Great, just what we need. Another music streaming service.
A streaming service from SoundCloud is something that we have been anticipating ever since they started getting in cahoots with some big name label companies. Some time has passed and now here we are, the launch day of SoundCloud Go, the newest streaming service from the music platform known for its B-sides remixes and user-uploaded content. What makes this service different from more established services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal? Well…almost nothing.
First, let’s talk about the part that you care about; the price. SoundCloud Go is on par with the other services, offering its services for $9.99 a month or $12.99 if you sign up on the iPhone app. What does this mean? It means you’ll want to sign up for the service on the website, regardless if you are going to be using the Android or iPhone app. (iTunes’ three-dollar transaction fee is a real pain in the ass) Luckily, the service offers a 30-day free trial for anybody who is weary of signing up for another streaming service. It’s during this time that you will quickly notice that SoundCloud Go might not be what it’s hyped up to be.
What do you get for the ten dollars a month? Firstly, you get access to a premium library of content from well-known artists as well as some deeper-cuts. SoundCloud has been working with record labels like UMG, Sony, Merlin, and Warner to give its premium users a larger library to choose from. The service also promises its paying customers offline listening for individual tracks and playlists as well as an ad-free listening experience. You know, your standard music streaming fare. The only thing that sets SoundCloud apart from its not-so-surprising lack of music…which is a bad way to be different.
I decided to run some tests on the mobile app. I did a search for Lupe Fiasco, which yielded these results:
As you can see, this provides an example of what the search results will look like for premium users. Now take note of the number of tracks related to Lupe Fiasco. 151 isn’t a bad number. The service seemed to have a good portion of Lupe’s library.
That was a good sign. It’s when I started searching for other artists that I started to run into some problems. Let’s take Adele for example:
Once again, there was a good amount of Adele tracks, but there were some notable absences as well. The service seems to have her albums 19 and 21 but her latest album, 25, is nowhere to be found. The album’s key song, “Hello,” is the lone song available to users. SoundCloud was boasting about having artists like Adele on their service…but if you’re going to boast about an artist you should probably have their library in its entirety.
What about Jay-Z? Well…not too many marbles:
This might have been a search destined to fail, considering the rap icon co-owns the streaming service Tidal, but his music can still be found on other services like Spotify. Spotify has a robust Jay-Z library…which pulverizes SoundCloud Go’s current offerings…which isn’t much. I did other searches for artists like Rihanna and Drake…and the lack of music was pretty consistent.
The service claims to have 125+ million tracks available to users on the platform. However, what they don’t tell you is how this number breaks down. Based on some reporting by The Verge, 110 million of those tracks are remixes of existing songs or user-uploaded content. That leaves a measly 15 million tracks that are totally original. This might seem like a large number, but it pales in comparison to its competitors. SoundCloud has made it clear that they are working around the clock to bring more tracks to the service, but they have a lot of legwork to cover if they want to keep up with the other streaming giants. These services are all about user-retention and SoundCloud isn’t going to keep too many of its paying customers with the library that they have now.
As you saw from the screenshots above, the mobile interface remains relatively unchanged, which is a good thing. You don’t want too much change all at once. One of the more frustrating aspects of the service hasn’t changed however and that is the organization. Unlike other services, SoundCloud presents its song in an unorganized fashion. For example, searching for Adele’s album 19 gave me this:
Nothing. The service doesn’t organize its music by albums. Your straight out of luck if you want to listen to an artist’s full album uninterrupted. You have to go to each track individually and play them that way, which becomes super tedious and annoying. Sure, you could get around this by creating a playlist by adding each song from an album individually…but who has time for that? Album organization seems like a no-brainer…but you’ll just have to settle.
The Now Playing screen should look familiar to anybody who has used the SoundCloud app before:
You can’t see it in this screenshot, but most tracks will have a download button that allows you to download the track for listening later, similar to most mobile streaming apps. You can also start track stations that play similar sounds and you can add tracks to playlists. You can then download these playlists for later listening. This stuff seems to work pretty well…but that’s the least surprising thing about the whole experience. If you have used another streaming service, then you should feel right at home.
SoundCloud Go still has a long road ahead of itself if it wants to catch up with its bigger and badder competitors. I always liked SoundCloud for it’s deep-cut remixes and tracks from up-and-coming artist and DJs. Initial tests make it seem like this can all be done for free. What you’re paying for is the bigger libraries from more well-established artists. Unfortunately, the content availability is slim-pickings at this point, but more content should be coming in the future. Enough to rival its competitors like Spotify and Apple Music? Probably not. If you primarily use SoundCloud to catch up with newer and more underground artists, then paying for premium features is probably not necessary. As of now, SoundCloud Go isn’t worth your ten dollars a month. Maybe the future will prove otherwise…but I don’t have good feelings for the service moving forward.