It’s a saying that has become all too popular in the online music community… “Soundcloud is DEAD.” But I’m not here to give in to that just yet. I’m writing this post to give readers a take on the current state of the platform, my perception of its use, and a few ways that the platform can be improved.
We’ve come a long way from the golden age of Soundcloud, which many would define as a time period between roughly 2010 - 2015. Back then the platform was less populated, less regulated, and many would argue that the content was higher quality than current day. Everyone knows Soundcloud is most known for it’s electronic and hip-hop scenes that gave birth to artists such as Flume, Lil Uzi Vert, and XXXTentacion to name a few… Its impact to the online music community is arguably the biggest of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s.
Fast forward to today’s Soundcloud and the platform is largely the same yet different in a few key ways. First and foremost there are thousands more users. With an increased base of content creators it comes as no surprise that quality over quantity has became a major issue for the platform, which brings me to my first point of improvement. Soundcloud NEEDS (and I cannot stress this enough) to come up with a more streamlined way to search for music on the platform. The stream on the homepage has become overcrowded with repost chains and sub-par content where the goal is more about being seen than being remembered. To counter this I would like to see options for filtering the stream by number of followers, play/like/repost count, and uploads only. I think many people would agree that seeing more reposts than uploads on your stream is frustrating to say the least. To get around this many people are forced to use jenky internet extensions that remove reposts from your feed. Unfortunately these extensions are not designed by Soundcloud so their functionality is mediocre at best. If the platform is going to remain open access for everyone then users need to be presented with more ways to filter out what they do and do not want to see on their stream.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, how should we really be using Soundcloud in 2019? Well that all depends on if you’re a creator or a curator. If you fall into the latter then I’ll say that results of the previous paragraph are likely going to be as good as it gets for you. But if you’re a creator it goes much deeper than that. You need to think out of the box. In my opinion, creators should be using the platform as a testing ground only. Let’s face it, Soundcloud clearly lacks when it comes to monetization, and as much as this hurts to say as a curator, why on earth would an artist put their final projects on a platform that only pays artists who are pro or pro-unlimited users? Why pay another monthly fee on top of what you’re already paying services like Distrokid to get paid for your music? It just doesn’t make sense to me. What I suggest is that if you’re an artist you should only put out demos and throw away tracks on Soundcloud and link them to your Spotify/Apple Music pages. Soundcloud has definitely started to crack down on copyright so remixes are out of the question if you want to ensure your page doesn’t get taken down. With that said I have seen some bigger artists make side accounts for their remix content with the expectation that at some point the side account will get removed for copyright violations. The point here is that Soundcloud should be the platform where artists can be more free and give their fans regular content without the pressure of releasing a final single, EP, or album.
As I wrap up this piece I just want to say that Soundcloud is indeed alive, it’s just become a much different world. If you’re a curator like me, you know how much deeper you have to dig to find quality content, but that just makes the wins that much sweeter. The good stuff is still out there, but until Soundcloud improves its search capabilities you have to be prepared to put some time in to find the gold that lurks beneath the depths of Soundcloud’s ocean.
I could continue this piece with other improvements, such as getting direct messaging on the app, eliminating repost chains, catering to creators instead of listeners, and allowing remix content to be posted without fear of copyright infringement but that is a whole separate battle…. For now the platform lives on and if everyone says it’s dead, then I guess that makes me a zombie trudging along the journey to better days for this treasured platform.