What’s up everybody! From where I sit on this beautiful Tuesday afternoon, the sun is out, the birds are chirping, and deadmau5 is out busting balls again.
He’s laid out his opinion on what would help solidify a prosperous future for SoundCloud, a user-based online music distribution platform, which has recently closed two offices and laid off about 40% of its workforce in an effort to cut costs. The rant seemed to be prompted by news that Chance the Rapper is jumping in to help keep the sonic cloud in the air.
Despite the customary abrasiveness in his tone, I think deadmau5 nailed a pretty solid plan for how SoundCloud could continue to support budding artists without having to close its doors. The only catch: they might have to give up their stance as being 100% independent.
Through a series of tweets, the electronic mouse man detailed how the streaming service would need some extra cash upfront, along with a stripping-down of data collection strategy and a branding face lift. Once the silicone has dried (sorry, I don’t really understand how face lifts work), the plan would then be to farm out access to its content and user base to other independent labels based on a Creative Commons license. This is different from a standard compulsory license, which is what big hitting streamers like Spotify and Pandora use to build their content base, in that the CC license only offers a limited realm of protection, often requiring the copyright owner to relinquish any royalties from the distribution of their content. This smooths out a lot of the legal snags and allows for simpler distribution without as many disputes over how different parties will get paid. Being that artists often release their music for free to SoundCloud anyway, this sounds like it would be a relatively painless transition. The pressure would then be on those independent labels to curate the talent and market their findings into a tangible, monetizeable, and most importantly, sustainable form.
But wait, if they’re just selling to independent labels, they’re still an independent platform, right? Sure, I would agree that selling SC’s user base to indie labels to cover its costs is still totally an independent move. The problem is that most indie labels don’t have an abundant surplus of cash, and they also might not be the only ones interested in the global network of millions of users that SoundCloud has curated over almost a decade. Toting itself as “the world’s largest music and audio platform,” you’ve gotta’ imagine that the Big 4 (UMG, Sonny, WMG, EMI) would have some interest in a similar deal, not to mention the likes of Spotify, as deadmau5 alludes.
So let’s take a step back; what does any of this mean, anyway? It’s all just speculation by one internet troll, albeit a troll who’s pretty educated and experienced in the industry (even if he’s kind of a dick for no reason sometimes). Regardless of whether or not these comments will actually shape the future for SC, they do open the conversation about the fact that the “WORLD’S LARGEST MUSIC AND AUDIO PLATFORM” has a lot of key decisions to make that will affect A LOT of people and businesses, not to mention a major chunk of online music consumption as a whole. Would enough indie labels be able to scratch enough cash together to bail them out? Can they avoid the temptations of a possible offer from one of the Majors? Or does their future depend on a different business model entirely? Either way, deadmau5 isn’t going to help them. Let me know what you think they should or will do!