Admittedly it took me some time to get the usefulness of Soundcloud for artists, as I tended to believe Youtube to be the better platform.
Obviously, with Youtube, artists can post a music video (keyword “video”) and have their audience get to know them better than they could if it was audio alone (or so I thought).
You can certainly post audio alone on YouTube with some nice cover art and that may work.
However, YouTube poses more problems than it solves.
Here are 2 main reasons why Youtube is worse than Soundcloud.
1. Most Unsigned Artist’s Music Videos Suck
Okay, maybe just most music videos even by artists signed to the majors suck.
The thing is the production value of the unsigned artists videos is usually way lower because the video budget is closer to $0 than say $20,000.
Certainly there have been amazing exceptions to this as we have seen great low budget videos from indie artists.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Wings cost $18,269 and was crowdfunded on Kickstarter.
However this is not the norm.
So as an indie artist you have to think what’s the probability that I can make an amazing video that will capture the feeling of the song?
Secondly, you have to ask yourself “how many times can I do this?”
Meaning, if your album has 12 songs can you put out 3 or 4 or 12 great videos to promote it?
You could probably get away with one or two no/low budget videos but after that you’ll have to either get really creative or start putting in a few thousand bucks per video.
Is this realistic?
Is this smart?
How can you save money and still build an audience?
Another ancillary issue is: you may not even know which song to shoot a video for.
How would you know this?
You could either base it of your gut instinct or base it of what the actual stats say i.e. “more people are playing this song than the others”.
I tend to believe you should take the ladder approach. You can look at your stats on Soundcloud by signing up for a Pro Unlimited account.
I also highly recommend you sign up for an artists account with Spotify to track your streaming numbers on Spotify.
You’ll be able to not only see how many times your song has been played but also the cities they’re being played in as well as demographic data such as gender and age.
Spotify for Artists also has an addicting IOS APP.
2. Youtube Lack’s Social Networking Effect
Sure on YouTube you can see views and use that as a viable metric.
But that’s it.
Youtube lacks the social networking effect as there is on say Twitter or Facebook or Soundcloud.
Now what do I mean by social networking effect?
On Twitter, when you retweet or favorite a tweet from someone you follow, this retweet shows up in the timeline of all that people that follow you.
For example, Ellen’s 2014 Oscar tweet is one of the most retweeted tweets of all time, having been retweeted over 3.2 million times!
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
More retweets, the more people see you.
Also I think a retweet or repost shows more user engagement than just a view.
Youtube does show what videos you like (if you have that setting turned on, but most people don’t) and if they do have it turned on, most people don’t visit your home page anyway.
And this is where Youtube fails as a platform for music promotion.
Sure, things do go “viral” on YouTube as a result of being featured on the homepage but that is only when YouTube’s proprietary algorithms determine that such video is worthy or in other words already has millions of views.
So how does Soundcloud help musicians?
Here are 2 ways Soundcloud is better than Youtube.
1. Soundcloud Allows Fans to Repost
On the other hand, with Soundcloud your songs benefit from the social media effect through re-posting and likes, which is basically similar to Twitter’s retweet and favorite buttons.
When someone reposts your song, it not only shows up on their page but also on their stream (which is equivalent of Facebook’s news feed).
The more reposts your song has the more exposure it gets because it has the potential of being see by the people that follow the person that’s reposting it.
2. Audio is Cheaper to Create Than Video
A financial benefit of posting songs as opposed to music videos is that you save money, effort and time creating the video.
And instead can put that time/effort/money into making a better song.
It’s funny I never truly understood what the song, “Video killed the radio star” meant until I realized what Youtube has done to music.
In the same way, music videos on MTV in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s made music more about image than music, the same thing happened with YouTube.
Half decent songs can be saved by an entertaining (read: funny) video.
This is why sub-par parodies are so popular on YouTube (that and their SEO helps).
Is Soundcloud a Good Way To Get Noticed?
So all an unknown artist has to do to get know is post really good music on Soundcloud right?
Soundcloud like any social network has become saturated with tons of artists posting their music, even major label artists are getting on the action.
So it is obviously become super competitive.
The key is your song has to be really great and you have to promote it as best as you can.
A good technique is to message actual Soundcloud accounts with large followings devoted to your genre and ask them nicely for a repost.
I would stay away from messaging “Groups” especially ones that automatically accept your submissions as nobody listens to those groups.
Also If you can’t find any account that deals with your specific style/genre create one and don’t just post your music into it.
Is Soundcloud Good For Artists?
We recently mixed and mastered a song for a rapper that we were all really happy about, the rapper even paid to have a guest feature on it from a somewhat famous artist.
I personally was excited for this song because I felt like it would help propel this rapper’s career to the next level.
So you can imagine my surprise when I searched for the song a few weeks later, and couldn’t find it.
I contacted the artist and asked him when he was releasing the song and he said that he wasn’t going to release it because he wasn’t sure it would get at least 25,000 plays on Soundcloud.
So wait you’re telling me you’re worried that your song is not going to get some arbitrary number of plays and that’s causing you not to release it?
For the record, I didn’t say that to him because I quite frankly I was speechless.
Now I usually wouldn’t care if the song was trash, but because the song was good and this artist did have potential I thought about it some more and thought: why in god’s name would any artists put themselves through this?
This reminded me of those teenagers who delete their pictures on Instagram if it doesn’t get a certain amount of likes as they feel they’re not popular enough.
But of course, they have to actually post their picture first to know if it’s a flop or not (for the record no picture is a flop, they are all a beautiful moment in time).
This artist was so certain that the song wouldn’t reach his goal of 25,000 plays that he didn’t even want to release it!
I was disgusted because this essentially reduces art to a popularity contest, which is why Kanye’s proposed we have the ability to remove view counts, followers and likes from social media.
We know now that having the number of plays visible is influencing what people think is worthy of attention (when it usually isn’t) and more detrimental to the art of music, it’s influencing artists to do gimmicky things.
More importantly, as Kanye aptly puts it, “It has an intense negative impact on our self-worth.”.
Don’t get me wrong I still think Soundcloud is a good home for your music, but with it being so easy to upload to Spotify nowadays, it’s becoming less important, not to mention better for an artist’s mental health.