Soundcloud could save itself a lot of trouble if it embraced its unique selling points. In fact, the users are already doing that – it wouldn’t hurt Soundcloud to listen.
Kanye West selected the platform to publish a couple of his “new” tracks, following Miley Cyrus who released a whole album on Soundcloud a few months back. And then Justin Bieber dropped his cover of ‘Hotline Bling‘ on Soundcloud.
These are by no means releases meant for their massive fanbases. They are these superstars’ passion projects contrived outside of their labels.
The labels know these releases don’t cater to the bulk of these artists’ audiences. But that’s why we have the Internet, paradise of the Long Tail.
Users instinctively head to Soundcloud for more “alternative/underground” releases – the ones that are not available on iTunes or Spotify. These online music stores maintain the traditions of the physical record store, where everything that has reached the shelves had gone through countless phases of checks and balances.
Soundcloud, like other social media platforms, has the appeal of immediacy that the “official” channels of distribution don’t. Its design encourages sharing B-sides, outtakes, bloopers, demos – content for the passionate music fans, not the bulk of “casual listeners”. Heck, Bieber’s Hotline Bling cover was (allegedly) recorded on a phone (it sounds like it was, anyway).
But Soundcloud keeps fighting its users. It is competing with other streaming services and thereby forsaking the advantages their product has over the rest of the music streaming market.
So, here are some steps I feel Soundcloud should consider:
1. Discourage posting of copyrighted music.
Everyone is going to have a streaming subscription soon – it’s the most efficient method of music distribution. All the “official releases” are going to be published that way (at least until Imogen Heap saves the music industry with blockchain technology).
There is no point in fighting Spotify/Apple Music/etc. in this way.
Avoid legal action that could kill your whole company.
2. Enable artists to make money from Soundcloud.
I don’t mean (just) advertising. People want to give money to artists.
Enable artists to sell their music on Soundcloud (so they don’t resort to Bandcamp, as most do now).
Implement a “tip jar” – like Youtube has done.
3. Enable fans to support artists they like.
Make specialized fans accounts. Music, like all art, is a two-way street: an equal relationship between the creator and the recipient.
Not everyone wants to upload sounds – a lot more people just want to support what the artists (who are, by nature, a minority) do. Facilitate that, don’t fight it.
4. Establish a partnerships with other (social) media platforms.
At the moment, Soundcloud merely supports links to other social media profiles and links in descriptions.
Soundcloud can by all means reman “the audio platform”, but synnergy with other forms of media is not only natural, but necessary these days. Users crave it. Don’t send them off to Instagram and Youtube: find a way to embed them on your own platform. It will benefit all.