It started with MySpace. Musicians started to upload, share and promote their music and MySpace became a sound and music platform. In the last decade, Musicians, among other artists, were struggling to adapt to the new paradigm created by the internet explosion. It became harder for Musicians because being tied to a record label and contract didn't necessarily mean they saw any profit. With the excessive pirate music downloading and prices of CDs going up, music sales have drastically decreased which brought the music industry to it's knees. People started to buy less music and record labels were thinking twice before signing Musicians since they knew it would be hard to translate it into revenue.

The good news is that as the internet and technology advanced it also became easier for Musicians. With the new tools and new technology, Musicians realized they can do everything on their own: they are now the artist, the Producer, the record label and the store all in one. They can record themselves at home with minimal costs achieving professional results and websites such as SoundCloud makes it easier for Musicians to put their music out there and to open an immediate communication channel with their audience.

Websites such as SoundCloud also answer a major problem Musicians are facing. The free access for information we have today is making it harder for Musicians to succeed and the old paradigm is no longer working. The only way for an aspiring Musician to make money these days is to get exposure and to put his music out there. In order to do that, alongside live gigs at any venue, Musicians need to give their music for free at first online, on an audio platform or through social network.

We already have Flicker for photo sharing, YouTube for video sharing and Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to share everything else, but with MySpace sinking, there was no platform for posting and sharing audio files. Enter SoundCloud, the unique platform that was born out of this need and is a social community with music and audio files at its heart.

What is SoundCloud?

SoundCloud is an audio and sound sharing platform that allows members to record, upload, promote and share their music across the web. You can download the SoundCloud app for iPhone or Android that lets you record or upload on the go. You can also record tweets or status updates and post them directly to Tweeter or Facebook or record short interviews and post them to SoundCloud. When listening to a song, SoundCloud allows users to see the shape of sounds through their waveform player, which is a visualization of the sounds.

There are over 100 apps on the SoundCloud app gallery, which are divided to three main categories: create and record, discover and listen, share and distribute. “Create and record” allow users to upload their music or any track or song they like. These apps also function as a virtual recording studio and are a great asset for Musicians who can record up to two hours on the Cloud. Through the “discover and listen” category users can search any artist, band, genres or forums so they can explore, discover and listen to new remixes of their favorite songs or join a discussion. "Share and distribute" gives Musicians the option to distribute their music via other websites or to sell their music via apps. Users can also share their comments at specific moments of the song on the waveform, so you can see what someone had to say in the 4th-minute-18th-seconds of the song.

SoundCloud as a Marketing Tool

Both Artists and fans upload music on the Cloud. Artists sometimes put their original songs, remixes or remakes but cannot sale their music directly through the Cloud. If users are interested with buying an album or a single song, they will be directed via a link or an app to the artist’s website or an online store where they can purchase music.

SoundCloud can be used as a great marketing and promotional tool for Musicians. They can create a profile and connect it to with any other profile on any other social media site for an even wider exposure. Instead of giving the traditional promo CDs, they can send a link to their SoundCloud profile or create a promo sampler and share it online or even print a business card with a link to the promo sampler.

The great thing about SoundCloud is that it gives everyone – Pros or Joes - the ability to record and share. It is also a great tool to connect with fans, get their immediate feedback on a latest masterpiece and encourage them to be interactive and to contribute to the creative process. There are many ways to promote an interaction via the Cloud: some artists take questions and comments from fans via SoundCloud and record their response verbally. Both users and artists can also record and post short interviews or snippets of live shows. Some users or artists embed a DropBox on their Cloud profile connected to their website, MySpace or Facebook and allow visitors to share tracks.

Cloud Problems

Recently, strong criticism is heard following SoundCloud’s recent policy of monitoring uploads for copyrighted materials. SoundCloud don’t permit uploading copyrighted materials unless you are the copyright owner but it didn’t stop its users so far and SoundCloud didn’t really enforce it up until recently. The bigger the Cloud got, more people used and sampled copyrighted materials and SoundCloud started getting growing numbers of requests from the copyrights owners to remove these materials.

This is bad news for DJs who used to sample and comprise their sets from unheard materials and remixes they’ve found on SoundCloud before they got out. Today, SoundCloud is warning and flagging users and removing mixes without notice, which sends some users to other websites such as MixCloud Podomatic and Mix.DJ. To deal with this problem, SoundCloud will have to find the balance between keeping it legit and accommodating its users.

Sources:

1) NY Times: SoundCloud, an Audio-Sharing Site, Hits 5 Million Users

2) Union Square Ventures: SoundCloud

3) TechCrunch: SoundCloud Partners with Headliner.fm