Three Reasons Why SoundCloud *Is* Helping Artist Careers…

The following guest retort comes from the founder and CEO of JTV Digital, Jeremie Varengo.  It’s a direct response to this post from Songflow CEO Thomas van Wijk, who flatly questions whether SoundCloud is helping musicians at all.

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Just like Thomas, I like SoundCloud a lot.

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But I felt compelled to write this post as a reply to Thomas’ arguments against the usage of Soundcloud for the indie artist.  (@Thomas, no ill feelings at all, I just wanted to express my point of view which is obviously different than yours!)

In my opinion, SoundCloud is a great music discovery service and also a toolbox for the artists, record labels, and producers that use it.

Please allow me elaborate a bit on this:

1. There’s *never enough* music

We all live and breathe music, always.  Music is everywhere: in the streets, on TV, on the radio.  Nowadays, the place where kids listen to music is the web.

In that light, SoundCloud is great for discovering new music, including totally unknown material you’d never have a chance to listen to anywhere else.

And, since SoundCloud is a free platform, people/artists/everybody can upload any type of sounds, noises, music, or anything.

(Even though users can sign up for paying plans, I don’t believe the majority of users actually pay for using Soundcloud (please correct me if I’m wrong)). 

So yes, the direct consequence is that there’s a lot of crap out there.  BUT, there are plenty of great musical pieces to discover.

For record labels, music producers, audio engineers or artists, Soundcloud is also a toolbox.

You can share tracks or stems privately, and for free.  And there are multiple applications to this:

(a) for the audio mastering engineer, sending the mastered tracks to clients for approval

(b) for the record labels, producers and artists: exchange on demo material / versions or unfinished tracks for review

(c) for the musicians working from different places in the world (or in a given country): share their stems, get feedback from other band members…

The possibilities are endless.

2. Artists can make money on SoundCloud.

Soundcloud won’t make you rich, at least not directly.

(but maybe it’ll make you famous!)

(a) The Soundcloud player allows you to add your buy links.

What other services offers the option to listen and browse a complete track, then get the option to purchase it, without being annoyed by unsolicited audio or visual ads?  For artists who want to tease their upcoming album or single, they can (for example) offer an excerpt or a few tracks exclusively on SoundCloud.  Then, by using the “buy links,” fans will reach the iTunes pre-order page.

(b) Then there is the question of the “royalties” (royalties as a generic term here):

In terms of artists royalties: no, you won’t get any since SoundCloud is a free service and there are no ads.  However, we could ask the question of whether or not the artists should receive a percentage on the paying subscribers fees.  But how would you calculate this?  It sounds a little nightmarish!

In terms of performance and mechanical royalties: in theory, there should be some.  For an unknown reason (to date), SoundCloud does not seem to be paying the collecting societies (PROs, HFA… etc.)  I have reached out to SACEM (since I’m French, sorry for this!) and SoundCloud to find out.

To be continued…

3. SoundCloud lets artists reach out to the WORLD

Unlike Spotify, Deezer, Rdio or any other streaming service, SoundCloud does not suffer from territorial limitations.  Anyone can access the service, from anywhere (I haven’t tested SoundCloud from North Korea, but who knows?)

As a listener, this is a relief since you can get access to a huge library of music (some numbers were already provided in the initial post), for free, anytime, anywhere.

Which means that as an artist, wherever you are living – Africa, India, Europe, USA – you can get your music uploaded, for free, and reach millions of potential listeners.

You will not be excluded because you live in a country where there aren’t any digital distribution services available.

Potential improvements

The intial post mentioned solutions, but I’ll go for improvements since there is no “problem” here imho, so no “solution” is required.

(a) To be fair, SoundCloud should be paying their fees to collecting societies so that songwriters can get their legally owed share.

(b) SoundCloud should be easier to use for newbies, the process is sometimes tedious and the user interface can sometimes be a bit confusing.

Anyway, with JTV Digital we are working on connecting our digital distribution platform to SoundCloud via their API, which would allow all our clients to get their sounds to SoundCloud as easily as if they were pushing their songs to iTunes, Spotify and others.

(And to be fair, I should mention that CDBaby already offers this option – so let’s do it as well since it’s a great feature!)

I hope you will consider a completely different perspective on SoundCloud, and embrace the possibilities!

Jeremie Varengo

Founder, CEO

JTV Digital

10 Responses

  1. Visitor

    lol @ #2. The only thing with a lower CTR than a Soundcloud buy link is a buy link in a Youtube description.
    And “it’s hard to calculate royalties” really doesn’t seem like a good reason not to share existing revenue with the artists which are the sole reason people use their damn site.

  2. GGG

    There’s never enough good music. Unfortunately, most people don’t write good music.
    Anyway, SoundCloud is as good/bad as literally every other music platform that has, does or will exist. You stick your music up and pray people hear it and like it. It comes down to human interaction whether you’re on SoundCloud or YouTube or Facebook or throwing CDs at strangers on the street.

  3. Visitor

    Although I don’t create music, I think SoundCloud is a great tool for creators to share their material, especially those musicians who work in non-traditional mediums. For whatever reason, I’ve recently gotten into video game scores as for more and more games the music needs to be just as compelling as the story and gameplay. Usually, this music can only be experienced within the confines of the game itself when sitting on the couch at home, but I’ve found that Soundcloud gives musicians the ability to share this music to people who otherwise may never hear it. For example, Austin Wintory recently won mulitple awards for his work on the game Journey, which came out as a Sony Playstation exclusive title. I own an Xbox, so there was no way for me to even experience the game, much less the music (which I’ve been told is the main reason that makes the game so compelling). However, I still wanted to hear the music since I had heard so many fantastic reviews, so I turned to Soundcloud. I was not only able to find the Journey soundtrack but soundtracks from previous/upcoming projects by Wintory. I’ve even found that some game composers actively promote their music by linking to Soundcloud in social media to get their music out. I have to assume that they are getting paid up front straight from the game developer/publisher, but with the narrow exposure that brings, Soundcloud allows them a platform to further promote to a broader audience for music that they’ve already been paid for.

  4. Thomas van Wijk

    Hey Jeremie,
    Thanks for following up on my post. I think our two stories go hand in hand. You give some clear insights on the cool stuff artists can do with Soundcloud. Let me be clear. I’ve never said artist shouldn’t use Soundcloud OR that they should completely remove it from the mix once they’ve moved to more “broader” type of digital distribution.
    With songflow artists can publish their songs to YouTube with 1 click, because everything said about discovery on Soundcloud is 10x on YouTube. + artists can get paid for views on YouTube. So there’s a real win-win there
    Soundcloud is a universe in it’s own, great for (pre-)production interactions in a social environment. Yes people discover music on Soundcloud and artist can gain a lot of attention there that helps establish a fan base.
    But I want to help talented musicians become successfull in today’s attention driven music industry. If they’re sharing tracks on Soundcloud in the hopes of getting “signed” by a label and getting on the fast track to superstardom, think again. I talk to music execs all the time and they’re almost exclusively investing in artists with an established fan base and track record. New artists MUST go DIY before anything else. While Soundcloud is convenient for artists, it doesn’t really help your artist career, because of the reasons I pointed out in my post. Fans and music professionals expect more. Musicians can do more!
    First play around with Soundcloud, connect with people, learn, improve. Then when the music is more evolved step up and make more conscious decisions about spreading your music. After all songs are the most valuable assets any musician has.

    • Jeremie (JTV Digital)

      Hi Thomas,

      Once again, I agree AND disagree with you!

      “If they’re sharing tracks on Soundcloud in the hopes of getting “signed”…”
      I don’t think that’s the purpose / the intention when putting tracks on Soundcloud.

      Also the “sharing” term is not always appropriate.

      As long as the artists do not activate the “download” option so that their tracks remain in a streaming-only state, there is no major difference between sending your tracks to Soundcloud or to Spotify, Deezer…Etc, apart from the “micro-royalties” they may get on these services.

      “…execs all the time and they’re almost exclusively investing in artists with an established fan base and track record”

      That’s correct, but not always!

      I recently met with A&R managers from a well-known major record company, and discussed how they were discovering new artists nowadays.
      I thought they were using the new technologies intensively, but seems like they are still going through traditional / old-school ways…
      The guys told me it can be from any means, like word-of-mouth, going to live shows, the friend from a friend who is a musician….and surprisingly (or not) they explicitely mentioned a Soundcloud link!

      Everything that helps to get your music heard helps your artist career, be on iTunes & others, be on Soundcloud, have a presence on social networks, share, tell your story, perform on stage, get on YouTube…etc.
      There are so many ways, so many options to get heard / noticed…the rule is that there are no rules!

  5. Rich Lexicon

    I don’t really buy it I’m afraid, I know of stakeholders with much, much more clout than me don’t either – you seem to contradict yourself on the royalties front too, which is the issue most people I speak to have.
    Soundcloud as a platform isn’t much of a discovery too IMO either, I ‘discover’ tracks on SC by them appearing on blogs I read.
    If it was just a promo tool then fine, but they have sets so you can use Soundcloud effectively as a streaming service. Mixcloud have licensing, so do Slacker, Audioboo…none of these services have $50m investment.
    Nothing is free, ever – I don’t know many artists who use it seriously who can get away without paying for it.
    If their new ad serving has a positive impact it could change my position – but for the moment, I feel they’ve done a great job on making themselves ubiqiutos and are taking full advantage.

    • DUDE

      I said this already on the other article, but dont think anyone puts stuff on Soundcloud expecting to get paid for it… its certainly not designed to be a paid ‘streaming service’ in the same way Spotify or Rhapsody is
      Free sharing plays a huge part in a lot of artists’ and labels’ marketing plans. If you personally dont feel the need to do any of that then I would say dont use Soundcloud and good luck to you but there is definitely a legitimate place in the music industry for free file sharing and streaming, and Soundcloud is a great tool for that

    • KT

      I was at SXSW this year and attended a panel with with the panelists all being Music Lawyers. I asked the question as to why SoundCloud doesn’t pay royalties…and the answer that I got was…’It’s like the speeding driver that got away!’ WTF?!?
      As I have said before, I support any service that helps promote and support artists and their music…as long as the artist is being ‘supported’ by these platforms/services, and not ‘exploited’.
      What I mean by ‘exploited’ is services that financially benefit from the use of artists’ music whilst expecting the artist to agree to a waiver in allowing their music to be played for free.
      Why is it that there are platforms/webstes that are doing the right thing in paying royalties to the artists (as set out and enforced by the PRO’s) whilst these other sites/platforms such as SoundCloud continue to get away not paying royalties?
      It should be a level playing field whereby ALL services/platforms that profit by the use of having artsts and their music as part of their service…pay the artist!
      PRO’s need to start cracking down on these slackers that abuse the ‘system’…if you can call it that.

    • Jeremie (JTV Digital)

      Sorry of it wasn’t clear about ‘royalties’.
      Soundcloud shall not be paying ‘master royalties’ (or extremely low ones based on a share of the paid accounts, which might be rare – please correct me if I’m wrong I have no figures, it’s only a guess) since the service is free for the users and has no ads / there are basically no revenues generated from the stream of the music.

      BUT they should be paying licenses to collecting societies (in the US BMI or ASCAP or SESAC, then the Harry Fox Agency / in Europe and rest of the world to Sacem, GEMA, PRS…etc).

      So in theory the writers should get *some* performance and mechanical royalties from their Soundcloud streams (just like they receive these from their Spotify or other streaming services streams)

  6. Nick

    As for #2 (b), Here is why there are no royalties. An excerpt from SoundCloud’s user agreement:

    [When] uploading Your Content to the [Soundcloud] Platform, you also grant a limited, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully paid up, licence to other users of the Platform, and to users of any other websites, apps and/or platforms to which Your Content has been shared or embedded using the Services (“Linked Services”), to use, copy, transmit or otherwise distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, prepare derivative works of, make available and otherwise communicate to the public Your Content within the parameters set by you using the Services.