SoundCloud alternatives - where to go with your music if SoundCloud dies one day
The name "SoundCloud" doesn't really need any explicit introduction - I'd probably be having a hard time trying to find a musician who has never heard about it in his life.
When the service was first introduced to the world 12 years ago (in 2007), it kinda revolutionized the way of publishing music online by creating a large, community-driven platform able to connect underground music creators with fans who were looking for new music to listen to. Anyone could upload almost anything instantly and there were always some ears to listen - no wonder that the popularity of the service quickly skyrocketed and there were quite a few big musicians whose careers took off from SoundCloud. But it was too beautiful to last forever.
In the first row, SoundCloud was never well monetized since the very beginning. With a quite benevolent free plan, the money coming from pro plans simply wasn't enough to cover all the operational costs and also all the lawsuits coming from major labels over copyright infringements - and a lot more of other things. Despite that SoundCloud came with a variety of strategies to get more money from their users, none of them worked particularly well, often creating more harm than good.
One of the other reasons why SoundCloud lost quite a lot of its popularity is that there has been a lot of various disputes, either over copyright infringements (often unfounded, claimed by SoundCloud anti-piracy algorithms by mistake) with some users completely losing their accounts for not actually doing anything wrong. Also, there were a lot of mishandled takedown claims filed purely with the intention to harm the author, etc.
And finally, a lot of people are starting to be fed up with the site being basically stuck in the past for the last few years. Instead of being continually innovated and improved, it got rid of some really useful features like user groups (annoying a LOT of users), while some really annoying bugs remain unfixed for years.
The SoundCloud mobile app is a chapter for itself - but it's rather short and not exactly a good read. It's actually more like a bad joke, containing only really basic features (and getting just slightly better over time with new updates) and generally not being very user-friendly (with its complementing app for artists executed in the very same half-baked fashion).
It's really a shame, but it kind of seems that SoundCloud's prime is really over and will never return again in all its beauty. The last nail in the coffin for a lot of people came just a few days ago, when SoundCloud sneakily added into their FAQ a few paragraphs informing its users that after September 9th, they won't be allowed to upload new stuff if they have more than 15 tracks (or 3 hours of audio, whatever comes first). This started an avalanche of negative reactions throughout the social media and even though just a few days later SoundCloud publicly announced scrapping this new strategy, it made a lot of people realize that they should be no more depending just on SoundCloud, but rather look for some alternatives in case things suddenly take an ugly turn again.
As I have been one of those people, I thought I might try and make a little write-up of all the SoundCloud alternatives I have found, also pointing out a few services that look like they could be a SoundCloud alternative but they really aren't. So, here we go:
Hearthis.at was my first choice as it was, in fact, the only SoundCloud alternative I have known about prior to the recent SoundCloud stunt. Funnily enough, the company is also based in Germany (where SoundCloud comes originally from, too) and was officially established in 2013.
To be honest, Hearthis.at was never a love at a first sight for me - the interface always felt to me a bit messy and cluttered as opposed to SoundCloud's outdated, but still kinda clean-ish, airy and straightforward design. But it's worth getting used to it as the website is actually packed with some really interesting and useful features. Also, it seems that the developer team behind it is really active and busy trying to make the website even better, constantly pushing out new updates and adding more new features.
For example, there are user groups! Take that SoundCloud! :)) But that's just a little nag for starters - another really nice thing is the ability to sell your music directly on the platform with money going straight to your PayPal account. You can do also live streams via the website (which are all recorded and saved to your profile), but by far my most favorite function is an ability to import your whole SoundCloud discography with a single click of a mouse. As opposed to the other services, where I always spent one good evening trying to upload my whole discography, constantly waiting all the time, this was like a dream. And it's not limited to just SoundCloud - you can import mixes from Mixcloud, audio files from DropBox, you can even import a song from a Facebook Videos!
Also, the website features a really nicely executed "News" section that aggregates music-related news from all the different webzines out there - for people who love to read (and generally for people who like to know what's happening on the scene) this is another very nice perk. And then there is the last new geolocation-based feature that has been added by the dev team called "Maps", which allows you to explore literally music around you. Cool!
A free account on Hearthis.at allows you to upload 500MB of content per week, which is what I believe more than a lot of us can actually use (if you're not going to upload your entire podcast archive at once), and it's also limited to uploading only MP3 files, which get transcoded to ugly 128kbps. The Pro plan ($4.99/month or $34.99/year) adds unlimited uploads, automatic tracklisting for uploaded mixes, support for a wide range of audio files including FLAC and AAC, option to choose the playback quality of your uploads, hiding stats below the waveform, various waveform styles and much more.
Although the Hearthis.at website is surprisingly good, sadly I can't say the same thing about their mobile app. It basically feels like the SoundCloud app (feature-wise) but in a way uglier design. The only real difference here as I see it is that Hearthis.at app actually lets users upload their music, which is something SoundCloud app can't do. Oh, and also, there is a built-in equalizer you can use to enhance the music you listen to in-app.
With all that being said, Hearthis.at looks like probably the most viable alternative to SoundCloud. Despite the size of the site's userbase being just a fraction of what SoundCloud has (which is a bit of a shame as the enormous size of SoundCloud's userbase was exactly the biggest reason why it worked so well), it still has probably the most active users from all the SoundCloud clones out there.
I have come across Audius just a short time before writing this article and I have to say it certainly got my attention (mostly because of the beautifully designed landing page). This site is not kidding around tho', it's literally meant to be SoundCloud's clone, just with different colors and more box-shadows.
The service itself doesn't really say much on it's landing page - basically, the "tagline" is HQ audio (320kbps, sadly there is no information about what codecs are they using), unlimited free uploads forever and also no censorship with your tracks never being taken down for any reason (which sounds quite interesting to me). No links to pricing, just a button to listen and another one to sign up for free.
So far it looks like the website is still under intensive development, as the feature set is quite limited by now, but I'm seeing multiple updates being pushed live every time I'm visiting the website, which seems promising. Right now, you can post tracks, you can explore music on the site in various ways (your feed, trending music, or exploration mode), you can visit the list of what you liked (and also your listening history which is useful) and you can create and manage your playlists. But not much more besides this quite standard set of features, really. And what's personally bugging me - you can't upload a private track there, which is something people need often. Also, there is no mobile app for Audius right now, it's only available as a website - but in their defense, it's optimized for viewing on mobile quite well.
Audius currently does not have any paid "premium" plan, so I was initially a bit baffled about how are they gonna make the whole thing profitable, or at least sustainable, when so far everything is free and unlimited and also completely ad-free, but then I found this article shining some light into this. apparently, Audius financial model is gonna be blockchain-based and there are going to be implemented so-called "Loud" tokens, proclaimed as "price-stable medium of exchange for use by creators, listeners and service providers". Unfortunately, there is not much more information about how it will work than this, so we'll just have to wait to see ourselves I guess.
As you would probably guess, there is not much buzz going on yet as the site appears to be fairly new. It seems that there are a few bigger names promoting the service (such as Rezz or deadmau5), but not many active listeners so far. This might eventually change quickly tho' as Audius is currently being widely debated as a promising SoundCloud alternative, which can eventually result in a massive influx of new users if something goes suddenly wrong with SoundCloud, so maybe it's not a bad idea to be prepared for that possibility, think one step ahead and get your music there as well.
I have never had a clue that Audiomack existed until I started actively looking for SoundCloud alternatives on Reddit, where multiple users suggested the service and I started wondering what is it about and if it's any good.
So I naturally signed up and began to upload my music. At first, I was happy that the simultaneous upload of multiple WAVs was supported, only to discover that the order of the tracks I uploaded got somehow switched during the process, and my OCD just didn't let me leave it like that. Unfortunately, when I tried to reupload my tracks, none of the newly uploaded ones were showing on my profile and I have to wait some time before everything went back to normal. At least they have this clever mechanism that recognizes tracks you have uploaded before (and then deleted) and automatically fills up all the metadata for you, but the upload process is generally bugged as hell (and if I was a bit pissed off at Audius for taking long to upload my music, Audiomack showed me that it can be even way worse).
Anyway, after looking around the website for a bit, I have to say that the music exploration/listening features are quite standard and there is nothing extra compared to the other services - basically, it's just the obligatory mixture of various types of feeds - what you follow, what's new, what's hot, etc. And the same itself goes for the user library and the track detail view - apart of filling some basic metadata, there is not much to do, but hey - at least you can make the track private, unlike on Audius (although I reckon that this will get added there soon, too). Sadly you can't make tracks downloadable (nor sell them).
However, there is one useful feature I have been especially missing on SoundCloud (and basically everywhere), and that's an ability to easily switch between more artist accounts. For a person with three musical outlets, this is a big thing and it's a shame these services are forgetting about this issue.
At first, I was tempted to compare Audiomack to Audius, as feature-wise, the services feel really similar and both are also boasting with unlimited uploads. But after digging a bit deeper (and also doing some research on the service), I noticed a few important differences. First, Audiomack is way older (in fact, even older than Hearthis.at). Second, Audiomack has actually an admirable userbase counting over 1.5 million active users, which is still nowhere near SoundCloud, but not bad at all. Third, Audiomack has, as opposed to Audius, a visible monetization strategy - the site contains ads and there also appears to be a partnership with distribution service Tunecore, that is being recommended on multiple places throughout the Audiomack website. And last, Audiomack has its web app and also a paid pro tier (but funnily enough, there is literally NO mention of it anywhere on the website and you can get it only via the mobile app).
The mobile app is actually pretty neat tho' - definitely way better than all the other ones. It's not perfect (as relatively soon after first launching it I experienced a funny glitch where I wasn't able to bring up the view for currently playing track), but it's relatively intuitive and easy to navigate, the app dark design is a pleasure to look at and finally, the "now playing" screen has by far the best layout I've seen in a music streaming app. You can even download music to have it stored locally, not needing to have an internet connection all the time, but sadly, you can't upload your own music via the app. Some of its features are only available with the pro plan tho', which costs around $3 per month - speaking of which, I should mention the sound quality. Audiomack seems to use 160kbps for free users and 320kbps for those with premium, but again, I couldn't find any information about codecs they are using.
The most interesting thing about Audiomack is probably the way how it works with labels, for whose it basically serves as a kind of a talent-scouting network. If an artist makes into Audiomack's algorithmically curated "top" lists, it really means something and there is a chance of being picked up by some label A&R executive.
All in all, it looks like Audiomack could deserve a shot, too (especially with hip hop, which was the only genre Audiomack was originally designed for), as it seems that despite its bugs and glitches, the website is alive and kickin', there is a lot of people hungry for new music and also the possibility of getting picked by a label is something pretty unique and interesting.
Why not Bandcamp?
A lot of people were also suggesting Bandcamp as a SoundCloud alternative, but here I simply can't agree. The reason behind that is that Bandcamp completely misses the social aspect of people just roaming on the website with an endless stream of new music being fed to them. In fact, Bandcamp is way closer to a shop - it's the place where you usually send your existing fans to buy your music (and it's one of the best services out there for that), but you simply won't get any new fans there.
Couldn't Mixcloud help?
Mixcloud has been around for quite some time and I have also seen some people recommending it, but in my opinion, Mixcloud has never meant to be a competition for SoundCloud, but rather a different service aiming at DJ-mixes only. It's really a great tool for DJs, but not so great one for producers - in fact, I think that uploading single tracks is not allowed there at all. If you're a DJ, definitely give Mixcloud a try, but if you're a producer, rather look somewhere else.
And what about YouTube?
Youtube is debatable, as there definitely are some social and music discovery aspects. To me, personally, it just feels way too different as it's not actually made for music and it doesn't really offer any music-related features to artists (and the UX itself isn't really too friendly for music consumption anyway). But it's still one of the most popular places where people listen to music nowadays, so no matter how much of true "alternative" to SoundCloud it is, getting your music there is certainly worth the time.
So maybe Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Pandora or those other ones?
Well, not exactly. Those are also not SoundCloud alternatives in the right meaning of the word. Those are all just a little different kind of service. Despite there is a strong focus on delivering the best music discovery experience, they are too lacking in the social aspect. Also, as opposed to all the above-mentioned services where you could upload freely almost anything (whatever weird meme bootleg you just created), to get your music on streaming platforms you need to have a distributor (which equals you have to pay some money to get your music there). Anyway, if you're serious with your music, confident about your output but not already present on streaming platforms, I'd say you're doing it wrong. The biggest difference to SoundCloud is that here, you get actually paid for every single stream and damn, you deserve to be paid for your hard work!
The final word
There definitely are a few services where we could move after SoundCloud finally rests in peace one day, but unfortunately, none of them will probably ever grow to SoundCloud's former size and popularity. Those times seem to be over for good as the people tend to favor spending most of their time on social media, turning away from "traditional" music discovery services like SoundCloud (and also a lot of them getting more and more used to Spotify and other streaming platforms).
To me, Hearthis.at looks like the best choice out there so far, as it's one of the oldest SoundCloud competitors (which means they have probably the biggest userbase of them all) and also it's the only service that actually offers it's members some really interesting features.
But after all - if you have the time, it won't hurt you simply to get your music EVERYWHERE. The more places where people can somehow discover (or just listen to) your music, the better ;)
- Audius is born, with the promise of more user freedom than the likes of SoundCloud
- HearThis: What Happened To The "Soundcloud Killer"?
- HearThis adds livestreaming. Is this a gamechanger?
- Hearthis.at, a Serious SoundCloud Alternative
- Audiomack is Free and Nobody is Paying
- Audiomack vs Soundcloud
- Audiomack Is a Streaming Music Hub for Artists and Fans
- Audiomack just solved music streaming
- How Audiomack Is Playing Major League Ball With Minor League Talent
- How Audiomack Went From Mixtape Destination to One of the Most Influential Underground Streaming Services Around
First time on my blog?
Welcome! My name is Pao and I'm the person behind this whole website. Besides making music myself whenever I can, I also write this blog and curate Spotify playlists. Feel free to explore it here a bit - I believe you will find some interesting stuff around ^^