Scary Times for Music Lovers & Artists on Soundcloud
The Potential Death of SoundCloud Should Scare Music Lovers
SoundCloud — the popular music-and-podcast service that is the closest thing on the internet to a YouTube for audio — appears to be in dire straits. Yesterday, TechCrunch reported that in an all-hands meeting this month concerning layoffs that affected 40 percent of the company’s staff, management revealed that the site only had enough runway left to get them to Q4 of this year. That’s only 50 days from now. (SoundCloud disputed the figure, telling the site it was “fully funded into Q4” and speaking with investors.)
It’s one thing if the end of SoundCloud simply meant the discontinuation of one way to listen to music — there are plenty of other ways to stream audio online, including YouTube itself. But SoundCloud hosts music, and its disappearance would mean the simultaneous disappearance of hundreds of thousands of hours of audio — music, podcasts, radio shows, random gobbledygook, all stored on SoundCloud’s no-doubt expensive servers. Just as importantly, the website’s demise would mean the end of a scene: SoundCloud is the birthplace of its own genre and musical community, a DIY branch of hip-hop so closely identified with the website that most people call it SoundCloud rap.
SoundCloud rap has gotten important enough for the New York Times to call it “the most vital and disruptive new movement in hip-hop” in a report just last month. But without SoundCloud, it’s unclear what would happen to SoundCloud rap, which has taken advantage of the platform’s bare-bones ease of use and free hand. In important ways, the service is the uncontested most popular music platform, in a very literal sense of popular. It’s for anyone, with a lower barrier to entering, uploading, sharing, and commenting than any other music service.
It’s true that SoundCloud might still be saved — it could be acquired by a larger company, or it could secure a loan or more investment.
Chance the Rapper tweeted “I’m working on the SoundCloud thing” this afternoon, so maybe he can fix it.
But while new owners or new investment might save SoundCloud the business, they wouldn’t necessarily make the archive safe.