Three Reasons Why SoundCloud Isn’t Helping Artist Careers…

The following comes from Thomas van Wijk, founder and CEO of Songflow, who outlines three key reasons why Soundcloud won’t help your music career.  Thomas’ startup, Songflow, is focused on building solutions to solve these (and other) problems for the independent artist.

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Don’t get me wrong.  I like SoundCloud a lot.  They provide some powerful tools for sharing music online and connecting with listeners. It’s no wonder 180 million people actively use the platform.  However, for artists seeking to boost their career in music Soundcloud’s strength is also it’s biggest downfall.

We live in a world where attention is everything.  It’s the most sought after and scarce value driver for any online media/entertainment business.  Yes, that includes you: the musician, band member, producer or artist manager.

SoundCloud is so broadly accepted that it should play a significant role in the discovery of upcoming artists. Yet I’ve never heard of a success story from SoundCloud as we did in the days of MySpace.

Thinking about this problem I finally came up with three reasons why relying on Soundcloud isn’t helping your music career and what you can do about it today:

1. Too much music

It’s said that users upload 10 hours of audio to SoundCloud every minute.  Almost all the artists I ask use the service.  Now, think about your prospective fans.

Are they exclusively listening to new artists on SoundCloud?  

Do they magically discover your songs while surfing the platform?

Sharing your tracks on SoundCloud might be convenient, but it’s hardly a unique selling point if millions are doing the same thing every day.

2. Where’s the money?

SoundCloud doesn’t provide a way for artists to get paid for the use of their recordings.  Services such as Spotify, Deezer, and Rdio account for every stream.  So, in addition to being valuable to listeners they also provide an income for content providers.

I don’t mean this to attack SoundCloud in any way, but music streaming is the fastest growing market in digital music sales.  It has already taken over downloads as the dominant type of music service in some European countries and will continue to take over the world in the coming years.  Artists who take their career seriously and want to be discovered should try to create maximum value around their content and fan base.

So if that means shifting your sharing activities to more commercial social music services, then go for it!

3. Reach out to streaming subscribers

Who do you want to have as fans?  The answer is premium subscribers to streaming services: loyal active music lovers who pay ten bucks each month to have unlimited access to the world’s greatest music.

For example: I use Spotify.  I pay for it.  Think about the work I have to do to come to your SoundCloud page and listen to your tracks.  My phone is already filled with offline playlists.

Remember: attention is everything in today’s online music market.  Make it easy for me and the 20+ million other subscribers by distributing your content to a service I actively enjoy and use, not just one you find easy and is free to work with.

Building solutions

I know it’s not easy to deal with the technical, legal and financial issues of a full-blown digital release.  It might even be a bit scary to reach out beyond your own social circle.  I often meet artists who dream of “making it” in music, but with no clue on how to get there.

I founded Songflow to help those artists with a simple solution.  I hope you’ll experience it for yourself at 

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Thomas van Wijk 

Founder and CEO, Songflow

49 Responses

  1. david@indigoboom

    Soundcloud is useful for musicians as a workflow tool during writing and pre-production(sharing mixes discussing arrangments etc.) and most professional users have no expectation of discovery on Soundcloud. Quite the contrary in fact, since one main feature is the ability to control who hears your stream.

  2. Carl Jacobson [PreSonus]

    From personal experience, I’ve discovered new artists on SoundCloud and I’ve later paid money for their recordings or attended their live shows.
    That said, I think the biggest problem with Soundcloud is that most artists don’t work to capture fans they get there, or worse, give away music as a download on the service which doesn’t ask for an email address in exchange for the download (hello 1990s!)
    What many artists don’t realize, is that you can add a Buy button on Soundcloud and it’s relatively easy. I wrote a tip about it here:

    • Andrew B. White

      So I need people’s email addresses if they DL my music?
      Why? So I can harass them?
      I want people to like it, listen or even buy it if they like. They can find me again later if they wish – that’s called being a fan.
      I can’t stand having to give my email over for a DL so why should I ask for someone’s if they like my music?

      Can we just forget all this fan reach stuff for a moment?

  3. Visitor

    The author is an aggregator for streaming& download services, he has an agenda to push, mainly leave Soundcloud and pay him to put your music on Spotify.

  4. jelnet

    Soon I think there’ll be as many new online music promo services as there are online artists … :-|

  5. Longtime SoundCloud User

    The user interface is so confusing, I really have no idea how to “discover” new music there.
    SoundCloud has become an amazing tool for recording song ideas and posting them online for my bandmates check out. Beyond that, it’s a confusing mess.
    There is too much music out there (and other service making it easy to find) for any fan to want to wade through a difficult interface to look for music they haven’t heard.

  6. Andrew B. White

    This articale reads like baloney to me.
    My personal experience from both having a Pro Soundcloud account for my own music and discovering/listening to new music is that it is the best paltform around (right now).
    I have had far more listens, likes and downloads on SC and the ability to share and interact with other users (simply) is great.

    Soundcloud is not the same stupid social forum like Facebook where you have to wade through all sorts of junk. Soundcloud is about music – pure and simple.
    Sure the UI experience is (and has been) a bit clunky.
    I have found a lot if really great new music on Soundcloud from a a variety of artists – established or otherwise and I have purchased their music where available (links to Bandcamp, iTunes etc). It has inspired me in fact.
    To me the likes of Bandcamp is way more clunkier as a discovery platform for music.
    MySpace – what?
    ReverbNation? Horrible.
    MusicXray / Sonicbids type services for artists – gahhh!

    So we need another guy with his own ‘music discovery’ platform telling us how it is? Lots of tech speak about ‘reaching out to fans’ and other interweb utopian key words. I’m over it.

    Soundcloud works just fine for me and many others thanks very much.

  7. hippydog

    Because of the way its set up (and the way its being used), SoundCloud is kinda horrible at music discovery..
    I was surprised my self as the original description of it seemed pretty awesome.. DJ’s could upload mixes with the artists and song titles showing up as a person listened.. it originally seemed like a GREAT curation, discovery tool..
    Reality is it kinda sucks :-(
    If your looking for the newest EDM songs, sure.. they are there.. but everything else? doesnt seem like it.. I’m probably just being an old fogey, but it just seems like a huge collection of DJ’s doing mashups, and bad mixes..
    just sayin..
    in my opinion, the problem with it is its primarily being used by DJ’s (thats not the problem though).. The PROBLEM is those same dj’s are sourcing their music from the usual place (terrestrial radio) ..
    So it just becomes a bad distorted reflection of whats already out there..
    Having said that.. for artists using it to share and test out different songs & mixes, and accompaniments, etc etc, between fellow artist, its pretty awesome..
    But as a curation or music discover tool? not so much..

  8. Christine Ben-Ameh

    I went to the Songflow Website after reading this article and decided to go over their terms and conditions. On the surface they sound like the long awaited Saviour of Artistes all over the world but, the more you read along you realize they are singing you to hell with Mariah Carey’s voice.
    Why pay annual fees when I can distribute with JTV Digital and pay no annual (or monthly) fees? I Distribute my music with JTV Digital-they offer me sound advice as regards DIY indie artiste promotion and most importantly have their terms and conditions aptly spelt out in brief summary and in very simple English.
    You say you have never heard about a success story from Soundcloud. That depends on your measure of what success is. As an indie artiste I met one of my producers and a DJ via Soundcloud.I have not gotten this much production work done in such little time (a space of 2 months). Networking is a major tool on the road to success don’t you think?
    So you say Soundcloud does not create a way to get artistes paid-I disagree. What is the ‘buy link’ option for? Say you connect to Soundcloud via facebook and twitter you already have a network to poach your sounds to. All you need is a clever way to draw them in.

  9. DUDE

    As a standalone self-promotional tool Soundcloud is pretty terrible and its definitely not billing itself as a way for artists to make money directly or even distribute their music on a grand scale, but its a pretty great way to host sound files and share them places where people ARE looking to discover music
    I would never expect to get discovered straight up on Soundcloud but if I was looking to push my music to labels or the press or give away a free track to my (hypothetical) fanbase or get feedback on a work in progress or host a teaser clip of some forthcoming material to share, Id need to host the file someplace and Soundcloud would be immensely helpful in those situations
    Youre getting mad at a tool because it doesnt do things its clearly not designed to do… would you say a hammer is a bad tool because it cant cut through a board? Didnt think so

  10. Polaske

    Soundcloud is an awesome tool artists should definitely be utilizing (dependign on your genre). It should by no means be the only tool you are using (postign your music), but it should be one of them. If you make edm music and you are not on soundcloud you’re a nobody.

  11. CarvinAbuser

    I know that some labels and publishers accept demo submissions via SoundCloud.

  12. joseph Nicoletti Consulting-pr

    the Future is here,..ALL Exposure is “GOOD”…i wise person once said ! a terrible thing will happen if you do not Promote your self or your Product,.. “NOTHING”…talk about all you want !..,.”BUT” Do Promotion every way you can !.. have any Questions ? Joseph Nicoletti Consulting/Promotion office 949-715-5382

  13. D3 ltd

    We are currently working on a specific system to address this global issues. Artist, record labels versus consumers and revenues
    Cant tell you more has we are in development fase but watch this space

    • Visitor

      This article loses some credibility soon as you get to the end but as an artist, I will say that Soundcloud has been an amazing tool for building my fanbase. Here’s why. I do a lot of “remixes” to popular songs which I WANT to offer as a free download. Not of collecting emaila so I simply use a “tweet to download” service or like on Facebook to download service which is highly effective. A few of myoriginals even have a pay button to either iTunes or I simply upload a snippet and then have a button to stream it fully on Spotify. Simple.

      Soundcloud as an artist discovery tool has some improving to do BUT a majority of my fans have discovered me through Soundclouds “Groups” and I have been posted to countless blogs EASILY from Soundcloud discoveries alone. They even have great analytics allowing me to see who my to fans are and who plays songs the most. I then reach out to them and build on that relationship. Does that not help my career? The ultimate benefit is when people with large followers REPOST one of my songs (Ie. A popular DJ pr even a superuser). BOOM all their followers open their mobile soundcloud app and guess what? I’m discovered effortlessly.
      Worrying about selling music right now isn’t the main focus as I could more than likely sell a t shirt for 10 dollars to those same fans easier than I could a song for 99 cents. That should be every artists goal if money is the issue. Alternate revenue streams.
      Ultimately it’s about the time and effort put in and what your goals are. I myself have a long way to go I can’t lie. Go discover me. Artist name is Hans Inglish.
      P.S. The new Myspace is a great discovery tool…just saying lol

      • Hans Inglish

        Another point. My single ‘Dance Druggie’ sans real promotion (Just sitting on my page) has received over 10,000 plays vs. the same song which is also on Spotify with no promotion getting 197 streams total. Why? Because I’m basically getting discovered more on Soundcloud. Period

  14. GGG

    Or just because Soundcloud is simply where most people host stuff, not interact beyond a quick “Hey bro, sick beat!”

    I’m sure there’s examples of plenty of DJs who have linked to a Soundcloud page from Facebook or some DJ message board and got a ton of hits. Just like a very large percentage of viral youtube views probably happen from people linking to it via social media, email, etc. Though, yes, YouTube’s homepage is significant, as well. But the point still stands.

    • tom

      I agree! Soundcloud is a great medium for just hosting the music in general. It helps when analyzing plays too and keeps everything in “one place” (BandPage on Facebook for example) on top of being a great tool for providing a direct widget for songs on websites, presskits, etc.

  15. Minneapolis Musician

    This: too much music.
    Face it: it’s pretty easy to make enjoyable pop music today.
    Now you have all the loops, effects presets, track presets, song “construction kits”. Drag and drop, tweak buttons and sliders until it sounds catchy. Chant a bit and drop Autotune on it.
    With a mouse click, put it up on Soundcloud alongside with the several songs you did yesterday. And the 25 you did last month.
    Multiple this by a million “artists” with a laptop (or iphone, or iPad) and an Internet connection.
    You have to do something different from this, and locate your audience. It is not easy.

    • Visitor

      “it’s pretty easy to make enjoyable pop music today.”
      You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried.
      The pop music people enjoy is harder to invent than ever before, given the rapidly diminishing number of available and pleasant note sequences — and way more expensive to produce than in the past.
      And here’s what you completely fail to address (and probably to understand):
      That kind of music — the enjoyable kind, the popular kind — can not be financed by streaming!

      • GGG

        Here we go again. Visitor up on his pedastal of “oh, I’m such a tortured genius artist…!” Give us a break.
        I’m sure it took months to write the lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop.”
        Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
        Hands in the air like we don’t care
        Cause we came to have so much fun now
        Bet somebody here might get some now
        Deep, man. And so poetic.

        • Little G

          ^^^ this guy, he’s funny. Also, seems like the only person on this site with any common sense.
          I’d like to think Paul isn’t nearly the yellow journalist drama queen that is he plays on this blog and masqarades as GGG in the comments.

          • Paul Resnikoff

            Thanks for those kind words. No, that’s someone else masquerading as GGG.

          • Yves Villeneuve

            Hey Lucien Grainge, is that you masquerading as GGG and that’s why you are so gung ho about streaming?

          • Yves Villeneuve

            Let me correct my English: “gung ho on streaming”.

          • Yves Villeneuve

            Sorry, “Lucian Grainge”, my French kicked-in again. Maybe it’s Doug Morris pretending to be Lucian Grainge masquerading as GGG, with Lucian’s approval. Doubt it could be Stephen Cooper.

          • GGG

            I think your mom forgot to bring your meds in again, Yves.
            I assure you I am nobody remotely famous or important outside my little musical ecosystem at the moment.
            And I advocate for Spotify for the same exact reasons people like Visitor are OK with YouTube! Some of you are just too dumb to realize it. Here’s some more numbers. Visitor says streaming only matters if you can get to 100-200M plays. That Lumineers song has 85M on Spotify. That’s 85M will the inflated 30M user figure Spotify spits out. Now, imagine play counts for hits if it was open to more countries and more of the music industry actually embraced it! Imagine 30M ACTUAL users. How bout 50M? Oh, but the pay is too low! Yea…they should be more like YouTube…oh wait, YouTube pays even shittier!

          • Yves Villeneuve

            What gets me is that some people like you promote Spotify over Rhapsody when the latter is in as many countries as the former but pays twice as much. WAKE UP.

          • GGG

            I don’t promote Spotify OVER Rhapsody. For one, Spotify is just sort of the synecdoche for the idea of streaming that I use, as it’s the most commonly used name. Secondly, going off that, Spotify just has bigger name recognition due to a bigger press push. So it’s not that I’m anti Rhapsody. Just that nobody ever talks about it on here.
            But if my endorsement will help business:
            “Rhapsody is cool because streaming is cool and they pay more than Spotify!” – GGG, Digital Music News commenter

          • Yves Villeneuve

            Another one for the history books. Rhapsody better than Spotify. We agree.

          • Tune Hunter

            His digital right hand, Francis Keeiling, is the biggest streaming lover! and if left alone he will KILL music sales within 5 years, both brick and iTune style.

  16. Visitor

    “We live in a world where attention is everything.”
    That was true until around 2003.
    Here is the new maxime: Attention is worthless, unless you get it in doses over 20m+ eyeballs.
    To understand that fact is one of the biggest challenges artists face today.
    Fame is as tempting as it ever was — but it’s much easier to achieve.
    And you know what happens to items that used to be rare but suddenly becomes easy to achieve.

    They don’t pay your bills anymore.

  17. Visitor

    “Who do you want to have as fans?”
    People who buy my songs.
    Everybody else can take a hike.

    • Visitor

      “Contempt for the audience, that’s what killed Dennis Day”

  18. Reason #4

    Not only does SoundCloud NOT pay per stream, as has been pointed out, but you actually PAY them if you want to post a lot of music or allow it to be downloaded a lot.
    In a world where Artists are complaining about the pittence they get from streaming services, ts kind of ironic that so many of them happily pay SoundCloud.
    Maybe Spotfy should start charging artists by the stream for the ‘promotional value’ that it creates? Perhaps Artists will line up in droves to do that and won’t complain about it – like they already do on SoundCloud.

  19. Minneapolis guest

    From Songflow’s terms and conditions,
    “You authorize Songflow to make and perform full-length promotional clips of your Song(s) via streaming or download free of charge… to promote the band, artist and/or exploitation of applicable Song(s). Said Clips may be created by Songflow or any third party affiliated with Songflow.”
    Excellent, I hadn’t considered giving my songs away as a form of promotion. Maybe I could also gig for free.

    • Thomas van Wijk | Founder Song

      There are a couple of reasons why we ask this permission from artists and it’s NOT to give away your music for free to just anyone on the web. What would we gain by doing that? Songflow’s value to artists is that you can sell, share and promote your music exclusively (or not) by using popular commercial music services that have an ever increasing amount of paying customers. 62% of people on the internet use some form of licensed music service. In today’s music industry understanding this is vital for the success of any music career.
      That said. There will always be some struggle to find a balance between free promotion and paid usage. Some digital stores offer free pre-listen streams. Like iTunes 90 sec. Those rights are covered in the clause you mentioned.
      Also on we chart upcoming artists from within the Songflow community. There’s one featured song available to stream and the rest links to your Spotify Catalog. Our presumption is that streaming subscribers will much rather open the Spotify link that staying on our site. Is this a fair balance between free and paid? Give us your thoughts.
      We actively engage with music professionals to support talent within our community. I’m sure you don’t mind giving away a free download of your song to a radio station if they want to give it airplay, right?
      Remember Songflow is a startup company. I come from the same background as many artists using the platform. Instead of posing we’ve build a know-it-all super idea that will make everybody famous. Which is absolutely riduculous because we all know only 5% makes it to any kind of sustainable career. Songflow is about building solutions that let you focus on the important stuff: Making music and connecting with fans. All because I truly believe there’s no way I, nor any label exec or gatekeeper, can judge who’s going to be the next big thing by the songs they post on Soundcloud (or Bandcamp…). It all lies in the hands of artists, their fans and in the way they interact.
      So I say: stop excusing and start socializing your music ;-)

      • KT

        You raise valid points ‘why’ not to use soundCloud….however, your site is no better if you expect artists to agree in allowing you to use their music for free for ‘promotional purposes’.
        Do the right thing and workout a ‘blanket license’ with your relevant PRO so that artists receive the royalties that they’re entitled to.
        Failing to do this will lose you any credibility that you have, in wanting to help the artist.

      • Antinet

        Your company sucks. I can go to a multiple of agents, and if what I have is any better than the ocean of dreck being made by hacks that can’t sing, write original songs, play instruments, and properly record and mix, then they will place me in a multitude of distribution situations of my choosing for not much money, and if what I give them is great, they will work on helping me. Since I know how to approach college and indie radio, and place a decent video online, those are still as good a promotion venue as any. Noone needs your copyright-hijacking service. Go sell your wares elsewhere.

      • Visitor

        “Some digital stores offer free pre-listen streams. Like iTunes 90 sec.”
        Yes, the audience already have free access to everything they want from YouTube and iTunes.
        And that’s one of the many reasons why your service will fail.
        You want to make money off of musicians?
        Here’s what you wanna do: Find a new way to stop Mainstream Piracy.
        Nothing else matters in music biz today.

        • Tune Hunter

          Brilliant! We have to switch to Discovery Moment Monetization.
          Get the cash when they hear it first time. Shazam, Soundhound, Gracenote – BUY ONLY! Lyrics ID – buy only. Than limit display info on the radio (Pandora nad XM including) and you have end of piracy.
          Labels have to bribe those entities so the will see first time profit and stop leaching on investors. If the get same procent as old margin on CDs for Walmart or Bestbuy free will be gone and we will add to iTunes few billion dollar retaileres!

          • GGG

            Nobody will use this. The second someone charges me to find out the name of the song is the second I tell everyone I know that that app is the worst piece of shit I’ve ever dealt with.

          • Tune Hunter

            You will have no choice, if they recognize this oportunity they will bribe any service provider to work for them and own profit, not for free for freeloader. It is very simple and logical.
            Why would somone keep operating million dollar servers with constantly updated database forever for free at the investors expense!

          • Tune Hunter

            Can you tell me why Shazam is free? I realy want to know. Why they are so dumb? – both Shazam and labels!
            With current iTune pricing Shazam could make $.3 a tune and be the lowest cost retailer. If they retain only 10% of the users with very moderate promotion they will be over billion in actual sales in 24 months.

          • GGG

            No, I’d have a few other choices. Asking the person next to me. Going to the jukebox to see the name. Googling a couple lyrics. There’s probably more.
            It’s free because they wanted numbers to sell ads. I’m not saying your idea is bad in the business sense, but it’s simply looking up a song. People will not like that, it’s ridiculous. Imagine getting charged by to look up hotel rates or airfare.

          • Tune Hunter

            The case of friend telling you what it is would make very small contribution to piracy.
            If labels treat any ID guy (also lyrics ID) as generous as old brick operators in the past nobody will do it for free, I mean nobody, including Google lyrics – Google is very greedy!
            So it should be up to labels to send dogs and sign-up and clad with GOLD any capable ID percolation.
            Discovery Moment Monetization!

          • GGG

            What? Shazam has links to YouTube and iTunes when you tag something, not torrentz and piratebay…
            Shazam makes it 0% easier to pirate a song as your friend telling you the name. How can you possibly come to that conclusion?