SoundCloud introduces “visual player,” inching closer to YouTube

soundcloud-logo 200wYesterday we wondered whether SoundCloud could live up to its investors’ aspiration to be the “YouTube of Audio.” With YouTube already the largest and most popular music-listening platform, it’s fair to say that YouTube is already the YouTube of audio. Along with this conundrum is the tidal trend toward what we might call “visual listening” — if it’s not video on the web, people don’t click on it, and it doesn’t go viral.

As if in response to our ruminations (but certainly not really), SoundCloud today announced a new product called the “visual player.” An alternative to the famous horizontal SoundCloud waveform, the visual player presents a big graphic panel with a stylized waveform inside it, like this:

The visual player is not a video player, or even a slideshow player. It merely expands the thumbnail image already associated with the track, giving the listener a big image to gaze at. The presentation size can be tweaked — the visual player here is medium-sized.

SoundCloud is advertising the visual player as “making tracks look as good as they sound, anywhere.” That’s a good catch line, but there’s an apparent problem with “anywhere.” In our testing, the visual player did not export to standard sharing targets — Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, and Gmail. Perhaps that functionality is coming.¬†Certainly, if this new component is meant to reach parity with the visual aspect of YouTube listening, it needs to be embedded with the same ubiquity as the YouTube player.

In our view, this player is a good start, and can be truly competitive and compelling with some product development that would allow multiple images and some rudimentary slideshow editing. In SoundCloud’s quest to be the YouTube of audio, greater sharing virality is needed. The new visual player is an excellent first step in that direction.

Brad Hill