Why Aren’t You Using SoundCloud?

There's so much more to SoundClound than scratch demos from unknown artists. Photo: SoundCloud

There’s so much more to SoundClound than scratch demos from unknown artists. Photo: SoundCloud

SoundCloud sees north of 250 million unique visitors a month. That’s a lot… I think. (After a million, numbers start to lose their meaning for me.) Only a little more than 14 million of those unique visitors come from the U.S. OK, that’s a big number, too, but it should be higher. When I conducted an informal poll consisting of five people–some my closest friends and others smartphone-holding strangers on the street–none used SoundCloud. Here are four reasons you should rectify that right now.

I like music, but I don’t like paying for it.
Sure, Pandora, iTunes Radio, Spotify Radio and Rdio are great, free options for listening to tunes, but SoundCloud allows you to curate your own playlists–a feature you have to pay for from other services. The problem is SoundCloud’s song selection isn’t as deep as the paid version these other services provide, but that’s actually a good thing. At its heart, SoundCloud is a promotional tool, where new artists, weirdoes and more can share their creations with people of the internet.

In your heart, you miss curating your music collection.
In SoundCloud’s case, free doesn’t mean free of hard work. A solid SoundCloud account requires a bunch of clicks, hours wasted reading music reviews and even more time going down various rabbit holes. SoundCloud’s unique music-listening experience requires more than selecting an artist and building a station around them or loading up a shared playlist, but you like music and liking music isn’t passive.

Although SoundCloud started off as something similar to Vimeo or Flickr (which we already explained the benefits of a few weeks ago), it’s become a tool of choice for artists hoping to promote their music. That includes kids who are still playing in their garage, up and comers and established artists, which means there is a ton of stuff out there. SoundCloud’s platform has also given rise to more interesting stuff like DJ sets.

Popular DJs like Kaskade and Krewella are big on SoundCloud, but smaller DJ sets seem the most interesting. Whenever I want to seem sophisticated, I always play New York Night Train’s Polygot Discotheque.

DJ sets aren’t unlike the playlists created by users of services like Spotify, but the rarity of the tracks combined with free listening makes these types of discoveries fun. SoundCloud is always trying to stir up its user community as well. For instance, remix competitions happen regularly.

I’ve never been a fan of the Grateful Dead, but I dated a girl who was, and SoundCloud made me seem cool when I feigned interest. If you’re a Dead Head or just want to see what the fuss is about, you might like these live sets.

Discover and explore
For the most part, using SoundCloud on your desktop is preferable. The Explore button gives you a chance to explore by genre. Selecting a genre will lead you to sub-genres, which will then lead you to various artists. I tend to have an easier time of it selecting an artist that I like and using the related tracks music-discovery feature. The feature doesn’t work as well as Pandora’s might (for instance the track “Van Hallows Eve” suggests I’d like “Punk in the Trunk” by the same artist. I’m sure Punk in the Trunk is an awesome tune, but I was hoping to find a similar artist, not the same one.

Discovering new music isn’t as hard as it used to be, but finding great, under the radar bands is still a pain. Visiting sites like Hype Machine or Pitchfork to find new tracks, more often than not, leads to SoundCloud tracks. Keeping track of your newly discovered songs is as easy as clicking the SoundCloud link and pressing the “Like” button.

Also, if you know what you’re looking for, your search engine of choice will, most likely, return a ton of results.

But I don’t like music
First, if you don’t like music, I hate you. Second, I totally understand; I hate music, too. Beyond its music offerings, SoundCloud has a bustling podcast (now defined as: anything that isn’t music but is audio based) community and plenty of legit offerings, including This American Life, The Guardian and more. For those who like listening to their books, Audible’s page gives you a chance to stream short stories and book selections for free.

SoundCloud, in the end, is a lot like walking through Costco. There are free samples everywhere. If you play it just right, you can scrape together a whole meal.