Why is SoundCloud the best platform for independent artists
Why is SoundCloud the best platform for independent artists?

When an artist wants to share and publish their music, they have plenty of options to choose from. You have the obvious options of Spotify, Apple music, and Bandcamp as well as any social media. But, one specific platform that is helping artists is SoundCloud. This platform went from a website where people can share their music and create a community to a platform that people have been discovered on. SoundCloud can be thanked for a lot of musicians fame. It allows users to upload their own original content and share it with the world in just a couple clicks. No distributor needed. It’s one of the best when it comes to an independent artist looking to start their career somewhere and it has been proven to work from past success stories.

Where it all started !!

It all started with Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss who wanted to create a way for people share music among other artists. At the time, there were services to share images and video but nothing primarily for sound. The goal was to help artists collaborate across the globe and develop into a sound sharing portal for millions of users. Ljung is a Swedish sound designer who used to be a marketing major from the Stockholm School of Economics and studied media technology. Wahlforss is a Swedish sound artist who was a web entrepreneur and has a BA from Sodertorn University College.This platform was founded in Sweden in 2007 and by 2008 the subscriber base already reached a million. It was then funded in 2009 by Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures who helped SoundCloud become established. This allowed SoundCloud to outgrow its competitors and become one of the top streaming applications. (Success Story).

There are a lot of unique features that SoundCloud has to offer. Free users have the ability to upload up to 180 minutes of audio on their profiles and are able to listen to unlimited audio. Their uploads have distinct URLs to make it easier to share and you even have the ability to create and join groups to make your own little community. The two very unique features offered are how audio is displayed in waveforms and the ability to comment on any particular point in the song (Success Story). Soundcloud also allows you to build a collection of your favorite recordings, is made available on mobile, and you can provide a download link with your songs so they can be available for purchase (Zapier).

Currently, there are 175 million global users, listening is available in 190 countries, and as of 2014 there were 10 million creators. Statistics show that every minute, an average of 12 hours of music are uploaded and as of 2014 there were 170 million tracks uploaded. In 2016, twitter invested 70 million dollars in the website, giving it more funding to become what it is today (Business Statistics). SoundCloud also offers different tiers when signing up. There is a freemium option where you can interact with the community and upload a total of 180 minutes of audio. Then there is a 7 dollar a month pro plan which allows a user to upload up to 360 minutes of audio and gives you additional statistics. The 15 dollar a month plan is for pro unlimited users to allow them to upload for an unlimited amount of minutes and obtain city-level stats as well as info on the sites and apps that your tracks are being played from. The $9.99 a month plan is for SoundCloud go users, which allows for an ad-free and offline listening experience along with tracks from major labels (Zappier). The only way for an artist to make money off of their SoundCloud streams is by putting ads and monetizing your SoundCloud. You have to have a “premier” plan which is unfortunately invite only. But when you are on this plan you have access to an account manager and exclusive music promo opportunities. This plan offers you to make money straight from ad firms and skip SoundCloud as a middleman (Loud sound logic).

There are a lot of features that separate this DSP from all the others. Recently, a crucial licensing deal with some of the biggest record labels was landed. This allows better networking for premier plans as well as listeners to get more songs directly from the label. As of July 2017, there were over 175 million active listeners on SoundCloud compared to Spotify’s 140 million. The way that they base their track’s rankings are on social signals and activity on the platform so that more people can play, repost, and comment when you become a higher ranking. This makes you discoverable regardless of your offline popularity. If you just decide to upload a track on Spotify but have no promotion outside of the release, there is a very good chance it won’t get any listens. However, if you upload on to SoundCloud and share it to people within the SoundCloud community, you can gain a small following within the platform. This is very favorable towards independent artists who may not have an offline presence but just have their music out. Whereas Spotify, the only way to really be discovered is to become a higher ranking and get your song on one of their playlists. With SoundCloud, you are able to establish your music career, get feedback, and have a close community rather than already having to have a following in order to get streams. SoundCloud even makes it easier to share since all you need is a link, with Spotify you either need a code or you have to search it up (SoundCloud Reviews). Additionally, SoundCloud offers you to be able to follow people and gives you explore tabs to constantly get recommendations, subscribe to artists, and access to a free to use plan. Apple music does not offer a free plan to their users and they sometimes have missing albums and tracks. You are not able to comment nor are you able to see how many people are listening(Slant).

Many success stories can be told through SoundCloud as well as unsuccessful ones. Both sides have been seen through contemporary artists as well as legacy artists. We have seen a lot of success with Adele who has been around a while in the music industry. Although she was not discovered on this platform, her songs have a lot of streams. Her first track on SoundCloud is her song “Chasing Pavements” from 10 years ago with 95.7k listens. And more recently her most popular song off her last album 2 years ago has 236k listens. All her songs are only available with SoundCloud Go Plus plans but she still as a lot of listens. Unlike the legacy artist Paul McCartney who does not do so well. His songs are also only available to Go Plus users but his most popular song on his recent album only has 8k listens compared to Adele. What’s most surprising is that a lot of his tracks only have 100–400 listens. He has been around for so long and stayed relevant all these years but never became relevant to SoundCloud listeners. A very successful contemporary artist right now due to SoundCloud is Post Malone. He released his song “White Iverson” 3 years ago. This song now has over 9 million listens and continues to grow along with the rest of his tracks. His fame grew so much from SoundCloud that he ended up beating The Beatles record of having the most top 20 hits at once. An unsuccessful contemporary artist example would the artist Vinz from Nico & Vinz. He had a good start by getting a couple of thousand listens on his tracks but he only only has 4 tracks up. He had gaps in his continuity of posting which leaves him to not gain much of a following. He has much more of a following on his joint account but his personal account and music isn’t promoted or continuous.

I conducted a small survey to see what people used as their platform and to see if they agreed that SoundCloud is the best option for independent artists. First, I asked what they primarily used to stream their music.

Although the least amount of people mainly use SoundCloud, most of them agree that the ability to comment on someone’s song is beneficial.

Whether all of them know that SoundCloud offers this or not, “yes” won the vote. I had also asked if they have a paid subscription to listen to music and only 33.3% had said “no”. Which means that it is the unpopular opinion but that percentage of people are able to use the free plan for SoundCloud. I was also curious to know which platform people thought made it easiest to discover new music.

The overwhelming consensus was Spotify. However when I asked what platform would be best for sharing your own music as an independent artist, 58.3% of people said SoundCloud was best. Which shows that this platform may not be best for listening to all the current music and discovering new songs, however it is the best at being able to build a community and gain a following.

After doing all this research, I can conclude that SoundCloud is definitely geared towards independent artists and that this is what sets it apart from all other platforms. It’s a very easy way for musicians to get discovered and many more will continue to be found on this streaming site. As more famous musicians come from this site, SoundCloud has a bright future and many opportunities to grow even more along with it’s artists.