SoundCloud just unleashed their newest mistake called SoundCloud Go. SoundCloud Go has completely changed the way I look at SoundCloud and to me it is ushering in its own demise. In this article I am going to be looking at Soundcloud Go and how it affects the indie musician. I am also going to look at how musicians should be an active voice in the discussion.
To start lets look at what Soundcloud Go is. In the email announcement I got today from SoundCloud they said; Soundcloud Go is offering an expanded catalog of tracks and albums that are new to the platform as well as ad-free, offline listening. We’ll also continue to have the existing free ad-supported listening experience.
Ok, so lets decipher that. Basically Soundcloud is now going to charge listeners $9.99 a month to listen to music add free. I like how they state having a free ad-supported listening experience is a perk, we will debunk that soon enough. This new move really upsets me, not because people are paying for music, but how this came to be. To understand this, lets look at the history of Soundcloud and why it has become the go to for independent musicians.
Soundcloud was founded in August 2007 but really started to take off in 2009. At that point there was a lot of new services. Myspace, reverb nation, and many others were taking off. What made Soundcloud different was two factors. First was accessibility, and second was community. SoundClouds core function was too easily let anyone post their music for free and share it with their friends. You could record a sketch on your iPhone and upload it to friends on the spot. That friend could then comment, on the timeline, about the track. This made it an amazing tool for collaboration and connection. It was accessible because it was free, and it was a great way to share your music as an independent artist with your community.
Along the way Soundcloud needed to make money. They started to charge for more advance features, like Soundcloud pro. This included more upload time, stats, and other great features. As a professional musician it totally makes sense to support this service to help connect with a community of listeners. This dream did not last that long and one fateful day the big bad major record labels showed up and tore it all down.
In March 2014, SoundCloud was reportedly in a second round of talks with major music labels. Soundcloud always had problems with catching people posting remixes, bootlegs, and Copywrite issues. The labels just waited quietly until the website was having tens of millions of listens a month. Then they saw their opportunity and pounced. All the sudden we see soundcloud buried in lawsuits by the major record labels. Then those same major labels struck a deal to have a percentage of the company. They not only had a hand in the company, but a stake in the profits. This was the moment it all changed.
Overnight soundcloud was banning people for copyright issues. We started seeing adds playing, and with Soundcloud Go there is a subscription to get rid of the ads. Now, after all this history, we can get to the meat of the problem. Soundcloud has changed from a service to help musicians to a platform selling those musicians content. When did we agree to be your product? Also… more importantly… where is our cut?
Spotify pays out around 50-70% of its revenue to the rights holder. Granted, they don’t pay out a lot per track, but they still do pay out. Soundcloud on the other hand is still charging musicians for their premium services, makes a profit off of ad placement, charges fans to take away adds, and does not pay out royalties. No matter which side of the “music should be free” debate you are on, one thing is damn certain. If you are making money off my music I should get a cut.
For me Soundcloud died when the labels forced their hand and this is the slow decline. As a community of musicians it is very important that we stay vigilant about our worth. SoundCloud started as a truly innovative company that was helping our community. They have now been bought out and all musicians are suffering from it. No company should ever make money from streaming music and not pay out royalties. This is underhanded and should not be allowed.
If you want to help make a statement, then join the petition to make soundcloud pay out royalties.