What’s the real difference between SoundCloud and SoundCloud Go?
The answer to that question is a big, big problem for SoundCloud.
Prior to SoundCloud launching its paid subscription service, SoundCloud Go, the platform offered a catalog of over 100 million songs, ad-free. And, totally free of charge. SoundCloud has always been notorious for being a free, easy-to-use platform which provides unique content, and allows up-and-coming artists and DJs to share their music.
The only problem is that SoundCloud has been losing tons of cash with that approach — in fact, this is a company that will eventually run out of cash if users don’t start paying. But SoundCloud Go, which is designed to get people to finally open their wallets, isn’t really cutting it.
Here’s why I’m totally unimpressed:
1. The catalog isn’t as big as you think.
Just before it launched Go, SoundCloud completed its deals with all three major labels: Warner Music, Universal Music, and Sony Music. The deals made the platform’s catalog more diverse, and ultimately added higher quality content to the service.
Before these deals, SoundCloud had around 110 million songs, mainly made up of DJ mixes, covers and lots of other unique music from content creators. Now, the platform boasts over 125 million songs and includes content from major artists. But what’s interesting here is that the 110 million songs can still be accessed on the free service, meaning the premium tier only gives users a further 15 million songs. Is that enough to get people to switch from using the service for free to paying a monthly fee?
Well, 15 million songs is a sizable number of tracks for people to discover and enjoy. But, when compared to Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal’s catalogs of over 30 million songs, the number seems less significant. So why would you pay for SoundCloud over any of its rivals? You can sign up for free and get all the unique content and access 110 million songs, and still decide on which service you want to pay $10 a month for.
2. Ads on the free tier aren’t annoying enough.
When SoundCloud launched its paid service, they needed to differentiate it from its free service. To do this, SoundCloud made some changes. The free service that was ad-free became ad-supported. Now, in order to listen to music on the service ad-free, users have to sign up to the premium tier which charges $9.99 per month.
This is a common tactic to get music listeners to switch over to a paid option. But, the ads on SoundCloud are not as aggressive as they are on Spotify, where 30-second ads pop up every few songs; or YouTube, which has both skippable and un-skippable ads that are significantly longer (and, yeah, can easily be blocked, but that’s another article).
In fact, after nearly two hours of listening to music on SoundCloud’s free service, one 10-second ad popped up in the bottom right hand corner. The ads became more frequent the longer I used the service, but were all skippable. I didn’t find the ads anywhere near as irritating as they are on Spotify or YouTube’s free service.
And that’s a problem. The simple fact that SoundCloud’s free tier has a vast library of music — and manageable ads — will ultimately curtail its premium conversion rate.
3. Offline listening. Yeh it’s handy, but every other service has it as well.
Users have an option to listen offline on SoundCloud Go. But despite this feature adding value to the paid service, it’s also a feature which is common on all of the other paid streaming services.
It’s not enough of a differentiator to sway users from the free version to the paid tier. But offline ‘cacheing’ isn’t even useful for many people. The reason is that most people have smartphones with monthly data plans, which allow them to stream music online. And when there’s no internet connection, there is usually access to WiFi or a hotspot.
4. The price is the exact same as its competitors.
SoundCloud Go is priced at $9.99 a month which is the exact same price as all of the other competing services charge. So, why are music lovers going to pay $9.99 per month for 15 million songs when you can pay the exact same amount for a catalog that is twice the size and boasts a wider range of artists.
For me, I feel that this is the main reason why SoundCloud is struggling to convert the 175 million people using the service for free to premium users. If the price was cut in half then I think people would see the value in the paid service.
Go has been available for over 3 months, and there has not been one single report on how many subscribers the service has gained. This may be due to the fact that SoundCloud are struggling to persuade their users to see the value in paying. One thing is for sure, if a company has something to boast about, they usually do.
Having used both SoundCloud’s free service, and its premium Go service, I struggle to find any real distinctive differences between the two services. And, the differences I did experience weren’t enough to keep me paying $9.99 a month.
Simply stated: without enough aggressive price competition and unique features, SoundCloud may be struggling to gain subscribers and convert their existing subscribers to Go.