Should Twitter fill the hole left by SoundCloud?
Before I get into my sideways hypothesis, I need to say this: for those of you who worked on the SoundCloud product either now or in the past, you have created a masterpiece. It was a fantastic service that you should be very proud of, whatever the outcome. It’s not your fault that it melted down and that the business model was iffy. I am also sorry to hear about the way so many of you were treated, too. But that’s all for another article.
The hard truth is, SoundCloud’s days are probably numbered.
The follow-up question I have is just who will fill the gap that the SoundCloud service provided for so many creators and fans? Pandora? Apple Music? Last.fm? Someone new? Nobody?
At the end of the day, SoundCloud hosted music or sound files for millions, allowing you to play them back as a playlist and promote them as an embedded widget on your own website, and just as importantly, fans could share the music. Their secret weapon was their embedded player.
Bands have been discovered. Labels and communities around them have been formed. The exact statistics on this may be contested a bit, but the fact remains that millions of files are stored, millions of creators were engaged, and music and audio in general was being discovered. That’s music to anyone’s ears (except the record labels, as always). Monetizing this was always the challenge, especially given the legal ramifications of hosting unauthorized mixes or even copyrighted files. But the fact remains, SoundCloud has provided a valuable and needed service, and implemented it well. I should know. I founded Instatone Radio, a user-generated radio station, with a similar premise, that also failed. It was a cross between SoundCloud and Pandora (another service expected to fail according to the latest news I listened to yesterday). Either way, the point was similar — to give awesome music a chance to be discovered.
This all brings me to what’s going to happen now. Watching the fallout is often more interesting than the fire.
So here’s a wild idea. I’m not sure if it makes sense, but what if Twitter does something interesting here with audio sharing?
Twitter claims 328,000,000 active users. It’s an active community and appears to continue to rise, with a significant bump as you can see from 2016 to 2017.
I fully recognize that Twitter is really focused now on live video, making interesting deals with Vox Media, BuzzFeed, MLB Advanced Media, and Live Nation but what I’ve found missing in Twitter is its ability (or desire?) to leverage the growing need for snipping Podcasts or other audio and reposting on Twitter.
It’s not exactly what SoundCloud was doing, but having a Twitter sound widget could expand Twitter’s current widget portfolio (if you will), and thus Twitter’s marketshare.
For Twitter to become a true multimedia “feed” it needs a way to capture audio. This may seem sideways to most, but think about how people use Twitter now. They repost and share links, then providing their colorful comments. They do this with video as well obviously. But with audio there is no widget available. If they were able to incorporate something like an embedded audio scrubber into Twitter it would be able to fill part of the gap that SoundCloud left, cozy a bit more into YouTube’s space with music, and create a new way to share the news. Plus, you can add music to the Twitter mix.
Or, what if I was listening to my favorite PodCast, The Daily, and I wanted to share a snippet with Twitter? It would be close to impossible unless you uploaded it into GarageBand or ProTools and edited it first.
Twitter could seize on the opportunity based on its reach, engagement, and infrastructure to explore the possibility of incorporating audio snipping into Twitter, or even allow hosting of podcasts.
Twitter would have to focus: would it be focused on snipping, sharing, or hosting, or all three. Would it be focused on music, podcasts, or any audio?Clearly, there are challenges with such an idea, but Twitter should at least explore this so they’re not kicking themselves later for not seeing the possibilities. They could snag a bunch of awesome product folks that specialize in audio right this second. The opportunity to strike is when another company is down is very real. As much as we all love SoundCloud, this creates new opportunities in the market that should not be ignored.