A Place for Music?
Although the MySpace of today looks as if it’s barely holding on by a thread, there was a time when it proudly wore the crown of social networks.
At its core was music, a key component in both its initial growth and the tail end of its usefulness. At the time, MySpace’s approach to music was incredibly innovative. They were one of the first web services to allow anyone making music, be it major, indie or an unsigned act, to upload their work to “the cloud” free of charge. Once uploaded, the music was streamable for audiences to enjoy.
This revolutionary approach to online music helped launched the careers of countless artists and forged new networks of friends connected through a shared fondness for a band or genre.
In fact, music played such an important role in the rise of MySpace that the site’s motto was simply “a place for music” for the better part of its glory days.
As the cons of using MySpace started to outweigh the pros, users began to naturally seek alternatives. Facebook offered a superior social experience and a mass migration soon followed. It’s a story we’re all familiar with, only there’s one thing missing. What happened to music on Facebook?
To be fair, Facebook hasn’t completely abandoned music. They’ve experimented with apps, artist pages and have recently started integrating services like Spotify and Rdio into profile timelines. It’s a nice start, but for the most part, it’s clear to any user that uploading and streaming music is not a significant part of the Facebook experience.
Enter The Void
Spotify, Rdio, SoundCloud, MOG, Turntable FM, Last FM and Ping are just a few of the new services currently looking to fill the online music void left behind by MySpace. While the theme of “listening to music” is common to all of these services, their methods of delivering the experience differs dramatically among one another.
Spotify, Rdio, and MOG rely on licensing deals to secure the rights to streaming content, Turntable FM requires similar rights yet adds an element of gamification, Last FM and Ping depend on capturing and sharing existing listening habits in an effort to pair like minded individuals based on similar taste.
Closely mirroring the model of MySpace, SoundCloud stands out from the pack by allowing any artist the ability to upload their music to the SoundCloud servers free of charge, the result being a clean, intuitive streamable audio portfolio of their work.
I was lucky enough to participate in Soundcloud’s beta program back when I was writing my music blog. Their dropbox feature was a new, superior alternative to email for accepting demos by the public. Now looking back on this early sign of ingenuity, it’s no wonder the service has gone on to grow at a staggering rate.
In a few short years, SoundCloud has grown to a network of over 8 Million users and now comes in a variety of mobile, tablet and desktop app flavours. Unlike services that depend on licensing deals to secure content, SoundCloud relies entirely on user-generated content, often leaving people to describe it as the “Flickr of Music”.
Like Flickr, SoundCloud’s wonderland of content offers an incredible experience to the listener. By simply following artists of interest, listeners are rewarded with an endless stream of free music including forthcoming releases, demos and rough takes.
Looking past simply dominating the space of music, SoundCloud has recently expanded into the areas of podcasting and live recording. Possibly, the most interesting development is their recent interoperability venture with Tumblr. Through the partnership, artists are able to seamlessly embed SoundCloud content directly in to their Tumblr blogs, resulting in band pages eerily familiar to those of MySpace.
As we inch closer towards an age of streaming music libraries in the cloud, choosing a go-to service becomes increasingly murky when confronted with issues of copyright, licensing and delivery. I for one prefer the “open” model of SoundCloud, not simply because it’s free, but because its model helps put the control of content back in the hands of the artists.
A perfect example of this creative control is shown below. Taken from Matthew Dear’s forthcoming EP is the song Headcage. Uploaded by his label Ghostly International and made free to stream and download for all.