|Chicago Public Media’s website, wbez.org,
where visitors listen to the station’s programs using the SoundCloud player.
radio stations, streaming success can be costly — even apart from any content rights
expenses — because the more live and recorded content streams a broadcast
company serves to listeners, the more it must pay to cover the bandwidth
consumed. There are also costs associated with buying and maintaining onsite
servers to host and provide the content, and hiring and paying staff to keep
the system going.
latter costs can be avoided by streaming content through a third-party content
delivery network such as Akamai. But third-party
hosting isn’t free. CDNs charge radio stations for these services.
cost-effective solution to this problem is SoundCloud. This is a member-driven
audio distribution platform that the company says reaches approximately 180
million people every month.Users
include CNN (soundcloud.com/cnn) and
“On Air With Ryan Seacrest” (soundcloud.com/ryanseacrest).
an annual fee of $660, SoundCloud will host and serve out an unlimited amount
of audio content uploaded by its members. That’s the top rate; lower-priced
deals are available for users willing to accept caps on the number of hours
unloaded and downloads accessed by listeners.
radio stations wanting to test the waters, SoundCloud provides a free
membership that allows up to 120 minutes of content (one or more tracks in
total) to be uploaded, and 100 downloads per track.
satisfied user is donor-supported Chicago Public Media and its WBEZ(FM) and
Vocalo.org 89.5 FM. CPM.uses SoundCloud to stream WBEZ/Vocalo’s recorded audio
to the world, in addition to Chicago Public Media’s own website streams. CPM
also relies on SoundCloud to provide statistics about who is downloading what,
and in what numbers.
“We’ve been uploading episodes of WBEZ’s
music program ‘Sound Opinions’ onto SoundCloud,” said Matthew Green, the station
director of digital product management.
“a week of uploading our very first show — a December 2005 interview with
Velvet Underground founding member John Cale — we had received 700 hits on
SoundCloud,” he said. “In contrast, on our own website (www.soundopinions.org), we only had four hits to this program for
the entire calendar year.”
in Germany, SoundCloud was created in 2007 by sound designer Alexander Ljung
and artist Eric Wahlforss. They were fed up with not having an online space for
sharing audio content with other artists.
be using Flickr for our photos, and Vimeo for our videos,” said Ljung in a 2009
interview with Wired.com. “We didn’t
have that kind of platform for our music.”
started as an online audio collaborative space grew into something larger.
SoundCloud is a social sound platform that gives users unprecedented access to
the world’s largest community of music and audio creators,” said Jim Colgan, the
company’s senior content relations manager, audio, and a former
producer/digital experimenter for WNYC(AM/FM) in New York.
said the platform “allows everyone to discover original music and audio,
connect with each other and share their sounds with the world.” Further, sound
creators can use it to record, post and share sounds across the Internet, and receive
stats and feedback from the community.
A December article in the blog The Next Web quoted Wahlforss
as saying the number of registered users had grown to approach 30 million, up
from 10 million at the start of 2012. But SoundCloud has preferred to emphasize
total reach. It says it reaches the equivalent of 8 percent of the
Internet population monthly, approximately 180 million people. Radio World
asked how it derived that number.
“We have discussed registered users in the past,
but that’s not a fair reflection of our actual platform’s reach,” Colgan
replied via email, “because people could be using SoundCloud via playing our
widgets, SoundCloud.com, m.soundcloud.com [its mobile site],
integrations with key partners such as Facebook and Tumblr, our open API, etc.
‘Reaches’ effectively looks at all of these properties and provides a fairer
representation of our platform’s ability.”
execs say the platform is affordable for broadcasters because the site treats
them like any other audio contributor: $660 per year covers unlimited audio
storage and service to listeners, whether the member is a private individual, a
radio station or a group owner.
Public Media was drawn by the infrastructure that supports it. “The big
attraction for us was their audio player,” said Matthew Green. “Not only is it
compatible with older browsers and newer mobile platforms, but it is something
that they manage; not us. This frees our two tech people to do other things,
saving us money at the same time.”
found SoundCloud’s tech support team responsive whenever any issues come up.
been very impressed with their professionalism and willingness to help out,”
Green said. “By the way, we do retain ownership of anything we post on
SoundCloud, so there are no copyright issues to worry about.”
biggest benefit is that it provides broadcasters with a way to reach a much
larger audience, in a community that is attuned to all things audio. It also
interfaces members’ audio feeds with social media outlets like Twitter,
Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.
stations use the platform to help them reach an audience far beyond the
airwaves,” said Colgan. “For example, WBEZ in Chicago uploads its daily and
weekly programs to SoundCloud, embeds the tracks on its website and posts to
the station’s other social media streams. This way they reach the community of
listeners on SoundCloud, the station’s own website visitors, and the following
they already have on Facebook and Twitter.”
social media clout is impressive. When this article was written, the website
had achieved more than a million “likes” on Facebook.Every time SoundCloud posts something new
there, all of these people are linked to it. Meanwhile, SoundCloud had approximately
542,000 Twitter followers as of Feb. 11.
SoundCloud, it’s more about stations tapping into the community on our
platform,” said Colgan. “The stations are already creating the content; they’re
the experts at that, after all. They use SoundCloud to reach and engage with
new and existing listeners in the best possible way, to get their content heard
on the Web.”
company believes that it offers radio stations — commercial as well as noncoms
— an extremely affordable way to serve content out to the world, to cut
streaming costs while improving audience reach.
James Careless is a longtime contributor to
Radio World. He wrote recently about Morse code enthusiast Jim Charlong.