Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Beginner's Guide to SoundCloud

Online streaming services aren't new. There are innumerable ways to stream audio and music online, but SoundCloud has some advantages over the competition.

Founded in Berlin in 2007, SoundCloud has since expanded to an extensive app that encompasses a streaming service, a distribution platform and an online community. For musicians, it’s a great way to upload original music to share with your fans. For fans, it’s easy to keep tabs on your favorite artists and stream on continuous play. And increasingly more for other types of media, SoundCloud provides a way to stream embeddable audio pieces for news and sports media outlets.

There are three subscription levels to choose from with SoundCloud. With a free account, you are limited to 120 minutes of uploaded audio and can only see some of your stats. You can get more upload hours by paying for a Pro or Pro Unlimited account, which also come with more extensive analytics, as well as a Quiet Mode feature to hide comments and stats on your tracks.

Once you decide what’s best for you, getting started with SoundCloud is simple. Check out some of the best and most useful SoundCloud features below in our beginner’s guide.

Signing Up

Signing up for a SoundCloud account allows you to take full advantage of all of SoundCloud’s features, including customization and personalized statistics.

You can sign up through your Facebook or Google account, or just use your email address. Simply click on the “Sign up” button on the homepage.

Setting Up Your Profile

If you’re a musician, this is a crucial step to branding yourself. Click on the profile icon on the top navigation bar, and then click “Edit.” You can add links to your website, Facebook, Twitter,, Songkick, Tumblr and more, and SoundCloud will directly link to them on your profile.

Uploading Tracks

Once your profile is all set, upload your songs by clicking "Upload" next to your avatar in the top navigation bar. With a free account, you can upload up to 120 minutes-worth of sounds.

Once you upload a song, verify the title, add a description and label your sound with tags to make it easily findable. Perhaps more importantly, you can add a buy link. Click on “More options” right above the “Save” button before you upload your track. Within these new options, you can paste a buy link into the given field and adjust the licensing and accessibility of your track.

Making a Playlist

Whether you're organizing your own songs into an album or making a compilation of other songs, it's easy to make a playlist in SoundCloud. Hover over a track and select the “Add to playlist” button to create a playlist and add your track.

Once you've made a list, head over to your profile page so you can edit the playlist. To edit, click on the playlist to go to its own page, then click on the pencil icon right beneath the waveform.
Now you can drag and drop the songs in your playlist to reorder them. You can also change the name of the playlist, change the permalink, add an image and edit tags. Fill in a description, which is HTML-capable, so you can, for example, drop in links to sites where users can purchase concert tickets.

Once you're finished, you can listen to your playlist on continuous play without commercial breaks. SoundCloud also puts all of your songs into one waveform, and you can easily embed the entire playlist as one entity.

Sharing and Downloading Sounds

Did you hear a track you like? Click the "Share" button to link it out via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest or email. If you just need the SoundCloud link, you can even specify a start time.
The most useful sharing tool in SoundCloud, however, is the embed code. Simply copy and paste the HTML into your own post and you will have an embedded mini player.
You can also customize your player to change its color and size by clicking on the pencil icon next to the embed code. If you're working specifically with WordPress, there is a unique SoundCloud shortcode for each track to make embedding easy.

Certain artists will also make their sounds downloadable. Simply click the download icon below the waveform to download the track.


Similar to other music services, SoundCloud allows you to stream your songs in the background while you change between different interfaces. This is a great feature, especially while you’re browsing through different tracks with the explore function. Just click on “Explore” on the left side of the top navigation bar.

The page aggregates tracks that are popular at the moment within the SoundCloud community. You can browse not only by musical genres (which aren’t extremely extensive), but you can also browse other media, such as newscasts and excerpts from audiobooks.

Following Other Users

Perhaps one of the best features of SoundCloud is its social network-like model. You can keep tabs on your favorite artists, record labels and news outlets as their posts fill your stream, just as a Twitter or Facebook feed would.

Once you've found posts that interest you, just click the “Follow” button on the user’s profile and you’ll see every track they post in your stream.

Social Networking and Interacting With Other Users

Now that you have a solid list of users in your stream, you can “like” tracks just as you would like a post on Facebook. You can also “repost” tracks, similar to a retweet on Twitter.

Another cool feature in SoundCloud is the ability to comment on a certain point in a track. Do you love the killer drum fill in the bridge of a song? Let the artist know by adding a comment at that exact point in the track.
Click in the “Write a comment” field under the waveform of a song. Your avatar will appear in the lower third of the waveform, which is greyed out for comments. Move your avatar to the point in the song on which you want to comment, type a note and then hit Enter. The comments will pop up as the song plays through so that a user can read them while those points in the track play.

Tracking Analytics

Easily track the play counts, downloads and interactions of your sounds via SoundCloud’s analytics. Click on the drop-down arrow next to your avatar in the top navigation bar and select Stats.

With a free account, you can see the number of plays you have on all your sounds, the number of downloads, the number of likes and the number of comments. There are also percent changes for each metric so you can gauge your tracks.

If you’re looking for more in-depth analytics, sign up for a Pro account to get referral sources and demographics of your audience.

Joining Groups

Groups are a handy way to stay in touch with an organization or stay on top of new artists within a certain genre. You can search for groups by clicking on the drop-down arrow next to your avatar in the top navigation bar and selecting “Groups,” or you can create your own.

Utilizing Apps

The apps page on SoundCloud provides an extensive directory of apps that work in conjunction with the service. From music production apps like Ableton to social sharing apps like Tumblr and IFTTT, you can get them straight from SoundCloud’s directory.

The recent addition of Instagram to SoundCloud allows you to upload pictures from your Instagram feed to use as playlist or album covers.

To do this, hover over the cover of your playlist or track and click on “Choose new image.” Connect your Instagram account with the button on the lower left to use your own original images for album art.

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