Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube For Music? That's SoundCloud, Says Alexander Ljung

YouTube for videos. Flickr for photos. SoundCloud for music.

That’s Alexander Ljung’s pitch, and while it’s an audacious one, it has a couple things going for it. For one thing, people are flocking to his four-year-old music file-sharing service: Last May, the company had a million registered users; now it’s up to 2.6 million. Prominent placement in Apple’s new Mac App store won’t hurt, either.

And SoundCloud’s ambition is now being underwritten by two name-brand investors: Late last year Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures led a $10 million funding round for the company, a follow-up to a $3.3 million investment from Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures.

Ultimately, I’m not sure that there’s anything like the YouTube or Flickr userbase for SoundCloud, which makes it very easy to post and share audio files. Especially if SoundCloud is serious about making sure it isn’t used as Napster-like pirate service.

Because even though it’s easier than ever to make music — or any other kind of audio — it doesn’t mean it’s easier to make good music. And while people might flip through mediocre vacation photos you took, or a scan a semi-funny video of your kids, there’s a very limited audience for your guitar noodlings.

Still, 29-year-old Ljung (a Swede who has set up shop in Berlin, but is expanding into the U.S. via a San Francisco outpost) and his backers don’t need to reach YouTube-scale to be a success. And if they keep growing at the rate they’re going, they might find Google, Yahoo or other deep-pocketed buyers showing up sooner than later.

Here’s a quick interview I taped with Ljung this weekend, just after he’d announced his newest funding round.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald