This is really an emotional post for me, because I loved to be on Soundcloud for a long time. I met many great friends and artist and made many valuable experiences. But now I have reached a point, where I have lost the good feeling about Soundcloud. Therefore I have decided to cancel my Pro-account and also to stop my activities as an active member of the community there. There are many reasons for this and I will numerate them.
My active membership on Soundcloud started around three years ago, when Lee Lucas, one of the many artists there and soon a good friend, commented on some of my songs, which I had uploaded years ago. This comment was something like the jumpstart for my engagement on Soundcloud. Therefore I want to cite it here as a good example for the communicative atmosphere on the cloud:
Before this happened my Online-strategy was to upload songs on several platforms and to wait then for a call of an A&R from Sony or EMI, because I was sure, that this would be enough for a worldwide breakthrough as a musician. Soon I learned on Soundcloud a lot about networking, social media, and the new world of music promotion. I can honestly say, that I have learned everything there. The community of musicians on Soundcloud is special. Never before I had experienced so much support and interest from other musicians and soon I became friends with many great artists there. It’s not a wonder, that insiders call it the Soundcloud-Family, you feel like becoming a member of a big family. The principle of the community is “You get, what you put in”. Other artists hope, that you comment, like, and repost their own tracks after they have listened to your songs. This “Give and get”-method works very well to reach even impressive statistics, which can be admired within your Pro account. In the beginning of my schooling the key-element of the Soundcloud-community was commenting. You give feedback to others and also get feedback for your own music. A detailed and deep comment can cause a longer discussion in the comments-section and these discussions are the way how you meet people there and make friends. Likes and reposts and playlists are nice vehicles to push your statistics, but can not establish a personal connection. Collaborations are another great way to meet other artists there. You communicate via Direct messages or Email, you exchange files and present the result on both clouds of the collaborators. I played violin for a few artists, I wrote songs and worked with singers there, sometimes I had even three or more people involved in a collaboration. This is a lot of fun. The last two years I had a rhythm of posting one song every two weeks, so immediately when one song was published I felt motivated to work on the next one. I even planned three or four songs in advance like a schedule. Crazy, or not? Maybe a kind of addiction, but a very productive one. It also happened, that some musicians liked my work so much, that they became fans and purchased songs from me on Bandcamp and I loved also some artists that much there, that I also supported them on Bandcamp.
Okay, this sounds all like a musician’s paradise, so why I want to quit?
First Soundcloud like every other social community is a closed system. If you put a lot of effort in comments and feedback the effort is only visible within the community. If you put a lot of effort in a blog-post like this one you will reach probably more people, because the article is searchable on google etc. So if you are happy with your success on Soundcloud stay there, but maybe it’s worth and thrilling to go outside and to widen your reach as an artist. I realized this, when I searched google for some well-known artists of the Soundcloud-community, artists, which are a kind of a legend there, and I did not found anything on the web except their Soundcloud-profile. Not a single article somewhere, no recordings on well-known platforms, just nothing. I understood, that their reputation just existed within the Soundcloud eco-system, nowhere else. And what would happen, when Soundcloud would close its doors?
What’s about the people there, which are not musicians?
Are there real listeners, who could become a fan of your music? Yes, there are listeners. When I look at my statistics and some playlists, which were created with songs from me, I see accounts without tracks and only a few or no followers. Soundcloud stated in 2014, that they have 175 Million users. On the other hand they have 10 Million music creators. So the majority of users on Soundcloud must be listeners, though I believed a long time, that I am just surrounded by musicians there. From 2014 to present I got 336k plays, a highly impressive number, and I often opened my statistics and admired those impressive numbers again and again. It took some time before a doubt lurked in my mind. Within three years I have not recognized any impact from a pure listener. In the Soundcloud Eco-system a listener should be encouraged to write comments. But the only people writing comments there are the fellow musicians, which also expecting comments on their own tracks. I hardly remember any comment from a listener in three years, maybe one or two times a “Great” or “This sucks”, but not more. I also tried three years to convert a listener there to a real fan. I set links to Bandcamp, my homepage and other resources about heartscore. I know from articles, that it’s hard to direct somebody to an external site, especially from a big closed system like Soundcloud. You have the same problem on Facebook, because people want to stay within Facebook and expect, that you give them your content there. But if I reach 30000 or 50000 plays on a track (and I reached these numbers sometimes) I would expect a relation of numbers and conversion. For an example when you send a newsletter you can expect, that maybe 10% open the newsletter and 1% will click on the link. But meanwhile I have the impression, that there is no conversion-rate on Soundcloud, because I have not registered a reaction of any normal listener there except musicians:
- Nobody from Soundcloud has ever contacted me there or through other channels to praise or critic my music
- Nobody joined my newsletter
- Nobody bought songs on Bandcamp nor downloaded there free tracks
But when I set up a track on Soundcloud for a free download it was downloaded many times. Though there are many people listening to my songs I see nothing as a result outside the Soundcloud-system.
The community of musicians on Soundcloud has changed.
If you exchange detailed comments and feedback with like-minded artists you can benefit from experience and knowledge of others. In the comments you discuss problems of the mix, arrangement and you can test, if people like your work. Actually I observe, that this fertile exchange of knowledge and even the communication at all is decreasing. When I started on Soundcloud I had long discussions within the comments-section. Sometimes even other people joined the discussion. It changed, when more and more Soundcloud-artists started to promote their tracks on Facebook. The discussions about tracks have moved to Facebook and it’s useless to make the same discussion twice, on Facebook and Soundcloud. Meanwhile there are only a few people, who go further than just to leave short unspecific comments. Mostly you can even not decide, if the commenter has listened just to the first second of your track. Unfortunately Soundcloud counts a simple click on “Play” as a full Play of the song. Youtube for an example measures how far you have watched and listened a video. If Soundcloud would want to raise the quality-level they could count a Play just for a full stream and allow comments after a full stream. I have heard from older members, that in the beginning of Soundcloud (they call it the Classic Soundcloud, which was replaced, when I started there) the whole community was focused on communication, comments and collaborations. I started at the end of this legendary Classic-phase and with the release of the Repost-feature artists jumped on this train and tried to push their tracks with as many reposts as possible. “I repost yours, you repost mine”. I also followed this new tactic and reposted and reposted. At last it’s just a very boring click-feast. The value of a Repost faded away as soon as people reposted hundreds of songs each day. Meanwhile I guess, that the life-span of a Repost is not longer than a Tweet on Twitter. In the past I recognized a benefit from a repost because of two or three comments more after it. Today I can not see a relation anymore between the amount of reposts and the plays. My average amount of reposts is between 100 and 160 maybe, but if I have two songs with a similar amount of reposts one gets 2000 plays and one gets 10000. So reposts are getting useless. After the repost-wave the playlists appeared. People create playlists of songs from other artists and encourage everybody on the list to support it. Therefore the playlists are often very long, up to 200 tracks sometimes. I still remember the times of the mixtapes in the 80s and 90s, when you recorded a collection of songs on a cassette and put some effort into the selection and the order of the tracks to create an inner cohesion and structure. I can still not see the sense of playlists with 200 songs of different genres. But I was also a part of this method and took the opportunity of pushing the plays of my tracks. All these repost for repost and playlist-strategies are comparable with a snowball-system and often the people, who set up the playlists, are the ones, who get the highest benefit, because their tracks are on the top position. I exclude here amazing and helpful artists like Sam Prock and Couch King Presents, who put a lot of effort in playlists of other artists without any ulterior motive. However there is no artistic value in long playlists. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against a network of like-minded artists, which support each other, but I can not recognise a countable effect for me as an artist. As I stated above plays on Soundcloud seem not related to anything outside Soundcloud.
The artists get nothing from Soundcloud.
A few months ago I read an article, where the author asked, why on Soundcloud artists pay for the service and not the listeners. This is the key question. And the worse message is, that I get not much back for the money I pay for a Pro account. Let’s take a closer look: On Spotify I get royalties and a much more professional environment. Getting a slot on an official Spotify playlist will have an enormous impact there and also outside. All older and newer famous musicians are on Spotify and though Soundcloud struggles to compete with Spotify and Apple music they are far away from this goal. On bandcamp I get email-addresses to feed my mailing list even if I give away all music free. An Email is still the most valuable thing for an emerging artist. You can stay connected with the listener and you are not dependent on a third party platform.
Since Soundcloud launched its Soundcloud Premier program I wait for the roll out to all artists there.
The program started years ago and I still wait for an invitation, though I set my name on the waiting list. So I get no royalties as a creator, while artists of big labels get them since years. Soundcloud says, that they support emerging artists. In fact they charge them and are not willing to give anything back. Of course you will also not get rich from the royalties on Spotify, but for me this is a question of principle. Therefore the only benefit from Soundcloud could be to direct people to destinations outside: To my homepage, bandcamp and Spotify. Now take a look on my statistics on bandcamp (last thirty days):
You see, that most people come from other origins. They come from direct links, google searches, my blog, articles written by me for a magazine. Though the traffic I generate on Soundcloud is much higher than on any other source Soundcloud is just on rank 7. So an article on this blog, which is less effort than writing thousands of comments on Soundcloud, drives more traffic to bandcamp. As a consequence I should write more blog-posts and not be on more playlists on SoundCloud and write more comments there.
The company Soundcloud is a mess.
Maybe my loyalty for Soundcloud would be higher, if they would not act like a chaotic bunch of adolescents. What makes me upset?
- Their embedded widgets are useless for a blog since they try to direct listeners to their site. Whenever you hit “Stop” on the widget it says “Hear more on Soundcloud”. Do I want to send people away from my blog to Soundcloud? Nope.
- Whenever I tried to reach the customer service I got automated replies, which send me to the FAQ or the user-forum. A customer service simply doesn’t exist there.
- The stream is useless, because it’s flooded with reposts. Why they don’t implement a possibility to switch off reposts? Twitter offers this …
- Why should I pay for a Pro account, if I can have the same free? Many artists set up different accounts to get more upload-space and use different accounts to support their main channel and to repost the tracks of others. While in my opinion there is no sense in a repost-channel a paying user is feeling strange. Soundcloud should limit the free tier much more.
- All charts of Soundcloud are ridiculous. I observed a nonsense-track with just noise on the first rank of the classical charts and it was not removed by the Soundcloud-Staff. I have the impression, that there is no quality-control anywhere and every time I look on the charts I am embarrassed by the unprofessional selection. The track on rank 1 and all other tracks of CokeStudio are not bad at all, but not classical. I would label it as Worldmusic. Though Beethoven “Für Elise” is classical music, the track was uploaded by a totally unknown guy, while there are many recordings of famous piano-players available.
- Soundcloud’s audio quality is very poor. While Apple music is already talking about high resolution streaming Soundcloud seems to be the worst platform out there regarding sound quality, a shame for a platform focused on audio
- At last I don’t believe meanwhile, that Soundcloud will survive on the Streaming-battlefield. Maybe it had been better to keep Soundcloud smaller and to focus on the artists, maybe charging them all and to save the good reputation. But I have not studied economics and can not criticize Soundcloud for the decision to enter the streaming market. Maybe they had no other choice. But if you make this decision you have to make it professional and competitive. If I compare Soundcloud with its competitors from a listeners perspective they loose.
What happens, if you are not active on Soundcloud?
A good test, if you really have an audience on Soundcloud is to stop all activities there. How many people still listen to your songs, if you don’t support other artist’s tracks and don’t join playlists? I stopped on Soundcloud for just fourteen days and the result is quite disillusioning:
The plays dropped significantly. This is also caused because I have not posted a new track since more than fourteen days and this is another downside of Soundcloud: The whole platform and also the users are focused on new tracks. Nobody cares about older songs (okay, some people do, but the system doesn’t support it; who takes the effort to scroll through dozens of tracks on your profile?)
Time for other music
Unfortunately I can not do all at once. Writing comments and listening to tracks on Soundcloud is very time-consuming, because I always listen to the complete track, I read the description, I read the lyrics. I have always the goal to give a constructive and deep feedback for a track. Meanwhile I am a bit tired of listening to music of other emerging artists. You can discover amazing unknown music on Soundcloud, but you go also through mediocre tracks and ditties and genres, which I not prefer normally. At last I miss to listen more to the music of my old idols like Queen, The Who and Steely Dan and I also start to explore new professional released music on Spotify. I stopped in the middle of the 90s to explore new music and now I get interested again to discover new artists. And if I listen and support other emerging little artists like myself I want to do this elsewhere, on Youtube for an example. Therefore the decision to leave Soundcloud is also a decision to set other priorities.
What will I keep from Soundcloud?
I don’t regret the time on Soundcloud. I met many wonderful people and though I am leaving the cloud I will stay connected to many of them on Facebook and other platforms. During my active time I always tried to connect to people on all social media, because a good friend on Soundcloud will also be a good friend on Twitter or Youtube. I will keep hopefully the core of my Soundcloud-friends and will support them on other platforms. Maybe I will write reviews or articles about some of them.
My subscription for the Pro account will end on May 14th 2017
If you have read this long and whiny blog-article and you are shedding tears and you think you will miss my presence on Soundcloud you should connect with me on