SoundCloud is a web-based tool for digital musicians to streamline the process of hosting and distributing audio. It simplifies and optimises the previously laborious process of moving music on the web, allowing users to effortlessly upload tracks and share them anywhere on the web or with anyone they choose, either privately or publicly. For anyone also likely to receive a lot of audio, users are also provided with their own unlimited musical in-box — the SoundCloud 'DropBox' — from which incoming audio can be streamed prior to downloading or posting feedback.
SoundCloud is the brainchild of Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss — both with a background in making music, sound design and post-production — who found themselves becoming frustrated with the services for sending and receiving audio via the web that were currently available to them. None of these services seemed to be truly optimised for the task — you may well have already encountered YouSendit links that expire, DivShare pop-ups, restrictions of email attachment size and signing into unhelpful FTP sites. SoundCloud was designed from the ground up to offer a more effective alternative, free of advertising, with a minutes-based approach to upload limit (rather than file size), utilising a unique waveform display that allows tag-timed annotation of the music — think Flickr for audio! SoundCloud aims to become the undisputed number one platform for sending and receiving music for audio professionals.
SoundCloud is about taking your audio to any place it should be, and to make integration even easier, SoundCloud allows other companies, websites and applications to connect to their platform. For example, the new version of Presonus Studio One will be the first DAW with built-in 'export to SoundCloud' features. More integrations with music software such as Ableton Live are due to follow this year.
The site has already amassed just under one million users, including high profile artists like Moby, Four Tet, Beck and The Smashing Pumpkins. If you've ever struggled to work with projects online or tried to receive a lot of large, high-quality audio files then SoundCloud is exactly what you need to get the job done!
Using SoundCloud is simple. You can sign up for a free trial account and be ready to go within minutes. The site is based around your 'dashboard' which alerts you to a filtered selection of activity from your followers, incoming tracks, comments, new followings etc.
SoundCloud accepts most common audio file formats and while your track is uploading you can enter metadata such as BPM, genre, tags, artwork, links, description etc. Once uploaded, SoundCloud will generate a guide waveform display and you can then begin distributing your audio. Either make the file public, or privately send to a list of email addresses or contacts on SoundCloud. You can even generate a secret link to pass on to anyone you choose, giving them access to your private work, without revealing it to the rest of the world. So it's ideal for work-in-progress, unmastered tracks and musical collaborations.
But SoundCloud also comes into its own when you want to get your music heard and share it with friends, fans, social networks and the rest of the web. With a click of a button you can embed your players on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, blogs, web sites — in fact, practically anywhere that supports HTML. And there are a number of different customisable players on offer, ranging from the trademark 'waveform' player to the 'artwork' player that turns any image that you upload into a great-looking music-playing widget.
SoundCloud accepts all the standard audio formats, with support for MP3s at any bit-rate, WAV and AIFF files at just about any sample rate. There's support for FLAC and OGG too. Playback on the site itself is at 128kbps MP3, for near-instant streaming, but downloads are in the original format — making this the perfect platform for on-line collaboration.
Another great feature is the detailed stats and analytics. Not only can you see which content is generating the most interest, but where those plays have come from, and what items users are downloading most or favouring.
SoundCloud isn't just for music-makers; manufacturers like Moog, Focusrite, Behringer and Line 6 are just some of the big names to have realised the great potential in distributing their sounds online, along with sample companies like Loopmasters, Sample Magic and Zenhiser. Users have started groups for Moog-specific compositions; there's a Cubase members area and there are countless groups for sound designers hosting free content... and now, there's Sound On Sound.
To mark our 25th anniversary this year, we're re-vamping our audio content. Sound On Sound has been seeking the optimum solution for audio delivery since broadband became widely available. To start off, we've replaced the old SOS MP3 audio player with embedded SoundCloud widgets for our podcasts and reviews. So now you can add your own comments or share with anyone on the web.
SoundCloud offers lossless downloads, making it perfect for hosting our monthly Mix Rescue workshop files. You can hear the before-and-after stems on the website, demonstrating perfectly the processes described in the written article. Best of all, you can download these and load them straight into your own DAW at high-quality to really hear how they sound.
We'll increasingly be using SoundCloud to host audio examples of the equipment we test, because if you're thinking of parting with serious cash for something, hearing what it really sounds like is definitely a good idea! So far we've posted audio examples for the Korg Wavedrum and the Sontronics Delta Ribbon Mic reviews, with more to follow. Finally, our Playback readers' tracks feature will have a DropBox embedded on the website for you to send in your demo submissions (we will still be accepting CDs in the post though). One advantage of sending your track in digitally via SoundCloud is that you can upload sleeve artwork, enter all sorts of information as well as any buy-links you have to iTunes, Beatport, Amazon etc. All this will be retained when we embed the track.
As far as Sound On Sound is concerned, SoundCloud 'does exactly what it says on the tin', and we feel this is only just the beginning of what's possible. The potential is limited only by the users' imagination — we've seen one-shot samples from rare, vintage drum-machines free to download, interviews and podcasts, demonstrations, reviews… In fact, if you can listen to it, there's probably a place for it on SoundCloud!
SoundCloud offers tiered premium accounts which means anyone can use the service for free but you may wish to upgrade to access more storage and other premium features. With the free account you get two hours worth of digital audio in any format at any one time plus an unlimited DropBox for receiving music, along with access to basic stats reporting.
Then there is a range of premium accounts starting at 29 euros per year. From the artist-focused 'Lite' account that doubles your storage and gives you access to more customisable players to promote your music across the web (as well as more private sharing options), to the company-focused 'Pro Plus' account which gives you unlimited storage and downloads, as well as full stats reporting and a number of other professionally focused features.
Different accounts will suit different people, from producers and studio engineers to record labels and A&R. But one thing's for sure — if you're sending a lot of high quality audio, you won't be penalised for file size like the more generic file-sharing companies. SoundCloud accounts are capped on minutes.
What happens if your account expires? If your monthly or yearly account expires and falls back to a free account, all older tracks exceeding the limitations of the free account will be hidden, not deleted. That way, if you choose to re-upgrade at a later stage, the tracks and the data around them won't be lost. More details at http://soundcloud.com/premium