Spotify is selling music-creation tool Soundtrap back to its founders to become a standalone business again, five and a half years after acquiring it.

Originally a startup from Spotify’s homeland Sweden, Soundtrap built its service as a cloud-based tool for recording and collaborating on music. Aimed at grassroots musicians and schools, it was bought by Spotify in November 2017.

Soundtrap has now been sold back to its original founders, Per Emanuelsson and Björn Melinder, for an undisclosed amount.

“Soundtrap was built to provide the best collaboration platform for making music online. Together with Soundtrap’s co-founder, Björn Melinder, we’ve made the decision to acquire the company from Spotify, returning to an independent operation,” said Emanuelsson.

“Over the last five years, we’ve greatly benefitted from Spotify’s expertise and global reach, enabling us to rapidly scale our service and launch new products. We thank Spotify for helping to set us on the trajectory we’re on today and are very excited for the future.”

For its part, Spotify’s VP, global head of music product Charlie Hellman said that the streaming service is “proud of what we’ve achieved together, and are excited to see Soundtrap’s next phase of growth over the coming years.”

It’s the second time Spotify has spun back out an acquired startup. In October 2021 it sold artist-services directory SoundBetter back to its founders, two years after buying it.

How popular is Soundtrap? It’s been a long time since it announced figures. When it raised a $6m funding round in October 2016, a year before the acquisition, it was nearing one million active users.

More recently, an academic study of Soundtrap’s growth during the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing on data supplied by the company, revealed that by the end of January 2021 it had been used by more than 10 million people since its launch.

As a Spotify subsidiary, Soundtrap’s team have continued to develop new features for the service. It added podcast creation in May 2019 for example, while in August 2022 it got new commenting and collaboration features, plus a how-to video in the company’s Spotify for Artists Masterclass series.

It’s also been used for some of Spotify’s wider initiatives: for example the music-making aspects of Spotify’s experimental step into the metaverse: Spotify Island on Roblox.

While all this suggested that Soundtrap was still seen as a valuable part of Spotify’s business, today’s news hints that music creation is no longer a strategic priority for the company, compared to its activities building marketing and promotional tools for artists and their teams.

As an independent startup again, Soundtrap will continue to compete with other entry-level audio-creation tools: Apple’s GarageBand, for example, and BandLab. The latter announced in January that it had grown to 60 million registered users.

While Soundtrap’s user base – particularly in schools and colleges – should give it a shot at becoming a sustainable standalone business, its technology and customer base may also make it an appealing potential acquisition for those rivals.

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