In early 2010 BDEM started its journey as a net label. We used the tools available to us at the time to build a roster and guide our music to the right listeners. The two primary examples of these tools were a popular niche forum called Dubstep Forum (or DSF for short) and SoundCloud.
SoundCloud deserves not to be disrespected in any way. For discovery, it's one of our key tools. But it's also an example of how great things can still almost fail if they don't quickly adapt to a moving online world.
When SoundCloud was released to the world, it was gold for us that were producing music and had our little communities of music makers (such as the DSF users). We’d build our ‘WIP’s’ (works in progress) and then share the music in a semi-private fashion with other producers for feedback on the sound. SoundCloud, being the clever little platform it is, allowed us to view a waveform on a timeline and place comments exactly where we were referencing in our feedback. Amazing.
We’d then correct our music and republish it more publicly for a wider audience. The Soundcloud track widgets meant we could put them in our forum signatures - which drastically boosted our stats.
When the music was highly favoured it would be pushed for digital release and us as the uploaders on Soundcloud were able to place links where our listeners could go off and download our music so we’d get paid for them enjoying the work.
So, where did this all go wrong? Simply, in the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
Our listeners were already able to listen to our music on Soundcloud, it was there and it was convenient, so why would they need to go off to another site, with another sign in, enter bank details and buy it?
Yes, there are traditionalists who still like to buy [high quality] files rather than stream, but for the most part streaming is becoming the norm now.
SoundCloud is stuck in a limbo where it's great for artists to showcase their work, is great [and improving] for discovery but is awful for converting into revenue for artists. And to make things worse, it's added to the complication of listeners believing that music should be free to consume. It's a detriment to the commercial development of an artist. It seems that it's only value without taking away from the value of the music hosted is to use it as a way to share freebies or bootlegs.
What happened next? Artists started chopping down their tracks into previews, listeners scattered to listen to music in different places (meaning that steady 100 followers a week the artist was previously getting started to dwindle) and SounCcloud starting spazzing out and changing its platform in desperation to sustain their growth.