If three’s a crowd, who knows what to call the rabble of businesses cluttering up the music streaming industry right now. And newly amplifying all that noise is SoundCloud.
The audio platform today (March 29) debuted SoundCloud Go, an on-demand music subscription service with a catalog of 125 million songs. Users will get a 30-day free trial, after which they’ll have to pay $9.99 a month—or $12.99 a month if listening on an iOS device, to factor in Apple’s 30% share of in-app purchases—for access to the ad-free, on-demand streaming. The Go service had been in the works for quite some time: SoundCloud co-founder Eric Wahlforss confirmed rumors about such a product last summer, and the company finally locked down licensing deals with the US’s three biggest record labels this month.
But it’s déjà vu. And it’s also, perhaps, a little too late.
Twin industry giants Spotify and Apple Music already offer $10-a-month subscription streaming services, with the former grabbing 30 million paying listeners and the latter (at less than a year old) reporting 11 million. And then there are Pandora, Rhapsody, Tidal, Deezer, Google Music, and all the other subscription platforms that—unless you’re a hardcore Taylor Swift fan, or a staunch indie music supporter, or choosy about the way algorithms curate your playlists—are virtually indistinguishable.
SoundCloud does have some leverage over its competitors. Its catalog has a nice blend of big acts and emerging unsigned artists, and the company’s dedication to under-the-radar music (particularly mash-ups, remixes, DJ mixes) is largely what’s attracted 175 million users on the platform thus far.
“The diversity of the content on SoundCloud is unparalleled,” a SoundCloud spokesperson told Quartz by email. “We are currently onboarding a huge amount of major label content, so listeners can soon pair the songs they love with brand new tracks in the same playlist.”
Thanks to a wide array of music licensing deals, the sheer number of tracks available is also impressive.
But will the average music fan, who likely listens to Adele and Coldplay on the regular and may branch out to an indie song or two every few days, really care? Will he or she readily shell out $13 for an expanded deck instead of $10 for his/her existing service?
These are the question on which SoundCloud is hinging Go’s success. And they are nothing short of uncertain.