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SoundCloud launches cheaper, $5 subscriptions

For half the price of its $10 music subscription, customers still get offline listening and no ads, but they'll be locked out of millions of tracks.

SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung speaking at LeWeb 2012.

SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung launched $10 subscriptions last year.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Streaming-music service SoundCloud launched cheaper, $5 subscriptions Tuesday, giving people the option of paying less for most of the same features of its $10 option but without the full music catalog.

The company, often called the "YouTube of audio," first launched an all-you-can-eat music service last year for $10 a month. That transformed SoundCloud into paid subscriptions from its all-free stockpile of user-uploaded tracks for the first time, but the company is facing the prospect of running out of money this year if business doesn't pick up.

The cheaper plan strips away ads and allows offline listening, just like the $10 plan. But people paying $5, which converts to around £4 or AU$6.50, will be locked out of millions of tracks included only in the pricier tier. The $5 members can hear a 30-second preview of such songs.

SoundCloud is unique among music services because of the foundation it's built on: tens of millions of unofficial recordings, be it Chance the Rapper's Grammy-winning mixtape or an unsanctioned DJ remix. Listeners flock to the service, with 175 million people tuning in every month. By comparison, Spotify last disclosed it had surpassed 100 million active listeners in June. But launching a $5 tier isn't groundbreaking. Both Pandora and Amazon offer lower-priced options that crimp listening somewhat while still unlocking features that a free listener doesn't get.

In an announcement late Monday, SoundCloud renamed its $10 service SoundCloud Go+ and called its new $5 plan SoundCloud Go. The more expensive Go+ offers unlimited listening of 150 million tracks, including tens of millions of officially licensed songs. The cheaper Go tier has access to 120 million songs. SoundCloud didn't characterize the music that will be out-of-bounds for lower-priced members, but $5 subscribers are likely to find themselves locked out of some official songs by big artists.

The new plan launched Tuesday in the US, UK, Australia, Ireland, France, New Zealand, Canada and Germany. SoundCloud's free, ad-supported version is unchanged.

Correction, March 1 at 7:40 a.m. PT: Removes a reference to an upgrade message that SoundCloud Go members would see after a 30-second song preview. Members paying $5 see no such message.

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