Australia Today

In Australia, There’s the Music Industry. And Then There’s Soundcloud.

"More than 70% of my online following is overseas. If there was no internet I wouldn’t have a career.”
Soundcloud in Australia
Le DJ at a Soundcloud event (Slaven Vlasic / Stringer via Getty)

Looking for new music in Australia usually starts off like this: a scroll through the playlists of radio stations like triple j, FBi, and 4ZZZ, a conversation with fellow festival goers, and a careful examination of streaming playlists like A1, Home Grown + Heavy and Front Left. The artists getting recommended by these sources are often energising and exciting - there’s a whole country’s worth of music to discover. 


But where do you turn if your musical interests lie elsewhere?

In music circles, SoundCloud is most often associated with starting the SoundCloud rap genre, spawning stars like Denzel Curry and Trippie Redd. While it’s helped launch careers and send songs viral (Lil Yachty’s “Poland” is sitting at over 14 million plays on the platform), in Australia, it often acts as a way for fans and artists to close the physical distance between musical communities (for example, there are nearly 4000 kms separating Sydney and Perth). It's especially useful if your interests aren’t being represented by the tastemakers that drive the Australian music industry forward. 

Melbourne producer, Eleftherios, is a SoundCloud veteran. He's worked with the likes of PANIA and Agung Mango, and he was part of the lo-fi boom that engulfed Melbourne throughout the 2010s. He told VICE that, in Australia, SoundCloud serves a unique purpose when compared to the rest of the world - it allows artists to connect, both online and in-person. 

“Internationally, it's a place for artists to find their audience and carry that momentum onto a larger platform. Locally, however, I see it as a place for upcoming artists to find other upcoming artists who also live on this giant-ass landmass that houses 25+ million people,” he said.

Lo-fi's SoundCloud momentum led to bigger and better things for the movement, as this wave of online attention saw IRL events like BeatLAB and Mellowdías Thump thrive. These events featured the likes of Sadiva, Entro, bryZone_ybp and Ra Ra Raj, and it was there that stars of the scene would rub shoulders with newcomers, offering encouragement and advice that pushed the movement further.


But the use of SoundCloud hasn’t just helped niche Australian musical subcultures and scenes thrive. The careers of artists like Melbourne pop artist daine, and Canberra rapper YNG Martyr, demonstrate the rise of a new type of Australian artist – one that blows up online before their success is noticed by the Australian music industry. 

Both artists went global before they went local, rightly sensing that overseas audiences might be more receptive to their music: daine makes left-field pop music that contains echoes of midwest emo and hardcore, while YNG Martyr blends together elements of trap and R&B.

Since their early days of posting on SoundCloud, daine has collaborated with the likes of 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady, Ericdoa and Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes. They explained that a lot of their inspiration came from overseas, and their initial success came from outside Australia. The local success came later. 

"It felt like it was a game of catch-up from Australia," daine told VICE. 

"More than 70% of my online following is overseas. If there was no internet I wouldn’t have a career.” 

This online-first success can breed distrust in traditional music institutions, though. daine, who’s signed to Warner Music Australia, points out that momentum on SoundCloud can get stifled by those that try to swoop in and capitalise.

“In most online, niche-y music [communities], there’s a massive distaste toward corporate involvement in music, which usually ends up with vitriol directed at the artist, but the reality is they’re probably a victim,” daine revealed. 


“Labels don’t magically make you privileged, powerful or duplicitous. They can help, but it's really up to the artist to make it work and keep serving the fans. Like, I'm signed but I still have to work a normal job. So do many of my friends in the major label world. When you have any momentum from anywhere, like even SoundCloud, there's so much that goes into it outside of one platform - so to make it all work you really need to drive it yourself.” 

Online success is great - but what does the long-term future look like for Internet-first artists?

The onus is on these artists to convert this web-based momentum into real-life achievements.

Western Sydney’s SOLLYY, who is an artist, producer, DJ, and event curator, has made this happen, and he is a prime example of driving it yourself. He believes that SoundCloud gave him the chance to reach open-eared listeners when starting out, and he’s since channelled online momentum into real-world opportunities. 

As one of the creative forces behind the Hotter Out West party series, as well as a producer for the likes of OneFour, CD and Church & AP, he says that a Soulection play was “huge” for his trajectory. Soulection, according to their website, “exists as an Apple Music 1 radio show, an independent music label, festival (Soulection Experience), world-touring concert and clothing line."


However, rather than being content with this online momentum, SOLLYY’s always had his eye on longer-term growth. 

“Building a portfolio on SoundCloud has and will still do wonders for many producers and DJs like myself, especially those invested in online communities, but you're definitely bound to stay confined to the platform if you're exclusively thinking in those terms,” he told VICE. 

DJs and producers have been some of the biggest proponents of the platform, and seamless DJ mixes are one of the many reasons that fans stay locked into what their favourite artists are sharing on SoundCloud. 

For Australian producer Ninajirachi, who hails from the Central Coast, SoundCloud first served as a way to share music with friends and family, but it now acts as an archive of her mixes. 

“SoundCloud is the place I can direct people if they wanna hear a mix of mine again after it’s aired,” she explained. She also uses the platform to discover new music, alongside platforms like “Spotify, Youtube and Bandcamp,” she told VICE. 

A common thread throughout conversations with upcoming artists is a desire for the Australian music industry to pay more attention to emerging scenes. 

"Our industry is scared to take a risk on embracing newer stuff,” said daine, pointing to the global success of The Kid LAROI. “He majorly blew up in the ‘States. He didn’t get those big festival slots here before he was super massive”. 


Similarly, Ninajirachi shared her thoughts on why the Australian music industry hasn’t necessarily embraced SoundCloud like its overseas counterparts: “It makes sense to me that the Australian music industry doesn’t pay attention to SoundCloud, because it doesn’t pay attention to a lot of things.” 

One of SoundCloud’s most compelling qualities is that it blurs the line between fan and artist. Sharing music on Spotify or Apple Music can feel permanent; which is why artists often instead opt to release SoundCloud exclusives. The platform can act as a leveller for those who may not have the connections to break through into traditional music scenes straight away, or for those making music that falls outside of genres that casual fans typically embrace.

For Eleftherios, SoundCloud is where he discovered the courage to release music, especially after discovering acts from Melbourne like Duan, Sadiva and Entro. “If they could do it, why couldn’t I? Every day your feed would be filled with new uploads and reposts; everyone pushing to make their dreams come true,” he said. 

“That energy was contagious, and it ultimately led to me becoming comfortable with my own sound. Suddenly, you had access to the ears of the whole world - so why not make what you want to and work hard to find an audience? Genre quickly became an afterthought.”

For emerging artists, SoundCloud has served as a way to connect with forward-thinking fans and industry members alike. Ninajirachi recalled her first manager, who discovered her on SoundCloud, back when she only had 200 followers. 


It’s also a platform used to share demos and unreleased music.One of the most exciting parts of being a music writer is receiving a private SoundCloud link featuring a song that will make waves once it’s released. 

However, like anything, it’s clear that it forms just one part of an artist’s arsenal. To bridge the gap between SoundCloud/the Internet and the rest of the music industry, artists need to put the work in. Ninajirachi put it best: “If an artist really blows up on SoundCloud there’s definitely some natural crossover but they have to work really hard with the right support to have a sustainable career in music outside of just that platform.” 

Take this as a sign to upload the song that’s been living on your hard drive all this time.

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