SoundCloud is redesigning its app’s home screen with more focus on playlists and recommendations, including two new own-brand playlists showcasing trending hip-hop and dance tracks.
The app’s homepage will now be based around sideways-scrolling carousels of playlists and albums, some of which will be tuned to the listener’s tastes.
These will include ‘More of what you like’ (suggestions based on their habits) and ‘Artists you should know’ (artists similar to those they’ve listened to) as well as popular playlists created by other SoundCloud users.
The Upload, SoundCloud’s personalised new-music playlist – its equivalent of Spotify’s Discover Weekly – will appear on the home screen, as will the two new programmed playlists: Hip Hop Supreme for rap and In The Mix for electronic music.
Finally, the revamped homepage will showcase two charts: a weekly Top 50, and a separate ‘New & Hot’ chart focusing only on tracks uploaded in the last week.
“This launch is a huge step forward in the consumption and discovery experience for SoundCloud,” CEO Kerry Trainor told Music Ally in an interview ahead of the redesign going live.
A lot of this is about making SoundCloud less intimidating for new users. The service’s core has traditionally been its ‘stream’ of content: the tracks posted (and re-posted) by the musicians, DJs and friends that you follow.
Marvellous if you were following lots of tastemakers, but it could be daunting for people when first signing up. The redesign will at least get them started with popular playlists, and as SoundCloud learns more about their tastes, personalised recommendations will kick in.
“The ability to follow creators and curators in SoundCloud remains: that will be the stream experience. But new Home is a much more intuitive, accessible way for people to dive in to content through the frame of playlists, albums and tracks,” said Trainor.
SoundCloud’s senior product manager Swetha Dhamodharan talked Music Ally through the new design, including the ambition to be a more welcoming experience for new listeners.
“We have this amazing, unique space of content that can’t be found anywhere else, and it’s growing every single day. As a new listener it can be really overwhelming to download SoundCloud’s app and not know where to start,” she said.
“How do we come up with an experience that makes it easy, and also which helps existing users to come back and make that discovery process much easier too?”
Dhamodharan added that the recommendation carousels on SoundCloud’s new homepage will respond to user behaviour.
“If you come back every day and are listening to a variety of content, you’ll have that refresh faster than if you’re coming back once a week and listening to the same things,” she said.
“This is another way we can boost the discovery experience. I have already found so much music that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise. For example, one day my ‘artists you should know’ was based on Kanye West, and I was getting some more-mainstream recommendations like Travis Scott, but also a ton of emerging and underground rappers.”
These are all features that other streaming services have had for some time. Spotify and Apple Music’s apps have made playlists and personalisation key to their browsing experiences, for example, while Spotify’s ‘Similar To…’ carousels do the same job as ‘Artists You Should Know’.
SoundCloud is playing catchup on that front, but Trainor said that the service wants to be more than just a me-too player on the recommendations front.
“For SoundCloud, the real stars of the experience are the creators. That’s what distinguishes us, and this is a more intuitive way for users to get into that experience: the 170 million-plus tracks, mid-to-long tail content, all the DJ mixes, remixes, mash-ups and rarities,” he said.
“We have three times the selection of the mass-streaming services. By offering users an intuitive way in, it’s a better way to allow what really differentiates us to shine through.”
2017 may have been a difficult year for SoundCloud, with speculation about its finances and a major round of layoffs. But culturally, you can argue that SoundCloud’s reputation has been burnished by some musical trends. Trainor certainly does.
“Look at the artists crushing the charts this year. Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, Lil Pump. These are artists that started on SoundCloud three to four years ago,” he says, before adding the obligatory mention of Chance the Rapper’s Grammy win.
“Being there when that artist is first uploading their content, being first in discovering is really a currency in music. We take no credit for Chance’s talent, we just offer him the environment to reach his fans.”
One notable aspect of SoundCloud’s new homepage is the prominence of playlists from the site’s users, including artists, DJs and regular listeners. That does differentiate it from a service like Spotify, where the bulk of the on-service promotion is reserved for its own programmed playlists.
“We have a lot more to come there in the year ahead, but this is absolutely an important first step: we’re excited about the different types of curation,” said Trainor.
“There will be content that we curate, there will be content generated by algorithms and popularity and relevance to you, and also the opportunity to have playlists curated by members of the community. Which could be editorial outlets, individual users, artists or DJs.”
Trainor was bullish about SoundCloud’s plans for 2018, starting with the homepage revamp but with the promise of more product development to come.
“We feel very good about our balance sheet, our base of revenue and extremely excited about our differentiated place in the market serving those creators and listeners,” he said.
“Our focus is on offering a differentiated experience: this massive catalogue that’s driven by the creators themselves. And new Home is absolutely about driving a simpler way for listeners to engage, which we expect will give us deeper engagement.”
“And of course, that drives our business both on the free, ad-supported listening side of our experience, as well as the subscription products that we offer.”