SoundCloud has a lot of things going for it, as it’s the premier service for emerging artists to upload their work and connect with potential listeners without all the drama of record labels. You can even listen to SoundCloud music on your desktop if you’re a power user.
SoundCloud isn’t content with its current status, though. Recently it announced SoundCloud Go, a new premium music streaming service that aims to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, and other similar apps. In a sea of music, does SoundCloud Go do enough to set itself apart? As you may have guessed from the title, No.
What You Get When You Go
SoundCloud Go is co-existing next to the classic SoundCloud membership, which is free. Go costs $10 per month, but be warned that it costs $13 if bought on iOS due to Apple taking a cut of all in-app purchases. If you’re an iPhone user looking to subscribe, be sure to do so on the Web, then just sign into the SoundCloud app with the same account to avoid this ridiculous up-charge.
The first thing you get for your $10-per-month is access to more tracks on SoundCloud. The company claims the number to be over 125 million, which sounds great compared to the ~30 million on Spotify. However, SoundCloud has made a mark with remixes, podcasts, and original music that aren’t considered normal “songs” as known by most people. We know that SoundCloud had some 110 million tracks before announcing this new service, so subtracting that from
their 125 million number shows that you’re getting about 15 million new songs with SoundCloud Go.
In addition to the new music, SoundCloud Go lets you listen to your music offline on your phone, which is a great feature for those with limited data plans. The subscription also drops the ads that come with the free plan.
Using SoundCloud Go
When you start using SoundCloud Go, it’s difficult to tell which tracks you now have access to and which are free for everyone. When you’re on a free account, you’ll see a PREVIEW tag on tracks that aren’t available to you and can only listen to 30 seconds of them. There’s no way to tell this without opening an incognito window in your browser so you can see what SoundCloud looks like to regular users and check it out manually.
I was new to SoundCloud before signing up for the free trial of Go (aside from the odd track someone shared with me), and quickly became frustrated with the way the service operates. You pretty much have to search for an artist to get started, and this is where the problems begin.
First off, SoundCloud Go is missing several big-name artists, such as Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Kayne West. I’m personally not a fan of this type of music, so their absence doesn’t bother me, but it’s alarming that several artists responsible for the Spotify Top 50 tracks aren’t even present on this service, since clearly lots of people enjoy their music.
The fun keeps going once you locate an artist that’s on SoundCloud. I can’t fathom why this is, but there is no way to sort an artist’s music on SoundCloud Go. When you open an artist page, you simply get a column of their uploaded music in no particular order — no way to sort by album, most recent release, or most popular.
On Spotify, as soon as you open an artist you’re able to see their 10 most popular tracks, giving you a fantastic place to start checking out a new artist — if you start with and like their most popular tracks, you’re bound to check out more of their music. SoundCloud Go gives you none of that — there’s a Playlists tab on each artist, presumably for them to upload their music into playlists.
However, not a single artist that I found in my trial used this function, so if you want to listen to a particular album, you have to 1) hope that all its tracks are available and 2) hunt down each one and add them to a playlist. This is exactly the archaic, tedious method we had to use to collect albums on Spotify before they introduced the My Music feature that allows you to save albums and tracks to a collection. Because of this, SoundCloud feels disorganized, confusing, and second-rate.
This is a huge issue. Many people, including myself, are album-oriented and want to experience a full album as it was originally released. Every other music service gives you an easy way to listen to music in a logical way, but this is absent in SoundCloud Go. Making your own playlists for every album would take a long time, and is just unacceptable. This style of finding music feels like the now-defunct Grooveshark or listening to music on YouTube — you look something up and hope that someone, somewhere uploaded it.
The Rest of Go
There’s not a whole lot more to using SoundCloud Go. You can follow artists on their pages, which means you get their music in your “stream” on the main page of the site. This is organized by most recent upload, so if you’re trying to use the service to listen to “normal” music and not SoundCloud original content (which is supposedly the point of the service), this is essentially useless except for seeing what’s new. For comparison, Spotify already notifies you when artists you follow release a new album.
The main page lets you view Charts to listen to the most popular music in various genres, which isn’t anything special. You can add a heart to any song to add it to your collection, which houses your favorite tracks, playlists, and artists; acting as an inferior version to Spotify’s My Music. Since you can follow playlists, your best bet for listening to music that you want is to find playlists created by those that have similar taste to you.
If you get through all the music in a playlist or other source, SoundCloud Go won’t stop the tunes, but rather starts playing “related tracks” to what you just heard. This is a neat feature, but you can’t turn it off and there’s no way to know how it picks these — in my testing, it just played other tracks on the same album from the same artist. When listening, the player at the bottom of the screen lets you repeat single tracks, but doesn’t feature a shuffle button — probably because this entire service is one giant shuffle button.
It’s worth noting how the SoundCloud mobile app looks when you’re a Go subscriber. The app for Android and for iOS is the same as the one for free users, but you have access to some advanced features. The main page contains the same “stream” view that lists recent uploads, you can search for an artist or hashtag genre, or view your liked tracks and playlists, just like on the Web.
Scrolling over to your user profile gets you an Explore option, which lets you pick either a genre, general music, or non-music “audio” and shows you random tracks that fall into these categories. It’s nice if you’re looking for something totally random, but does nothing to remedy the issues with not being able to systematically find music.
The only other notable part of the mobile app is the Save automatically option for offline listening. When enabled, the app will automatically save offline every track that you give a heart and every playlist that you follow. Combined with the fact that you can limit how much storage space the app uses, this is an intelligent feature that other apps should implement. Those who frequently dip in or out of a mobile network connection will appreciate not having to remember to click “available offline” like they do on other services.
So, Should You Pay for SoundCloud Go?
I’m not trying to be cruel, but I see absolutely no point in this service. At its core, the advantage that SoundCloud offers over Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, and others is the user-generated content. If you want to hear podcasts, remixes, or music from independent artists (or even just people who record an occasional song for fun), you can use SoundCloud. You can still do all that for free, so why pay for SoundCloud Go?
I’ve rarely used SoundCloud over the past few years, but when I have listened to the occasional podcast or track from an indie artist, I never heard or saw a single advertisement. In addition, you can get offline listening with any premium music app, so two of the three selling points for SoundCloud Go immediately fall flat.
Soundcloud Go is a waste. If I wanted that I'd buy Spotify
— Jules (@jul_hendrickson) April 3, 2016
The only remaining advantage is the new music from big artists, but we’ve just discussed at length how a lot of them are not present, and what is here is so disorganized it brings to memory the days of Napster and Limewire. Perhaps it’s just my personality, but I like music services to be neat and organized. SoundCloud Go immediately struck me as confusing, as I couldn’t just pick an album and listen to it through.
Organization aside, though, there’s just so much more that other services give you. With Spotify, you get the amazing Discover Weekly playlist that knows your taste to a scarily accurate degree and brings you 30 fresh tracks each week. Plus the ability to read along to lyrics in real-time with any song is awesome, too. You can also import your own tracks, see what friends are listening to, view related artists to find similar music, save your music into a neat collection, and collaborate on playlists with friends — all for free.
SoundCloud Go doesn’t even offer the basic features of other music players. You can’t add music to a queue, there’s no high quality option for streaming (which is lame, considering that Spotify Premium ups the quality significantly), and it features no crossfade option. I’m not trying to nitpick, but for a music service not to have all of these standard features feels underwhelming.
I’m most familiar with Spotify as I’ve been using Premium for years; I know Google Play Music fairly well, and haven’t ever touched Apple Music since I’m not an iOS user (if you’d like to learn more about Apple Music, we’ve covered how to get started). However, I would go for either of those services before SoundCloud Go if I ever left Spotify. They both include most of the features listed above, and actually feature music that you want to listen to in a logical manner.
The only other good thing I can say about SoundCloud Go is that it gives the artists control over what Go subscribers can hear and what regular users can hear. If an artist wants to make one of their albums free for everyone to listen to and hold the rest back for subscribers only, that’s supported. I think it’s a good idea, but further reinforces that subscribing to this service is pointless — why pay when what makes the service unique is free and you can get what you’re looking for elsewhere for free?
The only people who should look into SoundCloud Go are those who already use the free service religiously and want to get offline access to music that they can’t get anywhere else, or simply want to support SoundCloud financially. For everyone else, your money (and time) is much better spent with Spotify, Google Play Music, or Apple Music.
Have you tried SoundCloud Go? What do you think of it compared to other streaming music services? Please let us know what you think in the comments below, whether you agree or disagree with my review.