Everybody panic! We're in a crisis! Music is finished as an artform! Fine, that last statement might veer towards hyperbole, but the dance world's response to SoundCloud's aggressive copyright hoarding crusade undertaken last week neared similarly apocalyptic levels of hysteria.
Well, just because SoundCloud has taken a nosedive into the pockets of major labels and a flamethrower to your SC favorites list doesn't mean that your "Can't Feel My Face" bootlegs now have to sit unliked and unloved on your hard drive forever. The music streaming market is bustling with action as platforms jockey for position while the battle for your ears and wallets continues in the world of music apps.
We took a click around seven of the most notable claimants to the SoundCloud throne, and this is what we found:
SoundCloud's number one competitor, Mixcloud, had gotten used to playing second fiddle in the upload-to-stream game over the past decade, but as SC's copyright algorithm gets stingier by the day, Mixcloud offers a much more relaxed environs to mixes for which you do not have a stack of licenses at the ready AKA all of them. In addition to their all-mixes, no-tracks policy, Mixcloud presents a uniquely positioned competition to SoundCloud at this juncture by maintaining the free-wheeling, wild west licensing policies that made SoundCloud so awesome in the first place.
Their recently launched SoundCloud importer feature claims it'll rescue your catalogue from the grabby mitts of Warner Music Group lawyers and into Mixcloud's warm, fluffy, less immediately accountable embrace. The only thing stopping Mixcloud right now is that everybody is waiting for everybody else to start using it before they commit. You go first. No! You go first!
Pros: Your mixes will live forever, artists get paid royalties for inclusion in mixes.
Cons: No individual track uploads, clunky interface.
Launched in March of 2015 and already self-dubbed "the leading underground music platform," YungCloud looks and feels like SoundCloud, but on a budget. If money was the root of SoundCloud's evils anyway, perhaps budget is a good thing in this instance.
Already populated with bootlegs galore, YungCloud's userbase is minimal, meaning there's not much to stream and nobody streaming it, but its similarity to SoundCloud's user experience will draw in listeners based on the simplicity of transition alone.
The thing is, though, if we're trying to break up with SoundCloud, we might wanna think twice about running straight into the arms of a platform that aims to emulate it entirely.
Pros: Right place, right time. It's an obvious and effective hack on SoundCloud's interface.
Cons: Nobody uses it yet. Isn't this 'Yung' thing over now?
Another platform that borrows liberally from SoundCloud's visual aesthetic, Hearthis.at aims to build upon SoundCloud's user experience as well, by removing upload restrictions entirely, lowering premium membership tariffs, and generally functioning as the chaotic upload black market that SoundCloud once was.
Of all the platforms examined, Hearthis.at and YungCloud take aim at the SoundCloud model most directly, and Hearthis enjoys a more entrenched user base than its Yunger competitor. That said, there's not nearly enough relevant material posted on the site to feel like you're diving into dance culture. Rather, the catalogue it maintains seems more like the leftovers sold out of the back of SoundCloud's trunk.
Pros: Proven concept, growing user base
Cons: Looks like SoundCloud…for Russians
Nearly ten years old now, Bandcamp has long been the preferred choice for patchouli-scented troubadours and prog-math-jazz-rock bands looking for a place where their output can live unfettered, presented as full releases with minimal fuss in a simple interface. Bandcamp is a very succinct and unique portal from which to enjoy underground artists, but it's always leant more indie than electronic.
The platform also provides a rabbit hole of a music discovery method via Bandcamp's tagging protocol. It seems you're always only two degrees away from a tape-recorded Scandinavian freak-folk project, but Bandcamp exists first and foremost as a digital home, marketplace, and newsletter portal for unsigned (and some indie) releases, and not a collaborative community for creation.
With no mixes to be found, nor the active community to support them, Bandcamp doesn't compete in the same hustle as SoundCloud. Although Bandcamp will likely remain a favorite utility for the guitar-toting set, nobody over in Berlin is quaking in their Toms about Bandcamp's assault on SoundCloud's market share.
Pros: Indie-rock street cred.
Cons: Indie-rock street cred.
If your comments on SoundCloud are anything like: "Yeah, it's cool, but I wish it was more like trading stocks," then Tradiio is for you. The six-month old platform pushes music discovery through users "investing" a daily allotment of coins towards artists. The more coins an artist accrues, the more exposure the platform gives them, in addition to perks like studio time and, presumably, lifetime supplies of Quaaludes.
Undoubtedly a novel idea and an immersive endeavor, Tradiio lacks the presence of any star power in its catalogue and obfuscates the utility of the streaming platform by adding the "game" elements. Not tryna stunt on your portfolio, though, bro. I hear you're trading on #futures.
Pros: Turns listening to music into a game!
Cons: Turns listening to music into work.
You know all that malarkey about SoundCloud signing deals with major labels, right? Well, Deezer did that back in 2007 after copyright disputes threatened to put the kibosh on the Parisian streaming platform's operation.
Deezer bounced back with a heavily-licensed vengeance, though. Nowadays, the platform has deals in place with everyone from iTunes to Sonos and 35,000,000 tracks to listen to on one free and two paid tiers. Unfortunately, it's not even available in America yet, so Deezer nuts is about the best you're gonna get for now.
Either way, Deezer operates as more of a threat to Spotify than it does SoundCloud, as users are unable to upload music at all, and is instead a repository of things published and licensed.
Pros: 35,000,000 tunes at your fingertips
Cons: Except you, America. You can't use it yet.
So after taking a deeper look at their competition, SoundCloud's vast utility and gargantuan market share becomes starkly obvious. It will take a lot of weaning to get off this garish, orange teat. Many platforms have cool features and lots of potential, but there is no singular service that claims to do all that SoundCloud does with the efficiency that it maintains.
Unfortunately, that same efficiency was applied to eradicating your Summer 2013 Diana Ross Trapstyle Mashup Playlist last week, so it might be good to start getting at least acquainted with some of the new kids on the above block. In the background, the mumbles about Apple Music's Connect platform are turning into rumbles. Something's gotta give. Internet music culture is always one step ahead of the corporate lawyers, and we will continue to be so.
Jemayel Khawaja keeps all of his music in jewel cases - @JemayelK