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An inside look at SoundCloud

by Sam Birmingham

I was lucky enough to spend a week in Berlin recently. The city has a buzzing music scene and is famous for its underground nightclubs, but most people may not realise that Berlin also has a thriving tech startup ecosystem.

Of all the interesting web-based services coming out of Germany, I was especially pleased when the good people from my favourite online music service, SoundCloud, were kind enough to let me visit their rooftop offices while I was exploring the Mitte district.

SoundCloud is a terrific audio-sharing and music streaming service which has grown from humble beginnings to now having seven million users around the world.

So, what makes the service so popular?


1.    We are all united by our love for music.
2.    By making it easy for people to share, comment and interact with one another, SoundCloud has built an amazing community which helps you stumble across new songs that might have never entered your life otherwise.
3.    SoundCloud is a great promotional tool for artists. Not only does it provide another distribution channel, musicians can interact with their fans and get real-time feedback on their latest creations.
4.    The user experience is clean, simple and intuitive – what more can you ask for from a web app?

I suspect that there is another deeper but equally interesting factor underpinning SoundCloud’s success. Maybe it’s a product of the GFC and the end of mass consumerism; maybe it’s a cultural shift away from ownership and towards more flexible ways of life; maybe it’s the next step in the evolution of intellectual property rights; or maybe it’s just that we’re all waking up to the tremendous potential of the Internet and all the new-fangled gadgets that now dominate our lives. The reality is that the streaming era has begun and it’s a trend that is here to stay.

As someone who DJed to pay my way through six years of university, I’ve always been an avid collector of music. But why do I need to own crates of records and CDs when I now have the entire musical world at my fingertips?

No longer am I tied to specific locations or individual devices and no longer do I live in fear of my hard drive dying and a whole iTunes library of 10,000+ songs going up in smoke (I’m still trying to suppress the memory but, yes, that has happened me before). All I need is my phone, iPad or laptop and an internet connection and I’m ready to dance.

If you are interested to learn more about streaming and what it means for the music industry, I recommend you read The Big Picture’s article “Moving To Streaming” – it’s a great read.
Otherwise, if you want to hear more about how the way we “play” is changing consumer habits, check out Sam Lessin’s awesome TEDx talk on the end of ownership.

And if you want to listen to the music that I’m bobbing my head to right now, come join me on SoundCloud!

One comment

  1. Sam Birmingham says:

    In case anyone is going to Berlin and looking for travel tips, or wants to see what else I got up while I was in Germany’s glorious capital city, feel free to check out the little website that I built to chronicle my journey — http://iamajellydonut.tumblr.com/

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