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SoundCloud’s Ljung at TheGrill: Sound Could Be Bigger Than Video on the Web

The internet currently offers a largely ”mute“ experience, but the co-founder of the audio sharing platform says that’s about to change

While video is widely believed to be the internet’s killer app, Alexander Ljung, co-founder of the audio-sharing platform SoundCloud, believes sound will be the element that revolutionizes the interactive experience

“I have a really strong belief that sound will become a bigger part of the web than video,” said the youthful Ljung, speaking Tuesday at TheGrill, a media leadership conference produced by TheWrap at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Partly funded by Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Fund — among other venture-capital benefactors – SoundCloud boasts 7 million users, who share everything from their own music to the first words of their children, in a service designed to socially distribute audio.

“As YouTube is for video, we are for sound,” Ljung said.

(Photograph by Jonathan Alcorn)

Founded out of Berlin in 2008, the tool has grown quickly (the company just opened an office in San Francisco on Monday to better capitalize on its U.S. growth).

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Speaking to moderator Brent Lang, a senior reporter for TheWrap, Ljung (pronounced “young”) noted that the internet is currently a rather “mute” experience, with its myriad visual elements not annotated by any informative audio.

“Sound is a very simple way to communicate,” noted Ljung, who originally created SoundCloud with fellow musician Eric Wahlforss as a means to share music tracks. 

(In the vdeo below, Ljung details some of the many uses for SoundCloud.)


Indeed, many of SoundCloud’s 7 million users are musicians. 

But with platforms like Tumblr now offering third-party integration, allowing users to annotate their blogs with audio elements posted to SoundCloud, Ljung envisions the company’s potential markets as being far broader than just music. 

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Example: “A category that’s really important to us right now is the political side,” he noted. “We see a lot of applications in the upcoming election.”

Ljung also noted that British comedian Russell Brand used SoundCloud recently to share a personal reading of his latest book. “It’s much better when you hear him read it,” said Ljung, who conceded to Lang that SoundCloud is not yet profitable.

Asked about Kutcher’s level of involvement, Ljung said the “Two and a Half Men” star/tech impresario has “a really good product sense who balances his understanding of the tech space with what’s happening in the entertainment world. He really thinks deeply about which brands fit with which products. And he’s a really great guy to bounce ideas off of.”

Notably, Ljung — who migrated from Sweden to Germany as a youngster before getting schooling in the U.S. — also talked up Berlin, calling it the ideal place for an internet start-up.

“Berlin is full of creativity and creative people,” he said. “It has lots of artists, photographers and musicians, and it has its own sort of chaos that allows [creativity] to thrive there. And it’s very cheap to be there. It’s why a lot of creative people in Europe have moved to Berlin. To me, it feels like Berlin itself is a start-up.”