SoundCloud & Audioboo

AudioBoom and SoundCloud

Intro from Jay Allison: About 20 years ago, an older family friend asked me for advice on buying a recorder. I told him about the various options and he said, “It sounds pretty confusing right now; I think I’ll wait until the technology stops.” In the meantime, our TOOLS editor Jeff Towne is reviewing away. Now he’s looking at audio sharing platforms: SoundCloud and Audioboo. Both services create their own contexts and also integrate easily with social media like Facebook and Twitter. You can upload highly produced audio from your computer or record directly from your mobile device. Jeff checks out both services. We can imagine lots of ways to collaborate and create with these tools, while we wait for the technology to stop.

From Jeff Towne

Overview

The last few years have produced some dramatic changes to the audio production landscape. Small, affordable flash recorders have made it easier than ever to capture high quality audio in almost any environment. Editing and mixing audio is more accessible than ever; even an average computer’s processor speed and storage capacity is more than sufficient to accomplish sophisticated editing. One can make good recordings, even edit them, on many smartphones. There’s a great range of choice among audio editing software for desktop and laptop computers as well. Podcasting and other internet-based delivery systems have opened new horizons for distribution of audio productions.

The latest technological advance is the integration of audio into the dynamic and interactive world of social media. Of course it’s long been possible to send sound files to others over the internet, but sharing audio, and receiving feedback about it, has been relatively cumbersome. Sharing audio on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter was especially tricky, but new applications are making hosting and sharing audio a simple procedure.

SoundCloud

SoundCloud is the most prominent of these technologies. It’s an application that runs on desktop computers and mobile devices, but it’s more than just a program or a website: it’s a syndication service that can distribute your audio to many destinations; it’s a social networking site that hosts your content and encourages comments, groups, linking and community-building. This has proven attractive to large numbers of independent musicians who post original compositions, remixes and mash-ups. Despite its current preponderance of musical content, SoundCloud can be just as useful to journalists, documentarians and storytellers.

SoundCloud Player image
SoundCloud Player

It’s a deep well of audio material of all types, and one could easily spend countless hours browsing though the many submissions. The typical tools of interactive media can help sort through the chaos: if you find something you like, you can follow its creator, explore groups that it’s in, share it with friends as a favorite, add it to a playlist, make comments, etc.

On a more practical level for any kind of audio producer, it offers an easy way to make your tracks available for others to hear. You can upload recordings (or record directly into the application) and each recording will be translated into SoundCloud format, and displayed on your profile web page. To upload you click a button on the SoundCloud page, then navigate to the file. You don’t have to set up an FTP client to upload files to a remote server, then create links to those files; it’s all done behind the scenes. You don’t even have to own a recording device, or any additional recording or editing software. If you have a microphone attached to your computer, or one built-in, you can simply press the Record button on the SoundCloud page to create shareable audio.

SoundCloud Mobile Upload
SoundCloud Mobile Upload

Recording into the mobile app (for iPhone or Android) is every bit as easy: press the big red Record button, then upload what you’ve recorded with one more taps of the screen. The SoundCloud mobile app cannot access recordings made in other apps on your smartphone, but there are many apps that have built-in SoundCloud support. The popular recording app called FiRe is one: simply record as usual into the app, then tap the “Share” button then choose SoundCloud.

SoundCloud Mobile Record
Record with SoundCloud on your smartphone

There are many applications, both for phones and for desktop computers that include the integral ability to upload to SoundCloud. A complete (and continually-changing) list is here.

Once uploaded, each recording is represented by a large waveform graphic, which is itself a player widget. That player can be accessed with any web browser, including most mobile devices. Here’s the page for user Transomtools.

But you do not need to send listeners to the SoundCloud site: it’s easy to embed a track, with its player, in a web page or blog post. Simply click the “share” icon in the upper left corner of the player, copy the “Embed code” as indicated, and paste that into the html for your web page or blog post. An interactive player, a small version of the one on the SoundCloud page, will be displayed amidst the text of your post. Visitors can play and comment on the audio without leaving your page.

Zoom H1 recorder test by Transomtools.

Comments can be made about the audio clip as a whole, or in one of SoundCloud’s coolest innovations, remarks can be entered at specific positions along the timeline, so it’s easy to get feedback about specific sections of the audio. That unprecedented level of interactivity is extremely powerful, and can be used in many ways. The user posting the audio can offer additional information to listeners at key moments, or listeners can ask questions, or offer critiques, at specific times. Public feedback from an audience can be interesting, but this could also be an extremely convenient way for reporters, editors or collaborators to work privately, when it’s not convenient, or desirable, to collaborate in real-time.

Soundcloud privacy image
Privacy

“Sharing” is a versatile term: it can mean making the audio available to a broad audience, or it can mean sharing with a more limited number of people. Clips can be made private, only available to those who are specifically given access. This could be a very easy way for reporters, producers and editors to trade raw audio or in-progress edits, and be able to offer feedback that’s embedded in the soundfile.

Soundcloud Sharing
Sharing

On the opposite end of the spectrum, that “sharing” can be much more broad. It only takes a simple mouse-click to share the audio file via Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or email. Being able to post audio on social media platforms as easily as one shares photos is a big leap forward. Although audio diaries are unlikely to supplant party pix or YouTube videos as the most popular Facebook posts, you never know… Documentary audio being distributed quickly and easily from the field could certainly be at least as powerful as 140 character Tweets. But regardless of urgent breaking news, simply making it easy for audio producers to share their work, and for audiences to access these productions, could transform the way people use audio.

Soundcloud via Facebook
Sharing via Facebook

Podcasting has been a very successful alternative to conventional broadcast models, and SoundCloud tracks can be distributed as a podcast if desired. At the time this article is being written, the podcast functionality is still in a Beta test phase, but the procedure is simple. Each track you post can be designated as available in a variety of ways: as public or private, streaming-only or downloadable, widget enabled (to allow the SoundCloud player widget to be embedded elsewhere on the web) or not, and available to third-party apps and podcasts or not. Enabling podcasting will create an RSS feed, which allows users to subscribe, receiving new posts automatically. The set-up even walks you through submitting the feed to iTunes, which most people use to organize and listen to podcasts.

Soundcloud Custom player
Custom player

The free level of SoundCloud membership gives you an amazing amount of functionality: the major restriction is one of storage space; you can only save 120 minutes of audio at any given time. There are then progressive steps of “premium” memberships that allow additional storage, and increasing levels of customization.

There’s a comparison page with prices, here.

The smaller, more compact player widget available in the premium accounts is nice, as is the ability to adjust colors to match one’s web theme. Of course one would need to upgrade in order to host a large archive of audio, or if one were building a business around distributing audio files. Still, it’s impressive how much of the core functionality is available in the free version.

Audioboo

AudioBoo Logo[since this piece was written, AudioBoo has been re-branded as “AudioBoom.”]

If you need an easy way to share audio tracks on the web, especially to social media sites, SoundCloud offers a solid solution. There are other sites and applications that perform similar functions. One popular service is called Audioboo. Like SoundCloud, Audioboo offers uploading and sharing of audio files, and of course, followers can comment on the audio, although not with the time flags that Soundcoud offers. Audioboo is structured more like a social-media site: it’s easy to follow other members and receive their audio updates automatically. For better or worse, individual audio posts are referred to as “Boos” a term I can’t imagine catching-on, but then again, not so long ago, “Tweets” seemed unlikely to be embraced, so who knows? At this time, Boos are limited in length to 5 minutes or less, at least with a standard account. That makes Audioboo a great way to share concise nuggets of information, but it won’t work as a site for sharing your long-form audio documentary, unless you upgrade to a Pro account. There are some references to a “plus” account being available soon, but at press time there was only the standard account, and a Pro account targeted at developers.

AudioBoo Featured image
Featured Boos

It is very easy to record on your computer, or smartphone, and upload to Audioboo, then share either to the entire site, or have the audio automatically post a link to Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, FriendFeed and/or Tumblr. Boos connected with Facebook post with an attractive player. Or you can send a Boo only to one particular person; something a site representative laughingly admits is making your phone act more like a phone…

Audioboo feels like it’s set up more for sharing spontaneous short audio clips, perhaps recorded on the fly, while SoundCloud is focused more on sharing longer, more elaborate audio constructions. That said, there’s plenty of room for overlap, and either service can do both things.

It’s unclear how big of a popular phenomenon sharing audio files within a social media framework will be, but while that’s playing-out, audio producers and artists can use these services to reach listeners more easily than ever, and to gather important feedback. Both SoundCloud and Audioboo offer powerful free services, so perhaps it’s time to start sharing your audio more widely!

Jeff Towne

About
Jeff Towne

During more than 25 years as a producer of the nationally-syndicated radio program Echoes. Jeff Towne has recorded interviews and musical performances in locations ranging from closets to cathedrals, outdoor stages to professional studios, turning them into radio shows and podcasts. Jeff is also the Tools Editor for Transom.org, a Peabody Award-winning website dedicated to channeling new voices to public media. At Transom, he reviews field recorders, microphones and software, helping both beginning and experienced audio producers choose their tools. In his spare time, Jeff will probably be taking pictures of his lunch in that little restaurant with the strange name that you've been wondering about. 

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  • Kevin McManigal

    2.23.11

    Reply
    Soundcloud 120 mins total per year?

    Its hard to discern, but it seems that Soundcloud free has a 120 min limit per year. I do 2 hours a week of travel tales on college radio and would like to archive the past shows. But at 104 hrs of radio a year, thats over $1000 bucks with their ProPlus plan. Thats not going to happen on a student budget! Right now I am converting shows to one slide video and putting them on Vimeo here:

    videos
    Inelegant at best. Any ideas on where to host this much audio at a reasonable cost?

    Thanks, Kevin

    • chirbit

      12.10.13

      Reply

      Check out http://www.chirbit.com You can upload 120mb audio files (per upload, not total) Additionally you get an easily embedded player to post your audio on a blog or website. You can record 5min of audio directly into a browser using a webcam or microphone. There is also an iOS app to record on the go and there are a few third party apps for recording on Android phone. (you can also upload audio from any smartphone with a voice recorder and email capabilities) By sharing the short url in twitter and facebook it automatically embeds in your timeline.

  • Emily Schwing

    2.23.11

    Reply
    Soundcloud is great!

    This post is incredibly timely for me! I literally just started using it two weeks ago and I love it! I had a 2 week assignment to cover a big event which our local station does annually – this year though our listeners were able to read, look AND listen all on one site thanks to Soundcloud. the amount of available minutes will eventually become an issue, and yes, the site is overwhelmed by odd selections of house and trance music, but all in all, a great way to post features online in a pinch! I also like the option of including a photo with the piece and it’s quite versatile so you can post to many different sites.

  • Flawn Williams

    2.24.11

    Reply
    Formats handled by Soundcloud

    One of my first questions was, "what formats does it accept, and does it store the files in the original format?" The apparent answer from their Help section: you can upload many different formats including linear WAV and AIFF files. For streaming purposes the site downconverts your files to 128 kbps MP3. But if you set the preferences to allow listeners to download your files as opposed to streaming them, then downloads will be in the original uncompressed file format. That’s a pretty generous arrangement for a free/cheap service!
    For any radio types who are also interested in natural sound recording, there’s a whole subculture within Soundcloud of field recordists sharing their finds.

  • Jeff Towne

    2.24.11

    Reply
    File Formats

    Thanks Flawn: you found the answer in the SoundCLoud Help section, I took the lazy way and emailed them!

    We came to the same conclusion: the SoundCloud folks confirmed that the files are stored in whatever format you upload, so yes, you could use this service to move master files around between collaborators, for instance, without impairing the sound quality. The files are converted to MP3 for streaming, but if you allow downloads, visitors can download the original file. Similarly, if someone drops a wav file in your drop box, that’s what you’ll get, not a down-converted MP3.

    I agree with Flawn, this is a pretty great feature, and generous for a free service!

  • Jeff Towne

    2.24.11

    Reply
    Storage Limits on SoundCloud

    Kevin – your 2 hours per week is definitely going to present some storage issues, there’s no way around that! You’ll almost certainly need some kind of Premium account.

    But just in general, it’s important to understand how SoundCloud calculates the minutes: it’s whatever is up on the site at the time, not a cumulative tally of everything you’ve ever uploaded.

    Of course, it would usually be preferable to leave your audio up on the site for people to hear, but if you’ve got a very large archive of audio, and do not want to pay to store it all, keep in mind that you COULD delete older programs, freeing up space, and refresh with newer ones.

    In an extreme example: Kevin could upload his 2-hour program, and make it available to listeners, using just the free basic SoundCloud membership. The next week, when he has a new show, he could delete the previous one, and put-up a new one, which would keep him under the 120 minute limit.

    Or, there’s a middle ground, perhaps Kevin gets an intermediate level of Premium membership, and leaves a few weeks up at a time, deleting the oldest one before uploading the latest. That way there could be an archive, just not EVERYTHING available at once.

    Of course it would be nice to keep all of your productions on-line and streamable, but so far, I haven’t found any way around the fact that storage, and bandwidth, still costs money. I’m actually not sure how SoundCloud is managing to give away 120 minutes for free!

    That said, the trend certainly has been for storage and bandwidth costs to go down, dramatically, so perhaps in the future this will not be much of a problem, that larger archives will be possible for free, or cheap. But for now, you may have to do some file management to keep your costs down!

  • Todd Melby

    3.01.11

    Reply

    I’ve tried AudioBoo, but the five-minute limit doesn’t work when archiving or sharing longer pieces. I’ve also used a service with a funny name: twaud.io, which bills itself as "audio for twitter." When you upload a file, it automatically creates a tweet (if you’ve logged in using your Twitter account). PRX has announced that it will be adding embed capabilities to audio posted to the site … so that will be good for producers looking to embed files in a blog or on a website. Not sure when that will happen. Thanks for the column!

  • STÉPHANE VIGNEAULT

    5.20.11

    Reply

    SoundCloud and CreativeCommons

    Great piece.
    SoundCloud is my choice for the podcast I produce (www.gatinorama.com).
    Just wanted to add that SC offers a built-in CreativeCommons licence selector, a simple but very useful tool.
    Cheers,
    Stéphane

  • Craig Morgan

    1.10.12

    Reply

    To take the idea of soundcloud for public radio tools aviary (audio editor) can be linked with your soundcloud account so you can record or upload to soundcloud and then edit & MIX those files in aviary. Our station Boise State Public Radio is not using this idea, but it might work out great if someone wants to test it out and comment.

  • Online

    3.01.12

    Reply

    Great post,soundcloud seems to be the best solution at the moment it is easier to use(especially on social network like facebook)and I’m satisfied with the limits of the free version. I haven’t tried the premium versions though.
    I’ve tried audioboot in the past but it diwasn’t as intuitive as soundcloud…

  • GabbiCat

    5.09.12

    Reply

    We’d like to offer http://www.gabbicat.com as another consideration. We’re new and still in the early alpha stages with our platform, but we’d love to get feedback from people on what they like and don’t like. Oh yeah, we’re free and offer 5 minutes of recording time! 🙂

  • T3xn0Crat

    6.01.12

    Reply

    Its a shame that they make it so damn complicated for users to tap in their vast sound and tune collection easily. Fortunately there are some apps that address this issue… Try MyCloudPlayer – powered by SoundCloud (http://mycloudplayers.com)

  • Corinne

    8.03.12

    Reply

    Am I correct in thinking that when you record on a mobile device with SoundCloud there is no tagging feature? I do see the tagging feature on the desktop webversion of SoundCloud.

    AudioBoo has a tagging feature on its mobile app. So if I am trying to gather public thoughts on an art installation at the installation, only the AudioBoo mobile app will enable me to invite the public to tag audio they create there on site (and later I will be able to search and collect peoples thoughts via that tag). On the other hand, if I use SoundCloud I would need to have the public name their audio file with a certain title for me to search for the sound later. Correct? I like to CreativeCommons license selection feature of SoundCloud, too!

    What are your suggestions for which tool to use for public art comment recording that I can post on a Facebook project page and WordPress page later.

    thanks for wonderful info here!

  • Luka Cvetko (@lukacvetko)

    1.05.13

    Reply

    I suggest usage of http://www.mixcloud.com/ for archival of radio programmes as Kevin McManigal needs. For now the service offers unlimited upload time per file and per account and proved an easy interface to add in the playlist of music or podcast talk sections and a description.
    What Mixcloud lacks is a SoundCloud-like system of embedding (currently only possible via a Flash widget), better privacy settings and storage of original files. All uploads are converted to m4a AAC.

  • Dharmendra

    4.22.13

    Reply

    Exactly what I am looking for…. I have tried both the services and I think soundcloud has a simple interface without much clutter than the Other Audioboo. Maybe it is just for me but I feel Audioboo is a bit complex… and other soundcloud has all others great feature that makes it easier to share on all my social accounts. i will refer to soundcloud for all my needs.

  • rani

    5.05.13

    Reply

    in a current buzz of ever-progressive audio/video tech softwares,SoundCloud seems to be the most promosing application solely designed for audio music lovers.

    though both soundclad and audioboo boasts several advantages,both possess few shortcomings such as storage capacity and complexity of structure respectively.
    if chosen wisely,keeping the requirements of audio in mind,both applications can be of excellent use.

  • Diana van den Berg

    1.31.14

    Reply

    I have been using Sound Cloud for putting wav files of poems that I then put into a poetry forum. I love SoundCloud, but I only have a few minutes left and I am not in a position to pay for more minutes. I haven’t registered with Chirbit yet, but I went on to it, but couldn’t find how to get the html code to paste into the poem which I think you are saying can be done, so that the reader/listener doesn’t have to exit the poetry forum to hear the recording. I would like to be able to see how this works, if at all possible – and how to do it – before I register on Chirbit. Would you please give me this information? Thank you for any help.

    • chirbit

      1.31.14

      Reply

      Diana, When you record or upload an audio clip to chirbit you will see a number of features for that clip. You will see an icon/button called “embed this chirbit” that is where you will get your embed code for your chirbit. Our web player is html5 and embeddable on any website and most forums. Some of the other features include a QRCode for each upload to share your audio in print media, share buttons to embed your chirbits on Facebook and Twitter, image uploads to add a cover to your posts and a comment button to add text comments to your post. If you have any other questions regarding chirbit feel free to contact me. My email is in the Chirbit FAQ section. All feedback, comments and suggestions are welcome, because I am working on making chirbit as useful as possible for people to share their audio creations online.

  • n

    5.24.14

    Reply

    https://soundcloud.com/skycorp-1/baby-i

  • Robbin Gheesling (@robbin_g)

    9.03.16

    Reply

    Jeff, would love an update to this post with the current versions of each platform. Thanks!

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