It has been a long time coming for the subscription service from SoundCloud.
There have been rumors about a paid streaming model going around since 2014, when all the major labels came for royalties after SoundCloud operating without the proper licenses. It wasn’t until March 2016 that there was a landmark licensing deal with Sony, which was the pushing force that launched the monthly subscription service.
SoundCloud now has a $9.99 monthly subscription service called SoundCloud Go that gave a promise of expanding their musical catalog since they have the recent licensing deals with Sony, Universal, and Warner, as well as 20,000 different independent labels that are represented by Merlin, a global music rights agency.
Despite the promise of having more tracks by the emerging and established creators, the ad-free experience, and offline listening mode for the new service, there is no telling how it will be able to succeed against Spotify. SoundCloud is boasting a catalog of 125 million tracks, but it has been noted that only 15 million of them are paid catalogs, compared to the 30 million for the closest rivals.
Given the high-profile money troubles that SoundCloud has had, SoundCloud Go may be the last roll of the dice for the company to gain any profitability. But is it good? We took advantage of the free trial period to see how it holds up against the competition.
Well, there is some bad news for anyone who lives in Europe, and most of the world: SoundCloud Go is only available right now in the USA. The company stated that more countries will follow in 2016, but it hasn’t stated which ones yet, blaming the complications of making licensing deals for different countries. If you are in the USA, it will be accessible via iOS, Android, or desktop. Simply update the apps to the latest versions.
You will be able to sign up for the free trial on the SoundCloud Go site. After that, it will cost you $9.99 monthly. Whatever you do, be sure not to sign up for SoundCloud Go via iOS app. Apple takes 30% of all the in-app purchases, meaning that most companies including Tidal and Spotify will increase the amount that they charge for their monthly subscription. Sign up via desktop and you will still be able to use it in your app, and you won’t be charged extra. Good news for the creators, if you have SoundCloud Pro Unlimited subscription, SoundCloud Go will only cost you $4.99 monthly.
The Go interface of the SoundCloud app is fast and easy to use on the iPhone 6s. Instead of weighing down the app with too many options, things were stripped away. SoundCloud Go has the option to make all future and current likes and playlists available offline, which is much simpler than with Apple Music and Spotify. The search function is solid as well and will retrieve request quickly.
The music library isn’t as organized as in Apple Music or Spotify, even though it is aiming more at streamlining music discovery than its rivals. Creating favorite playlists or tracks will help SoundCloud to judge how it can push content to you and will allow you to have easier navigation. It would seem that you would need to have a stronger library algorithm that would work better, and there are none of the cool playlists that Apple offers. This is SoundCloud, so there are plenty of cool items to check out; most of them are just locked up right now.
Offline mode is hassle-free and fast. You can basically just latch it on and set how much space you want to give it, and it will do everything else in the background. You are able to set it so that it will only download via Wi-Fi if you are on a contract plan that has data limits. This is familiar to those who use Spotify or Apple Music, but Go’s efforts seem more geared towards single tracks and making playlists. It would seem that SoundCloud wants you to favorite a bunch of tracks that you can play from your profile, similar to a more involved shuffle function. That makes us think that SoundCloud Go is more geared towards a younger audience.
The Go’s catalog is still a bit of a mystery. The paid content isn’t highlighted on the app, so it’s kind of unclear what you are being offered. When searching for something popular, such as OutKast, it will bring up their whole catalog, but you are only able to preview them when you are logged out. If you are outside of the USA, it’s gone completely.
Searching for independent artists bears even less fruit. The tracks for OutKast were registering as single plays, so it is very likely that they were just added within the last few days. It still remains to be seen if there will be more to the catalog in the future, but right now it feels quite empty when compared to its rivals.
Is it actually worth the money?
At this moment, it is really hard to tell. The functionality, even though clean, is meager. Whether you enjoy SoundCloud or not, the subscription service just doesn’t have the catalog depth that you would expect to find on Spotify or Apple Music, which really makes the price point hard to justify.
It is fast and simple to use and doesn’t really crash when you are exploring, but it’s basic and not too exciting either. It feels almost like Hulu Plus. If you are a regular user that listens frequently but gets irritated by the ads, you may be tempted to pay, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason other than that. It’s quite possible that there will be a launch with better features and catalog to be added, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s competitive enough yet.
Right now, SoundCloud Go is underwhelming. It has a lesser paid catalog than Apple Music or Spotify, and it isn’t a service for people who want to listen to a whole album. What SoundCloud is banking on is the additional 110 million user-created tracks that the rivals don’t have, which gives it the potential to be the best tool for the age of music discovery and playlist building, especially for those who make up most of the user base.
The name SoundCloud Go seems to be appropriate when compared to the rivals – it has a streamlined, fast service that has been aimed at those millions of people that are already using this platform. It if manages to succeed in converting that audience into paid users, then there isn’t a reason why it couldn’t be a serious contender. For those who are Spotify junkies, SoundCloud will definitely have to expand the catalog to even be a part of the conversation.