Analysis

SoundCloud: ‘Do not think of us [just] as a streaming service… we’re a form of social media’


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How did Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert and other artists have such success building an audience on SoundCloud? Because they saw it as more than just a music-streaming service.

That’s according to SoundCloud’s director of label relations Julia Killer, who was talking at the FastForward conference in Amsterdam last week.

“Do not think of us [just] as a streaming service. Yes, we’re a streaming service, but first and foremost we’re a form of social media,” she said.

“The more you engage, the more results you get. End of. It’s up to you to set yourself up for success on the platform.”

Chance the Rapper famously gave SoundCloud a shout-out when accepting a Grammy award in early 2017, and later came to the company’s defence on Twitter when it was under pressure over its financial situation.

“He really uses the platform to its best abilities and he knows how to reach his audience and maintain this connection with his fanbase,” said Killer.

Chance was one of the first artists to be part of SoundCloud’s premier program, where musicians can earn money from their tracks on the service through marketing, sponsorship and ad-sharing deals.

Killer said that SoundCloud is planning to expand the program “heavily” in 2018, as the company gets in to gear under its new CEO, former Vimeo boss Kerry Trainor, who joined the company in August 2017.

(You can read Music Ally’s recent interview with Trainor here.)

Killer’s FastForward speech focused on the best practices that SoundCloud thinks will help artists build their followings on its service, including connecting up other social profiles; regularly refreshing a ‘spotlight focus’ track, EP and playlist; and making use of the ‘buy links’ feature to drive fans to purchases elsewhere.

“Don’t use it to link to competing streaming services please!” she joked. “But you can put any ‘buy’ link in there you want.”

Killer stressed that SoundCloud has been working with artists to make better use of the service’s analytics, with Chance the Rapper at the forefront again – for a concert in Chicago last year for an invitation-only audience chosen from his top 0.001% of listeners in the city.

“It caused an entire Twitter meltdown. We had messages for people going insane that they weren’t invited, and if they listened for the next 24 hours could they get an invite?” she said.

Killer also suggested that artists should not just see SoundCloud as a platform for music, but for audio in general around what they’re doing.

“Get creative: there’s a hundred million things you can do on the platform, and this is not limited to music content,” she said. “You can announce a new tour, you can announce a new video that dropped on YouTube, you can keep a tour diary and upload a little audio snippet every day.”

Killer freely admitted that one of her tips – that artists should choose a clear display-name and profile URL on SoundCloud – has been somewhat undercut by one of the most popular artists in the world right now.

“The bad example is Drake: if you go onto the platform trying to find Drake, it’ll take you a while… the name he created for himself is octobersveryown,” she said.

“We’ve tried explaining to him that he might be better off changing his name and profile URL to Drake! But no.”

Nearly 2.3 million fans have managed to find his profile, but Killer’s point was that Drake is the exception that proves the rule: as on other platforms, it can be the attention to detail that makes the difference for artists on SoundCloud.

Stuart Dredge

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