SoundCloud Hopes Its Slick Redesign Will ‘Unmute the Web’

Ljung (left) and Wahlforss demonstrate the new SoundCloud features at the company’s San Francisco office.
Photos: Jon Snyder/Wired

SAN FRANCISCO — SoundCloud, the online music-streaming platform and de facto music label for independent artists trying to share their tunes efficiently, announced a complete redesign of its service Wednesday, in what the Berlin-based company called an attempt to “unmute the web.”

The new version of SoundCloud, which the company called “The Next SoundCloud” and launched in private beta Wednesday, offers four new or improved features to the online music platform. Those include a sleeker player (improving on SoundCloud’s signature waveform design), the ability to play sounds continuously and navigate away from a particular track to continue searching the site without the audio stopping, improved search algorithms and tools, and the ability to repost audio in a way very similar to the “reblog” feature on Tumblr.

The improvements, SoundCloud co-founder and CEO Alexander Ljung said, were an attempt to make the web more audio-friendly.

“Sound is a key part of our overall experience of the world and on the other hand, more and more of our experience of the world is happening online,” Ljung said while giving a demonstration of the new SoundCloud at the company’s San Francisco office. “The problem today is that the web is very silent.”

With more than 100 people in offices in Berlin, San Francisco and London, SoundCloud has been something of an (ironically) quiet giant in online sound distribution since it launched in 2007, looking like the hipster YouTube of audio files. Although the service has seen growth in non-music uses in recent years, it has long been loved by musicians, labels and fans for allowing simple uploading and embedding of music across the web. SoundCloud has kept things simple with a clutter-free (read: ad-free) interface and easy sharing on popular services like Twitter and Tumblr. Those services specifically inspired the new SoundCloud features, the company’s co-founder and CTO Eric Wahlforss said, and integrating features popular on those services would make “a quite powerful marriage.”

“We have a lot of peer companies that we work with all the time; we’re part of the Union Square Ventures portfolio, where you have Tumblr and Twitter and lots of great companies,” Wahlforss said. “We work closely with them, we get inspired by them, we inspire them as well, and we integrate with them. I think we share a lot of ideas.”

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