Soundcloud, sooo 2008
You and a few friends stumble into an apartment after a night out. There’s no DJ equipment in sight, but it’s all good because the host promptly directs everyone to the beefy little sound system, complete with tweeters and woofer. All at once, the group pounces on the 8ft AUX cable, and in no time the fastest footed music snob is turning up the volume on their favorite DJ mix…you groan. Your friend reassures you that it’s the hottest mix out, and to just give it a chance. “SoundCloud?” you ask knowingly “Why of course…why do you ask?” he responds Choosing to preserve the overall vibe, you just smile…everyone’s drunk anyway.
If you’re a music lover, the aforementioned scenario is no big deal. However, if you’re a musician of any sort, it’s totally analogical for the SoundCloud experience itself…which is increasingly focused on “pleasing the masses, man”. Originally bursting onto the scene in late 2008 as a mere audio sharing platform (for musicians), the Berlin based company quickly evolved to a full music publishing service, and for a while there, showed a lot of promise. That is of course until they became all about the Benjamins. Fast forward about eight years, and many of the grassroots musicians , producers, rappers and pod-casters who upload over 80% SoundCloud’s content are not only feeling forgotten in favor of featured artists and major labels, but leaving the platform entirely for a newer online scenes (as the underground always goes)
Let’s talk for a second about how SoundCloud kinda sucks…for artists
Universal 128kbps encoding
You’ve painstakingly recorded, fixed all your levels, mixed everything down, and maybe even sent your track off for a legit mastering…not going to make any difference once you upload to SoundCloud. Without getting too technical here, there are a few legit reasons for compressing everything down to 128kbps mp3’s, including easier hosting, and smoother streaming for users with slow connections. You can of course still offer your listeners whatever audio quality you want, by making tracks available for download; but that’s where the conundrum is. Most artists don’t want to give away a high quality samples, but they do want their demo’s to sound as good as possible, especially for those big label scouts. There also doesn’t seem to be any difference here for premium subscribers of SoundCloud Pro…now that’s a rough mix.
You send a playlist to three different music supervisors. Aside from watching the activity on your useless track counter/favorites feature, there’s really no way of knowing which track each of the supervisors all downloaded (good), which track none of them downloaded (bad), and which supervisor downloaded the entire playlist. Sure, with SoundCloud Pro you can get geographical analytics on your plays, but what if all three supervisors are based in let’s say…L.A, there’s no way to tell them apart? Similar music publishing services do provide such features, giving you a much better grasp of the what, where, and how of who’s feeling your music. Oh right…everyone knows that you can purchase SoundCloud plays, reposts, and even wonderful comments, which literally appear overnight. So yea, look out for those.
Only One Source File
While SoundCloud does allow you to change original upload files with an improved mix. There is in fact no way to remove an individual song from a customized playlist without removing it from every other playlist that song is in (i.e deleting it from SoundCloud). So going back to our three music supervisors, let’s say “Sup-A” wants all your hard stuff, “Sup-B” wants all your soft stuff, and “Sup-C” wants a mash up of everything…you really gonna send a bunch separate links? Sure, you can always just use lets sayyy…Dropbox. But the worlds’s most popular publishing and streaming website should really be a one stop shop for such matters…especially for 15$ a month.
Launched about a year ago as part of their improved monetization plan. They put YouTube ads to shame….and everyone hates it. Your drunken friends at the after party hate it, people checking out your music hate it too, and you know who really hates it? Struggling artists that realize SoundCloud is charging them to profit from ad revenue off of free music…without cutting them in. Mind you, this is while they also charge music fans 5$ for the premium streaming service SoundCloud GO. In Free users now get bombarded with ads between every listen, as well as limited track previews, and even complete blocks based on geographical location….yea, it sounds like you can probably GO somewhere else. The company has received tons of criticism from longtime users, and notable independent artists alike, but they’ve been pretty slow to respond.
They removed Groups
In yet another stroke of marketing genius, in August of 2016, SoundCloud got rid of their best community feature, by removing “groups”, which artists know was crucial to actively sharing their music, as opposed to relying on random plays and reposts. Although clever coders restored almost every genre specific group with a user account “work around”, the move speaks volumes about SoundCloud’s continuing alienation of artists.
Copywrite, Copywrite, Copywrite
No, nobody wants their best music being played for free, and you should probably think twice before using that Pink Floyd sample anyway, but SoundCloud’s new major label partners (Sony, Universal) can remove, and completely delete any song or user profile, paid subscription or free, without warning or chance to dispute. Essentially, they can squash the little guy (that’s you), just for not liking your high hat. Hell, they’re even removing completely silent tracks to just be really safe (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/dj-claims-completely-silent-track-was-removed-by-soundcloud-for-copyright-infringement-a6756961.html). Ouch
This probably the best point to end on, because the SoundCloud mobile app well….can’t access the cloud, regardless of whether you’re on iPhone or Android. In 2017 you can upload to just about every social media app, banking app, and you can even do your taxes on an app…but you can’t upload to SoundCloud.
With an increasing number of dissatisfied customers, an unsecure revenue model for the future (Lucky for them they got $35 Million in debt relief just last year), and lots of competition coming from the likes of Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube Red, and even Amazon Prime at this point, there’s more than enough places to stream music. For artists looking for a more curated music sharing environment, there are also a few, if lesser known platforms available, such as Bandcamp, Mixcloud & Mixcrate (Both great for DJ’s), and good ol’ YouTube. So what do you think? Stick around at a lame party? Or check out a different scene…we all know what the cool kids would do.