Left to right: Eric Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung
Home Base: Berlin
Year Founded: 2008
Power Stat: In January, the company hit the 10-million-users mark.
When SoundCloud launched, it was all about the music. Artists could upload songs and get feedback on full recordings or snippets of a track. Then they could share their work across just about every social-media outlet—and the likes of Radiohead and 50 Cent have. But as the site evolved during its three years in action, the focus has shifted. "We started seeing authors using it and politicians and news organizations," recalls cofounder Alexander Ljung. "It became clear to us that while music is super-important—it has always been super-important for humans—sound is music plus a lot more." This new mind-set, paired with a killer mobile app, makes the potential user, well, anyone. If all goes as planned, what Twitter is for words, SoundCloud will be for audio.
Why Berlin: "The city is like a big start-up. It's very much under construction. Things are changing all the time. I lived here 10 years ago, and I can feel the difference today. It's great for SoundCloud because it is such a creator-driven city." —Wahlforss
"One important spot is a café called St. Oberholz, which is where we had our office for two or three weeks. Everyone is sitting around with laptops, either planning a start-up or coding on a start-up or studying because they think they need to prepare before they start a start-up." —Ljung
What's so huge about mobile: "We introduced a mobile app with a record button—that's one single button that just allows you to capture sound wherever you are. It's a really, really simple idea. We have all gotten used to thinking about phones as a camera, but we wanted to highlight that you are walking around carrying a microphone in your pocket all the time." —Ljung
To make music sharing more interactive, Ljung and Wahlforss created tools that plug into every social network and allow commenting on specific parts of tracks instead of whole songs. Now some of the biggest acts are super-users and innovators on SoundCloud. Here, the three most socially dynamic:
Ljung: "Last year, 50 posted a track where he is just rapping, telling everyone to produce around that. That blew up in a couple of hours. People were so creative, making a ton of beats."
Wahlforss: "For Valentine's Day, they made it possible to dedicate one of their songs to anybody on Facebook and record a dedication, so it played with the song."
Ljung: "She's so connected with her audience. She made a track by just asking people to submit snippets of sound. Once it was published, she linked to all the different sounds so that everybody got to be part of what she was making."
— DETAILS (@DETAILS) February 16, 2012
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