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SoundCloud co-founder/CTO Eric Wahlforss
SOUNDCLOUD: WILL NEW PAID SERVICE CHANGE THE EQUATION? (UPDATE)

Soundcloud is regularly breaking records.

The service launched its subscription version, SoundCloud Go, on 3/29; the paid version goes for $9.99 per month after a 30-day trial. But how might this biz-approved version, following deals with all three majors and some prominent indies, affect what’s made SoundCloud unique?

In the last 18 months Travis Scott, Kehlani, Bryson Tiller, and now Desiigner have all launched off this platform, with newly breaking stars emerging every week like Bishop’s “Wild Horses,” Flume’s “Never be Like You” and OVO Sound /Warner Bros. soul singer DVSN, who is the current buzz along with future breakouts Lil Yachty and WSTRN. And don’t forget Alessia Cara’s “Here” started out as a Soundcloud file.  Cleverly and secretly powered by Def Jam A&R no less, but for artist development reasons, was deliberately “put out there” in the fertile ground of Soundcloudland and its attending cool kids to see what took root. 

A #1 song at multiple formats is what grew from that seeding.

This is the very essence of what made Soundcloud a cool and special for so long; the experimental nature of the creative community that feeds it and the tastemaker audience that goes there to explore.

As the music service closes royalty negotiations with the last major holdout and readies itself for a paywall version, now comes the tricky dance to see if they can monetize the usage without exterminating the valuable community that surrounds it.

Will SoundCloud’s legal incarnation thwart its best functionality for the tastemaker audience it serves? Or could discovery turn out to be its unique selling proposition? 

UPDATE (3/30):

Two days into “GO" and the free tier of Soundcloud is already showing subtle but important adjustments—the introduction of the “Preview.”  A shortened window of audio, typically :30-:60 seconds like iTunes does, with the full versions of these songs no doubt available behind the Soundcloud Go paywall.  And the changes came swift and fast.

Super hot songs, such as PartyNextDoor’s “Come And See Me” feat. Drake (which went up as a full file nine days ago and exploded) are not affected at the moment (although a preview window went on and off this track all day, as Warner Bros. was no doubt weighing how to handle). This song is currently #1 on the “Top 50” trending chart and #2 on the “New & Hot” chart.  DJ Snake’s “Middle,” which just hit Top 10 on Soundcloud Top 50, went to preview status as well.  But Mike Posner’s Seeb Remix of “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” – the version that broke the song wide, off of Soundcloud—isn’t available at all in the U.S. territory while Desiigner’s “Panda” which also broke from this platform, IS available for full stream.  Kanye West’s “I Love Kanye,” the second single Yeezy is letting loose from the Tidal TLOP exclusive, is also up on Soundcloud today—but with a preview window firmly intact and the song is only a minute and change to begin with.  However the track Ye released on Easter Sunday, a remix of “Ultralight Beam” called “Ultralight Prayer,” is sitting at #1 on New & Hot chart and is a full song file. So go figure.

It seems the “Preview” window at the moment varies at random based on major label whim.  Developing…

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