As I scan over my Stream page, my eyes naturally float to the top right of the page. Out of habit, I almost unconsciously click the now empty space once reserved for the player control. Unfortunately, in my attempt to change the song playing, I am forced to relocate my mouse to the new player nested incongruously at the bottom of the page. The only notification on my profile is one from Soundcloud reminding me that the thirty minute mix I made only a week before has been ripped down due to “Copyright Claims”.
My orange tinted haven for music doesn’t feel like the convenient platform that it once was. For well over three years, my Soundcloud was my pride and joy; my portal to the world of sound. Maybe it’s my reluctance to accept change, but I no longer feel the loyalty to Soundcloud that I once did. Just like the “updates” to Facebook that attracted the ire of page owners and users alike, the “new” Soundcloud feels a lot more like a leap backwards than a progression. Soundcloud is changing, make no mistake. Whether the popular platform for sharing and distributing music of all genres will make a turn for the better or worse remains to be seen.
As cliched as Ghandi’s words may be, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” they do raise a valid point. What sort of musical world does Soundcloud want to create? The new changes and rampant increase in Copyright enforcement have subtly suggested that Soundcloud sees money in music and is alright to let the old guard call the shots. At very least, one thing is certain – Soundcloud is going mobile. Speaking to The Guardian, Soundcloud CTO Eric Wahlforss confirmed this shift, “We’re growing extremely fast, and the growth is driven by mobile, so that’s why we’re focusing almost all of our attention in terms of the listening experience on mobile,”
This emphasis was realized in a massive update to the Soundcloud app which has changed its basic functionality. Gone are the days of mobile uploading, instead replaced by an increased focus on discovering and streaming new music. While this development may seem less than threatening, it is nonetheless a scary indication of the future. “…boiling the app down to a much simpler essence is going to influence what we do back on the desktop in the future.”While that statement alone is less than fear inspiring, it is quite unsettling when taken in consideration with Soundcloud’s new endeavor to monetize its media.
Services like Spotify available that kick royalties back to labels and copyright owners, and thus indirectly to the artists themselves are already well established in the market. However, Soundcloud as the second largest hub of streaming media, (right behind Youtube) has to date never offered a royalty and revenue sharing model. Unlike Spotify, Soundcloud forwent the monetization over access to the platform. It goes without saying that getting media on Spotify is much more complicated than dragging a file to the upload box.
The good and bad news is that Soundcloud hasn’t quite pegged down how they plan to generate and distribute this money as Wahlforss said, “Right now in the US we’re experimenting with different monetization approaches. We’re testing out different things: throwing a couple of things out there and testing the waters a bit. We’re super-excited about where this stuff can go…When you have millions of followers and millions of listeners, you’ve got some point expecting there to be some sort of monetization there. We hear that loud and clear.”
The way I see it is quite simple, Soundcloud has changed and continues to do so. Nearly 2/3’s of all Soundcloud activity now comes from mobile. Users like myself who only utilize the app to bump their Liked tunes in the car are now in the minority. The days where one could upload just about anything of their creation without the fear of a copyright strike are behind us. Soundcloud is at a crossroad. Many reasonable observers might say that the inevitable is upon us – tighter controls with cold hard cash in exchange.
Whether these controls will reward indie and unsigned artists with a financial lifeline for their work or the labels and bigwigs remains to be seen. If the latter happens, I’ll be following Kaskade’s lead and jumping ship; I doubt I’ll be alone either.
Source: The Guardian