There’s trouble in the world of music-focused social media and I’m not entirely sure that anyone cares. I just checked out my still existing MySpace page and it’s unrecognisable – there’s nothing of me on it and it looks a lot like iTunes, Spotify or maybe even Google+, which is similarly ignored these days. SoundCloud has, for me, been an awesome utility for uploading and sharing music – I’ve no idea how they are supposed to make money from that.
MySpace was once the most cutting edge platform on the planet, a place to muse with other musicians and music lovers, to chat and share and groove around in these ghetto like webpages – didn’t matter that all the colours clashed and it looked bloody awful because we were young and cool. Rupert Murdock acquired it in 2005 for over half billion dollars. MySpace has just been bought, probably by accident, by Time Inc who picked up the current owners Viant’s Specific Media for their user data. They had a fleeting opportunity in 2004, when they were the most popular website in America, to merge with Facebook – they walked away. I can barely remember how things worked on MySpace but I guess what drew my away to Facebook was the attraction that I could connect with people outside my immediate musical tribe. As the majority of us weren’t actually teenagers then extending social media to family, work colleagues and non-musical acquaintances was a more helpful use of our time.
SoundCloud on the other hand seems to offer something very helpful. I used to spend a lot of time fussing about how to make music available on my own websites – trying to embed audio files or some kind of player was remarkably difficult in 2007 for a musician with meagre web skills. SoundCloud sorted that out by providing a cool-looking widget that you could embed in all sorts of things, and get comments and likes and interaction that you hadn’t even thought of. My usage of it is purely selfish – I can upload a couple of promotional tracks and have then accessible on websites and Facebook in the vain hope they may encourage people to buy my music from iTunes or even ask for a CD. I don’t really listen to much music on it myself and I imagine that’s largely the problem – everyone is using it for themselves. The subscription options of Pro and Pro Unlimited don’t seem to offer anything I’d need. I don’t have time to analyse analytics and I’m never going to come up with more than 3 hours of music so why would I ever move the from the free model? SoundCloud does make plenty of money, it’s just that they also seem to have a huge and extraordinarily well paid staff and so find themselves $44 million in the hole for their recently published report on 2014.
How do you make money in the internet music industry? SoundCloud revolutionised the way artists can publish their music, it democratised and empowered bedroom musicians and it would be a real shame for that to disappear either under the weight of licensing deals, subscription and advertising or when they stop throwing money at it. MySpace showed us how exciting and connecting the internet could be but now it’s a redundant system within a social media world that already has plenty of things to play with.
In 2007 Mashable.com published their top 12 Best Music Social Networks and it makes for very interesting reading: http://mashable.com/2007/06/22/music-social-networks-2
MySpace was of course on top, SoundCloud didn’t exist yet. Of the other 12 most go to lost domains, some redirect to MySpace and only Last.fm and Midomi (whatever that is) still exist. Where do musicians interact with each other with their music these days? Is it in the comments section of YouTube, or maybe it’s all retreated to the forums and newsgroups that have always existed in the nerdy background? I’m open to ideas….