With all the bad press we’ve seen floating around recently about Soundcloud, I’m not really surprised how suspicious people have been about this bit of news: last week, the company fairly quietly announced that off the back of the launch of On Soundcloud, they’ve managed to hook in a major player to license on the platform. Warner Music Group, the umbrella corporation that houses a large number of successful record labels – has agreed to share it’s catalogue… for a price.
WMG looks after quite a few labels with some good history. A few choice names are: Atlantic Records (Yes, Led Zeppelin), Asylum (Tom Waits, The Eagles), A & E (Paul Oakenfold, Garbage), Machine Shop (Linkin Park), Zappa Records (Frank Zappa).
There’s been growing heat from users who are finding it increasingly frustrating to upload music to the site without running the risk of having audio files removed due to accusations of copyright violations. Recently, it seems Soundcloud has been far more aggressive with people using unlicensed music (read: other people’s) and it has hit DJs particularly hard. This has just added to the feeling that the company isn’t listening to the needs of its users… some who’ve been supporters of the service since the beginning.
A few weeks ago, Soundcloud proudly blogged about a redesign for the site and apps and had to close comments due to so much negativity from readers. The bold visuals featured the album art front and centre in a device-responsive format, but ignored the proportions of older cover art, which had to be 1:1 square, cutting off parts of the image.
Soundcloud is getting to the point where they need some good news to placate frustrated users. Could this be a turning point? This new licensing deal may just be a good thing for users of the service, if it means less DMCA take-downs when samples or label music are used in tracks or mixes. The caveat, though, is that Warner was given a stake in the company, but there doesn’t seem to be a mention of how much.
This leads to a question of how many times Soundcloud can slice up the pie for other record labels to follow suit before losing a controlling stake. Regardless of how you feel about big music labels and the mainstream industry, the majors taking a share of the company can’t be a good thing for label competition. While it’d be hard to claim that Soundcloud has anything near a monopoly, it’s certainly got the momentum to be synonymous with artist music access. But maybe it opens the door for an alternative to thrive? It’s not like we DJs don’t have plenty of options.
For now, we sit and wait and hope that Soundcloud figures out it needs to start listening to the people that make the site its money: the users; and how to stop burning through cash reserves before they run out. The funny thing is, not only was the site one of the early adopters of the freemium model on the web, it offered a decent package that artists appreciated and used. It *should* have been profitable. And we haven’t even mentioned the upcoming plans to stick ads into the site and audio.
What do you think of this news? Have you got any tips of where to stick your mixes or music?