It’s with hushed voices and dashing glances that most discuss the tumultuous love affair that exists between streaming music sites and the modern music industry.
The argument is complicated, detailed, layered — all around heavy. On one end of the argument, artists and musicians are in arms against the streaming music sites. Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke live on that end, petitioning against the low, low royalties that most artists (especially the independent or young ones) manage to accept. It’s not unwarranted criticism. The up and coming artists of the present, past, and future have to find other places now to find money to continue their craft. CD sales are nearly nonexistent. The cool kids still buy vinyls, sure, but that’s still an unreliable market. Because of the market that music streaming sites like Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music have created, musicians must rely on merchandise and touring in order to make a living off the actual buying and selling of their records.
SoundCloud is (was), in many ways, no better than Spotify. It wasn’t until recently that they made strides in aggregating a credit card bearing, paying audience of users. Until very recently, when the in-between advertisements became too obvious and annoying to its users, did SoundCloud make strides in producing paying customers.
But I’d argue that SoundCloud was never the place for paying customers. I would argue that SoundCloud is, and I wishfully hope will remain, the random, difficult to navigate streaming music site filled to the brim with random 30-second tracks of something your skinny cousin made in his basement. SoundCloud was a haven for those just getting started, the easy to access music streaming site that required very little to put your podcast, songs, or mixes up on a website. Independent artists thrived in SoundCloud. Without SoundCloud finds, our world wouldn’t have Jai Wolf or Chainsmokers or Ryn Weaver (to name just a few). If SoundCloud is acquired, the hope of the one in a million chance dies evermore.
My opinions aren’t absolute. When and if Spotify acquires SoundCloud, very little will change for artists. The schema that they currently work within is already perilous, low-paying and competitive enough. I hope instead that the market fills the empty void left behind by SoundCloud with something similar (or better). Some functioning avenue for the quiet, closeted artists of the future who need the powers of the Internet to find, augment, and broadcast what talent they may or may not have. I am nervous for the impending acquisition because of the loss of faith it may incur. I fear for the little man, those less lucky than Jai or Ryn, who may never be found as a result of these changes.