An Open Letter to SoundCloud From a Disgruntled DJ and Music Writer
We’ve known each other for a long time. I’ve seen you grow into a gargantuan social cornerstone for an entire community of content creators, appreciators, and curators. Now, when people walk up to me and ask, “Do you have a SoundCloud,” it’s not a rare thing. It’s very commonplace. You’ve officially made it. But at what cost?
I’ll be frank here: many of the people who helped nurture you, mold you, and shared you are pissed. The very community who soaked your thirsty roots with water to help you grow is puzzled. We remember a time not too long ago when we could share our unique perspective on a new song without being worried about getting deleted. We remember a time when we could share our inventive mixes with other DJs and our fans to display what we like, love, or to invite others to experience something they may not have been able to see live. We remember a time when we didn’t have to have connections in the music industry to speak on our behalf so we could successfully dispute a flag on our account. Quite honestly, we remember a time when SoundCloud was actually a place for us to thrive.
“We remember a time not too long ago when we could share our unique perspective…”
Don’t get me wrong. You can still thrive on SoundCloud. That is, of course, if you have a recording contract, a plethora of contacts in the biz, or you somehow have a winning hand at blind luck like Lorde did. But for many of us, DJs or artists or producers who recognize SoundCloud’s place in the current music industry and understand the need to participate because it’s now a standard site for mainstream music lovers to visit, we feel underwhelmed at your state of affairs.
It was recently leaked you would again be creating more limitations, this time focusing on mixes specifically. Even if it’s untrue, let’s not be coy about this because DJs are, unfortunately, your bread and butter. It’s not the first time this has happened, either, which makes this claim hold even more water. Truthfully, mixes for many up and coming DJs are one of their main resources to share their perspective while they work to gain a following (something you already threaten to make even harder for newcomers through flagging their accounts). And when you bite the hand that feeds you, especially when it’s artists who have supported you from day one and have cultivated a great following with your tools, what good do you think will come of it?
Why are you sabotaging your own enterprise? Do you finally think you’re too big to fail now that you have the backing of major labels and you launched a streaming service? News flash – there’s something called Spotify, and even though your user base is larger, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that your streaming service “SoundCloud Go” isn’t exactly a success thus far. So the only thing that truly makes sense is you’ve lost touch. This is a shame given it’s taken this long for mainstream music lovers to fully grasp onto SoundCloud as an important tool for sharing and discovery. And if you’ve lost touch, how long will it be before you implode?
To be curt, implosion looks to be imminent. It could happen at this rate. It’s only a matter of time. And it will happen in one of the following ways. The first way is DJs, despite your placement on the radar of the demographic of the average dance music appreciator, decide to risk making a mass exodus to another platform like Mixcloud. With Mixcloud, DJs and electronic musicians wouldn’t feel afraid to upload their own content, but they’d receive less exposure than they would on your site and they’d be limited to mixes which makes the upload of bootlegs and remixes still a hairy position to be in. And in order for there to be more exposure via Mixcloud, that would require a certain cultural shift which leans on SoundCloud less and Mixcloud more and that takes time and time, as we all know, is money. SoundCloud would have to no longer be considered a resource to the average person as far as music discovery is concerned which, arguably, is the only thing SoundCloud can still vouch for when compared to streaming services.
“To be curt, implosion is imminent.”
The second method of implosion would be a lack of new content. And that wouldn’t necessarily be caused by people leaving, but by your overbearing need to find new ways to censor original content. It’s only a matter of time before labels have you start shutting things down on samples which would displace much of the creativity not just in dance music, but in artists who perform a cover or other genres that are sample heavy such as hip-hop. And when all that’s left is mainstream garbage, it’ll become oversaturated with mindless pop and the community that helped build you will be gone and the one which will sustain you for a little while will eventually move on to something new and prettier. And, in the end, independent music may very well become further endangered as a result.
The third method of implosion is somewhat related to the previous method. Everything moves underground. There’s less opportunity to share which leads to less exposure which makes pockets of different genres become even more exclusive circles than they already are. At a time when we need more inclusivity, especially in dance music, this is dangerous because it promotes the idea that if you’re not part of the crew, then you’re not welcome. And if you don’t feel welcome, then why would you want to educate yourself more on the genre or feel the need to dig further and further down into the rabbit hole.
Essentially, SoundCloud, you leave us at a catch-22. You’re a popular option to go to, but your community feels disheartened by your continued strategies to monetize which, to be blunt, hurts the community who helped make you. I get that you have to make money to keep moving forward, but won’t it get to a point when the people who give you said money tap out because you stop caring about our needs? Isn’t the art ever going to be as important as the means to pay for it?
You have to hold yourself accountable to the people who got you to where you are.