I was trying to order my thoughts about what Soundcloud and Sony's recent deal means, and what Soundcloud's plan to charge a subscription from their users means.
What would that subscription include? It's not clear at the time. Would they charge everyone? Would they run ads over the music you upload? Would it be optional? Would you have to pay to upload music?? Pay for someone to listen?
The idealistic platform we knew is going. Siding with the money means cutting out a sizeable part of the community. It's worth checking out this interview with Alison Moore to get a glimpse of the personality of Soundcloud's new Chief Revenue Officer. Maybe she sees that as healing.
For a musician not covering their investment into a subscription that provides a place for their music and a way to grow and interact with their audience, it simply won't be in the artists' favour.
Money or People
The majors want control over the noise, not just the signal. A big business cares about the balance between money and reach. Soundcloud have reach. Moore is after the money. I see siding with the money as short-term thinking on the back of that "free for all" binge Soundcloud could have managed more carefully.
What are they keeping secret?
But is there more to it? Could Soundcloud be in a position to try and take on Bandcamp - charge everyone a nominal fee (Apple-like), allow creators to sell the music (Bandcamp-like), allow some play-based revenue (Spotify-like), allow ads (Youtube-like) - sort out the chief problem with Spotify - discovery of up and coming music, kick Bandcamp where it hurts - the size of its community; and adopt a business model that has made Apple so much revenue.
For everyone unbothered by corporate money, it's a technicality. I personally don't like it. I'm still thinking if I should take off the few tracks I have on Soundcloud. I dislike middlemen intensely, especially ones that block content, audience relationships, or put brakes on the development of the art. We'll pay with burned uploads and fan reach because Soundcloud didn't work out their micro-transactions ages ago.
We create the content, we nurture the relationships, we should have full access to both. Instead, Soundcloud focus on pleasing the corporate lawyers. Here's an excerpt from Soundcloud's blog:
"If someone remixes a track without permission, they are likely infringing someone else’s rights. It doesn’t matter if the remixer credited the original artist, or that they’re not making any money from the track; in most cases, they still need permission.
What? Remember hip-hop? We wouldn't have that genre if this was enforced at the time. Also what is the problem if the remixer isn't making money out of their remix? Content-id becomes the problem since it can't tell what's acceptable to the original artist, and neither can the bean-counters of the publisher.
The same applies to DJ mixes, mashups, mixtapes and all other uses of someone else’s content. We expect everyone posting content to SoundCloud — whether they are a musician, producer, comedian, podcaster or anyone else — to have all permissions that they need; our system is focused on protecting, not clearing, these rights."
A touchy-feely subject left open to so much interpretation and FUD and here are Soundcloud, focussing on "protecting" (read: content-id and takedown request system), whereas they could totally focus on teaching corporations a delicate touch, and navigating the users through the copyright mud ("request to license this on Soundcloud" button, reply with flat fee or % of revenue)
How would this work?
So, yeah, one reason Ikea are so big is that they were smart about being democratic. And if you look at Apple, the amount of free stuff you get with an otherwise "expensive" Apple product is ridiculous. If you look at Soundcloud, what is there to make paid access work?