The Importance of Product-Market Fit and Its Impact on SoundCloud's Business Model


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 01, 2023

4 min read


The Importance of Product-Market Fit and Its Impact on SoundCloud's Business Model


In recent years, SoundCloud has faced numerous challenges with its business model, leading to a decline in artist engagement and a fractured community. This article explores how SoundCloud's broken business model drove artists away and the impact of product-market fit on its success. Additionally, we will discuss the significance of finding PMF, its measurement, and the actions needed to achieve it.

1. The Downfall of SoundCloud's Business Model:

From the beginning, SoundCloud allowed artists to repost their own tracks, leading to constant push notifications for followers. This abuse of the feature resulted in a flood of mediocre music and undisclosed advertising on the platform. SoundCloud's attempt to monetize through ads and premium accounts further complicated matters, causing contention among creators and their teams. With unwarranted takedowns and a lack of attention to artists' needs, SoundCloud lost its standing as a force in the industry.

2. The Rise of Spotify and the Importance of PMF:

Spotify, on the other hand, introduced an embeddable player and a web player, revolutionizing the way users consumed music. Additionally, Spotify offered fully licensed tracks to record labels in exchange for guaranteed royalties. This move not only favored major artists but also discouraged the remix culture that had initially thrived on SoundCloud. The emphasis on PMF became apparent as making it on SoundCloud was seen as a stepping stone rather than an end goal.

3. Understanding Product-Market Fit:

PMF, or Product-Market Fit, refers to the alignment between a product and its target market's needs. It is crucial for the success of any business venture. However, achieving PMF is not easy, with only a 10-20% probability for startups. Recognizing the importance of PMF and continuously listening to user feedback, launching products, making improvements, and relentlessly tracking metrics is essential.

4. Measuring PMF:

There are various ways to measure PMF, including using leading indicators like Sean Ellis's test ("Would you be disappointed if this product disappeared tomorrow?"), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and customer reviews. Additionally, engagement metrics specific to each product, such as monthly active users (MAU), ride or transaction numbers, and retention rates, can provide insights into PMF. While all three metrics are crucial, measuring leading indicators first allows for quicker assessment.

5. Finding PMF and Taking Action:

To find PMF, it is vital to narrow down the target market and focus on specific segments, even if they are initially small. Engaging with users, understanding their pain points, creating prototypes, testing, and iterating are crucial steps in the process. This iterative approach should be repeated at least 10-20 times before achieving PMF. It is also important to avoid distractions, such as attending conferences or engaging in gossip, and to keep the team small to avoid complexity and slow decision-making.

6. The Role of Entrepreneurial Skills:

Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurial skills and experience do not play a significant role in achieving PMF. Even the most exceptional entrepreneurs cannot succeed in a market without PMF. The market's potential and alignment with the product determine success. As the saying goes, "When a great team meets a lousy market, the market wins."

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Continuously listen to user feedback: Understanding the needs and pain points of your target market is crucial for achieving PMF. Actively seek out user feedback and use it to improve your product.
  • 2. Iterate and test: Building prototypes, testing them with users, and iterating based on their feedback is a vital step in the PMF process. Be open to making changes and improvements to align your product with market needs.
  • 3. Stay focused and avoid distractions: Concentrate on developing your product and engaging with users rather than getting caught up in external events or gossip. Keep your team small to maintain simplicity and agility.


SoundCloud's broken business model and lack of focus on PMF led to a decline in artist engagement and a fractured community. On the other hand, Spotify's emphasis on PMF and licensing deals with major labels propelled its success. Understanding the importance of PMF, measuring it through leading indicators and engagement metrics, and taking action based on user feedback are crucial for the success of any business venture. By aligning the product with market needs, entrepreneurs can achieve PMF and create something truly special.

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