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What is Soundcloud, how does it work and how to use it

Leri Koen

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UpdatedEnriched the article and turned it into a guide

SoundCloud is a free website and app that lets users share, collect and discover music and podcasts. It is the ideal platform to share your own musical creations and mixes with the world. All the music you upload to SoundCloud is streamable. The artist can even make the songs or playlists downloadable or redirect interested parties to a website where they can purchase the songs/albums.

The app is a great platform for discovering new artists or sharing their music with a new audience, thus growing their following. SoundCloud has a desktop version for Mac as well as mobile apps for iPhone and Android. In this SoundCloud guide, we will cover what SoundCloud is, how it works and how to start using it.

What Is SoundCloud?

SoundCloud is known as an online audio distribution platform, which simply means it is a platform where users can share music. SoundCloud was founded in 2007 and remains one of the premier artist-first platforms that is driven by a community of artists and listeners.

While SoundCloud is free to use for artists and listeners alike, a subscription version is available. If you want more freedom, you can consider SoundCloud Go. What is SoundCloud Go? SoundCloud Go is the first tier in the SoundCloud subscription and costs $4.99/month. The subscription version doesn’t contain any ads and offers offline listening options as well. 

If you are an artist, SoundCloud is a great platform to get your music out into the world and start building a global following. If you are a music enthusiast that loves staying on top of the hottest music trends, SoundCloud is a great space to find new talent.

Soundcloud

How Does SoundCloud Work?

To start using SoundCloud, you’ll have to create an account first. This can be done through the Mac desktop client directly or via the app. Once you’ve created your account, you can start listening to music or uploading your own. Anyone can start using SoundCloud to listen to music or start uploading music for free.

If you are an artist, there are also subscriptions available specifically for music creators. These subscriptions include more insights and stats, support and other opportunities. This is perfect once you’ve established your profile and are starting to grow a following.

It is important to note that you can only upload music you have rights to on the platform. This means you cannot just upload your favorite artists’ songs. The creators who hold the rights to those have to upload them.

What Is the SoundCloud App?

The SoundCloud app is a convenient way to take all your music, playlist and likes with you wherever you go. The SoundCloud app is available on both Android and iOS devices. Once you have the app installed on your phone and logged in with your account, you can take your music with you wherever you go.

How to Use SoundCloud?

To start using SoundCloud, the first thing you’ll need to do is create your account. You can do this easily through the SoundCloud website, the app or the Mac desktop client. Once logged in, you can customize your profile by clicking on your display name at the top right of the screen and then selecting ‘Profile’. Once all the basics are in place, you can use the below SoundCloud tips to get started.

Discover new music on SoundCloud

soundcloud feed

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 represents 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:

Soundcloud communities

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.

Follow Hustle for the latest in hip hop. AURAS is all about R&B, while Circuits represents the electronic underground.

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.

SoundCloud
Source: SoundCloud

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.

VLC media player Download free ►
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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:

SoundCloud

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.

Music

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.

Wordpress Download now ►
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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 vs SoundCloud
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Spotify

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

SoundCloud

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Wrapping up

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.

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