For listeners, SoundCloud is less like a music collection or radio station than an audio-based social network. To navigate it, you might sort what is trending by keyword tags (which get as specific as “melodic house,” “deep house,” and “tropical house”). Maybe you start with the latest from electronica act Major Lazer, then see what else is trending under “dance” or “EDM” or “Diplo.” Perhaps you end up on producer/musician Diplo’s official SoundCloud account. You can “follow” him or any creator. Possibly you’ll find like-minded listeners who assemble cool playlists, or simply repost tracks you like. Leave comments, like, share, and gather your own followers. Everything shared by everyone you follow flows into a constantly updated “stream” of new sounds: SoundClouders collectively upload about 12 hours of audio every minute.
That may sound like a hassle if all you want is a predictably enjoyable soundtrack to your workday or workout. But SoundCloud has 150 million registered users, up from 10 million in 2011, and claims 175 million total listeners a month. According to ComScore, its traffic across desktop and mobile rose 14 percent in May from a year earlier, and 142 percent from two years ago. The audience skews younger than Spotify’s and Pandora’s.
It’s an environment where novelty-obsessed music fans can be the first to discover and support the promising rapper GoldLink, or the independent singer-songwriter Cyra Morgan, or the producer/musician duo Daytrip. Established artists from Snoop Dogg to Beyoncé to Drake have taken to the platform, posting special tracks, remixes, live versions, and promotional experiments. Lorde used SoundCloud to release Royals; Prince used it to release a new track, Baltimore, before his recent “Rally 4 Peace” concert. And that’s only music: SoundCloud is a home for audio of any kind, from amateur field recordings to edgy comedy podcasts. For an adventurous listener, it’s an aural creativity bonanza.