SoundCloud's subscription service is exactly like all the others except harder to navigate

SoundCloud's subscription service is exactly like all the others except harder to navigate

MusicMarch 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Well, jesus, that was fast …>

It was only 2 weeks ago when sources close to SoundCloud were saying that a paid subscription service from the streaming site was coming — rumored to be delivered in the summer at the earliest, but an October time frame was more likely because of setbacks. Liars.

This morning, SoundCloud Go was officially released in the states, which makes the free site no longer free to those who wish to dig into its “extended catalog” — though nothing else is changing, apparently.

“SoundCloud as people know it today with the free service and artists’ presence is all the same, nothing changes,” Alexander Ljung, SoundCloud’s co-founder and CEO tells TechCrunch. “SoundCloud Go is an extension beyond that. Those who choose it get the expanded catalog.”

As far as what songs are available in the extended catalog has yet to be seen. We went through the platform (after giving it our credit card information and adding a reminder on our calendars telling us when to cancel in 29 days) and searched for some of Sony, Warner and Universal Music Group’s biggest artists. We found nothing, though reports claim the site is still uploading, so hit songs may come to down the pipes later on.

So essentially, there's nothing new about SoundCloud Go except it's $9.99 a month now for a few more songs we can't find. There's offline listening capabilities lumped in with the subscription now as well, but it's still mind-numbingly difficult to navigate on your phone, impossible to search for specific songs and listening to complete albums is all but unheard of unless you know the names to each track and build a playlist accordingly. Spotify (and even, *gasp* Apple Music) demolish it in this arena. 

Right now, it’s hard to predict what the deals with major labels and a subscription-based model is going to do to SoundCloud. As it stands, the site claims there isn’t going to be any change to what users will be allowed to upload and that finding new artists is going to be just as easy, if not easier with its algorithm-based shuffle.

But if we’re really to believe that “random” is going to mean anything when the labels and shareholders have such a huge stake in getting their music heard by paying users, the joke could essentially be on us later on. There’s no chance a start-up emcee in Podunk, State is going to be heard just as much as a touring artist backed by millions of dollars.

It’d be nice if those at the top would actually give us the low-down as we already know it to be. “Yes, we’re going to be shills for the labels and are going to force music on you that you probably don’t want to hear but will listen to anyways because you’re stupid.” You know, blatant honesty about what the industry is really like.

The reality is, changes to SoundCloud’s experience moving forward will likely be so small over the course of a few years we’ll hardly be able to tell what’s going on. Like getting fat in your 30s. Come back to this post in 2019 and we’ll see how right we are. Payola (the act of paying media outlets to play certain songs) is still legal online, so who’s to say it won’t make a huge difference in the way music is consumed down the road? Inking deals with the major labels put SoundCloud in their pockets, they make the rules now.

Regardless, the site seems to be sitting in a much better capitalistic position than it was just months ago when it was claiming loses of tens of millions of dollars with only a few deals secured to host rights-held content. The paid avenue of it aligns itself with Spotify and Apple Music better to throw in another gauntlet to the competition.

As exciting as it’s already been, this is just the beginning of the streaming war. Right now there’s very little difference in what each offer, so expect the future of it all in an effort to gain as many new paying users as possible to get fucking nuts.