How A Changing Soundcloud Can Be Beneficial To Barbadian Artists, Producers & Deejays
After a few years of contention, last week Soundcloud and Sony finally reached an agreement allowing the streaming service to license music from the major label’s vast catalogue of artists. This deal is monumental for two reasons: 1) With Sony onboard, Soundcloud has the last of the Big Three (Warner, and Universal the others), so it could now finally roll out its subscription plan later this year. 2) The changes that will eventually be put in place, means that the go-to platform for Barbadian creatives will become a different environment. An environment that, outside of the “doom and gloom” many speak about, can yield positive results for Barbadian music.
Since its inception in 2007, Soundcloud has grown to become the number one place for brooding artists, producers, and disc jockeys to host their creations; and for casual fans to discover new music from all over the world. However, in the past few years we have seen the Soundcloud we all know and love going through some drastic changes. Copyright infringements, and its extremely high debt but marginal profits, have been well publicized, so the Berlin-based company has had to look for ways ensure its long-term survival. Outside of seeking investments, one of the cash-strapped venture’s saving graces is the implementation of a subscription service (like Spotify, Apple Music etc.). In order to put that in place, they had to pursue the aforementioned deals with the majors.
Unfortunately, without having to bog you down with the boring business intracies, these moves to go on the straight and narrow meant hurting some of the creators who helped built up Soundcloud in the first place. With frequent account and song takedowns taking place – it developed a partnership with “content tracking company” Zefr to aid in its rights management – the creators who used the service to post their mixes, remixes, and mashups got the bad end of the stick, as most of their content went up in smoke due to their entire account being deleted via the three strikes rule. Remember what happened to Puffy?
When his takedown occurred, I originally thought of the idea that djs and producers, who mainly use SC for their mixes and mashups, should focus more on using Barbadian music. The main reason for this is that strategically – in this fast-paced world of streaming, heavily-policed by Majors looking to recoup every cent they can – using Barbadian music makes more sense. It’s the biggest loophole. Most, if not all, of Barbadian artists are independent, and while I do get why the works of more popular artists are used, using content from the island not only saves you the headache of takedowns, but it also can help in the much needed growth and collaboration the Barbadian “music industry” so desperately needs. Just as the dance community used their remixes to help grow Soundcloud, the producers, deejays, and artists could do the same to help a thriving community blossom. While I’m well aware that this would be a saving grace overnight, I am saying that it would be well worth a start.
Also, I’m not saying this is grounds to blatantly rip someone’s work to upload to your channel and claim it as yours to stiff them. However, since Soundcloud’s rules for mixes and remixes state that one must have permission from the owner of the copyright to license their work, I’m pretty sure it’s easier to work, or get in contact, with a Barbadian artist/producer, than it is to reach out to Beyonce and Sony for permission to do a soca remix of “Formation.”
But, should you not get permission (let me stress again that you should), I don’t think that the artist would be upset if you do create a remix of their record or include it in their mix. Some might be flattered, actually. But reaching out to involve them (or notifying them) in the process of collaboration would be thoughtful. And who knows what it could brew for the future?
The number of careers, and opportunities that Soundcloud has made – and are continuing to make – for its creators are too much to mention. Take for example, a record executive coming across a 20 year-old producer’s soundcloud. After he liked what he heard, he contacted him and sent him one of his artist’s songs from 2012 to remix. The producer cooked it up on his laptop – giving it a bit more bounce, and added a trumpet line that was sent to him via Whatsapp, because he couldn’t afford to fly in his friend to record it.
Let’s bring it back home, using Puffy (who has since created another account) again as an example. His roadmix of Porgie & Murda’s “Ben Up” – a good song in its own right – basically handed the duo their Road March title. The looped intro of the remix made more room at the top of the song for people to dance, and it was the only version of “Ben Up” the deejays played on the road, and the one that they continue to play to this day. I can’t remember the last day i heard the original. (No offense, Peter).
But you may ask, with all of this going on, couldn’t I could just upload my spouge mix of “Down In The Dm” somewhere else? Yes you can, but while they are alternatives (Audiomack, Mixcloud, Hulkshare), if these services manage to reach the same size of Soundcloud then they will most likely face the same problems in the future. Plus, Soundcloud is still the best option with its gargantuan monthly users (175 mill), sound quality, and easy-to-use interface.
While Soundcloud will still remain free when the subscription service is rolled out (according to a contract that leaked last year), you can expect the policing of material that is deemed to infringe on copyrights to be much more severe. However, In every dark cloud there is a silver lining. These changes present an opportunity for the large number of independent Barbadian creators that populate the service to work with each other – not only to avoid having their work wiped clean from the internet (and having to open a new account each time it happens), but to aid in the development of a malignant industry that is crippled by decades of uncooperative tendancies.
Carlos Brathwaite is the Founder of 246Mixtapes. Follow him on Twitter.