SoundCloud is an app/website made for sharing and discovering music and podcasts.
All tracks are streamable — and artists have the option to mark them as free downloads or link out to sites allowing them to sell content to fans.
The platform has been around for what seems like forever. Yet, in 2019, there’s still a distinctive DIY spirit, which we immediately picked up on after downloading the app after several years spent using Spotify instead.
These days, the SoundCloud app looks relatively unchanged. It maintains the same interface — white background, simple search function, but has added a few updates in recent months.
While SoundCloud is an awesome platform for discovering indie artists —particularly rappers and DJs — it’s also a critical tool for anyone who wants to promote their music in front of new audiences.
Here, we’ll look at some of the key things to know about using the SoundCloud website or app — whether you’re an artist yourself or just a fan.
Discover new music on SoundCloud
Everything is taggable, and it’s easy to bump into music similar to or related to the music you like.
Here are some of the new features included in the SoundCloud app this year:
- Personalized recommendations
- “The Feed” is a feature that curates an artists’ likes, follows and reposts on the platform. The idea is, it helps foster a connection between artists and listeners, giving artists a chance to share recommendations.
- New playlists: The Morning Mourning, Drippin (new rap), and Speed Bumps (new electro), and more.
- Communities: Genre-based pages designed to help you find new music, in a way that feels different than the Netflix or Spotify approach.
Many of the newer features aim to give users a sense of community, which certainly isn’t unique to the SoundCloud website.
Find your community
SoundCloud is aiming to position itself as a digital community. As such, they’ve introduced community profile pages, which work just like any of the other pages on the SoundCloud website. However, it aims to bring together “authentic” communities (their words).
What these community pages look like out in the wild represent something a bit different than what you’ll get from your average profile page on social media.
Instead, you can follow any of the following communities:
Here’s what AURAS looks like:
As you can see, you’ll get a round-up of different playlists based on your favorite types of music.
While initially, we were a bit confused about how this feature differs from say, following Spotify playlists, it turns out that Communities are a cool way to discover new music. It is not some shoddy attempt at turning SoundCloud into, say, Facebook for music.
The community building part comes in here. Fans and creators can connect with other people who share similar tastes. Join Scenes if you’re looking for some low-key relaxation vibes.
How to download from SoundCloud
Not every track on SoundCloud is downloadable. To figure out if a track is downloadable, first, find a track on SoundCloud that you’d like to download. Click the More button, and look for the Download file option. If you don’t see one, that means that the creator of the track did not want the track to be downloaded.
If it is there, you are in luck, and you can commence with your download! Just make sure you have a decent app for listening to the track.
How to upload to SoundCloud
Uploading tracks to SoundCloud is a pretty quick and painless process. First off, in order to upload anything to SoundCloud, you need to sign in. Once you’re signed in, go to the Upload page. From there, you’ll see a page that looks like the one below:
You can either drag and drop tracks and albums onto the page, or you can use their file uploader. Check the box on whether you want to share your tracks publicly or privately.
Please note that if you don’t have a Pro account, you have three hours worth of content that you can upload. If you only have a few singles you want to share, that should be enough for you. However, if you also have several diss tracks, love ballads, a swan song, and a comeback album, you may want to consider upgrading to pro.
Once you choose the tracks you want to upload, click the button to begin uploading. Once you’re done, you can fill out the track names, the genre, and add whatever tags you’d like. After that, you’re all done! Make sure you give yourself a cool artist name and tweet out to all your friends so you can share your tracks with them!
Promoting your music on SoundCloud
Not just a listener? SoundCloud is one of the few accessible forms of DIY distribution and marketing for independent artists.
While podcasters have tools like Stitcher, Anchor, Apple, and Google, there are few places for aspiring artists to connect with their fans.
Spotify and Stem recently discontinued their music distribution offerings. Stem announced it would be dropping tens of thousands of artists, while Spotify called it quits on their self-upload beta program.
It may be in your best interest to create a page or a site to help promote your work. WordPress has great tools for making a free website, or a cheap website if you want access to more customization.
However, one of the best tools for promoting your work is Tumblr. Although posting on all your social networks can help, Tumblr is a cut above the rest.
If you make a Tumblr post, you can copy your track or playlist’s URL and paste it into the Audio section of a post. Tumblr allows users to use tags to help discover new tracks. If you include the genre, your name, and the themes of your music, Tumblr users can start finding you. For example, if you write a break-up song, include “break-up” in your tags so all of the lonely hearts out there can find it!
SoundCloud recently announced that it is adding distribution to its self-monetization Premier program.
Eligible creators now have access to an open beta where they can upload songs, monetize, and publish to external streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify.
What’s more, SoundCloud says those who use its distribution service will keep ALL royalties obtained from third-party services.
How to Embed
This is just a quick little note for promoting, but if you want to embed a track, click the Share button next to the track and then on the Embed tab. From there, you will get an embed code that you can copy and paste to your heart’s desire.
SoundCloud vs. Spotify
From a user standpoint, SoundCloud and Spotify bring very different experiences to the table. While it’s almost not really a matter of SoundCloud vs. Spotify, here’s a quick look at some of the pros and cons associated with each platform. You’ll see that there’s plenty of reason why you should get a SoundCloud account.
- Spotify is more polished. The user interface is super easy to use. You can search for artists, follow playlists, and browse through recommendations without any onboarding tutorials.
- Spotify allows for offline use. You can download as many songs and podcasts as your phone storage allows. No need to worry about usage caps or dead spots.
- Spotify has established artists are on the platform. From indie bands to pop stars, most artists that you can name can be found here. It’s the leading streaming platform, so you’ll generally find what you’re looking for.
- The free version is super limited. Unless you love hearing ads after every other song, regular listeners should invest the $10/month for an upgrade.
- It’s not great for finding underground artists and hidden gems. Spotify hosts a ton of music, but mainly from established artists. If you’re all about the “obscure” Spotify won’t cover all of your bases.
- It’s missing some big names, too. From time to time, an artist might feud with Spotify and pull their music. There’s no guarantee every song you want will be on the platform.
- It’s great for finding independent artists. SoundCloud hosts known artists alongside those still grinding it out from home. The platform provides a great way to find hidden gems from total unknowns. “Old Town Road” and “The Git Up” are recent songs that exploded from SoundCloud.
- Discovery feels less “algorithm-driven.” While personalized recommendations are a core feature, it’s easier to break out of the recommendation loops you’ll find on Spotify.
- Stream provides a unique way to get updates. Users can follow artists and playlists they like to receive updates and keep track of their favorite tunes. They can also share tracks with the community, almost like retweeting on Twitter.
- SoundCloud has private sharing. You can use the share button to privately embed and share artists and tracks.
- It does not have the best sound quality. Spotify has SoundCloud beat when it comes to audio. We’re talking 320 kbps vs. 128 kbps. You’ll notice the difference.
- The user-experience can be confusing. While the design is attractive in a lot of ways, SoundCloud is somewhat hard to figure out.
- There is no offline support. You’ll need to signup for SoundCloud Go to download songs to your device.
There’s a lot to take in when it comes to breaking down the SoundCloud experience. For creators and listeners alike, the platform remains a solid choice for anyone who wants to discover new content and break away from the algorithmic rut that sometimes happens when you depend on Spotify or Pandora for recommendations.
Ultimately, the SoundCloud app has some limitations. Again, the usability and sound quality could be better, but it’s also one of the few places online where not everything is super polished, commercial, and on everyone’s radar.