SoundCloud Go subscription music service launches in UK and Ireland

Streaming firm hopes to persuade some of its 175m listeners to start paying £9.99 a month by being ‘less spreadsheet, more Snapchat’

Music-streaming service SoundCloud is launching its £9.99-a-month SoundCloud Go subscription tier in the UK and Ireland.

The company hopes that features including track downloads for offline listening, and a bigger music catalogue courtesy of label licensing deals, will persuade some of its free listeners to start paying.

SoundCloud Go launched in the US in March after lengthy negotiations with labels, music publishers and collecting societies.

As in the US, it will have a catalogue of 125m tracks: licensed recordings as well as the remixes and mash-ups that have helped SoundCloud attract a monthly audience of 175 million music fans.

Its UK and Irish debut comes as SoundCloud introduces advertising on its free service in those countries for the first time. Go subscribers will not get the ads.

“We think of Go as an expanded version of the normal SoundCloud,” chief executive Alexander Ljung told the Guardian ahead of the launch. “It’s not like a different app or anything. It should feel the same.”

SoundCloud’s free listeners will be regularly prompted to upgrade to the new premium tier, whether they are seeing 30-second previews of tracks that are only available on SoundCloud Go, or trying to click the offline/download button that every user will see, but only subscribers will be able to use.

Ljung said that SoundCloud is confident it can compete with rivals like Spotify and Apple Music, which have 30 million and 13 million subscribers respectively.

“We tend to have a younger audience. It’s less of a spreadsheet and more of a Snapchat in terms of how you actually interact with it,” he said of SoundCloud’s mobile app.

“It’s not so stale, it’s not just a utility. It’s actually something that’s alive. And just the fact that you can now build a playlist, for example, with the new Kanye album and remixes of it that don’t exist anywhere else, that’s a really special and unique experience.”

Remixes and mash-ups are already a big part of SoundCloud’s appeal, but finding a way to pay royalties for the songs used in them was a key part of the company’s pitch to music rightsholders when negotiating licensing deals.

“We are bringing a whole new revenue stream to the entire industry by thinking about how we can monetise derivative content,” said Ljung.

“It’s been a huge part of contemporary culture: electronic music or hip-hop wouldn’t exist without that. Yet it’s sat completely outside the industry. We’re suddenly at the point where we can embrace that more, and monetise it.”

For now, SoundCloud will only be paying royalties to the creators whose songs have been used in remixes, rather than to the remixers. However, the company has previously said it is working to find a way to pay the latter too.

Signing the necessary licences for SoundCloud Go was a big challenge, but Ljung’s company has more work ahead. In its most recent set of financial results, SoundCloud admitted that it will need to raise more funding in 2016 to cover its losses.

Ljung is hoping that SoundCloud Go can compete with Spotify, Apple Music and other rivals in the increasingly fierce battle to attract paying users.

“People would always say they loved SoundCloud, but they had to switch to a different app if they were getting on a plane, or if they wanted to listen to the new Rihanna album,” said Ljung.

“With Go, we have the offline sync and then this content catalogue you would find in other services. Now there’s no reason to switch to another app any more.”

Not unless you want to stream Beyoncé’s new Lemonade album, which is exclusive to the Tidal streaming service. “Well, then you have to be a bit patient,” admitted Ljung.


Stuart Dredge

The GuardianTramp

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