As someone who uses SoundCloud to find and listen to much of what is featured both on this site and in my personal rotation, I often get asked how to best use the app. There’s a certain perception out there that, because of the mainstream exposure of “SoundCloud rap,” all the music on the platform is similarly amateurish and mostly unlistenable. That’s not quite true, and SoundCloud can be an extremely interesting and fruitful place to find music. Plenty of people use it to upload horrendous music nobody deserves to hear, but it’s also a breeding ground for creativity that was never available during any other era in music history. Everyone’s sound suddenly gets a platform, and the creativity usually rises through the noise to the top. Here are some of my tips for taking advantage of SoundCloud.
Follow artists you like- This seems obvious, but just because an artist has an established mainstream presence does not mean they shy away from SoundCloud. Drake is a good example, as the OVO account uploaded most of his work along with bunch of loosies and freestyles several years ago (as well as releases from other OVO signees). Most official releases and albums from mainstream artists are likely behind a paywall, but you can still find some forgotten tracks or remixes hanging around. Also, lots of recently emerged artists got their starts on SoundCloud not long ago and haven’t gotten much of their music to streaming services yet. SoundCloud is the place to hear those forgotten tracks along with new releases that will pop up in your feed if you follow the artist.
Find your music snob friends and comb their likes- I feel like the person with friends who have similar, solid tastes in music gets the most out of SoundCloud because of the like feature. I unwittingly get put on to a lot of music by my friends because I constantly comb through their liked tracks, playlists, and albums. It takes one click from the person’s homepage to pull up every song they’ve ever liked on the site, and from there you can comb to your heart’s content. Which brings me to my next point…
Have a search plan- You can’t listen to it all. Using friends’ profiles as a springboard is a good way to quickly narrow things down, but look for songs or artists you think you’ve heard before and go from there. Many times, artists with features on songs you like have whole catalogues of tracks you will like just as much. Once you get on an artist’s profile, look at their likes, follows, and features to see if certain other artists overlap because, if they do, there’s a good chance some stylistic similarities exist. If you find an artist you like, follow them so their releases continue to appear in your feed.
Go to the popular stuff first- This might seem a bit hypocritical, but the best way to get a feel for an artist’s sound is by seeing how their most popular tracks shake out. This approach is mostly helpful when trying to decide if an artist/project completely new to you is worth the time. If it’s trash, you’ll know quickly. If not, take the time to look up and down their feed for more stuff you like, Hopefully, that saves you some time.
Save projects you want to listen to- Don’t feel forced to listen to a whole album the moment you come across it. Throw it into your favorites, come back to it later, decide if you like it. The same goes for songs, which sometimes take several listens to either stick or fall out of favor. There’s no harm in unfavoriting something.
Get unlimited cell data- SoundCloud will suck the life out of your data plan. Either live somewhere with constant WiFi connectivity or get unlimited data.
The rest is mostly different strokes for different folks. I have no advice about uploading or getting your art more exposure because I don’t make music. But for listeners looking to take better advantage of what this platform offers, hopefully these tips are a good start. This seems as good a time as any to point out nearly every song, artist, and project featured here can be found on SoundCloud or popular streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify. As a last word of advice, don’t get intimidated. It sounds like stupid advice, but there’s so much crap out there that it might seem hard to find something you enjoy. But, that’s both the beauty and the curse of SoundCloud–there’s something for everyone.