Death of an Icon: SoundCloud’s Shutdown and Your Business

We’ve all seen the news about layoffs and speculation that SoundCloud may be closing its doors sooner rather than later. For most, this doesn’t come as a total shock (Type in “soundcloud alternative” or “soundcloud shutdown” in a search engine and you’ll see this has been the case for some time). But still the question remains, if there is a SoundCloud shutdown in the future, what does that mean for creatives that interact with the service.

Looking at how we got here in the first place, SoundCloud has been a haven for the underground scene. Though the media has talked at length about the rise of “SoundCloud Rap,” I believe that musicians across many genres have greatly benefited from the accessibility that the site provides — and yet this doesn’t fully help SoundCloud’s bottom line. In a recent New York Mag article, Brian Feldman outlines that while the horde of independent artists may drive users to the site, SoundCloud can only survive financially by offering the most popular major artists. As SoundCloud has failed to do so, they’ve seen their active users and overall profitability drop.

Keeping all this is mind, will SoundCloud bounce back? My honest opinion is in the long term, yes, but they will have to be very smart with their next steps. While they have been constantly changing their product offering in the past 12 to 18 months, few of these changes have moved the needle. In the short term, we can only hope that the company can get more funding, as it’s rumored that SoundCloud only has enough money to keep it going until about Q4 of this year.

What does this mean for you?

This is me yelling some good sense into your head!

Okay… now that we’ve gotten the scary stuff out of the way, it would be smart to take a look at the implications that such a shutdown may have on your business, whether you’re a musician, some other creative, or even just a small business owner. Firstly, local artists are some of the biggest losers in this worst case scenario, simply because of the loss in easy distribution that SoundCloud affords many musicians. Even at the free tier, the fact that anyone can upload a piece of audio that reaches thousands in less time than it takes to say “Apple Music” has been great for that local garage band, or basement producer trying to get a start. As a result of this, there will definitely be more competition at a localized level, where artists will have to vie for attention from community stakeholders to reach and connect with their base.

Explore partnerships

With that competition comes the need to be even more strategic. For some this may mean taking a look a their marketing strategy, i.e. how you are promoting yourself. While there are many areas where one can start, there may be some actions that one can take right now. A start may be engaging in local partnerships with other creatives and musicians in your area. For instance, REC Philly is an agency in, you guessed it — Philadelphia, that operates as a WeWork for artists and other creatives alike. Tapping into a space like that, and swapping ideas, tools and even audiences with members in different spaces can make the problem of accessing an audience smaller or non-existent. One can even create an ad-hoc group with local creatives in your area. The main point is to leverage these partnerships in a way that will help you all grow together.

Connect via social media

Nice apps there mate!

From a social media perspective, it may be helpful to take control of your promotion. Looking at the situation, while SoundCloud is a great place to promote your pages directly through listeners’ pages, it won’t mean anything if that cloud comes raining down.

“How’s that?” you might ask… the answer is to connect through your fans on other forms of social media. About three years ago, I received a mention over Twitter from an artist telling me to check out his music. Though most people have since been numbed to even digital pleas to “check out my stuff,” I nonetheless took a look because he said he was from Pennsylvania (which is my home state).

While I enjoyed the music, the reason I’m presenting this example is because of the connection that he ended up driving over the next couple of months. After following him, this rapper sent me regular messages encouraging me to engage with his music (the guy was relentless) . Was it annoying at times, maybe, but did I end up sharing his stuff because I felt like I would have personally let him down if I did not follow through on the simple request, yes indeed. That rapper now has 100 of thousands in followers, and thousands of plays each time he drops a song. While there’s still room for progress, at least this is a start. The main takeaway here is to connect more with your fans, and consumers on a more direct basis, at least in the beginning. If you build a base of loyal fans, you’ll be in a position where will actively appreciate the value you give them (i.e through merch sales or concert tickets).

Add value

Speaking of value, there is something to be said about adding value for your consumers. In this instance, I’m referring to the value you can bring by honing your sound, your trade. You might see this as providing many offerings for your consumers, which could mean being on different services or something entirely different. It depends on what you want to bring to the table.

Returning to the bit about honing one’s sound, I think this is crucial, but also very hard. Anyone can believe they have a unique and well-crafted sound, but at the same time be completely wrong. For this, you’ll need two things, the ability to know yourself, and the confidence to be able to tweak your sound if need be. I can’t tell you how many local artists I check out that tell me, “Oh my music has such a unique sound,” only to find that they sound EXACTLY like another, more established artist. It’s very disappointing and frankly annoying at times.

It’s important to hone your sound because you need to give listeners novelty. Your music doesn’t have to be drastically different, but just different enough to illicit the reaction that it’s different than what those other guys are offering. Trust me, it’ll be a difficult process, but like the Phiadelphia 76er’s, you’ll be thankful in the end.

So to recap, if SoundCloud were to go down, one has to think of ways to protect their future by thinking strategically. In this case, one must look at their marketing strategy, external partnerships, and inward at their product offering. Is there anything you can do now to protect what you have on SoundCloud? Yes, though there are people trying (and failing) to help you with that as well. For now, take a look at this blog post to see some of your options.

While D.R.A.M. and Chance think the situation is a lot rosier than it seems, whatever the overcome is, be ready for it and accept it; because if there’s ever one constant in music and business, it is constant change.