Soundcloud: bringing sound and emotion to the web

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Alexander Ljung of Soundcloud

**Alexander Ljung, Founder & CEO, SoundCloud  **

Alex explains that Soundcloud was born of the founders’ desire to share sounds on the web, in a pretty sound geek-focused way. However, they discovered what they were really interested in was all these social platforms that allowed people to connect. Their favourite form of expression was sound – and that could be social. And suddenly the idea went from their geeky need to something they felt the world needed – and they had to do it.

Soundcloud solves specific problems: “I’m a musician, I want to promote my album, and spread it through networks”. But they’re more interested in sharing moments through sound. He admits to always being a sound geek. Sound can be music, a baby’s first works, a lecture ore a political speech. Sound evokes more of an emotional reaction than the written word.

Sound is incredibly simple to create – we’re all walking around with these incredible microphones in our packet. One button – 140 times simpler than Twitter. Yes, it’s slower to consume – but it can be consumed in parallel. Imagine how much time you can spend with a game or a video if you have other things to do. It’s limited. In a connected age, sound can follow us around everywhere. It can be slower in terms of information transfer, but you have more time to do it, and it has more of an impact. 
jamillah-knowles-Alexander -Ljung.jpgThey’ve seen incredible growth, and a lot of passionate users – and they give feedback on the site. The web has progressed since the site launched, so they wanted to incorporate feedback, and make the site faster, more gorgeous and more engaging. They brought in ideas from the mobile app. They’re making it easier to share sounds, and adding real time notifications. It should be easier to go through sounds quicker, and added seamless playback throughout the site. And you can create collections of sounds.

Hack days have been really important. Hacking is very similar to how designers work with prototypes – you’re solving a problem by actually doing things. That’s tremendously powerful. It’s not limited to writing code – you can hack in every discipline. They’ve had an API since the public launch. The web is, by definition, an inter-connected thing. If the parts aren’t connectable, you’re just an island. They wanted to be a Lego block.

Freemium is working for them. They don’t see much scope for charging brands in a different way – people seem to have individual account, even within a company. It’s a flexible and successful model he seems very content with, because it keeps the interactions personal. Their profiles have been revamped on the site to make fluid sharing of sounds across the web, whatever the platform more easy.

More and more of our lives are mediated – and eventually everything will be mediated by the internet. The issue with that is that online interactions are mainly based on visual communication – but that’s not reflecting the richness of what it means to be human. He’s really excited to see sound take a more important role on the web in general. In five or six years they won’t be where he wants – but they’ll be a lot closer. It will be normal to speak to the internet, and it’ll be less clunky and more fluid – and more people being moved by their web experiences.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.