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SoundCloud raises $75M from SiriusXM (techcrunch.com)
345 points by theomega 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 218 comments

When I was a truck driver, Satellite Radio was practically a necessity. Sure I loaded up my ipod with music, but the selection was too damn limited and I would tire of hearing the same songs over & over again.

The best case scenario for FM radio (when you would finally find something that you could tolerate) was 1 hour. 1 hour of variety to stave off bordem and try to save your sanity. The effective range of the FM signal bubble was around 75 miles/120km. If you were unlucky 'Seek/Scan' button would be broken on the radio. Most radios in company supplied trucks were very shitty.

MY favorite times would be at night and manually adjusting the AM reception and picking up stations from all over the world. Trying to discern their location based on the commercials.

Sat. radio offered me consistency. It was wholly replaced once I discovered that audiobooks could be downloaded (and not cumbersome audio-cassettes).

Then as the years passed the variety on the stations offered diminished to the point that it seemed like they were playing the same 5-6 over & over again.

Mergers happened. Personal audio players got better. I could download enough books to keep me entertained for a month AND have music playlists that saved my sanity.

So I cancelled.

I STILL miss 'Spa Radio' channel73(?) when I am driving in hectic or tense traffic. That always enhanced my calm.

I actually find Sirius frustrating for long road trips or commutes; most of the channels repeat their content every 6 or 7 or 8 hours. I often find the same programming on my home journey that was on when I was on the way in. Many news type channels like BBC endlessly repeat every hour.

Having a pile of podcasts and audiobooks ready at hand makes long drives on ski trips much more tolerable to me... But I do keep the Sirius subscription around just for NPR and BBC...

I also found Sirius frustrating in the same manner. Except for me, it was my daily commute. I could set the clock by the playlist. I only listened to 2 channels and for some reason, the traffic updates to my car stopped working. When they wanted something like $400 to renew for 1 year, I said fuck off.

A tip for anyone reading here — SiriusXM will gladly give you a year of service for $60+fees (about $74 last time for me). You don’t even need to threaten to cancel. Every year I call, tell them it is too expensive, but I’d stay if they give me the same price, and they always do. Something like the last 10 years...

Yeah, reception to your in-car receiver was ridiculous. We switched over to internet-only for $8 a month and stream to our phones. I swear the bitrate is higher, too.

Way back before Sirius and XM merged, XM used to have a bunch of stations that were DJed by humans. I don't remember ever hearing repeated blocks of content on those. There were other channels that were DJed automatically, and those could get repetitive, but the channels with human DJs were always fresh.

Sadly, it appears they started firing the human DJs several years back -- see https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/02/10/will-firin... for an example.

When I'm on long enough trips to start hitting repetition, I change channels periodically. There are a handful I like, so rotating isn't a bad thing. But yes, I do wish each channel had more songs in rotation at any given time.

I find a streaming radio app to give the best variety of content. You can find any particular public radio show playing live somewhere in the US. And plenty of indie radio options as well.

This happened long before "streaming audio" or 'apps' were a real thing. Also I live in Canada and drove in USA & Canada. The roaming charges were astronomical and didn't include data. The situation isn't much better now, but atleast I have USA data coverage upto 1GB.

Cellphone plan options in Canada are punitive and oppressive. Getting coverage in USA & Canada is painful.

When I was driving in the States, data-usage was measured in kB.

The quality is also worse than FM in many cases. Satellite radio sucks for music.

I'm definitely in the minority here, but I cancelled my Spotify subscription in favor of SiriusXM.

There were a couple changes they've made recently that made this make sense. One, all their car subscriptions now come with an app version. And two, they have a pretty cool Web UI (https://player.siriusxm.com) where you can listen to any channel live or experiment with "Xtra" channels (it's a Pandora integration.)

My use case is that I work mostly from home and want something mindless to play in the background while I'm working. Spotify playlists quickly become repetitive. Sirius is "set it and forget it"--I have all the channels and Xtra channels I want in a grid on their website, and I have it up on a second monitor so I can just click on whatever channel I want.

I still miss Spotify on occasion, but if I want a specific song or artist I can just go to YouTube and stream it.

Having said all this, yesterday and today I've just been streaming long house mixes on YouTube. I wanted something a bit more upbeat than the Chill channel and I've heard all the songs on BPM. But I'm sure I'll be back to Sirius soon. :)

If you really want to lock in your long mix/specific moods, check out di.fm. Its all hand curated and the genre's all have a particular mood about them, many of which are just the right amount of vocal/nonvocal to push you through a day.

Also just a warning - SiriusXM doesn't just let you leave. They have some of the most aggressive "winback" salespeople in the business, and they will NEVER stop mailing you offers that look like something else, calling you, and emailing you offers once you manage to leave. Their skeevy tactics have put me off the company as a whole forever.

Yeah, I bought a used car and have never even been a customer of theirs but I guess they bought my info from someone and I have been getting their mailings nonstop.

The worst are the ones in blank envelopes with no return address that look like they could be from a bank or something.

Oh, that's wild...I had no idea they still existed. I was a paid subscriber of theirs for many years back in the day. I'll check it out again; thanks!

Also di.fm will play artist's shows (aka podcasts) at certain times on certain channels. It should be under the calendar tab.

I have never subscribed to a streaming music service as I would rather purchase a song I like once and own it forever. So di.fm and several dance music artist shows keep new music coming in.

I have SiriusXM in the car and had it when it was just XM. I only listen to small number of channels and when I don't want to hear what's on any of them, I have an iPod Touch that I can use over Bluetooth to listen to purchased music, downloaded podcasts, and audiobooks.

I really wish Sirius would simulcast di.fm's channels just for the variety that they can't (and don't try to) compete with.

> My use case is that I work mostly from home and want something mindless to play in the background while I'm working.

XM used to have a clever little device specifically designed for this use case -- the XM-PCR (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XM_PCR). It was a little XM receiver that plugged into your PC and could be driven from there via client software. And the protocol for communicating with the device was pretty open, so hackers quickly put together really good native clients for Windows, OS X, Linux, etc. that were miles better than both XM's default client and their Web player.

It only lasted for a couple years, though, because those same hackers eventually figured out a way for clients to just rip every song that passed through the XM-PCR into high-bitrate MP3 files on your hard drive. So what went from a neat, hackable little device quickly turned into a music pirate's dream.

There was a gentleman's agreement for a while between the developers of the major clients not to take advantage of this capability, as they all knew that if it ever got exploited at scale XM would shut down the PCR and all their work would instantly be rendered worthless. But inevitably someone shipped a client with this "feature", and XM predictably stopped selling the PCR and remotely disabled all existing units. Boom, so ends a scene.

(Here's a contemporary story from Ars Technica with more detail on the shutdown: https://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2004/08/4147-2/)

It was all too bad, as like I said, if your use case was playing music while you worked the PCR was a really cool little device. I suppose this is why we can't have nice things :-/

FWIW, the XMPCR still works if you can find one. I still have one active from when I got lifetime XM service in 2008, even did the digital out mod.

I renewed Sirius recently since they sent me an acceptable deal with free Echo dot.. which I sold.

I will admit that I really like some of the programs. Business channel in particular is decent. Between interviews of Larry Summers and Madeline Albright it feels like a nice departure from BREAKING NEWS COVERAGE.

And I am saying it as a person who has audio books ready to go if traffic gets too heavy.

Sirius used to have some of the best comedy talk radio but all the good talent got fired or watered down. Sirius like most mega corp media companies became very PC conscious, especially after the merger with XM, which is a precarious place for (quality) comedy to exist. Especially as they matured. But early on it was great for that stuff and helped build many of today’s famous comedians careers as guests on the shows.

Now even Howard Stern hardly shows up and is doing puff piece shows with Hillary Clinton in between his reality TV nonsense.

I remember listening to one show and half the callers were truckers where it became a running joke.

I got really lucky. Bought my car 4 years ago. They said it included a 3 month sirius subscription. It still works to this day. My wife bought a car a couple years ago with a 3 month subscription and it ended on day 90 :(

Nope, not the only one, I much prefer radio programmed by a human to one programmed from an algorithm. I have an actual sat radio in the car, and I use the streaming with amazon speakers at home.

You might enjoying tuning in to Radio Garden: https://radio.garden/

This is extremely cool. Thanks so much for sharing.

This is the coolest thing i’ve seen this year! Thanks for sharing.

this might change my life. thanks!

Also try radiolise.github.io

Wow Thanks!!!

Stuff like soma.fm replaced that for me. There’s nothing like turning on groove salad for a bit.

There was a period of time where, after work, some friends and I would get together in one of our university's research labs to solder keyboards. It was always empty by then. We'd put on soma.fm and then get to work. Good times.

same here. I am gladly donating every year. Today I find hand picked music more valuable than ever.

Stories like this is why I love reading HN comments. Thanks for sharing your experience!

100% agreed. The tech discussion is always interesting, but especially so when informed by our diverse experience.

I honestly hadn't considered this use case for satellite radio. I used to do 5-6 hour drives through areas with crappy cell service and awful radio (only country, gospel or a sermon). Spotify _helped_ with its download feature so I could play tracks I liked locally, but sadly satellite wasn't an option for me since I was driving an '04 Jeep.

> satellite wasn't an option for me since I was driving an '04 Jeep

How so? If it had an FM tuner, you can use an inline modulator.

There are and always were satellite radio options that don't have to be built in to the car. My first satellite radio (Sirius, before they merged) was actually battery powered and portable - I could clip the antenna to my backpack and listen while I walked the dog. (This was before mobile streaming was really a thing.) Like others here are bringing up though, I've found the variety on the music channels to be lacking. These days I get more mileage out of Pandora and a few podcasts.

Also a fun little note - if you have a standalone radio with active service, then turn it off and stuff it in a box, cancel the service, and wait a few months or a year before pulling it back out, you'll have free service for the life of the radio. They stop sending the device specific kill codes after a while so it will just keep working.

>MY favorite times would be at night and manually adjusting the AM reception and picking up stations from all over the world. Trying to discern their location based on the commercials.

I recently got into this as a hobby! Bought a cheap portable shortwave radio and every night this week I've sat outside or near the window to see how far away I could pick stuff up from. So far I've confirmed broadcasts from Romania, South Korea, Cuba, and a few across the US. It's usually just preachers or state propaganda, but just the hunt for new stations is half the fun!

This actually got me into amateur radio as a hobby.

It started when I was young and not tired enough to goto sleep. I had a decades-old transistor radio and would scroll through the dial using the smallest fractions of adjustment and hearing the world open to me.

Dark of night, speaker pressed to my ear so my parents wouldn't hear and yell at me. Languages I'd never heard before and had no way of knowing where they were.

Magical is the best way I can describe the experience.

The world became both small, and vast in the same moment.

I received a trial of Sirius when I bought my vehicle. My Dad bought a life-time subscription (at a time they were practically giving them away) so I had listened to Sirius a few times when borrowing his car. My impression was they have bought and paid for a particular catalogue of music and they play that catalogue pretty exclusively. That catalogue seemed to have the 4th or 5th most popular songs from a huge list of artists but rarely the top 3. It is a massive catalogue but when you listen to it enough it starts to become repetitive and I would start to wonder "do they even have any other songs by that artists" after hearing a b-side for the third or fourth time.

I even considered buying it anyway since I like to go on trips to remote areas (fishing/camping) and can't rely on data for my phone for Spotify. In many rural places there is only a single radio station and even then it may be mostly static. But I found in those locations even Satellite reception was spotty, especially in the mountains or valleys I frequented.

Compared to top-40 FM radio, Sirius is amazing. It had its time. But comparing it to the internet with Youtube and Spotify (or Apple Music, etc.) just blows it away.

The worst part about Sirius is that the music channels seemingly can’t go more than 2 songs without inane DJ banter that can go on for entirely too long. Thankfully they have sports and talk-oriented channels, but the music part of Sirius is practically unlistenable due to the constant interruptions.

Why not listen to audiobooks? That's what I did when I had to drive to work. I eventually get bored of music. Audiobooks though are never boring, and there's a near endless supply of them. Where I live you can borrow them from a library as well. You can't listen to audiobooks when e.g. reading code or even coding, but you totally can while driving.

While I don't normally condone the use of swearing, I applaud your use of it here.

I moved furniture for a few years in my early 20s, and none of the trucks had working air conditioning. That was during a heat wave with 110 F heat, which translates to 120+ at the top of a trailer. The air conditioning should have worked at the very least to prevent a heat-exhaustion death.

Some things in life will never change, and those things well and truly are $#!@.

One may only swear around you when engaged in traditionally blue-collar careers? I'm pretty sure every engineering department I've ever been in would have a choice word or two.

Fuck work trucks without a/c in hot climates

The reason why I cancelled SiriusXM was because of lack of diversity. A huge chunk of the channels were the sports channels which I did not care about.

Music channels were outright weird and all of them played may be 20 songs again and again.

They had zero diversity of music. There are plenty of non-white, non-american born people in North America and yet they did not have any Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Punjabi channels.

In the modern era would streaming over cellular been good enough if you were still a truck driver?

I feel like I'm in the minority of those who love SoundCloud. It's one the very few places for indie music makers and DJs to showcase their work that otherwise may not necessarily be published via the official publishing channels. That includes e.g. long running DJ mixes, not exactly the type of material for the official release bureaucracy and associated costs.

The only problem with SoundCloud is that instead of following the Spotify model, i.e. get listeners to pay for listening, they could have done it the other way around: get makers pay some nominal fee for hosting. Which they kind of did in the beginning but gradually drifted towards the listener-subscription model. As a paid music hosting service they'd at least provide an alternative for specific class of artists, i.e. those who make music for the love of it and want to be heard via unofficial channels.

SC failed to become one. They've had some back and forth and experimentation with pricing and subscription models over the years but never settled at anything targeted clearly and unambiguously. The current offerings are confusing and inconvenient for all classes of users. There's now an all-time upload limit for non-paying makers, and ads for non-paying users. What's the point of this? Getting both makers and listeners pay you? Sounds like a poor plan to me, that leads to nowehere.

> get makers pay some nominal fee for hosting

It doesn't work well and for obvious reasons.

If you're an indie producer, you don't necessarily have the money to keep paying for hosting indefinitely. Instead you want to upload your work somewhere where it will always be available, for free. Vimeo charges producers instead of consumers and they are struggling — if you have a commercial website that has to serve content from somewhere, then sure, it's a great deal, but not if you're a hobbyist.

By charging producers such services are basically shooting themselves in the foot — because if you don't attract producers, you won't get an audience either. Plus the ongoing costs (bandwidth and processing capacity) are generated by visitors and not producers.

This partially explains YouTube's success — as a producer you can just upload to YouTube, it doesn't cost you anything and YouTube brings you the audience ;-)

> If you're an indie producer, you don't necessarily have the money to keep paying for hosting indefinitely

You don't have to pay for SoundCloud just "for storage". You can throw some MP3s up on S3 and call it a day. Paying the nominal $12/month for SoundCloud pro is storage, distribution, collections, analytics, embedding... on and on.

> This partially explains the success behind YouTube

I thought the success of YouTube was largely due to their low bars for quality of content. Put simply, they allow all kinds of crap as long as it generates views.

Vimeo's model is quality content from indie producers, actually they are similar to SoundCloud in some ways.

Think about this: for example NASA has plenty of quality audio and video materials, where should they upload it? SoundCloud and Vimeo would be the best choice and it's what they do. It's quality content not exactly "publishable" via music labels or television, and yet it's pretty good.

Not everyone wants to be on the Internet's sewage system that's YouTube, and not everyone wants to go the costly publishing route. There has to be a niche for this type of media. I'm sure monetization can be figured out when there's clearly a market for it.

I think YouTube's success is mainly that they were first, there were always free to use so there was no reason for anybody to look elsewhere. It's hard to compete against free and established services. You basically have to find a killer feature (and hope that the established service will be slow to copy it) or pay people to do the switch.

>Not everyone wants to be on the Internet's sewage system that's YouTube.

Yet basically everyone is. Content producers want to reach their audience, viewers want to find the content they care about.

> I think YouTube's success is mainly that they were first

Actually, Vimeo's first videos[0] were uploaded a month before YouTube's[1].

[0] https://vimeo.com/15 [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQXAC9IVRw

I think Google Video also launched slightly before YouTube, if I'm remembering and reading the dates right.

Wikipedia said January 25th for some reason

Video search was launched then, but you couldn’t submit your own videos.

Thank you for pointing it out, for some reason I thought that Vimeo was significantly more recent.

NASA isn't your typical indie producer, because their content generates views and because they can afford pro subscriptions.

Also NASA is on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/nasatelevision

I'm not saying that Vimeo doesn't have a market. But their market is quite small and it definitely isn't for hobbyists.

> Vimeo's model is quality content from indie producers, actually they are similar to SoundCloud in some ways.

Not coincedentally, SoundCloud is run by a former Vimeo CEO.

I’d love to see their hosting and bandwidth costs. I bet it’s around the size of 10 engineers.

> I feel like I'm in the minority of those who love SoundCloud.

It's the only music streaming service that takes discovery seriously, and it's the only one I use.

Exactly, I love their recommendations based on my likes, love The Upload section. I wonder what algorithms they use. They are pretty good.

Their "The Upload" playlist is consistently the source of some of my favorite music on the internet, it almost never has a song I don't like. Whichever engineers worked on it deserve a raise.

Also https://hypem.com/popular is a fantastic interface (with a great mobile app too), it takes mostly from SC.

HypeMachine is a great platform, I've never gotten super into using it though, not sure why.

Call me basic, but Spotify's algorithms for discovery are pretty damn good.

Soundcloud lets you focus on your favorite music by type, country, etc.


Interesting, though I don’t personally find that useful. I’d rather use a service that finds music I may like based on what I listen to - regardless of origin - than one where I am the curator and must actively search/browse for new artists.

It’s refreshing to hear non-musicians actually use SoundCloud to listen to music, though.

> I feel like I'm in the minority of those who love SoundCloud. It's one the very few places for indie music makers and DJs to showcase their work that otherwise may not necessarily be published via the official publishing channels. That includes e.g. long running DJ mixes, not exactly the type of material for the official release bureaucracy and associated costs.

Soundcloud is indeed great for mixes and sets. They have valuable and unique content, yet the product remains very barebones and lackluster. Poor audio quality (still 128 kbps MP3 I think?), no concept of tracklists/timestamps and most importantly your playback position and queue isn't persistent. This is crucial for a medium used to listen to hours long mixes - as a user I expect to be able to pause and pick up my currently playing set later, on any device.

The lack of this feature basically forces me to manage my playback queue in a different tool, like a note taking or todo app. I estimate that I have countless unfinished sets in my history that I simply forget to finish since once you close your browser window/app the content is basically off my radar. Imagine Netflix not saving your viewing progress - it's absurd.

I think Mixcloud is the much better product - it just lacks the vast amount of content (they are gettign there) and numbers of listeners unfortunately. They also have a sound business/pricing model - although that may indeed be a barrier to listener growth.

> That includes e.g. long running DJ mixes, not exactly the type of material for the official release bureaucracy and associated costs.

Mixcloud does a much better job at this.

Mixcloud is great however the people in charge seem to be intent on killing the platform with bad ideas. I say this as a huge fan and a paying customer (premium user).

The android app is horrible. They used to have 10-30 minutes of cache time, now they have 0. You go under a tunnel, on the tube, whatever, and your stream cuts out. Also lots of UI bugs. This might have gotten better but I wouldn't know as I am on an older version of the app and refuse to upgrade due to no more caching.

You have to pay to rewind stuff apparently (I do pay so have never been impacted here)

Search is horrible, even now.

Web has some major bugs like randomly reloading half the page when you scroll down your feed and click listen to something. Old app has some ridiculous UI bugs, can't comment on the newer ones though.

Mixcloud select may have been done with the best intentions, but it's just a bunk idea. Half of my feed is now "select" stuff I can't listen to. The idea is you pay the individual artist and get premium features. But the select costs a fair bit of money, a lot more than id be willing to pay. Effectively, even as a paying user I'm now being paywalled. They should have kept the stuff free and heavily integrated with patreon or done a tipping style platform.

Sorry for the long rant but I figure this is a chance to actually have someone from team mixcloud potentially read some actual feedback that they're probably sheltered from normally.

> You have to pay to rewind stuff apparently

This is true. It is also the worst piece of hostile-UX I've ever seen. I'd love to have seen the Product Designer and Product Manager tie this one back to revenue forecasts. Who knows, maybe its a huge converter?

It just seems overly hostile to me, as if thats the only way they could think to increase revenue - instead of, you know, working on their core value proposition.

When I discovered mixcloud, this was described as a "feature" that essentially turned them into radio which allowed them to have much more generous licensing terms with the labels. It allowed small DJs to essentially upload mixes containing none of their own music. At the time it made sense and may still be true to an extent, but SoundCloud is far more popular and seems to have become much more lax in their policy of long form audio.

I've only lost one mix in my favorites in the past few years and that was the rare good mix I found consisting solely of popular rap.

Pretty much everything else I listen to on there is EDM and most of the time they are DJs uploading sets they played for money at huge festivals. I only lose those when the artist removes music to force people to listen to their new stuff. In those situations it makes an easy filter for who to unfollow since if the new stuff was any good they wouldn't need to remove the old stuff.

> When I discovered mixcloud, this was described as a "feature" that essentially turned them into radio which allowed them to have much more generous licensing terms with the labels

Fairly sure that was only applied to some locations.

I really wish they would open the API up and allow third party clients, more competition and choice there could only be a good thing for users.

Mixcloud is pretty unreliable in my experience. It does one thing better than soundcloud: a stream can consists of multiple tracks, which is excellent for mix-sets.

But the only reason I use it more than soundcloud is because their app supports CarPlay. Soundcloud doesn't do that, which makes listening to it in my car much more difficult, even if the mixcloud app is pretty crap on-the-go.

You mean by crashing the browser? Mixcloud is dead. Anyone serious about music uses Soundcloud.

Paid SoundCloud listener here. I value the service they provide and I am happy to pay for it. They could improve discovery options, so greater collaboration with Pandora would be a very good thing.

The other issue with Spotify is that they had no answer for Dropbox, clyp.it or more recently, Bandlab.

Back in the day if you wanted to collab with another producer, vocalist, rapper, whatever, SoundCloud was the quick and dirty way of sharing audio ideas and files in the browser. For larger projects you used Dropbox.

Shame they tried to be internet radio and not a place and tool for content creators, like YouTube. They could have been the YouTube for audio, like podcasting.

The other issue with Spotify is that they had no answer for Dropbox, clyp.it or more recently, Bandlab.

Um, those things are not an issue for Spotify; Spotify's product is not meant to be used by creators like Soundcloud and definitely not even in the same ballpark as Dropbox.

brain fart. Sub "soundcloud" for spotify.

I really like Bandcamp as a “music publishing platform for independent artists”.

It lets people listen for free, makes it easy to collect payments.

I feel like they’ve taken the “slow but pure” approach to product development. Not growing super fast, or chasing revenue, but just making sure the core feature works for artists who are truly independent, and carefully expanding from there.

Bandcamp has an awfully out of date UI, no recommendation engine of any kind, overall ridiculously simplistic, plus their monetization model is closer to an indie label one. This is altoegther a different model and a different niche compared to SoundCloud.

i'm working on a solution to this problem. it's called .mixtape - https://mixtape.ai currently in beta but targeting an end of february launch

Wait - is this not still a large part of the SoundCloud model? I host a bunch of my 8bit tracks up there and give them away for free, but I have to pay $150 annually to do it (and yes I self host as well, but the soundcloud ecosystem drives a good deal of traffic my way, and I appreciate the service they provide.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to pay for Soundcloud. I don’t need offline mode and it’s too expensive.

I would pay for 320kbps streams tho (which I can get to be offline with youtube-dl).

I swear SC is the only place I can find even a couple of Ethan Johns songs to stream while I'm at work.

It's got its niche for sure.

Wait, what?

I’m already surprised SiriusXM is still somehow around, let alone that they have $75 million to invest in another company and not that they’re taking $75 million to stay afloat...

The market cap of SirusXM is almost $32bn, roughly $5bn more than Spotify.

Wow. I know like every new car comes with a trial but I didn’t realize people actually activated it.

Even more impressive than the market cap previously referenced is their actual business is vastly superior to Spotify.

Sirius 2019: $7.8b in sales, $1.7b operating income

Spotify 2019: $6.7b in sales, -$73m operating income

Spotify's market cap is supported by a fantasy that one day, somehow, if they get big enough they might generate a real profit to support their Wile E. Coyote valuation (don't look down). So for example, if they get to $20 billion in sales (in another 10 years), maybe they'll spit off as much profit as Sirius does right now in exchange for a similar market cap.

Spotify has solid user growth, and just invested heavily in the podcast ecosystem. Also they just reintroduced 3-month trials for their subscriptions which slows conversion and therefore revenue growth. Of all the tech companies out there, I think Spotify ranks among the more solid ones.

Man, I did not know these facts. I would have never guessed.

Compared to Spotify, SiriusXM has lower content costs (favorable statuatory licensing rates and a larger fraction of exclusive owned content) and a better user demographic (wealthy middle age Americans). Their churn rate is negligible.

I have probably 6 or 7 paid subscriptions for my personal use. Aside from Netflix, SxM is probably the one I would cancel last of the group.

What are your use cases? 6 or 7 seems like a lot.

I had 6 for a while. Three cars, two home stereos, and a handheld. Most of those eventually became obsolete as the app and Sonos integration became usable, so now it's just in the cars.

Not the person you're asking, but it seems it's very easy to get to 6 or 7: Netflix, Prime, Hulu, HBO2Go, AppleTV+, Disney+, Spotify, SxM, etc

I think like the person you replied to I misread is as having 6 or 7 SxM subscriptions, which sounded like a big flex "I have 6, maybe 7, cars".

6 or 7 paid subs sounds reasonable.

> Aside from Netflix, SxM is probably the one I would cancel last of the group.

I read it that way as well right up until I read the rest of the comment where the last sentence made it clear.

My mistake. 6 or 7 DIFFERENT apps. I have one Sirius sub that we use in the one car we own.

Yeah, I originally misunderstood and thought it was that many SxM subs. Was a little confused. Makes more sense now.

DAZN WWE TuneIn JeFiT Spotify Netflix Sirius Dropbox

Does not include subs I use for my business like GSuite, Freshbooks, Front, Zapier, Monday, etc.

They have an incredibly efficient negative cancelation program that hikes the teaser rate to something like $45/mo.

Cancellation is also by phone call only, which creates a lot of friction. I’ve tried to cancel a couple of times, and let it lapse once, and they always end up dropping my rate to $4/mo. Hard to say no to $50/year for 150 more options in your car. Even when the bitrate is like listening to a 1998 mp3.

It is indeed surprising to me that people can tolerate the low bitrate sound. I would consider subscribing but I can’t stand to actually listen. Do subscribers get a higher bitrate? My impression is that it’s a limitation of the satellite signal bandwidth and the number of channels they cram into it.

I have worked in the music streaming industry.

We did not try to cheat with bitrate but I am confident that only 1/100000 users would actually notice any difference between 128kbit/s and anything higher.

Even going lower than 128, you would be surprised how low you need to go before it really becomes noticeable to end users.

And that's why I never even activated XM on my new car even though it came with a 1 year free trial.

I have Pandora Plus $5/month.

Also owned by Sirius btw

I didn't know that. At least it's extremely easy to cancel my Pandora subscription and they don't hound you like XM does. XM sends me a letter a month even though I never signed up. I'm curious how long they'll keep it up.

They used to send me a ton of letters, even phone calls. You can opt out of that, as I did, and they will stop it.

Yeah, I'm looking at getting one of the cheap teaser receivers at BBY and then activating it on a Privacy.com card or a giftcard or something, so they can't pull that even if I forget or am unable to navigate their cancellation hoops.

I recently tried to subscribe to XM radio using multiple pre-paid Visa cards (for the same reason you outlined above) and all were denied. It also seems that using a credit card that expires before your subscription lapses won't help you either. They will send a bill to your address on file and report you to a collection agency if you do not pay.

Giving expiring card information does not magically make you not liable for a charge. It just makes it harder for them to collect and (hopefully) harder for you to forget about the charge.

I use and love it in all of my cars. I have Spotify and Apple Music too, but there's something about actual "radio" without commercials that I enjoy for longer drives.

Sirius is the only decent music discovery service for me since there's some actual human curation going on (at least on their main channel lineup). Spotify is nice when I have playlists prepared and ready to go but that takes work and I get tired of most of my playlist content after a week. Discover Weekly is garbage, and Google Music's version was far worse. Never tried Apple music.

But I've also noticed the repetition on SXM but I've settled on 3-4 channels I like so I switch between them to combat staleness.

When I've had to cancel the service, their sales department is pretty aggressive in talking you out of it.

For others, it's a highly compelling service. I know people who subscribe just to listen to Howard Stern.

A number of stores use Sirius for their background music too.

SiriusXM has no competition in the satellite radio space as far as I know.

They also own Pandora.

It used to be that Sirius and XM were two separate companies providing competing services. Unfortunately in 2008 the US DoJ allowed them to merge on the basis that FM & internet radio were sufficient competition.

I don't think they were wrong. Sirius or XM may not have survived on their own. XM was on the verge of bankruptcy as it is.

Is the DOJ ever denying merger anymore though? European here so probably biased but I feel like US regulatory tools have taken a serious step back the last 15 / 20 years

The DOJ sued to stop the merger of AT&T and Time Warner (DOJ lost). The DOJ sued to stop the merger of T-Mobile and AT&T when they tried a few years back (AT&T backed down). It also sued to stop the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint (DOJ settled).

Don't they have some kind of deal with auto manufacturers, putting their system into every car coming off the line?

Yes, they have different programs with different manufacturers.

Almost all of them include between 3-12 months of free service (I think specific lines in Chrysler's lineup across brands are the only ones with 12, Alfa Romeo I know of specifically).

A lot of vehicles it's actually considered an "upgrade" to the stereo system and is only included with the more premium package.

A lot of people buying cars usually ask about it having Sirius or Satellite radio; they've been adding a lot of new shows and stations like comedians and they have a lot of sports. Their comedy channels are very similar to comedy podcasts and they've been growing this lineup. Having it all integrated into your vehicle without having to plug in your phone is still a big feature with older people and even some younger ones.

US and Canada only.. sigh

This might actually be the one case where this limitation is not entirely artificial. :-)

The SiriusXM sattelites are in an inclined eliptical orbit with the highes point being over the norther hemisphere. This is the so called Molniya orbit, named after the first Soviet sattelites using it:


(Soviet Union had a lot of territory in higher latitudes where geostationary sattelites do not work well & the Molniya orbit needs less energy to achieve.)

So in the SiriusXM case, the sattelite would be much too low to provide useful coverage when over the southern hemisphere. And even when. As for not covering EU/Asia - this could be due to either the highest point of the orbit being always over US (guessing there) or due to ground station coverage when the sattelite is not over US.

In 2016 Sirius discontinued broadcasting from tundra orbits. Their newest FM-5 uses geostationary. [1]

Satellite radio was tried a few times in other geographies, but only in North America did it succeed. [2] In 1999 Worldspace launched for EMEAI, and looks like it collapsed in 2008. MobaHo! was a mobile satellite digital audio/video broadcasting service in Japan whose services began on October 20, 2004, and ended on March 31, 2009.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tundra_orbit#Spacecraft_using_...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_radio

Interesting, I totally missed that they use GEO now!

Still pretty cool that one can receive digital radio without a directional antena from a satellite all the way up 36000 km in GEO. Though looking at the article about Tundra Orbit you have linked it was 25000 x 39000 km already, so not that much of a difference.

And in addition population density is higher in Europe than U.S., menajng that the density of FM radio (and modern attempts like DAB/DAB+ etc.) and mobile cell base stations is also higher, thus those provide more competition.

Yeah but their real competition is streaming audio services.

I thought the same thing until I interviewed there in 2017 and got a look into what they were doing behind the scenes. At the time, they were definitely not struggling. They were working on transitioning their core competency toward streaming services, but their satellite radio business was still alive and well. (I took another offer, which I regret in retrospect, because I ended up working on a Perl 5 stack...)

They are a very big deal for aviation. My plane uses XM in-cockpit weather products.

But ADS-B is catching up and quickly. I understand there are a few additional layers in SXM and the resolution is better when looking at 200+NM. I find SXM weather to be kind of extortion because they use publicly available data and sell it just for packaging it nice.

ADS-B isn't a weather product, is it? It tells you where other planes are, it does not tell you about cloud layers, winds-aloft, or other meteorological data. Unless I'm incredibly mistaken.

SXM carries this (along with a ton of other products) in their stream, alongside the audio channels that most people know. Their agricultural products, aviation products, stock-market feed, fuel-price data, and more, are valuable to various markets who buy specialized displays with the receivers integrated into them.

I used to have XM weather. The data is generally better, and it works on the ground, but I couldn’t justify the $30/mo for the kind of flying I do. ADS-B weather is “good enough”.

because they use publicly available data and sell it just for packaging it nice.

Aren't you missing the part where they're sending it to you 10,000 feet in the air via a satellite constellation? That's a little more than "packaging". You're free to access the public data by any other means you choose.

How do you feel about all local news channels, all radio stations, and all weather websites using freely available NOAA data as part of their income-producing content? (Or maybe there is some special thing you know of where those outlets have to pay and SXM gets it for free?)

I don't understand satellite radio.. Ok in an airplane. But why in a car? In the Netherlands all radio is FM and its for free. Why would somebody want satellite radio...

I guess there is no full country coverage of FM in USA?

There is probably several FM radio stations in range of you wherever you are on the interstates in the United States. However, there may not always be stations in the genres of music you like. The frequencies are also not always consistent so as you travel from city to city you'll have to scan around to find something you may enjoy listening to. Its not like you can tune in to an FM talk radio station in New York and expect to still be listening to the same thing on the same frequency in San Francisco.

I never understood it until someone I know had it in his company car. He told me they pay for it because when they do long distance, FM networks would keep switching. That's when I understood their market. The current top comment is from a truck driver that pretty much confirm this.

In road trip you never had channels that stop receiving? They pay 5$ a month to avoid to switch in theses situations ;).

There is, but you won't find a station for every genre everywhere you go. I doubt you'd find that anywhere to be honest.

Once you throw mountains into the picture, it becomes pretty hard to have coverage everywhere.

satellite radio doesn't have commercials

They generated > $2 billion revenue during 2019Q4...

Yes! Soundcloud, to me, is meritocracy in music today. Are they, will they, be as evil as everyone else in sneakily selling personal data? Sure, that's beside the point; a society-wide problem. Soundcloud provides a direct connection between fully independent music creators and an audience, large or small. If my music were that good, I would blow up on Soundcloud, at some scale. Disagree? Ask Billie Eilish what she thinks of Soundcloud.

That hasn't been the case for a long long time. Especially reposting turned it into yet another spammy service full of promoters. Additionally, discovery is terrible.

There used to be cases of people being discovered, im sure. But a lot of it is not quite the rag-to-riches story they make it seem, especially your example of Billie Eilish.

Do you create music independently? Have you tried to distribute it? If not, from where is your expertise? If so, maybe your music isn't that good? That's the responsibility that I take.

I have just over 8,000 listens on Soundcloud. I have good reason to believe that the great majority of those are real. It's quite satisfying. My hobby has perhaps connected with some people, in the magical way that music does. If I were better at it, it wouldn't just be a hobby. :)

I found SoundCloud great about 5 or 6 years ago - engagement was high, and I was getting lots of comments and interaction on my music, but lately, it has nosedived. Not sure if because there is just a lot more noise (pun intended) on there nowadays, or other artists have simply abandoned the platform??

BTW - my handle is: https://soundcloud.com/cyberferret

(very close to the adjective-animal name thing that another commenter mentioned! :) )

Look at the organic engagement from the tracks I posted 5+ years ago, versus later ones and you can spot the down trend quite easily!

hey braindongle,

what is your soundcloud handle? I'd like to check out your work and add to those 8k listens! :)

(incidentally, I am patientfrog on soundcloud)


Will check out your stuff! Incidentally, I've toyed with the idea of "usefulmoose" for an artist name. [adjective-that-people-like][animal-that-people-like]. Good formula.

So what does Billie Eilish think of SoundCloud?

"Soundcloud is the only reason I am anything. 100%. We are in a time where anyone can make music which is so dope and Soundcloud is the only reason we can all do this."


And they still haven't fixed the bug that doesn't let you drag and drop to rearrange the songs in your 'Spotlight' list on your profile in Chrome. I reported it about 6 years ago, and repeatedly re-report it at least every 12 months. Hopefully some of this $75M goes towards a competent javascript programmer for their frontend.

They should give you a refund.

Yep - I've been a Pro plan member since almost the beginning (Spotlight is a PRO only feature), so this isn't me simply railing against a +free+ service. BTW this bug totally crashes Chrome - all tabs, not just the tab that SC is open on, so it does cause a massive hit on my productivity whenever it happens.

> Hopefully some of this $75M goes towards a competent javascript programmer for their frontend


Maybe they should give their developers a 3rd MacBook. One MacBook for the office, one MacBook for home office and one MacBook for installing Chrome and testing the site there. Just throwing ideas around...

I just listen to the streams of the radio stations I love:

WWOZ - New Orleans gold mine, especially 2 week audio archive

KCRW - live + curated streams

Cultura Brasil - a curated, updated stream of Brazilian music

BR Heimat - odd, but I find corny alpine brass bands a great working soundtrack

WKHR - a high school radio station in Cleveland where old people play 78rpm records

Oooh, I might have to check out that WKHR! I get WAHS over the air here, it's likewise a high school with a bunch of music programs throughout the day. No screaming ads, just the occasional PSA, and the DJs genuinely care about the music. It's a breath of fresh air.

Thanks for mentioning BR Heimat! I didn't know I needed this! :)

I stopped liking soundcloud when I realized that 99.999999% of my followers are bots. I dont need a bunch of followers that mean nothing. I would rather have 0 than 100 fake followers.

I also realized that at my production rate, its cheaper to just use Distrokid and throw things out on iTunes than to hope for discovery on soundcloud. Now I just use sound cloud to distribute examples of hardware mods or how a piece of gear sounds. no more music...

If bot followers made you leave SoundCloud, why were you there in the first place? Does the number of followers you have change how you use the service?

> Does the number of followers you have change how you use the service?

Not the OP, but yes, of course. Most musicians want their music to connect to other people. If you had the opportunity to get on stage and play a show at a bar full of excited people or at one whose dancefloor contained only Roombas wandering aimlessly around, which one would you play at?

So how does the move to iTunes fix that? Aren't they even more opaque w.r.t. audience info?

My point is that Soundcloud is a)disingenuous about fan engagement, and b) I would rather not even have the social aspect of it if it is fake. Posting on iTunes, I can actually have a shot at reaching people.

Also this is not a sour grapes because I have no fans sort of reaction. The point is that there is so much noise from the bots that I dont want to spend the effort to try and engage legitimate people. Lastly, I didnt quit soundcloud, I stopped using it for its initial purpose, and now use it for easily sharing audio in specific use cases. I just dont see it as a "social network". Its that for some people, but not for most people.

I am interested in what are the benefits of following people, since (by your definition) bots are following random people, there must be an incentive for it.

People pay for followers (bots). To make the bots look more organic rather than 10,000 bots only following the same handful of people that paid for followers, the bots will also follow random people.

I'm not sure how SoundCloud works but does following someone get you more of their data than you would get otherwise? If so, I would say the incentive is data collection.

What is wrong with bot followers? Is it like fb where you would be paying to promote your content to fake users?

Some people's audio portfolio is on SoundCloud. You would hope that your followers are people who are enjoying your creations.

why is that important? Are you saying if they didn't have very many "real" followers, then they wouldn't continue making music?

Soundcloud is the only music service I happily pay for even though I really don't need to. There aren't enough ads to justify giving them money, so it's really just because if they went away I'd lose access to all the best music

I paid for Soundcloud for a while. Unfortunately I ended up cancelling for two reasons. For one, with Soundcloud Go+, I'm supposed to be able to listen to albums, artists, songs that arent independent soundcloud artists, but for some reason, albums that were available on just about any other streaming platform from US artists, weren't available in my country. Secondly, there's no volume normalization, which I understand why, but it gets annoying having to re-adjust the volume constantly because I had to turn it all the way up to hear one song while the next will nearly blow my ears on that level.

I really wanted them to succeed, and subscribed to their Go+ tier for years. This year I pulled the plug and went back to Spotify. I can't say I it miss too much. Of course, liking EDM I miss the live sets of many talented artists, but overall their service was just not worth it anymore. Their recommendation system is bullshit, since they have tons of duplicates in their database I would often get suggested music I already listen to uploaded by someone else. This gets more frustrating when one duplicate is unavailable in my country when another isn't and I have to curate the song myself. The biggest change to their app in the past few years was introducing darkmode (only a few weeks back).

Their last marketing mail was about some new feature for artists, that's when I finally pulled the plug. They lack any direction, they focus on the artist side of things, while their listeners get a mediocre music player.

Interesting, my experience is different. I recently canceled my subscription and the amount of ads soundcloud plays drives me up the wall. It makes me want to resubscribe.

Eh? The last I heard was the Soundcloud was going bust and letting all it's employees go?

...I'm so out of the loop

It's another modern tech company that hemorrhages money with no return. All they do is lose cash, but they're popular. Compare this to Bandcamp, which has a great UI, no bots, and generates revenue. Yet it's less popular by comparison.

Just take a look at this article from 3 years ago titled "SoundCloud is losing a lot of money — is an acquisition coming soon?": https://www.theverge.com/2017/1/8/14206830/soundcloud-possib...

Get big and cash out

Bandcamp is a great service, but I wouldn't say its a great product. I will get emails saying that an artist released a new album, but when i check my feed it doesn't show up. I have to go to that artist's page directly sometimes. The feed system is buggy, and that's an important part of a music app for discoverability. And the mobile app still doesn't allow me to save offline, last I checked, also important for a music app when streaming on the road.

Soundcloud should have been the Patreon for indie musicians. You get artists making money on it and they will double down. They need exponential growth, and for a consumer facing company that means community led growth.

They can still do it. There isn't much competition there, Bandcamp and Gumroad aren't dominating.

Tangentially related. I hadn't heard of SiriusXM before so checked out their website. The homepage is a bit confusing and I'm not 100% sure what it is or why I need to pay separately if I listen inside or outside of a car? I get that it's a music streaming service of sorts just not sure what their angle is exactly. Spotify for instance doesn't care where I listen to the music I'm just paying to stream it wherever I want.

They run a constellation of satellites such that satellite receivers, mounted commonly in cars, can receive programming for music. The internet offering is a new thing.

> The internet offering is a new thing.

It's not a new thing. It's a newer thing. It's been around for years. I used subscribe 4-5 years ago so I could get commentary on soccer games while I was watching in a pub (w/ no audio).

It's a merger of two satellite radio systems. They have satellites hanging in orbit over North America, so you can get coverage in places where there's no cellular data coverage for streaming. And of course you can stream 24x7 endlessly, no data charges, because it's a broadcast.

They used to charge separately for streaming vs. satellite, but they've recently combined them: one subscription now gets you satellite coverage (in the car) and streaming (on your phone).

SoundCloud is getting worse by the day, I just don't understand why they're not doing the obvious to monetize and get better

What is the obvious?

as a musician with songs on there, I would like a button that says, "sell this song to people for 1$" and to let me put a large graphical "cover" on it for people to see.

soundcloud is organized way more as a musician-to-musician site than a musician-to-consumer site. it's no wonder bandcamp is successful while sc struggles.

Act as a marketplace! They already have content creators and content consumers in mass! Why I can't buy the songs from my favorite DJ sets?! Why those DJs can't sell directly to their fans?

Putting in ads between every $SOME_NUMBER of plays.

They do that, at least in Europe

I think that's only on mobile apps because when I listen to mixes at work I have never heard an ad.

I think the do(/did) that already? Maybe they don't have enough companies buying ads with them? It's been some time since I last used it.

They could fix their search to begin with. It is pretty pathetic.

Maybe they can finally open up their app registration to 3rd party developers now. It has been down for like 3 years.


There's a lot of up and coming artists on SoundCloud. I could totally see them selling a service that replaces record labels for artists starting out. Stuff like helping with mixing and sound quality, basic advertising and branding, maybe booking a few shows. If SoundCloud became like an incubator or accelerator for artists, they could get some top artists early. Billie Eilish for instance started on SoundCloud. Imagine if SoundCloud, having access to all their streaming data, noticed the song Ocean Eyes blowing up and offered 14 year old Billie Eilish a contract. They'd have made millions by now.

Plus it's not like you need to invest a shitton into up and coming artists. Most of them need a band, some recording studio hours, and some marketing. The marketing is probably the most expensive one, but SoundCloud has easy, free marketing: put the artist on the front page. If SC did this for maybe 25-50 artists a year, they could easily get a Billie Eilish or a mumble rapper or two. It's not like there's many other places to post music as a young artist.

Edit: Or even if SoundCloud can't act as a record label for fear of stepping on actual record labels, they can still build a solid referral relationship. They have the ultimate first look deal.

Berlin Underground music scene appreciates this.

More like underground electronic music scene, but I get what you're saying. I listen to a lot of sets and they are exclusively available on SoundCloud only.

In my case, Berlin means electronic music only.

SiriusXM has deals with a whole bunch of dealerships. A new car comes with SiriusXM. Even rental cars have deals. I remember heartz had a dark pattern of including SiriusXM and charging almost as much as GPS for $10/day unless customer explicitly asked to cancel it.

SiriusXM use every tactic in their book to convert and retain customers. In the age of Spotify and Apple Music, their charges don’t quite make sense.

I cancelled mine because satellite reception was poorer than FM and I just didn’t see the point. They spammed me pretty hard for 6 months and gave me all sorts of offers. The product isn’t worth it.

I once totaled a car that had SiriusXM and didn't realize until 1-2 years later that I was still getting charged (annually) for the subscription.

I think they reversed some of the charges when I finally noticed and called to explain the situation. It was very easy to overlook when you've just had a car accident and had to deal with insurance and buying a new car and all of that.


The year of Luigi returns. First Spotify, now the satellite radio company.

Makes sense though. Easy way to get access to new music.

I feel like sentiment around soundcloud is a little mixed these days, but I'm glad to see that they're still financially viable enough to attract capital. Would be pretty bummed to lose all my playlists and likes if they went under.

Artists like Das Racist have their EPs on SoundCloud but not Spotify.

It drives me insane.

This can only be good news. SoundCloud is one of the last few experimental-artist platforms, kind of like the myspace music scene before myspace got big.

Maybe they'll be able to re-open their API program which has been closed to new applications for years now due to a "high amount of requests" ;-)

Most artists I like prefer BandCamp to SoundCloud.

That's only because the make money on it. If soundcloud can figure out how to get listeners to pay more money, then more will go to the artists. I'm leaning towards a patreon model like I mentioned in another comment.

I've been paying for the SoundCloud Go+ plan ($9.99/mo) since November 2016, which I match when I buy 1-2 albums on Bandcamp. Its not enough. I would gladly subscribe to some artists and pay $5/mo.

I can't believe that they still exist, I use to have an account on SoundCloud but I don't use it anymore.

Not sure what to think of this. SoundCloud has run its course and should just die, leaving space for a new player. There are some around but they can't gain critical traction due to the stickiness of SoundCloud despite having a product which has increasingly gotten worse over time.

For an audio platform, the audio quality is subpar. Terrible discovery. Too many bots & marketing-spammers. No direct monetization scheme for artists. Terrible mobile app (at least on iOS). etc.

I completely disagree on almost every point. As a daily SoundCloud user, the discovery is a mile above and beyond every other platform I've tried, including Apple Music and Spotify. SoundClouds weekly "The Upload" playlist has more good music in it than any other automatic playlist I follow, I cant even remember the last time it had a song on it I didn't like. I'm not sure how some people get such a different experience, maybe only long-time users get the good discovery experience because they've provided the algorithms with more data about their preferences?

My one gripe is that you can only follow 2,000 people! WTH Soundcloud, why place such an arbitrary maximum? It's clearly not a hard limit because occasionally I can glitch my way up to more followers by clicking the button dozens of times (I'm at 2010 now).

A very curious bug, could you make it more than 2001-2002?

The limit on follower can be an related to a typical problem with building activity feeds on scale : push vs / with pull.

So solve it the way Twitter and Reddit have solved it, by choosing a different random subset of 200 of your follows to consider on every pageload.

There's a sentence I would never have guessed I would read. Makes sense though.

someone say a little prayer for 8tracks

one of the nails in their coffin was when SoundCloud cut them off


looks like new CEO is doing his job properly.

https://outline.com/yhGKb2 -- GDPR, and otherwise reader respect.

Ever since techcrunch implemented their GDPR "conforming" cookie "banner" I refuse to open their site. Can we have a guideline that says "link will be replaced if target site follows dark patterns and same quality content is available elsewhere"?

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