SoundCloud - Strategies for Distributing Your Music

© | Denys Prykhodov

In this article, we will look at 1) what is Soundcloud?, 2) how to list successfully on Soundcloud, 3) advantages and disadvantages of using Soundcloud, and 4) Soundcloud success stories.


The Company

An online music and audio streaming platform, Soundcloud is based in Berlin, Germany. The website allows users to upload, record, promote and share original music and sound. The website is basically a combination of a streaming service, an audio distribution platform and an online community. As of July 2013, the website had 40 million users registered and as many as 200 million listeners.

The website allows musicians to share their original music directly with fans. It also allows fans to track their favorite artists and play music continuously. The website allows users to choose from three subscription levels. A free account allows 120 minutes of audio upload and makes a few stats visible. A Pro or Pro Unlimited account allows for more upload hours as well as access to extensive analytics. It also features a quiet mode which enables the user to hide any comments or stats on a music track.


Though created in Stockholm, Sweden, Soundcloud was established in Berlin in August 2007. The people behind the website are sound designer Alex Ljung and artist Eric Wahlforss. The two Swedes initially intended for their platform to allow musicians to share recordings with one another. This eventually transitioned into a complete audio publishing tool, allowing these musicians to distribute their music to the fans. A little while after its inception, the website began to pose a challenge to Myspace which was, at that time, a place where musicians could distribute their songs and interact with their fans.

The company received 2.5 million Euros in 2009 from a round of funding. The investment came from Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures. The company reached one million subscribers in 2001 and in 2011 received $10 million from the next round of funding. This investment came from Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures. The website continued to grow and reached 5 million registered users by June 2011. At this point, the company also received funding from an A-Grade fund run by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary.

In late 2012, the website was revamped with a new layout, this allowed simultaneous continued playback and site navigation. It also allowed for the comments to be read with disrupting the waveform. The company began talks with major record labels in 2014. The aim was to take preemptive steps to address the issue of product licensing due to copyrighted material that appears on the platform. This was done in an attempt to avoid forced takedown notices, a situation that Google and YouTube found themselves in.

The Business Model

The website aims to narrow the gap between discovery and engagement, which means that a person can discover a new sound or a music track and connect with the artist and a like-minded community right there, without having to move to another website etc.

SoundCloud modelThe business model relies primarily on subscriptions at the moment. There are multiple levels that a user can choose from. These range from a free registration with limited usage to a $630 annual fee that has many benefits and features for the professional user. This service has raised $50 million for the company.

As the website grows, the management is experimenting with other potential streams of revenue. There is a turn towards possible brand partnerships. There are already content partnerships with companies that include Penguin Audio Books, CBS News Radio, The Huffington Post and some others. Content partnerships focus both on faster content distribution and an extended platform for experimental and unique experiences.

As a major update to the business model, the website announced in August of 2014 that there would be advertisements running for listeners in the United States. The ads will roll out to other markets eventually. The aim is to help partner artists turn their music streams into revenue streams. The change also includes the addition of the Premier level to the subscriptions. This will contain ad based options for monetization as well as other paid features that are already being offered. Ads will appear with licensed content.

The Soundcloud USP

The website allows users to upload any sound file, irrespective of the size. Uploads can happen from an already saved file or created on the spot. The website also allows commenting throughout the track which makes it a unique type of social network.


Tips from Users

Oliver Sadie is a Soundcloud user who is a London-based filmscore composer and classically trained pianist. With over 14000 followers, he believes that the community on Soundcloud is not just about sharing sounds but also about sharing common interests, goals and connecting with similar people. Some tips from him and others on how to grow your community on Soundcloud include:

  • Make Good Music – If an artist doesn’t finish their work or remains afraid of criticism then there is very little chance of success in building up a Soundcloud community. An artist must force themselves to finish songs and spend time making them sound high quality.
  • Understand What is Already Out There – Sadie suggests listening to existing users to get an idea what who is out there and what they are doing. Search tools and groups are a good way to find sounds that appeal to you.
  • Take Action When You Find Something You Like – Once you like something, it is a good idea to like it and add it to favorites. Users can also leave a comment and follow the person who has listed the song. Often people will follow up after this and that just adds to the community. A well timed comment can initiate a conversation and a relationship is created.
  • Follow People Who You Are Actually Interested In – People often have a tendency to start following anyone they find. This is counter-productive because these people will not follow back. When similar people are followed a relevant communication is established and people will follow back.
  • Follow People who Are Active and May Follow Back – People who are currently online or have been recently are more likely to be active on the website and therefore likely to follow back. An online user may follow back immediately. This is a very productive tip to grow one’s community. A balanced ratio of followers to following is a good way to assess whether a person is likely to follow back.
  • Follow Peoples Followers – When someone follows you back, it is a good idea to take a look at their followers and choose to follow those that fit the criteria mentioned here. It is enough to look at their top followers who are online at any point and just focus on those instead of the whole list.
  • Be Online – As mentioned, a person who is online is more likely to get followers. So it is a good idea to fo this regularly so that people are able to discover you.
  • Leave Honest Comments – It is a good idea to leave comments that are honest, relevant, useful and encouraging. It is a better idea to be more specific than just a “nice.” It is also not a good idea to mention something that reads like spam for example, “Nice. Listen Back.”
  • Respond – Whether it is a comment or a message, a response helps connect with listeners. A response to comments is always welcomed by a fan or a follower.
  • Join Similar Groups – Joining relevant groups and sharing music is a good way to be heard and discover new sounds. Moderated groups are a good option for this as helps keep the group on track.
  • Start a Group – It can also be a good idea to create one’s own group based on a particular theme. Relevant tracks can be traced out to invite to the group. Similar community members can be discovered and a space made available to trade sounds and ideas.
  • Share on Social Media – Other social networks are a great place to share favorite artists and songs.
  • Collaborate with Other Artists – Soundcloud allows users to share works in progress through private sharing. Full recording quality is maintained and this is a good way to work with other people.
  • Be Patient – Building up a community is not something that can happen within a day or even a month. It is something that needs consistent effort and a lot of work. To make the network more meaningful and productive for the artist, this sustained long term effort is the way to go.
  • Sign Up for a Paid Account – Most users on Soundcloud use a free account. This works for people who want to use the service within the limits that the free account imposes. To get maximum music to a wider audience, a paid account becomes necessary. The reason for this is that a 2 hour upload limit is almost nothing for someone like a DJ. The tracks themselves are limited to 100 downloads only. These can become cumbersome after a while and it makes sense to sign up for a paid account.
  • Use Tags – Another useful idea is to use the right tags for each song. The right tags make the song more searchable and easier to find for people. Some ideas for tags include tags for genre, similar style record names, similar artist names, mood descriptions of the songs and well known songs by similar artists.

Common Mistakes

It is important for a successful Soundcloud presence that a good first impression is made. Some mistakes to avoid in this regard include:

  • URL Consistency – The URL extensions used on Soundcloud should be consistent with any others being used elsewhere on the web. For example, a Facebook extension, should be the same for soundcloud. This can be edited under the tab “Basic Profile.”
  • Social Media Links – Social media is a very important tool these days and a fan who finds their way to a Soundcloud page will often want to look up further details. For this purpose, it is a good idea to make sure that profiles are linked. Soundcloud helps this process by providing an integrated way to link social media. Thumbnail images are even available for the larger platforms.
  • Complete Bio – Though basic, an incomplete bio is a commonly made mistake. A complete bio should be between 50-250 words and should be followed up with contact information.
  • Correct Representation of Work – The most prolific work done by an artist should be listed on top and easy to reach.
  • Uploading The Right Stuff – All work done by an artist does not necessarily need to be uploaded. Instead, it is a good idea to put up the best work done by the artist to ensure that people who visit the page are left with a positive first impression. Any half-done or works-in-progress should not be displayed either, though there may be differing points of view on this.
  • Labeling – To ensure that a track is easy to find, all titles, artist information and keywords or tags should be correctly labeled.
  • Genre – The genre should be the first keyword associated with a track. The Soundcloud explore function indexes tracks according to genre and these are defined through the keywords specificed by the user. Other important keywords include original artist, associated artists and record label.
  • Use your Own Account – In order to create an engaged and connected Soundcloud account it is imperative that a person use his or her own account to interact with others.
  • Spam – It is important to leave the right comments that are honest and relevant. It is not a good idea to leave spam like comments asking a person to follow back without any other details. An elaborate and constructive comment can act as the beginning of a conversation and direct people to a person’s account, eventually leading to relationships and followers.
  • Being Responsive – One commonly overlooked way to build community ties is to reply to any comments and messages received. This leaves a positive impression on people and direct them back to a user’s account. The replies should sound personal and not a generic response that sounds like a bot.



Overall, Soundcloud is a user friendly website. Some of the advantages of using this site are:

  • The website itself is smooth and user friendly and the phone app is also easy to navigate and use.
  • The site offers users the choice of either uploading an existing audio file or recording it on the spot.
  • Users can also share music and other audio file on other social media platforms by embedding them in social networks, blogs or websites.
  • The files uploaded to the site can be of any size with no limits.
  • A timed comment option allows users to leave a note regarding specific parts of an audio track.
  • Submissions can be streamed through Dropbox, saving space on a desktop.
  • Tracks can be easily reposted.
  • Each music file gets its own unique URL address and its own page.
  • There are dedicated groups which allows users to find the ones that are similar to their own interests.
  • The smartphone app also allows upload and recording making the experience a flexible and mobile one.
  • Tracks can be managed and organized easily.


Some disadvantages of using Soundcloud include:

  • The service does not allow editing or any additional effects. These need to be added elsewhere before upload to the website.
  • Users need to be logged in to make a comment or follow users.
  • Another disadvantamgge is the cost. A full package offers many benefits but it is costly to subscrive to.


DJ ‘Mr Aker’ and His Soundcloud Success

Mr Aker is a DJ who operates out of his bedroom. He managed to use JustGo Music, a social media management platform that helps musicians grow their fanbase, together with a DJ mix and a simple marketing technique to reach 550 plays on Soundcloud in only 24 hours. Here’s how he did it:

  1. Create a Mix – MR Aker began by creating a mix of his favorite musical cuts from different genres that he liked. This mix was a 30 minute one that included 26 tracks from as many as 24 different artists.
  2. Find the Artists – He then got on Soundcloud and found his featured artists, got their Soundcloud and Twitter URLs and put together a document.
  3. Upload the Mix – Mr Aker now uploaded his mix onto multiple platforms including Soundcloud, Youtube and Mixcloud. When he wrote the description for his mix, he made sure to include the entire tracklist that he had already made and linked this to each artist profile URL and the original song that he had sampled.
  4. Tweet to the Artists – The DJ then used the JustGo music service to compose spaced out timed tweets aimed at each artist who appeared on his mix. His tweets were timed to go out after a few hours each. Every tweet was different but contained the same basic information which included the artist’s handle on twitter, the original track title, the time stamp of the song in the mix and a link to the mix itself on Soundcloud.
  5. The Result – Most of the artists that were a part of the mix either favorited or retweeted Mr Aker’s tweet. One of the artists even reposted the mix on Soundcloud which led to a jump in plays for the DJ. He managed to increase his daily follower growth by 300% and reached 550 plays in 24 hours alone.

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