Why SoundCloud Is Dying, In Pictures

As an early adopter, I can tell “The Hooker With a Heart of Gold” is gone

Introduction to an Observation

I like how enough anecdotes pile up to become data. One voice is joined by three, then a whole choir. We are social creatures, us Humans, and we have different voices. That’s why time and again platforms to host content by Humans attract a lot of attention. Sharing is caring.

Yeah, yeah, I used to upload 96kbps mp3s via 56k dial up to the best hosting site I could find, then share the link via ICQ. Later it was about making videos, using Flash or another platform to cut and create and score Half-Life videos to share. Space and bandwidth were always a concern.

15 year later, SoundCloud provided a platform to set up shop. Create a profile, update, get subscribers…a link that would never go down, a place where other, higher profile artists might gather…here’s a snapshot of my oldest tracks still there:

7 years bad luck?

I’ve always been a Free Account type of guy. I don’t have cash for monthly Pro on SoundCloud — that’s a set of guitar strings per month and I can’t afford that just to host some tunes. Interface and/or connections be damned, and, to be fair, I’ve never once gotten work or a lead for a gig through my SoundCloud account. Oh, great. A LiveJournal for music.

There’s No Money in Free Music

If that heading doesn’t get you into understanding why years ago SoundCloud had to start scrounging for ways to show people they could actually make money instead of just hosting stuff for free, then I’d like to recommend starting over at Billboard.com/biz…from the beginning.

What I’d hoped for, long ago, was that SoundCloud would become essentially what Beats 1 Radio with Zane Lowe is today. A curated mainstay drawing from the ShoutCast / DnBRadio / di.fm style of audience attraction to go along with “breaking new artists” as a concept. SoundCloud felt the pressure of other services and couldn’t last.

Right now I’m recalling just how anti-competitive Steve Jobs was regarding market share of iPod and iTunes that became iPhone and iTunes…well, I hope he really enjoyed that liver he ruined and finally understood what it meant to park in Handicapped spaces for a good reason.

Because of Steve’s sociopathic behavior, SoundCloud was fighting up-hill against backroom RIAA deals from what I can tell of various anti-trust testimonies and evidence (re: eBooks vs Amazon, illegal non-compete employment agreements and retribution).

But, like a stereotypical grey haired hippie, I can confidently say I was there with SoundCloud “back in the day” and can show you what has changed and why it stings.

Note to Self: Be glad to have always used local copies to upload, because if SoundCloud gets all pissy and shitty and shuts down my account, the only things I’ll have lost are the tracks mastered by LANDR but then again that was free so, um, let’s just get on with it.

You Didn’t Earn Those Plays, I Did

So let’s look at the Stats page on my account. Last two weeks.

Oh hey there’s some information here

What stood out to me is that a large portion of information was blanked out. In the past, when I would delete a track to make space, in the Stats page those plays would get shuffled over into an “Other tracks” pile. I could understand that dynamic of having to pay for a Pro account to keep track of that, but this looked odd.

For the number of total plays, the individual break downs were small.

Wait, what?

When I was in Las Vegas a decade ago, on the Old Strip I got yelled at by a Middle Aged Asian Lady Blackjack dealer for not counting the numbers on my cards fast enough to know that I’d lost. She berated me in front of one of my Best Friends, the kind of guy who laughed when I declared “Fuck Blackjack I’m going back to Roulette!” later that night.

I’m not good at math but I sat down and noticed that SoundCloud is giving me information on less than half of my plays during that period. The others? Hostage for a Pro account?

As a mercenary, what do you think I’d do with some valuable shit? Maybe only give some scraps? Then leave information untold until the Ransom is paid?

The problem with this business model is that musicians are perpetually fucking broke. All this “incentive” to get the Pro information does is give the impression that the business arrangement is already lopsided.

A Dressing Down In Order

You know what SoundCloud? You hosted my things and I thought we had a good deal. No payment on either side, but on the back end I knew you had pressure to turn a profit — but after being there to help put bricks in place, the thanks I get is to hold my own information behind a paywall? The Plays I went out and hustled and advertised to get these past two weeks?

It’s like watching all the Good Will I invested with you turn into MBA toilet paper. Good fucking luck staying afloat with that business model. I’ll be the one to tell the Crade-to-Grave story next year.