Soundcloud, a global streaming service that boasts a massive number of monthly listeners, is predicated on users being able to easily upload songs and other audio. The idea is that you can make a song and instantly share it with the world in an online community dedicated to sharing sounds.
On Soundcloud, you can find anything from podcasts to spoken word poetry to any genre of music imaginable. You can also interact with other listeners, artists, companies, and curators by commenting on or sharing tracks. It has developed a community aspect that just doesn’t exist with other music streaming services.
But, Soundcloud has major copyright problems. Many users have made a habit of uploading content that they do not own, an act of copyright infringement. We, as a society, traditionally do not condone the theft of another’s creative work. However, streaming sites have introduced problems that lawmakers are still trying to understand. Until then, these sites exist in a major grey area.
As a harbor for this activity, Soundcloud will be blamed instead of those who upload the songs. That may not be fair, but labels like Universal and Sony do not want to face the backlash that would arise from suing their consumers. Thus, their only option is to go after the sites that house this illegal activity.
We have seen a recent and quite similar case with Grooveshark, which housed copyrighted materials on its platform for ten years before being shut down this April. Though Grooveshark was made with a similar purpose, to allow the easy sharing of music, it quickly became a place where online piracy was rampant and uncontrollable.
Soundcloud can be looked at similarly, as artists lose out on their potential income to the illegal uploading of their songs. More importantly, large corporations lose out on their potential income. And when you steal from corporate giants, they will likely bring you down. Despite its reach and popularity, Soundcloud does not have the financial resources to compete with these companies and will face the same fate as Grooveshark if it cannot find a way to prevent the copyright issues that have plagued it over the course of its existence.
Youtube was able to work around similar issues by implementing a system of takedown notifications and sound scanners that are set to detect copyrighted materials. Soundcloud has adopted similar measures, but it does not have the same resources as Youtube, which is a more integral site to the major companies that fund them.
Furthermore, this system can be slow and inaccurate, as we have seen popular artists lose their Soundcloud catalogs to takedown protocol. The standard practice is to take down first, ask questions later. This policy makes sense from their standpoint, but it is straining the relationship between musicians, their labels, and Soundcloud. Some musicians, including Madeon, have publicly complained about songs from their profiles being taken down against their will.
Given these issues, we could see a major problem crop up again for independent artists as they lose a major tool in the fight for attention from labels, fans, and blogs alike. Soundcloud has emerged as a common way for artists to be introduced to their fans and has become a major tool to measure a career’s success.
Lorde, Madeon, and Kygo are examples of such success, as they broke out into worldwide stardom after having initial success on Soundcloud. Success stories like theirs are part of what make the music industry appealing. When I meet a developing artist, they will almost always say “Find me on Soundcloud!” I take down their username, look them up when I get home, and can easily find whatever work they have shared. That is a prime example of how relationships are forged today between musicians and managers, agents, labels, and others throughout the industry.
This is all speculation, and Soundcloud might not really be on the precipice of a take down. But these issues aren’t going anywhere, so it may be time to start thinking of life after Soundcloud.
Read up on music copyright here: http://panitchlaw.com/blog/2015/03/5-things-to-know-about-music-copyright/
And, as I will be doing every week, here is some of what I’ve been listening to:
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