Spotify vs Soundcloud, a hot debate in 2021 for audiophiles and brands around the globe – well, not anymore. We’re here to settle this debate once and for all!
Sure, though the debate is perhaps not as hotly contentious as the war between Apple Music and Spotify users, it is still an argument that’s had frequently. In this new decade, you need to be smart about your music streaming platforms and find the one that works right for what you need.
As two massive streaming platforms, Spotify and Soundcloud both have their advantages and disadvantages. What’s more, they both fill two completely separate niches; Spotify provides a curated, expansive music streaming service for casual listeners and music fanatics alike. Soundcloud, on the other hand, is a drastically different platform, well-known for allowing startup artists and rappers to get a foot in the door.
The truth is that, for the vast majority of users, Spotify is the better choice between the two. Its easy-to-use interface coupled with a broad selection of music caters to most listeners who just want a fantastic music app. Yes, there are certainly people out there who prefer Soundcloud for a host of reasons. However, Spotify remains the champion in this duel, and it’s the best option for most users and artists.
The Winner – Spotify vs Soundcloud
Spotify champions our list for numerous reasons. Its ease-of-use and library size are virtually unmatched, and there’s no better place to find the latest and greatest in music. On top of that, the curated playlists and “For You” options that Spotify’s algorithms dig up are absolutely brilliant, and you’ll see nothing that compares to it on Soundcloud.
For instance, we’d say the “Discover Weekly” is perhaps the internet’s #1 way to discover new music, bar none. There’s nothing in other apps (not even YouTube) that has the same tastemaking capabilities. We don’t know what they’re feeding that algorithm (except, maybe, all the music we listen to, ever), but it’s working.
Music download and offline use have also never been more seamless with Spotify, making it superbly easy to listen to tunes on a long road trip or airplane ride without a care for cell signal. Spotify also boasts premium audio quality, much higher than the quality that Soundcloud provides.
So if that’s all you need, then click here to go to our winner’s website.
If you’d like to go deeper, please continue to our in-depth review.
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This article was updated in March 2021
In the quest to determine whether Spotify or Soundcloud is the right streaming platform for you, it’s important to ask yourself a few basic questions.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding
1. What Are Your Needs?
Every music listener has different needs. Full-time music junkies may listen as much as ten or twelve hours (or more, believe it or not) a day, whereas casual listeners may only listen once in a while. Determining what type of listener you are, as well as what type of music you like, is critical in figuring out the streaming platform for you.
For most people, Spotify will be the answer here. It has a gigantic library filled with some of the most popular music, and indie fans to pop fanatics will find something to love here. Availability is considerably lower on Soundcloud. Instead, most listeners flock to Soundcloud to check out lo-fi producers and up-and-coming rappers. If this isn’t you, Soundcloud might not be the right choice.
Also, keep in mind that Spotify’s algorithm is second-to-none. If you’re a full-on music lover that loves discovering new bands or entire genres, Spotify is going to be your jam. You can get lost in its artist radios, or by having it create impromptu playlists based on your tastes. It’s one of the easiest, most thrilling ways to discover artists you didn’t even know you could love. Young, old, indie or chart-topping artists have a place in Spotify’s algorithm. The lowdown is: Spotify absolutely wins this round. The only caveat, as we said, is that Soundcloud is going to be better to get to know truly underground artists with demos, lo-fi EPs, and live performances.
2. What is Your Situation?
Everyone has different needs in their walks through life, and considering your situation is key to evaluating the Spotify versus Soundcloud debate.
If you are a startup music artist, you’re likely looking to get as much exposure as possible. Both platforms are a great way to do this, but you may have a difficult time gaining traction on Soundcloud if you don’t fit into the more popular niches. Spotify, however, is popular for all genres and types of music.
You’re a successful music artist, probably going on tour, and living the dream. Great! Your audience is going to be bigger on Spotify, as it’s the most popular music streaming service in the world. Soundcloud is definitely worth a look, but Spotify is where you’ll be able to connect with most of your listeners. Being on Spotify is much like being on social media; whether you want to or not, you’ll definitely make tons of contacts by being on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Spotify works in much the same way by providing listeners with an immediate opportunity to get to know your sound without any fuss. While it’s second only to Apple Music in the US, it’s got the most worldwide users, with over 300 million, of which 168 million are subscribers. That’s a big window-shopping opportunity, if you ask us.
Company or Brand
A company or brand evaluating the two platforms takes an entirely different look at the situation: audio ads. Spotify and Soundcloud both run audio ads, and sometimes it can be difficult for brands to determine which platform is better to advertise on.
Spotify has a much larger and more diverse audience than Soundcloud, meaning that the majority of businesses will find it more attractive to advertise on Spotify. This doesn’t mean that audio ads on Soundcloud are completely useless, but Spotify is the obvious choice for many. Spotify is a little bit riskier with its ads too. Much like Pandora, it’s investing in the new trend of interactive ads with voice recognition. As if it wasn’t bad enough to have our ears, soon enough they’ll have us talking back too!
Factors We Looked at in the Spotify vs Soundcloud Debate
We took a ton of factors into account when coming to our decision about which platform to crown king. Here are some of the biggest ones.
For most users, budget and pricing is going to be a huge decision-maker.
Spotify’s pricing goes like this:
With the free, ad-supported version of Spotify, users can listen to unlimited music, but are interrupted with ads every so often, and cannot choose certain songs. Instead, users can hit shuffle on a playlist. This can be a drawback for many, but casual listeners may find it a great value. Until they have that one recurring ad causing an unwanted break in the middle of a house party. Darnit!
At $9.99/month for its standard pricing, Spotify Premium offers a transformative music listening experience. Users will get access to higher sound quality than the free version. Ads are removed, users can download and listen to music offline, and users can also select the song they want to listen to. They’ll also get access to listening to downloaded albums, and even early access to new releases! That’s right, some artists have even agreed to let Spotify Premium users have access to their new albums up to two weeks in advance from everyone else!
Soundcloud’s pricing system looks like this:
The free version of Soundcloud is likely what most people are accustomed to using. With the free version, massive amounts of music are available. From small indie artists to pop superstars, all sorts of music can be found here. The free version has ads and does not allow users to download music for offline use.
Soundcloud offers two separate subscription plans for users, Soundcloud Go and Soundcloud Go+. They’re priced at $4.99/month and $9.99/month, respectively. Both plans offer ad-free streaming, offline listening, and a plethora of tracks all in one place. Soundcloud Go+ has even more tracks than the standard Go plan.
Spotify Premium is the clear winner when it comes to consumer plans. It offers a huge selection of high-quality music at an excellent price. Soundcloud, however, is a great option for those on a tight budget. Its free version offers a whole ton of features, and the Go plan at $4.99/month comes in cheaper than Spotify Premium.
On the whole, however, in the Spotify vs Soundcloud Debate in terms of budget, Spotify Premium is the better plan when it comes to budget. It’s got more features, a bigger variety of music, early access to new releases, and more. And the family plans are pretty nifty too, if you ask us.
Ease of Use
An intuitive user interface and great functionality are both things that users and brands alike look at when checking out streaming services. We put Spotify and Soundcloud head to head, and we came out with a clear winner.
Spotify is incredibly easy. It has a smooth interface that is quite simple to get familiar with, and just a couple of taps can get you listening to some of your favorite music quickly. The design both on desktop and mobile is fantastic, and it’s truly one of the easiest-to-use platforms out there.
Not only is its interface incredibly easy to use, but it also makes it very simple to access every feature. You don’t have to go through a million menus to get to the advanced features here. It’s all very upfront and straightforward.
As any popular streaming service should be, Soundcloud is also easy to use. It can be a bit cluttered and difficult to navigate at times (especially to those who aren’t familiar with the platform), but overall Soundcloud provides a great user experience.
Ease of Use Verdict
It was a tough call on this one, but we had to go with Spotify. There’s a reason it’s the most popular streaming service in the world. If 170 million people can use it, then you can, too.
Music Library Size
Both Soundcloud and Spotify have massive music libraries. But, which one is bigger? We did some research to find out.
Spotify boasts that it offers more than 50 million tracks, which is a lot. The process to post music on Spotify is more difficult than that of Soundcloud, and it is fair to say that music on Spotify can be generally considered premium quality.
If you want to go with established artists, or indie hopefuls with good production values, then Spotify is definitely going to be your best friend. Music is curated, and sound quality is of a consistently high quality. There’s no way to go wrong here (except if you don’t really have great taste in music, but at least it’ll sound great!).
Soundcloud says it has over 125 million songs on its platform. This is significantly more than Spotify, but a large portion of this can be low-quality content. There are some great songs on Spotify, but it is much easier to upload songs on Soundcloud, hence the reason it has so many more songs than Spotify.
Also, it’s a great way to get to know new artists. Since its standards are lower than in Spotify, it’s a great way to discover up-and-coming talent, and bands so new and unknown that they’re the underground’s underground.
Music Library Size Verdict
In a pure numbers game, we have to go with Soundcloud due to its vast music library. That said, Spotify generally does have more premium music. This makes this factor in the Spotify vs Soundcloud still up for debate.
Both Spotify and Soundcloud have personalized music feeds for their users–let’s see which one is better.
This is how each Spotify vs Soundcloud stack up in terms of their algorithms:
Spotify’s algorithms are well-known as being some of the most useful and intelligent out there. The algorithms analyze your music listening patterns and find music that suits your taste. A true fan favorite is Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, a personalized weekly playlist. Once you’ve been listening to Spotify for at least a few weeks, its algorithms will be able to start putting together weekly playlists that suit your taste and introduce you to new music that you’ll love.
Though not necessarily as complicated as Spotify’s algorithms, Soundcloud does offer users a personalized music feed of their own. Based on what you listen to, Soundcloud will curate songs in similar genres or by similar artist that it thinks you might enjoy.
Intelligence (Algorithms) Verdict
Spotify wins out on this one due to its renowned algorithms and ability to match users with new music they love.
We all want music we can take on road trips, hikes, and other sorts of adventures where we’re not sure there will be Wi-Fi. Luckily, both of these platforms are quite versatile with their download options.
Spotify Premium allows music downloads for offline listening. It downloads in high-quality audio that will keep listeners happy for days, and you’ll never need to worry about having cell service again. There is a download limit of ten thousand songs, which is more than enough to satisfy pretty much any music aficionado.
Many Soundcloud artists offer downloads through their websites or through the platform itself, but to download most songs, you’ll need one of the premium versions of Soundcloud.
Premium plans for both Spotify and Soundcloud allow music downloads, so it’s tough to declare a winner. However, Spotify takes the cake when it comes to library size and audio quality, so it does win for our versatility category.
We all love sharing music, whether that is uploading our own original tunes or showing some great music to friends.
But which platform allows you to do so in a more seamless way?
The Spotify Premium Family Plan gives you six Spotify Premium accounts for a discounted monthly subscription. When it comes to ease of upload for artists, Spotify can be a bit more rigorous than Soundcloud,
but it is still entirely possible to get on Spotify and share your music with the world. There are many third-party platforms and websites that make the process fairly easy to start sharing your own original music on Spotify.
Because Soundcloud’s premium plans for users aren’t quite as well-developed as Spotify’s, they do not offer a shared or family plan. In terms of artists’ ease of upload, Soundcloud is incredibly simple and easy-to-use, which is one of the reasons that so many up-and-coming artists use the platform.
Because of its reputation as a curator of premium music and its excellent family plan, Spotify is crowned king with share-ability. The family plan is great for a family or group of friends, and up-and-coming artists are given chances to get their music out to a large audience on the platform.
Most people love high-quality music. We took a look at both platforms to decide which had a higher standard of music.
So this is how quality looks like in Spotify vs Soundcloud:
In general, the quality of music on Spotify is superb. The sound quality is great, and the songs themselves are excellent. Spotify offers 96kpbs to mobile device users, and up to 320kpbs and higher on desktop. This is supreme audio quality and will ensure your songs sound great.
On Soundcloud, quality can be a mixed bag. In some cases, there are great songs produced and released by artists. In others, random user-uploaded songs can be downright awful. In terms of literal audio quality, Soundcloud clocks in at 64kpbs.
Spotify gets first place for music quality, both in audio quality and the level of artists on the platform. There are great artists on both platforms, but the music on Spotify has a more consistent level of quality for most listeners, and the technical audio quality also exceeds that of Soundcloud.
As Spotify and Soundcloud both evolve and grow, it’s important to keep tabs on where each company is heading with their visions.
Spotify is known as a highly intelligent platform. The company is relying more and more on data analysis and algorithms to make the user experience a great one. Spotify audio ads are also a great opportunity for brands to get their message out there to people that want to hear it.
Spotify is always collecting user listening data and updating their algorithms. The potential for better audio ad experiences is there, and brands should be curious to find out what’s coming next. With an audience as broad as Spotify’s, there is limitless potential when it comes to audio advertising. Whatever Spotify has in store for its users and algorithms, we can count on it to be great.
Soundcloud has been continuously adding more consumer plans and updating the current ones, showing that their focus on becoming a platform more oriented to casual listening and user subscriptions is clear.
Platform Potential Verdict
From ad potential and brand recognition to high-level algorithms, Spotify’s potential is through the roof. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on it in the coming years.
Final Thoughts on Spotify vs Soundcloud – Which Should I Use?
Deciding which streaming platform to use comes down to a host of factors, which is why the Spotify vs Soundcloud debate is up there for a reason, especially in 2021.
Small-time artists may prefer one over the other, and the same goes for brands and casual users. However, when putting all of the facts together, Spotify is the clear choice for a premium music service offering something for everyone to enjoy. From high-quality audio to great plans and excellent potential for brand promotion, Spotify provides rolls everything that anyone would want into one fantastic platform.
If you’re looking for help with audio ads for either Spotify or Soundcloud, submit a project with Bunny Studio today!