In the past I’ve talked about and covered the likes of Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes and even Shazam. There’s been one platform I’ve kind of just neglected. Soundcloud.
I’m going to go through managing an account and talk about my thoughts about the current state of Soundcloud. So, buckle up and maybe grab a brew, as this might be a long one.
What is Soundcloud?
Soundcloud if you weren’t aware is a music streaming service where musicians can upload and share their work. There’s a little more to it in comparison to say iTunes or Spotify as it has some built in social media elements such as maintaining a profile and the ability to comment on other musician’s tracks.
Do I use Soundcloud?
In terms of my experiences using the platform, well, I’ve been on and off it in the last ten years or so. I was finding it really difficult to get much use out of it without having to pay for one of its upgraded plans, especially as the likes of Bandcamp is pretty much free.
That said I’ve just started work on a new musical project so I thought it’d be quite timely to jump back in and start using it, maybe see if it’s actually worth using again. So let’s jump in!
Creating an Account
If you need to set up a new account just hit that ‘Create account’ button on the top right of the page. You’ll then be asked for an email address and all the usual information such as your age, gender and display name. You’ll then need to verify your email address to be able to edit your new profile.
My Soundcloud Profile
When you first start out, your profile will look pretty bare. I’m going to hop on over to my account to show you how to update it all and make it all look a little prettier, or at least active.
The Soundcloud Profile Image
First up, is the profile image. As you can see, I’ve got this lovely photo of my round head. I did want to remove this and show you the process of uploading an image here but for some reason Soundcloud will not let you delete an existing image, only update it. Anyway, to update this image just hover over it and click on that ‘Update Image’ button and choose something suitable.
Bear in mind that whatever you pick, it’ll be presented within this round cutout. As you can see (click on image), this was originally a square image. Your image file should be up to 2mb in size, be a .jpg or .png and at least 1000px by 1000px.
The Soundcloud Profile Header Image
Next up, let’s update the header image. Soundcloud wants an image that’s at least 2480px by 520px and up to 2mb in size. I have one I’ve made earlier which I’ll just upload now. Note that you can adjust the zoom level once it’s uploaded.
Updating the Soundcloud Profile
Now let’s look into adding things like a bio and social links. To do this, just click on the Edit button just underneath your profile header. A box will pop up allowing us to edit or add to our profile. I’ll just pop in a short bio here and add some social links. Note you can also edit your display name here, including your fancy URL.
Now all of this would be pretty redundant for us musicians if we couldn’t add our music so let’s do that now. I’m going to add one track which was off my last solo release. Just hit that upload link on the top menu.
Then be sure to choose if you want this track (or tracks) to be public or private before we upload. You can always change that option later anyway, but I’ll choose Private for now. Soundcloud recommends FLAC, WAV, ALAX, or AIFF files but it does also accept MP3s if that’s all you have.
Just before I upload the track note that Soundcloud is telling us we have 180 minutes of upload time left on our free plan. I’ll get into plans in a bit but just be aware of this when you’re uploading your tracks. Let’s hit that button and upload.
While that’s uploading, we can edit its info. There are three sections to edit here so let’s start with Basic Info. You can edit its Image, Title, URL, Genre, Tags and Description. I’d recommend filling in as much as you can here as not only will it look pretty but it gives you more opportunity for the track to be found in SoundCloud.
A good example of that is the tagging system. Tagging your track makes it discoverable when somebody is searching for music in Soundcloud. You’ll want to at least tag your main genre first, so for example I’d put Electronic for this one but as it also contains some guitars, I’ll add that too. Other suggestions for tagging could be your location or the mood of the track. If you’re unsure what you should use, just check out what other people have done and play around and learn from it.
Same goes with the description. I’m not entirely sure if Soundcloud uses keywords from here but it’s best practice to fill it out as accurately and informative as possible. For me, it gives people a reason to comment if they’ve just read something interesting about your project. You can also link to other profiles here using the ‘@’ symbol which is ideal if you’re collaborating with another artist on SoundCloud.
Moving onto the Metadata tab we have lots of inputs to fill in. It’s all quite simple to follow but note we do have the option to put in a Buy-link, so if you have your track available on iTunes or Bandcamp for example, you can throw that link in there.
Here we can choose to enable downloads for our track. We can also control Offline Listening, the ability to embed on external websites and via other Soundcloud apps. The other option here gives us the option to allow it to be added to your RSS feed. This is a topic I plan to cover in the future but it’s basically mostly for podcasts.
You can comment directly onto the waveform of your track. If you don’t want to wait for others to start commenting (I always say nobody likes to be the first to the party), then you could get the ball rolling yourself. Maybe use this as an opportunity to talk about key moments within the track, maybe about the recording process or inspiration. It’s this part that makes Soundcloud pretty unique compared to other platforms.
It’s a Musical Social Network
Now you’ve got your profile sorted and you’ve got music uploaded, you’d probably like people to follow and start listening to your music, yeah? Well, like any social network, there’s a bit of give and take.
If you look at the sidebar on your profile, you’ll notice you have a following count as well as displaying the number of tracks you’ve liked and have recently commented on. These are all the things you can do to get your name out there, within Soundcloud.
So, to use the platform affectively, I’d encourage you to use it as a listener and follow, like and comment where you see fit. Oh, and please don’t play the “I’m too cool to do that” and not follow or engage anyone card. I think the days are behind us where musicians can do that and be famed for their secrecy. Unless you’re that good AND that lucky.
On the flip side don’t follow everybody just because you think you’ll get followed back. That will most likely work, but you’ll end up with an unusable account. Just make good music and like good music, that’s my approach anyway.
I suppose this is one of the reasons I drifted away from the platform. It can feel like hard work, especially as we’ve got plenty of other places to get our listening fixes. Why would I go to SoundCloud to listen to music? Well, that’s been a big drive at Soundcloud recently. Let’s take a look at what they’ve been doing.
I mentioned earlier that you can sign up to various plans which will give you different upgrades and tools for your account. It’s here where it kind of gets confusing for someone coming back as there are actually two sets of upgrade paths; one aimed at creators called Soundcloud Pro and one for fans called Soundcloud Go. Not confusing at all.
Let’s go over them.
There are three tiers in Soundcloud Pro.
Basic – Free
When you first start out you have the basic account which gets you 3 hours of upload time, some basic stats and embed controls.
Pro – £5.25 a month billed yearly or £7 monthly
If you upgrade to the Pro account, you get 6 hours of upload time and some cool stuff like being able to ‘Spotlight’ your tracks which is basically just the ability to pin them to the top of your feed. If you’re eligible, you’ll get access to Soundcloud Premiere. I’ll cover what that is in another video but just know, you have to be doing really well on the platform to get invited.
Pro Unlimited – £7.50 a month billed yearly or £10 monthly
Lastly, upgrading to the Pro Unlimited account gets you unlimited upload time. Note that asterisk which means that although you can have unlimited tracks, they are limited to up to 6 hours 45 minutes and 4GB each track. There goes my 24-hour ambient mix then.
As well as all the previous stuff, you’ll be able to schedule your releases, get even better stats and embed controls. You’ll also get access to Soundcloud Go+ for a discounted price of £4.99. We’ll move onto what that is next but bear in mind as an artist you’ll be able to ‘mix the largest catalog in select DJ tools’ if that appeals to you.
Let’s move onto the other upgrade path aimed at fans, Soundcloud Go.
Soundcloud Free – Free (duh)
As with the basic account, this is the account you start out with. As you can see, all you can pretty much do is have access to available tracks on Soundcloud.
Soundcloud Go – 5.99 per month
With the Go account you can save tracks offline on your mobile device with the app and not hear any ads.
With the Go+ plan you’ll also get access to high quality audio streams and be able to play premium tracks. You’ll know when it’s premium content when you can only hear 30 seconds of it and you see the little Go+ LABEL on the track.
Along with the desktop version, there’s also two mobile apps available, Soundcloud for listening and Pulse for your music stats. If requested, I’ll dig into the apps in later videos.
My Thoughts on the Plans
This is where I’m a little confused with Soundcloud, or maybe just frustrated. I’ve talked earlier about the need to use Soundcloud as a listener or fan as well as an artist. That way it’ll encourage you to engage with the community and comment, like and share tracks.
Without paying for SoundCloud Go+, a lot of tracks are limited to about 30 seconds each which is a little jarring and conflicts with my ethos I suppose. Especially as you could just go over to the likes of Spotify or even Bandcamp and find it there. What I’m saying, without paying, as a listener you might go elsewhere which means the model to me, where I’m at, doesn’t make sense.
To get the full benefit of what Spotify has to offer you’re going to shelling out about £12.50 a month which will get both Soundcloud Pro Unlimited and Soundcloud Go+.
Sure, if you’re a big artist and you’re getting monetized by this system, then great. For the rest of us, I can’t really justify paying for another recurring bill at the moment and none of this is so unique that I can’t put my main efforts elsewhere, like Bandcamp for instance. It’s worth noting that each of the plans come with a free trial, so try it out if you are intrigued.
My Plan for using Soundcloud Going Forward
Going forward I’ll just use it to upload a single track from my upcoming releases (check out my page). That’ll prevent me going over the basic upload limit for a while and still potentially help the main release. I will be using it now and again to listen to music as there is some good stuff on there. I found a lot while researching this post!
Let me know your thoughts on Soundcloud going forward. Are you currently using it or planning to? Check out my other posts in the DIY Musician Guide.