Yesterday SoundCloud reached 5 million registered users, and it is quickly becoming an alternative to MySpace for artists to distribute music online. I first found out about SoundCloud through a DJ friend who uploads her mixes for self-promotion. The songs are placed on the embedded player, most of them fifteen to twenty minutes long. At any point in the music, users can place the cursor over the clip and add a comment. For example, if my friend had mixed in a nice-sounding wobble or bass drop, I could place my comment at the exact time of the drop.
Other artists have also taken to SoundCloud to promote their music, including mainstream artists such as Moby, Sonic Youth, Britney Spears, and Jay-Z. Artists can upload entire albums as well as embed the SoundCloud waveform player on any website, including Facebook and Twitter. They also have the capability to record from the SoundCloud app on their smartphones, and they have the option to combine the experience with other apps, such as AmpKit, a virtual guitar and effects studio. They can also download other users’ mixes and tracks onto their smartphones.
SoundCloud is smart because it gives the artist control over distribution, whether public or private, and over multiple networks, giving even mainstream artists new ways to reach consumers. It also creates a community of independent and upcoming artists who can collaborate with and provide feedback to one another. Additionally, each SoundCloud upload is automatically tweeted.
Recently, SoundCloud partnered with Headliner.fm, a community that helps bands reach more fans on social networks. For example, Artist XYZ can promote a new release or show by connecting with similar bands and letting those bands promote Artist XYZ through social networks. Now, when Artist XYZ goes to promote, the artist can also include a SoundCloud player of the music into a social media platform. I consider SoundCloud and Headliner.fm to be hybrids of social networks and music websites. Combine those with other social networks and the opportunities to engage fans multiply.
As SoundCloud finds new ways to expand its social footprint, I’m curious to also see where this leads in terms of their own promotional strategies. I’m also curious to see if this changes the way new artists emerge and succeed. If Bieber was the YouTube wonder, and Karen McQuestion was Kindle’s self-publishing success story, will the next great cultural icon be that person who uploaded a good SoundCloud tune?
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