Sonia Flynn: the Irishwoman fine-tuning SoundCloud’s global charge

3 May 2016

Sonia Flynn is the Irishwoman who is responsible for the global expansion of SoundCloud, which has launched a subscription service in Ireland and the UK

Today (3 May), SoundCloud, the Berlin-based audio platform, launches its new subscription service in Ireland and the UK. We talk to SoundCloud’s international VP Sonia Flynn about the company’s ambitions.

“Is it really a year?” Flynn said in a surprised tone as we discuss her decision to depart Facebook and join SoundCloud in Berlin almost exactly one year ago.

Flynn previously managed Facebook’s rapid growth in Dublin to become a base for up to 1,000 people. Before that, she did the same at Google when it arrived in Dublin. And now she is in Berlin, where she is masterminding the global expansion of SoundCloud.

SoundCloud is a platform for musicians and podcasters who want to share audio across devices, websites and social media platforms, and achieve maximum impact. Globally, it has more than 175m monthly listeners.

‘The key offering here is the sheer size and diversity of the SoundCloud catalogue’

Sound designer Alex Ljung and artist Eric Wahlforss founded the Berlin-headquartered company in 2007 to enable musicians to share audio.

SoundCloud rolled out its new subscription service, SoundCloud Go, to the UK and Ireland today.

Initially launched in the US last month, SoundCloud Go is a subscription service that offers an additional layer of music and intuitive supporting features, created to complement and enhance the existing SoundCloud experience for listeners, according to the company.

The new service will be priced at €9.99 and will boast such features as the ability to listen to audio offline and free of ads.

A key facet of the new service is that SoundCloud has struck deals with major record labels including Warner, Merlin and Sony, to name a few, making it a direct competitor with rivals such as Spotify.

With a community of 12m creators among its monthly 175m listeners, perhaps SoundCloud could be offering creators a level of control that artists like Taylor Swift have complained has been absent in rival services like Spotify.

Wall of sound

“The key offering here is the sheer size and diversity of the SoundCloud catalogue,” Flynn said.

“We have 125m monthly listeners and our user base incorporates listeners and artists who range from amateurs to breakthrough artists and major artists.

“It’s also a social platform and we are partners with Facebook and Twitter and enable users to share and comment and engage with it as a playlist.”

I point out to Flynn that, unlike rivals like Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music, to me SoundCloud was as much a work tool for professionals as a discovery location for fans. In other words, it isn’t to my mind a place where people who are serious about music or any kind of audio mess around. How does SoundCloud intend to engage with creators in this new paradigm?

‘We directly engaged with the creator community to give creators greater choices in what they want to achieve and to monetise their content down the line’

“We are always looking to build new things for creators and we have a Pulse app aimed specifically at creators.

“We are interested in being a place for creators and one thing that has always been cool about SoundCloud is that creators can engage with listeners and build up an audience.

“As we open up monetisation on the platform our aim is to provide new ways for creators to make an income from their content.

“SoundCloud has always been a place for creators at any stage in their career.

“It is good for discovery, building up an audience, understanding how fans are engaging with material and they can comment, like, share and repost that material.

“The important thing is providing a level of contact between creator and fan that never existed before.”

In terms of the new features on the SoundCloud subscription service, the obvious thing is users don’t have to listen to ads.

“Offline listening is also a value proposition for the 175m listeners and 12m creators. It’s an interesting dynamic in and of itself,” Flynn concluded.

“We directly engaged with the creator community to give creators greater choices in what they want to achieve and to monetise their content down the line.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years