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Will Soundcloud Outlast the Streaming Sensation?

There can be almost no doubt that in terms of revenue, Spotify has one over on Soundcloud. It remains the dominant streaming service in a market that is becoming increasingly hotly contested thanks to the arrival of other services like Apple Music, Tidal and Electric Jukebox.

The thing is though, while those three continue to claw at the throne, and Spotify keeps them at bay with the end of a broom handle, Soundcloud has been growing into something too large to simply coexist with Spotify, and in time, it could eclipse it. Want proof? Spotify currently has around 75 million users, while Soundcloud has a whopping 175 million, and growing. They also just signed licensing deals with Universal Music and Warner Bros.

The trouble with Spotify is that it's build around gaining licensing for pre-existing music, which is where a huge slice of their revenue goes, whereas Soundcloud is more about original, user-generated content. In a way, it's the most even-handed social media platform of them all, next to YouTube, as far as content is concerned. Make no mistake, Soundcloud is a social network, it's a tool that enables people to share information and ideas. The way it's formatted means that anyone, from the greenest bedroom producer to Kanye West, has the same tools to upload and promote material.

The only uptick comes with getting the paid Soundcloud Pro, but the pricing is far from restrictive and there are plenty of other ways to promote your material outside of it. Its uses also extend beyond track or album posting, as podcasts, interviews, mixes and other audio only material can easily be published on the platform. If you ask me, this model has a lot more longevity than music streaming. In a recent editorial comparing the two, TechCrunch compared Soundcloud to Spotify as YouTube is to Netflix - one is a source of creative promotion, the other a mainstream consumer service.

That's fine in isolation, but I would argue that Spotify and other services have a life expectancy which Netflix doesn't. Streaming will likely remain the most popular way to watch films and TV for years to come, but music is a different beast, with far more inclination towards discovery and exploration, something which Spotify does not offer on anywhere near the same scale.

One of the most appealing aspects of modern music culture is the sense of transparency, it enables artists to be open about their production and preview unfinished material. It's not simply a matter of dropping a single, then a video, then an album anymore. In a world where piracy runs rampant, new ways have to be found to convince people that music is worth paying for and oddly enough, Soundcloud is ideal for that. Early releases of tracks, or entire album previews provide enticing breadcrumbs for people to follow. Online synergy is vitally important for promotion, and on that count Soundcloud wins outright, since you can browse it just as freely without needing to sign in, or even get an account, which also makes embedding all the easier.

It's also a matter of versatility, streaming is a very rigid format, and not all that adaptable to changes in the industry. It places barriers between the creator and the content, so that things like surprise releases, live recordings and mixes are difficult, if not impossible to post and promote. What streaming is, in music terms, is a cross pollination between music ownership and radio. The latter will outlast Spotify, and the former, led by Soundcloud, is poised to overtake it.

It will ultimately come down to what the artists themselves favour, and despite some niggles involving licensing and copyright, the bulk of musicians prefer Soundcloud. The creative, dedicated populous create the trend, and then the pop stars affix themselves to it once it's clear that it will keep them relevant. That migration is happening, slowly. Kanye has been using Soundcloud heavily to preview his new album, others will likely follow his example and inspire innovative marketing techniques which may well set the precedent for new movements in modern music. Streaming probably won't die out as a direct result of this, but in my view, it will probably end up taking a back seat to it.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Will Soundcloud Outlast the Streaming Sensation? Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, February 04, 2016 Rating: 5

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