SoundCloud wants to be the YouTube of audio
SoundCloud is one of the handful of popular destinations for musicians on the Web looking to upload their songs, so listeners can download or stream their work.
But while musicians have largely powered SoundCloud's growth to a user base of more than 7 million since it's start in 2008, the site is now looking to reach not just bands and fans, but also everyone else who currently captures a moment in a photo or a video, versus audio, with their smartphone.
"We had a realization last year where we started seeing people using SoundCloud for other things than just music," said Alex Ljung, SoundCloud's co-founder and chief executive. "And it became obvious for us, that when we look at the Web we think of photos, we think of text, we think of videos, so why don't we think about sound in a broader sense? So, music is obviously a key part for us, but there's a lot of other things happening on the platform as well."
The Berlin-based start-up recently opened a San Francisco office to aid its efforts to reach more and more users, musician and non-musician alike. And while SoundCloud has more than a few competitors out there -- such as BandCamp and SoundClick -- as a preferred platform for musicians to host their tunes, the company might be aided in its goal by the fact that its sound-streaming rivals are focused on music.
The company also has its own free audio recording apps available for Apple's iPhone, Google's Android mobile OS, as well as more than 200 other apps from third parties that can record and sync with a user's SoundCloud account by way of developer tools it has made available.
"Ultimately we want people to be able to connect through sounds, and we think that, you know, we are providing a certain kind of experience around that, but we want that experience to be like the Web is," Ljung said. "We want it to be distributed. So it doesn't matter if you're on your phone, or your desktop, or you know, on a different website -- we want people to be able to have a SoundCloud experience there. So that's why we built it as a platform and allow other apps to basically integrate SoundCloud into what they're doing. So you don't have to soundcloud.com to get the experience. You should be able to get that wherever you are."
By opening up its own platform, as well as being integrated with the likes of other social sharing networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, SoundCloud aims to be what YouTube has been for video, what Twitter has become for quick comments written out in 140 characters or less and what Facebook has grown into for photos.
"I think for us it's important, just this idea of you know sound can be a lot of different things," Ljung said. "It can be the Foo Fighters putting something up. It can be 50 Cent using it. But it can also be Russell Brand reading stuff from his new book, it could be ABC News putting up memories from -- or people's memories from 9/11."
What do you think? Do you want to record and share audio -- or are photos, video and text good enough? Is there anything you'd like to hear on the Web, on SoundCloud or anywhere else?
To listen to my interview with Ljung, recorded in downtown Los Angeles earlier this week, check out the recording I posted to SoundCloud below.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screenshot of ABC News Radio on SoundCloud.