I miss SoundCloud. Yes, I know a version of it still exists, but I miss the way it used to function. It turned the sharing of music into an integral part of the creative process, not something separate that happens months (or years) after a song is complete. You weren't finished with a track the moment you exported it from your DAW -- uploading it to your SoundCloud page was a crucial step in marking its final form.
There was something so satisfying about the immediacy of this ability to share and receive feedback from other artists and listeners. It directly tied your music in with a community, with a larger conversation around the current culture and trends. You felt a little less alone as a bedroom producer, and a little more motivated to finish your ideas because you were so excited to share them with your friends as soon as possible. And since we no longer need to manufacture physical items to distribute music, why wait to share?
For a period of time, the community on this platform carried enough momentum to drive an artists career based off of these independent music uploads. Entire tours were built off of SoundCloud remixes and originals blowing up so much that they influenced ticket sales. Traditional release campaigns and marketing strategies continued to exist, but there were plenty of examples of artists just uploading their work without much pre-planning, one of my favorites being Mr. Carmack. Music could spread like wildfire simply because it was good music, and not because someone had the biggest marketing budget or catchiest Tik Tok trend.
But no platform seems to be immune to larger organizations and advertising taking over, and the golden days of SoundCloud seem like a distant memory. There is a loss of incentive for independent artists to leverage the platform anymore: the chances of a song blowing up without the help of paid promotion and repost accounts aren't what they used to be, and the numbers don't usually translate to ticket-buying audiences or real fans.
So how do we move back in the direction of this holy-grail-ideal of independent music, where an artist has the ability to reach an audience based off of their work and not just their marketing strategy? Can we find another system where the music itself is a driving force of the release strategy, rather than artists/labels/teams withholding music from audiences to build anticipation and create expensive campaigns. It's great to invest time and resources into the sharing of a project if it's within an artist's means and desires, but it shouldn't be the only way of doing things.
Many of these questions are what inspired yesterday's surprise drop on sound.xyz. The night before the release, I fired up my twitch stream with the intention of writing and producing a new song from scratch, and then minting it as a music NFT within hours of it's completion, so that fans could witness the song coming together and then collect it immediately after. In less than 24 hours, I had fully written, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, and RELEASED a new song called Make Me Believe, and I couldn't help but feel the same excitement and energy that I used to experience when I first started producing and uploading music to SoundCloud.
Almost all of my internet releases from the past few years have felt anticlimactic and disconnected from any real emotion -- you can only type "I'm so excited to share _______" as a caption before it starts to lose its meaning. But yesterday's drop gave me the type of feeling that I thought could only be found performing onstage. Not only was it a huge rush of energy, but I felt a sincere connection with my community during the creation and the release of the song. I was alone in my studio, but it wasn't a lonely process at all, and I'm excited to do this again with more collaborators involved.
Will we find the next “SoundCloud artists” and platform in Web3? We may not have the scale of audience at this moment in time to have a large influence on ticket sales or digital distribution globally, but the energy of what I experienced yesterday was a huge indicator for me. Experimenting with this drop gave me so much more information and ideas than studying data or others' writing could have provided, and I'm excited to continue with these types of releases in the months ahead. Even though the numbers may be small at this moment in time, I never underestimate the power and value of having a few true supporters over millions of passive ones, and I can't wait to see where these new paths can lead us over the next few years.
If you want to hop on this train with me, there are still a few editions of Make Me Believe available to mint on sound.xyz at the time that I'm writing this! The Golden Egg Winner will receive two tickets to my debut performance at Red Rocks on October 21st with Gryffin, Joel Correy and Surf Mesa. Hope to see you there and give you a hug IRL.