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Producers and DJs can now sign up to get paid for SoundCloud plays

SoundCloud’s ambitious goals for being the place where people share and discover music has always left it with a challenge. On one hand, it has to keep encouraging you to upload music – your tunes, your remixes, your DJ sets. It can’t just be a site for major label content, because then it loses to Apple and Spotify by default. On the other, it has to satisfy the needs of right holders – including when you upload music that they own. That’s an issue with your DJ set, of course, but it could eve be an issue with your own music, if you’re signed to a label.

Musicians and DJs have often assumed that these two interests conflict, but that’s not necessarily so.

First, the more SoundCloud attracts popular, major label content, the more likely it is that people listening to that content will find your music, too. That’s true in theory, anyway – and SoundCloud’s discovery algorithms are specifically tuned to introduce other music. SoundCloud has popularized a breakthrough track here or there, and there’s even word via Chance the Rapper that streamed music (including SoudCloud) could be up for Grammy awards. So this is really a thing.

Second, SoundCloud’s legal battles have actually made it easier for DJs and producers to upload their music without annoying takedowns.

But the ultimate prize is, SoundCloud will pay you for streams. That on its own might not be relevant, but SoundCloud gives individual artists far more control than Apple and Spotify. Only SoundCloud lets you upload content directly, at will, and the statistics and social controls available far exceed anything else. So combined with the ability to get paid, even a little, this is a big deal.

Obviously, the way this works is for SoundCloud to use its paid options (and presumably advertising revenue, though we’ve not seen a lot of that) in order to direct funds to the artists.

The details are a bit sketchy, and the rollout isn’t instantaneous. (That’s unfortunately been a pattern with SoundCloud, though I don’t know to what extent to blame the Berlin company and to what extent to fault the byzantine entities of the record industry.)

Basically, what SoundCloud are announcing is that the Premiere offering will soon be available to DJs and producers. For now, you can sign up; there’s no word yet on who will get included when.

Maybe the most interesting detail here is actually that SoundCloud specifically calls out DJ mixes (that’s the first time they’ve done that on the record, officially), and remixes. The sets are a big deal, because licensing them has been a hurdle in the past. And while Mixcloud ostensibly offers better tools and more solid licensing, I’ve never once talked to a DJ who was as happy with the plays and engagement they got on Mixcloud as they were with SoundCloud.

Here’s the signup:

The news comes at an interesting time. It seems increasingly likely that SoundCloud could soon face heated-up competition, especially as DJ mixes spread. Apple took some (small) steps into that space as far as licensing, and more recently, Spotify purchased technology that lets it better identify songs and stems.

The acquisition alone is bad news for SoundCloud – even if Spotify doesn’t use the tech, they just blocked SoundCloud from getting to it. (And in acquisition-happy tech, sometimes even that’s the goal.) But it could also be the basis of Spotify adding features that compete with SoundCloud. I doubt seriously that you’d get a Spotify/SoundCloud mash-up, but it could cover something like DJ tech.

I’m surprised, though, that no one has speculated that a Spotify acquisition of SoundCloud could go hand in hand with buying Sonalytics, since the latter would shore up the legal basis of the former.

Meanhwile, there are the usual swirling discussions about SoundCloud running out of money, which we’ve heard now for years on a regular basis. Since the company was founded, it has routinely had to go ask investors for more cash to extend runway – to the point of maybe “runway” isn’t really the word for it any more.

In other words, running out of money isn’t news. It’s a question of whether investors want to keep investing. But I wouldn’t trust anonymous sources for reliable information there, which is what some more speculative sites of relied upon.

Getting bought would be another route, and all of this could simply have to do with negotiations and asking price. Some of this uncertainty I think isn’t just a reflection of SoundCloud and their business model, but the uncertainties of streaming music in general. Because performing rights organizations and publishers and labels effectively set their share of money, and consumers have set their expectations of what they want to pay so low, businesses get badly squeezed in the middle.

Anyway, it’s a good thing we’re musicians. We have none of that uncertainty – we know most of what we do won’t make any money.

But I’m totally biased. I’m rooting for SoundCloud because they provide tools for musicians that no one else does, for the moment. And this move makes the stuff they make for us more useful. And for all SoundCloud’s flaws, right now, we need all the tools and control we can find.

DJs and Producers now invited to SoundCloud Premier

I will see if we can get SoundCloud management to go on record about any of this; stay tuned.

The post Producers and DJs can now sign up to get paid for SoundCloud plays appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Amazon S3 outage hit SoundCloud, reminds us dangers of centralization

Those of us in music more or less noticed today, “hey, my SoundCloud audio isn’t loading” — while the rest of the Internet went crazy because lots of things were broken. But the reason was Amazon S3, the “cloud” storage service provided by the retail giant.

Early indications appear, though, that SoundCloud’s audio playback and buffering difficulties are the result of degraded performance of Amazon S3 storage.

See, on the outage in general (still ongoing as I write this, amidst some really confusing messages from Amazon):
Amazon’s AWS S3 cloud storage evaporates: Top websites, Docker stung [The Register]

Now, I use “cloud” storage heavily in my personal work. It’s a backup service, a failsafe data source when on the road. It’s a way of sharing music – as a journalist, as an artist. I use it to save and send critical jobs. Most importantly, I use servers to run CDM, which is a huge part of my livelihood. And it mostly does its job. But then, it’s also important to understand that what “cloud” means. These are physical servers at a physical location with physical connectivity, and they’re operated by humans. That’s a long string of vulnerabilities there, from human error to external attack to forces of nature, even apart from technical problems.

Nerdy web comic xkcd has been there – of course.


If you understand that, you understand that failure is indeed an option. Furthermore, I think you’ll agree there’s vulnerability in centralized, monolithic solutions.

And today, many pundits are reaching the same conclusion.

So, I’m not looking to criticize SoundCloud in particular here. Indeed, a service like that is likely to be more able to recover from trouble than you would on your own, and I don’t know enough about the specific interaction with S3 and SoundCloud today to comment on how they’ve set up their connectivity.

But that said, there is a larger concern about over-centralization and monocultures, even just from the standpoint of ensuring you’ll have access to your own music.

And I’m not the only one adding a red flag here.

In fact, not coincidentally, I quickly am seeing pundits making the same comparison that popped into my head – to Dyn, a DNS provider that took down a ton of the Internet during an attack last year. (That included CDM.)

Here’s Wired:

The “winner takes all” dynamic of the tech industry concentrates more and more power into fewer and fewer companies. That consolidation has implications for competition but also affects the resilience of the internet itself. So many people rely on Gmail that when the service goes down, it’s as if email itself has gone offline, even though countless other email providers exist. Facebook is practically synonymous with the internet for many people all over the world.

The Amazon S3 Outage Is What Happens When One Site Hosts Too Much of the Internet []

(It’s also worth reading Wired’s interview disproving the Internet was built to withstand nuclear strikes. I think I’ve repeated that urban legend. It’s not true.)

That’s a pretty profound statement, though. It suggests that there’s a fundamental problem, but that the dynamics of the industry itself are making the problem worse. (Dyn was a pretty clear-cut case of that, as I can attest. Like a lot of Dyn customers, I had originally used a DNS provider as a way of adding resilience. I didn’t even pick Dyn, though: my provider was bought by Dyn and I was given no choice but to switch to their service – and their pricing, I might add.)

For their part, SoundCloud has been a featured Amazon case study – even though SoundCloud didn’t mention Amazon Web Services (AWS) by name today. (No need; the discussion dominated Twitter if you followed anyone doing Web work.)

AWS Case Study: SoundCloud [Amazon AWS Solutions]

Here’s Alexander Grosse, VP of Engineering at SoundCloud, on that solution:

SoundCloud uses a combination of Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Glacier as its storage solution. The audio files are placed in Amazon S3 and distributed from there via the SoundCloud website. All files are also copied to Amazon Glacier, to ensure that the data is available at all times, even in the event of a disaster. The company currently stores 2.5 PB of data on Amazon Glacier.

Through the combined use of Amazon S3 and Amazon Glacier, SoundCloud is able to securely store data volumes without requiring additional operational overhead. “We don’t need to worry about storage. AWS lets us sleep well at night,” Grosse says.

Now, again, I don’t want to criticize SoundCloud here, or maybe even Amazon. The simple fact of the matter is, Amazon may provide more performance and reliability at the costs SoundCloud requires than would another solution.

But ask yourself this: what about your uptime? Were you impacted by this outage today, and could you recover? (I was – one article was held up, and one work on a release, because each involved music only on SoundCloud that I then couldn’t access.)

This should also make clear that offline storage has got to be a permanent fixture of live performance and DJing. That may sound an obvious statement, but software makers are already trying to imagine a world where music in a DJ set was streamed from the Internet instead of locally.

Ironically, I was working today about an article talking about the dangers of centralization on Facebook. This, of course, interrupted that.

There are cultural and technical issues at work any time our music online is in the hands of just one vendor. You can’t point exclusively at Amazon, because its major rivals in this very business are Google and Microsoft – more big centralized operations by enormous transnational American companies. You can’t just look at SoundCloud, because odds are the SoundCloud alternative you like may also use the same storage provider. You can’t even look at centralization, because centralization for musicians might be what allows their music to be found easily and for people to encounter maximum familiarity and minimum resistance in playing your tracks.

But you can begin to say, we have a potential problem here – and that at the very least, we can’t treat the cloud as something magical that will always be there for us.

So, what do we do?

Well, for one thing, we certainly want the Internet to be less … vulnerable than it is in that IT Crowd sketch. To some system administrators and developers, today, I suspect it felt almost exactly like that.

The post Amazon S3 outage hit SoundCloud, reminds us dangers of centralization appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This nearly 12 hour modular synth marathon is actually entertaining

You might think that rigging a giant rack of modular synths and burying them in a tangle of synth cords and then live streaming a performance jam on them for nearly twelve hours straight is self-indulgent and overkill. And you’d be right. But if you also thought it would be no fun to watch, that it’d be joyless and involve lots of noodling, you’d be very wrong. Very wrong. Like – maybe you should get about twelve hours free.

That’s because the guy behind this insanity is talented synthesist Colin Benders. And not only is he an amazing musical performance, but he produces some real comic gold in the process. He carries a handheld mic and narrates the whole thing. He talks to viewers. And then he turns over the entire system to control by the people following the stream, allowing viewers to manipulate the music. (Even step-by-step sequencing control. For real. It appears to allow him to take a bathroom break.) He explains what’s going on for those not in the know.

The live sequencing idea is especially genius – he rigs up the sounds, then turns over sequencing control.

And he produces unexpectedly tuneful melodies and gently funky grooves. Seriously, you can queue this up while working or (gah) doing taxes or something, and it’ll bring a smile to your face. You won’t have to touch YouTube for twelve hours. It’ll probably make your day.


The online sequencing tool is available on his website, so you may want to tune into the next marathon. You can also catch Colin at Awakenings, where I think he’ll be the single coolest person there.

There’s just one problem. Now for any of us trying live streaming in the future, dude, we’re not worthy.

Thanks to Jan Klooster for the tip [via Twitter]!

The post This nearly 12 hour modular synth marathon is actually entertaining appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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