogg or 50 Cent or something less official like my cousin recording his kids.”
With the range of file-sharing options now offered by services like Dropbox, SoundCloud’s focus has since shifted: “That [file-sharing] was part of why we started but that’s less valuable to us today,” said Ljung. “What started as a way to share files is now way more about the social experience.”
Megastars including Beyoncé have used SoundCloud to interact with their fans, holding remix competitions or inviting users to sing over their tracks. SoundCloud’s power now rests with the way it connects musicians to each other, and to their fans.
“You have people like Deadmau5 who just put stuff up all the time and to be able to listen to awesome music they create on the sly is really powerful,” explained Ljung. “You feel really connected – it’s the stuff they’re doing right this moment on their iPad or laptop.”
While MySpace’s updates removed integral promotional features for musicians, SoundCloud Next hopes to take the listener/creator intimacy it has fostered to a new level. Released in Beta in May, SoundCloud Next is far more social than SoundCloud’s current iteration. A large “share” icon resting above the audio file enables posting to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. A new function lets users repost – basically retweet – another user’s sound on his or her profile, turning individual pages into an audio feed.
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