Is It The End Of Indie Music On SoundCloud As We Know It?

09.23.14 3 years ago 42 Comments
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SoundCloud fancies itself as the “YouTube of music” but that title really belongs to, well, YouTube. The reaching slogan doesn’t take away from SoundCloud’s purpose as a vessel for upcoming, new talent, though. But what happens when the little company that could outgrows its relationship with bedroom/garage acts for consumers of large, money-getting, major label artists?

Well “the new SoundCloud” creates a messy site re-design to appeal to former and new users. Even after testing the waters for over a year, issues from its launch still occur. Pages don’t fully load on occasion. The play button has a habit of saying “nuh-uh” when you try to hear songs.  Plus, the revamp’s pretty bloated–Chrome or Firefox slow to a crawl or even crash.

However, finicky performance isn’t the worst of SoundCloud’s problems.

SoundCloud’s recent deal with Universal shakes a cornerstone of the site’s foundation. It’s clear that, with Spotify and Pandora’s cutting deals with majors, SoundCloud’s road to financial gain lead to partnering with today’s biggest labels. Official licensing brings the potentiality of exclusive song/album premieres, playlists and related projects that’d drive traffic and, down the line, ad dollars.

Their deal with UMG allows the media giant to delete artists’ remixes and ban them for multiple infractions. Universal’s under no obligation to communicate with SoundCloud on these moves, which has already resulted in brash song and account removals.

Labels have the ultimate trump card since the artists in question likely aren’t legally allowed to re-imagine copyrighted material. Then things get twisted when you realize SoundCloud built its brand by hosting remixes and featuring deserving “SoundClouders of the Day”, whose songs stood bars deep in uncleared samples like the artists linked just now: Ben Jamin, Proflogik and Repeat Pattern.

The site had no problem capitalizing off the buzz from its brightest artists whose creativity flew in the face of what’s lawfully permissible. Now, with more deals with majors on the horizon, the site’s rich beat and remix content faces a huge hurdle.

Artists, namely producers, have spoken up and/or found loopholes in these takedowns. (Lalalala) Lakim, for instance, released many of his forbidden remixes on his Bandcamp page. Other acts have spoken out but it’s not like SoundCloud’s headed back to its nascent glory days.

The sting also applies to prominent music blogs featuring new songs on SoundCloud. Thissongissick got their account suspended since the site’s new system detected multiple infringements on their hosted tracks and mixes.

The move’s reminiscent of the great DMCA blog sweep from a few years back. Any proof of wrongdoing on Thissongissick’s part hasn’t surfaced. However, in taking out one of SoundCloud’s biggest destinations, labels once again can recklessly say “anybody can get it” regardless of whether or not these claims hold weight.

An MBA’s not necessary to see SoundCloud’s preparation for the long haul. They’ve reached a breaking point where they hold the key to becoming a profitable company. Also, playing ball with majors beats getting sued into oblivion, as artists unsurprisingly face industry rule No. 4080. However, the said juncture’s where SoundCloud’s problems go deeper than its UI and UX.

The site’s draw is still considerably built with unlicensed material with easy means to share songs on sites and social networks. Yet it can’t persist this way without copyright holders knocking down their door. Thus, the service providers and the creators stand at a crossroads. Additionally, the impasse has growing pains on the horizon.

But SoundCloud’s UMG deal, along with other, potentially similar contracts, shows the German outfit has made its decision. The move’s sensible for growth since Yung Thottie’s hot FL Studio beats pay no one’s bills. Nevertheless, their stance hurts their purpose as a platform to enable artists to widen their exposure with every upload.

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