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Gentle Rebellion

Soundcloud Music and Party Pooper Major Labels

On 22, Jan 2011 | 4 Comments | In Gentle Rebellion | By Andy Mort

soundcloud, labels, despair, progressive
Those involved in the music world are all pretty well aware that the major labels, on the whole are pretty regressive, reactionary and retrogressive in their ability to move forwards and change with the rest of us. It is completely understandable and makes perfect sense when you consider the ease with which they were able to control, manipulate and make lots of easy money in the past with the way that the system worked. I don’t want to go into that now but I do want to highlight a way in which they are at it again, this time through one of my favourite new music sharing platforms, Soundcloud.

Soundcloud is a brilliant way to upload tracks and share them easily and quickly on all sorts of social networks and websites. It was a part of the remix revolution, enabling artists to collaborate really easily and rework one another’s songs without having to spend huge amounts of time transferring files and the like. I personally have been using it for over a year to share some of my favourite tracks/inspiring artists on Sheep Dressed Like Wolves blog posts. I do not make the songs available to download; rather you can just have a listen while you read my praise of them.

I suppose it was inevitable really that this wonderful way of sharing influences and giving free publicity to other artists would be picked up on sooner or later. It seems that, from reading about other user’s recent experiences, Soundcloud has been forced to turn on us.

Towards the end of December I started receiving emails telling me that Soundcloud had taken down certain tracks at the request of the rights holder. Ever since they started, the emails have been trickling through a few every week or so. Three days ago I had twenty-two in one go. All of these tracks have been deleted from my account.

Now, my beef is not so much with the legality and official policy of Soundcloud, rather it is with the principle and backward nature of the major labels attempting to regain control in somewhat tyrannical and damaging ways (to Soundcloud and their own artists).

I understand that within the official policy it seems you can only upload what you have the permission to do so with, but this is not the point. As a user I upgraded my Soundcloud account so that I could host more tracks, not so that I could gain anything, rather so that I could share more of the music that has inspired and influenced me over the years. Nothing was available to download, it was just available to stream. I wanted to keep the tracks on my own account for the reassurance that the track will always be there. I like to keep things neat and simple.

Cutting off their nose to spite their face?

In the latest bout of track slashing I noticed that not all of the tracks were by big name artists. In fact many of them were artists who have made their way through thanks to social networking platforms and the close-knit relationships they have developed with their fans only to be gobbled up by a major label/subsidiary as a result. It is sites such as Soundcloud that have enabled their success because fans have used them to share their tracks quickly and easily with one another, yet the labels are now targeting these fans and essentially calling us little more than criminals. I would love to hear what these artists think of this.

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of taking the tracks down serves and would be really interested to hear from someone who has been privy to these decisions. But to me it seems like the labels are cutting off their nose, and even gouging out their own eyes because they think their face is taking advantage and making fun of them. All they have left is their mouth, which they use to eat everything in their path and their ears, out of which they need to take their fingers so they can hear those of us talking to them.

Alternatives for Soundcloud?

I do not blame Soundcloud for this. It was as I say inevitable. Everything that works eventually sells out and runs the risk of becoming shit, that is just a fact of life (just look at Myspace). But I do fear that it could spark the beginning of the end for it if it continues down this censoring road. I have read about people having remixes and mixtapes removed, which as far as I was aware was one of the unique selling points of the platform when it was starting out – bringing the idea of community, collaboration and celebration of creativity together within a site in which all these things can happen easily. See DJ Ripley’s blog post about this side of things here.

There is evidently the technology to track what songs have been uploaded so why not use this in a positive way rather than in the negative manifestation of which I have fallen victim? Could you develop a system within Soundcloud that, like YouTube, where tracks that are used can be traced and rewarded so that rather than victimising those people that have chosen to use and promote a particular piece of music. If this is about money, which I’m sure it is, then surely such a system could be put in place? I paid €50 for my account as I’m sure thousands of people have (if not more), I don’t want anything in return other than the freedom to promote (for free) those artists whom I want to share with the world. When I put it like that I can’t help but wonder where logic and reason are in this ridiculous industry.

Andy Mort

Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of Sheep Dressed Like Wolves: a Blog and Podcast helping introverts and highly sensitive people recognise and embrace their creativity; and identify what is holding them back from living with the passion, purpose, and meaning they seek in a sometimes overwhelming world.

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  1. Nick

    You raise some valid points, particularly about how behind the industry is, but on the other hand you say “I understand that within the official policy it seems you can only upload what you have the permission to do so with, but this is not the point.”

    But I’m afaraid this is the point – when you sign up to Soundcloud that’s what you agree to. If you don’t agree then don’t sign up.

    You may think you are ‘helping’ the artist by streaming their music to a new audience, and I am sure 99% of artists would agree with you (and I do as well, so please don’t take this comment as 100% against what you are saying) – but some artists for their own or their representatives reasons may not want to have their track streamed in this way. You may not agree with their reasons but as owners of the music it’s up for them to decide if they want their music to be heard via a Soundcloud player – not yours.

    Why not just use ‘official’ soundcloud players from the artist or their PR company or label that represent them rather than streaming from your own player ? That way if the owners of the music want to remove the track they can delete it from Soundcloud and all that happens to you is that your blog will show a ‘this track is not avaialable’ sign?

  2. atlumschema

    Hi Nick, thanks for the comment. I completely agree with what you say about it not being my decision within the interface to which I have signed up having committed to the terms and conditions. It is then the artists’ or labels’ prerogative to remove tracks if they really want for whatever reason but I would argue that, in the long run hitting the fans in this way, and I know there are a great many of us who do the same thing, will damage Soundcloud as a platform, turning into a tool controlled by labels and not by users like us, as well as create disenchanted fans, wanting to promote but unable.

    I suppose it comes down to similar issues as the larger piracy debate, intellectual property rights on the internet and finding the best response to it. As I say, if they have the technology to trace who is sharing what, then they have the foundation for a positive system of recompense.

    I think we generally agree. We all know labels will forever be doing stuff pining after the ‘good old days’. My issue is actually more with the future and purpose of Soundcloud and thinking of ways in which they could act positively rather than negatively as they move forward. YouTube is a good example as far as I can tell of accepting things have changed and adapting to a model that accommodates the interests of all parties, however unfair this might feel to some. It is in Soundcloud’s best interest to look for something similar because I know there are a massively growing number of disenchanted users.

    Thanks. Andy.

  3. Hi Andy,

    I too have had Soundcloud refuse to let me upload tracks because of copyright issues, in a way that is counter-productive when you think about it.

    I am not a musician; I’m a journalist and a radio producer. I interview bands and then make documentary-style features which I post online as podcasts. They usually consist of interview clips with snippets of the artist’s music in between. Soundcloud seemed like a good platform for sharing these podcasts with the world, so I joined and paid for a premium membership. It worked well until the day I tried to post an interview I’d done with a big act signed to a major label. Even though the podcasts were for streaming only (and there’s no point in stealing 15-30 seconds of someone’s music), I was not allowed to upload that podcast. My premium membership has now expired, and I’m seriously considering whether I should bother renewing it.

    Surely there’s some “fair use” policy Soundcloud could put in place that would be helpful to people like me, rather than preventing me from posting what is essentially my own work…

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