The best thing about the music service Soundcloud is that is that as a listener, it feels like it does everything you want without any catches. You get commercial free audio, available on any device, free downloads if the sound’s creator allows it, and you don’t have to pay for any of it. You can get a similar experience by getting the paid version of Spotify or Google Play Music, but with Soundcloud it’s all free.

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What makes Soundcloud tick? It’s kind of like a cross between YouTube and Twitter, but for audio. Listeners can follow audio creators to get all of their releases visible in a stream on the web or in the Soundcloud mobile apps. There are all kinds of audio content from artists who upload their whole catalog, podcast creators, and an especially thriving remix community.

Soundcloud offers a really beautiful mobile experience, that unlike Spotify or Google’s music offering, you don’t have to pay to take full advantage of. A well designed and functional app works really well in today’s mobile, data integrated world. Soundcloud plays tracks from the cloud rather than local storage, but it’s very seamless and integrates play controls on your lock screen and Airplay capability for iOS.

Since Soundcloud releases are often coming directly from the artist, it’s a really easy way to stay on the bleeding edge, getting previews or even full tracks before they’re released through traditional channels.

Soundcloud lets you comment at specific times while playing an audio file, so it’s like viewing realtime reactions to what’s playing. You can see what others said when they heard the exact thing you’re hearing. Social sharing outside the app is similarly effortless. While other music players can have a rather clunky experience because of long page load times, when you link to a Soundcloud track, it is very easy to access.

Another killer feature is the ease with which users can embed a Soundcloud track inside a blog post. For this reason it’s become a go-to player for many music blogs looking for a better way to share music that doesn’t rely on a more subscription-centered service like Spotify. Soundcloud just wants to play the music.

What Soundcloud lacks is some sort of play queue. While you can make playlists from the app, it’s nowhere near being a full featured player. It feels more limited to playing tracks in reverse chronological order of their posting. If they added the ability to queue tracks up without going through the process of creating and naming a new playlist, it would be really useful.

Of course if they did that, more people might start using Soundcloud, and they’d have to think seriously about adding ads and otherwise supplementing their revenue. But for now, Soundcloud puts artists and listeners closely in touch, and it’s so great because everything about it seems designed for convenience instead being full of the restrictions other services have.

This post is part of a series exploring companies I love and the things that make them great.
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