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Popular and Free, SoundCloud Is Now Ready for Ads (nytimes.com)
77 points by pje on Aug 21, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

From the official blog:

> At the Premier partner level, creators will have the opportunity to make money from their tracks through advertising.[...] Every time you see or hear an ad, an artist gets paid.


This is huge: Soundcloud has a way better connection to artists/labels than Spotify or Rdio -- which means that the best content will be on Soundlcoud first.

Given that users follow the content, I think it is safe to suggest that Soundcloud will be bigger than Spotify in a few years.

There is also MixCloud: http//mixcloud.com/ with a very similar service. I've read that a lot of DJ types migrated to MixCloud when SoundCloud started to block content because of IP issues.

MixCloud doesn't let you download (which SoundCloud does sometimes) although it's not difficult to find out the streaming URL.

I use both services, but I'm not really happy with the playlist systems of neither. Recommendations, contrary to what other commenter said, are very good.

I don't really use them with the phone: too much traffic, also train tunnels are bad. I wish it could cache, downloading while on wi-fi and listen later.

It does cache songs you have listened to on your phone. When I get the tube in London I can still listen to tracks I've played already. Not sure how long it's cached for or how many tracks it caches all together though.

Except that most people that I know are running away from soundcloud because of this.

Every DJ i know is leaving soundcloud too.

They give no indication of what content in a mix is infringing, 30 seconds of an hour mix includes something owned by Universal? sorry your whole mix is rejected.

Good. Most DJs are just trying to surf on the popularity of people's music anyway. There's always Mixcloud, although that too has its quirks - for example, due to ;licensing reasons' it doesn't allow you to rewind, only move forward - kinda like the opposite of cable's on-demand free programming.

The only thing SoundCloud was missing for artists was monetisation. I just hope there isn't a user backlash. I've already seen a lot of people complaining.

I've just spent £35 to renew my pro subscription. If this means people are less likely to come and listen to my music, being bombarded with adverts on a page that I have paid for, I will be most displeased. I'll have to stop wearing my soundcloud tshirt to raves for a start, or everyone will be looking at me like like I'm about to sell them something.

Bandcamp, anyone?

Hey there, I work at SoundCloud. One thing that might not be totally clear in our messaging about this right now is that ads will only play against tracks premier members have chosen to monetise. If you aren't monetising your tracks, your listeners won't be affected.

If so this should really have been made clearer in the press coverage because it is very different from the way I and probably other people understood it. I understand that soundclound would need a way to make money, and what you describe seems like a very reasonable way to proceed. However, a youtube-like or spotify-like ads system would likely be much harder to sell to users.

I guess they haven't made it clear because while this is how it works now, but they don't want to set any expectations of that not changing for the future.

This seems fair. What about on the users stream page though?

Also, what is a "premier track?"

A premier track is a track uploaded and owned by a SoundCloud member who is part of the premier program. It can be monetised (ads can play in front of it) or not. The premier tier is currently invite-only but we want to open it up to more artists as fast as we can.

If a user (currently US only) is listening to their stream and they start playing a track a premier member has decided to monetise an ad will play in front of it. There are some other factors that will influence ad frequency obviously, but that is the general behaviour.

Aren't you in the perfect position to establish a premium subscription for users, establishing a market place for musicians without the labels? Say, a user could choose the ad-supported model or a model where he deposits some money in a soundcloud account. A musician can then have some songs available for free, some songs available with ads played beforehand or some soungs available easily for a micropayment from the user's soundcloud account (say 5 cents). Soundcloud gets 30%, the musician 70%. If you love the song or album, you sell unlimited access (and download) to the song or album for something decided by the musician.

Just because ads are a horrible way to monetise a web endeavour.

From the linked article: "Eventually, [SoundCloud] plans to introduce a paid subscription that will let listeners skip those ads, as they can with Spotify and other licensed services."

Subscriptions and rev shares are generally far less friction than charging up an account and explicitly giving a micropayment to an artist. I think SoundCloud already is a "marketplace" where independent artists can function without labels (if they want to do all the other work that labels cover), just that currently all transactions happen outside of the platform. That said, I don't have any more info about how a premium subscription for users would function.

You should put the ads up on the screen, in a non-intrusive fashion. Having the ad play in front is everything that is ass about radio. There are few things more disruptive than listening and expecting to hear some good music of ____ genre only to have some muzak come up instead followed by a pitch for auto insurance or something that is usually utterly irrelevant to the listener. It has made Youtube playlists almost unlistenable, for example.

If you must have ads then you should have content restrictions like google did with Adwords. Allow no music, no sound effects, no time effects, just a vocal sales pitch with ordinary dynamic range and -12dB peak loudness. The extremely limited options for Adwords presentation are what makes them bearable, in contrast to the hideous animated mess of typical internet banner ads.

This is a one-time opportunity to establish standards that will support rather than undermine your brand. If you let advertisers have free reaign over what to do with their slots then you'll get disrupted in turn. I already hesitate to embed Soundcloud clips because the embeds don't have any volume control and the play/volume controls on the site have been moved to the opposite end of the screen from everything else, a depressing example of a user-hostile 'dark pattern'.

How will this affect applications using your API? Roll20, for example, has SoundCloud integration to play music while a game is going on. Will ads play when music is triggered this way? If so, why would anyone continue to use this feature of Roll20?

There's another article here which mentions that specifically.


"Carefully-controlled? The ads will only be seen and heard in the US for now, on SoundCloud’s own website and mobile apps – not in tracks embedded elsewhere on the web and/or listened to elsewhere in the world."

Thank you for posting that.

> for now

I've slowly been shifting my music listening from Spotify to Soundcloud.

Music discovery on Soundcloud is much easier, thanks to its news feed. With Spotify, I usually end up digging through "related artists" for artists I already like--which can be effective, but is also time consuming. With Soundcloud, I can follow a few record labels, and discover lots of new music, easily.

Because of this, Soundcloud serves as a great platform for trending music. A song can be posted there and spread solely within the site, without much outside help, thanks both to the liking/reposting of songs and Soundcloud's "trending" section. With Spotify, you either have to already follow the artist or hope one of your Facebook friends is listening.

Which is another advantage of Soundcloud--it's nearly impossible to find other users with the same tastes. In essence, you're limited to Facebook friends.

I find that for me, Spotify is really only good if I already know exactly what I want to listen to. Also, it's ads are incredibly loud compared to the music sometimes. Hopefully Soundcloud doesn't follow that aspect.

I'm not sure this model will work like it did with Youtube. You don't put Youtube on in the background/at a party while friends are over. You sit down and watch a video (hence you're willing to sit through an advertisement). Music streaming that is broken up by advertisements is why people dislike radio and are moving to online services.

The reason artists like Soundcloud is it gives a way to distribute music directly to the fans for free. Anything that gets in the way of that (e.g. ads) is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of attempting to monetize ears/eyes, I'd instead suggest for a premium subscription for artists that gives them enhanced tools to monitor/distribute/track/etc. their music on the platform.

I'm not sure I agree with the first part of your comment. Spotify already does this, and in my experience plenty of people leave spotify on as background music and/or at a party.

My old roommates did this pretty frequently, and while it was annoying at first to hear ads between songs, as long as they're short enough, you eventually just tune them out.

If anything I'd say that the youtube style ads that play before your content are more aggravating, since you are delayed from actually seeing the content you are trying to watch, much like a loading page is generally a worse experience than a loading content area.

If I was over at my friends' and they'd play ads at me, I'd complain and ask them to put on some real music. They'd ask the same of me.

(though I wouldn't insist, if someone doesn't know how, or just really wants to hear radio with ads, I'm a guest after all)

I've heard Spotify ads in cafés/restaurants even...

> You don't put Youtube on in the background/at a party while friends are over

Yes you do and is the only reason I started using AdBlock. I was willing to put up with everything the internet would throw at me. But then I visited the US once and Youtube had pre-roll ads and mid-playlist ads and whatnot.

Installed adblock immediately after it happened the first time. Now the whole internet doesn't have ads. Good job Youtube.

I second this, I installed Adblock for exactly the same reason - pre-roll ads are intolerable. I honestly don't know how could anyone think that playing 30 seconds of nonsense before letting you see a 3-minute video is a good idea. It's the worst type of ad since popups.

Loads of people put Youtube on the background, and I think that the main reason people are moving to online services is because you can choose what you're listening to (and not hear the same 10 songs over and over again).

I think most people are accepting of ads, especially for a free service. There's always the vocal minority, but free is free.

>> "The reason artists like Soundcloud is it gives a way to distribute music directly to the fans for free."

Although I disagree that that's why artists like SoundCloud this won't change that. Ads will only play if you choose to monetise a track. Don't want ads on your track? You don't have them.

> You don't put Youtube on in the background/at a party while friends are over.

Of course you do. For many people (myself and my family included) this is number one place to go to find music. UX is perfect for a party - you find a random playlist and leave it like that, and any time someone wants to show a particular music piece or video to the group, the YouTube tab is there waiting.

Of course, first thing people do is nuking the pre-roll ads with AdBlock - because those make YouTube annoying and useless at parties.

> I'd instead suggest for a premium subscription for artists that gives them enhanced tools to monitor/distribute/track/etc. their music on the platform

They are already doing that.

I've seen people DJing at parties using two browser windows with Youtube.

> I've seen people DJing at parties using two browser windows with Youtube.

And ? DJing is about mixing music sources seamlessly, wherever they come from.I wouldnt trust the network during a gig though ,but there is nothing shocking in getting your music from Youtube.

Wilfully playing out pirated, recompressed lossy files and calling yourself a DJ is the height of lameness.

If you're going to profit from someone elses work without paying them, try not to make it sound like shit as well.

I didnt say professional djs.

I doubt anyone DJing stuff from Youtube is getting paid for it.

Anecdotally, this is exactly what we did at parties when I was in college.

Oh wow, what an insightful suggestion!

Their website and apps are really bad....but what keeps me coming back is the incredible incredible content. I've found so many great remixes as well as obscure but extremely talented musicians on Soundcloud. It's amazing.

The site/apps and just general design really are embarrassing though. I hope they're doing something about it.

I guess this is one case where content really does make up for a shoddy product. I'd be interested to know the story behind their growth and how they managed to create the community of content creators. I'm sure at least a part of it is lack of a better alternative but I'm sure there's some secret sauce in there somewhere.

I find the site/app/api amazing.

You can navigate while playing a song without interruption, keyboard shortcuts make sense, I can even play from Emacs!

The only thing I regret is the buggy login via facebook (the logo doesn't show, or clicking it doesn't do anything).

Here's a post about the technology behind SoundCloud from a couple of months ago [1]. I agree that this is a great example of a cloud service. While it might not be completely optimized for one particular platform, I am able to hop between IOS, Android, and PC browsers with all my data being updated flawlessly and in realtime.

My biggest peeve with SoundCloud, though, is keeping track of what I have listened to and trying to remember a song that I thought was amazing. I didn't have an account for the first several months I was using it, but I would just remember the Artists I like and listen to their profiles/likes. Not being able to remember songs and artist names motivated me to make an account and start following them, and liking the songs I wanted to hear again, reblogging the ones I want to share with others... In the end, even though it was frustrating for me, I suppose this is good for SoundCloud and getting people to provide feedback.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7878433

the getting back to old music that you like is a problem even when you do have an account. Your likes are only stored in the order in which you favorite them, with no real search functionality. I've been trying forever to find an old song that I liked, but searching for it only yields similarly named songs. I wish there was a search within only favorites..

Sometimes, only sometimes, I think badly designed things are better because the lack of superficial (and sometimes even important) quality tends to keep out the crap.

I'm less forgiving...I agree the content is great and when I set my mind to look around, I always find something I really like. But it's a battle. It's slow. It doesn't run well on my laptop, and search and recommendations are pretty useless...I just end up browsing huge lists and hoping.

Maybe part of it is that some of it is so well executed (the content, sure, but things like the comments are great), that it really makes the not-so-great stuff stand out. Still, I'm hopeful they'll keep iterating and improving!

This is really interesting:


But it’s more than advertising. It’s sharing. If a person likes one song, then you know what’s likely to happen? They’ll press the download arrow and own it for free. You won’t believe what happens next! They become familiar with the artist, and seek out other material. Maybe they buy that. Maybe they talk about it online. Maybe they go to a show. Maybe they simply become a fan and tell a friend.

I’m cool with that. The labels should be too. It’s exactly what they’re trying to accomplish by funneling endless money for Facebook Likes, Twitter trending hashtags, and totally ridiculous impotent advertising campaigns. Let the people have the music. Or, to put it in language that makes more sense for the ones who can only speak dollar bill - Free the music, and your cash will follow.


Yes, so I will move forward with constructing my own portal where I can share what I like when I like.

I wonder if there is a play here to make an artist standalone site that looks and acts like SoundCloud, make it easy to deploy using SandStorm and voila!

Soundcloud already has a pro plan which I see a lot of artists using. Why do they need ads? Do you they not already make enough money?

It's not the specifics of what is being proposed here that bothers me. But something about this makes me feel that this will be soundclouds downfall. I don't want to be soundclouds product. I want soundcloud to be the product. I would happily pay for their service (providing they don't go down this route).

(I'm a bedroom producer that uploads to soundcloud, considering a pro plan)

>Why do they need ads? Do you they not already make enough money?

last I checked, they were a for-profit business. If they believe they can make more money (and thus: profits) by playing ads, that's what they do.

As a for-profit business, it's totally within their rights to gain as much money as they can and they have zero obligations to only have the best of the end-users in mind.

Of course, as ads become more and more intrusive, people might switch to a competitor with fewer/no ads, or they might convert to paid accounts, but assessing that risk, too, is Soundcloud's problem.

My guess is that they feel they are popular enough now to be able to add ads and still be able to keep their user base because Soundcloud is where the artists are (which happened because they had a huge audience, mostly because they had no ads up to now)

It's the natural progression of things.

The problem I see is that since Soundcloud continues playing after each track, those with ads are going to get some kind of preference in the queue.

This may not be the case, but I am guessing that I am going to start hearing ads even tho I don't typically follow anyone who would put ads on their music.

There's already a song from Red Bull at the TOP of my feed. Bye SoundCloud as you were :(

> There are so many D.J. mixes, mash-ups and other hybrid works, shared and remixed so frequently, that appropriate licensing terms have not yet been fully worked out

Hopefully these terms are published while being worked out.

I would happily pay for soundcloud, however I will stop using the service entirely if I start hearing ads.

I don't care how good the music is. If I'm grooving and hear an ad for redbull, the mood is lost.

How do you fix this? If you are "grooving" then there is a high percentage chance that you aren't looking at the sound cloud page but rather doing something else somewhere else. Advertisers pay for your attention so how do you go around doing just that without being 'obtrusive'.

> I would happily pay for soundcloud


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