Skip to Content

SoundCloud Takes on Spotify And Apple Music With Paid Streaming

With SoundCloud Go, users can download songs to play offline. With SoundCloud Go, users can download songs to play offline.
With SoundCloud Go, users can download songs to play offline. Courtesy of SoundCloud

Open SoundCloud’s mobile app and enter rapper Drake’s name, or chanteuse Sia’s, for example. If you shell out $10, the results will not only include a bevy of amateur remixes, but also the artists’ official recordings that you can listen to whenever you’d like—much like you can through Spotify and Apple Music.

This is because SoundCloud, the Berlin-based service best known for letting amateur musicians upload and share their tracks with listeners, is finally joining the on-demand music streaming craze. SoundCloud Go, as it’s called, will give U.S. SoundCloud users access to a catalog of more than 125 million songs, including both free tracks uploaded by users as well as standard recordings through the company’s deals with music labels and publishers.

That is more music than available through Spotify and Apple Music. Both have 30 million songs in their catalogs.

SoundCloud charges $9.99 monthly for Go, which includes offline playing that users can manage through its iOS and Android apps.

“It’s pretty amazing when you can make a playlist with all the emerging artists next to Kanye [West], next to all the major artists, next to a remix,” SoundCloud co-founder Eric Wahlforss told Fortune in an interview at the company’s San Francisco office.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

SoundCloud is one of the last music services to get into the on-demand streaming game. But its proposition to music fans is fairly unique: listen to your favorite amateur DJ mixes as well as tracks from big artists all in one place.

The fragmentation of music between services with exclusively professionally produced material like YouTube and Spotify, and SoundCloud, with its previously amateur-only fare, has frustrated listeners for years. Services like (acquired by LifeShock and shuttered) and Songdrop have tried to help with this by letting users collect tracks from all over these sources but it’s still a challenge. YouTube’s own subscription service, YouTube Red, is another take on that as it lets users listen to music ad-free, turn videos into audio-only tracks, and mix and match music tracks with, say, concert recordings.

SoundCloud Go is finally possible because the company has brokered deals with the major music labels and publishers, something the company has been working on for more than a year and a half. According to Wahlforss, the company has had to work out “bespoke” deals with the labels, largely because SoundCloud isn’t quite like other services due to its large community of “creators,” its term for users who upload tracks to its service. Often, they include music samples from the copyrighted songs music labels have been policing on SoundCloud.

The result: SoundCloud will provide free 30-second previews of the premium songs, which can freely be used in playlists and other free content. To include or listen to full tracks or more of this premium content, users must subscribe to Go.

“The one very unique element is that no only can we license their catalogs,” said Wahlforss, “they also ‘bless’ the whole community around DJing and remixes,” he added of the music labels’ deals with his company.


The new subscription service comes at a time when making money is becoming critical to SoundCloud. The company hasn’t publicly disclosed its financials in a while, but in 2014 it lost €39 million on revenues of €17 million. In early 2015, it borrowed $35 million from Tennenbaum Capital Partners, a spokeswoman confirmed to Fortune.

SoundCloud slowly began to turn on the revenue spigot more than a year and a half ago when it rolled out ads. Since then, it has added more than 100 partners, including indie label licensing group Merlin, Warner Music, and some YouTube networks like Maker Studios and Fullscreen.

Now, with deals with major labels like Sony and Universal, SoundCloud is ready to see if it can steal some of Apple Music and Spotify’s paying customers. But it has a long way to go: Apple Music now has more than 11 million paying customers, while Spotify reportedly has almost 30 million.