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 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.