Music distribution has come a long way from vinyl’s, tapes, and CD’s. Back when platinum sales depended on people physically purchasing a project at the store, the internet was still a newer occurrence, and certainly not the primary outlet for music. In the mid-2000s, outlets that allowed for the illegal downloading of music such as LimeWire (we all remember LimeWire) took over and gave everyone free access to download whatever song they pleased. Instead of buying CD’s, people began to burn their own. The obvious conflict between distributors and consumers is the lack of money being put on the table. Distributors align on the side of the artist who of course, want to be properly paid for the art they put out, and consumers just want to listen at their leisure. The compromise made was streaming services that provided equal benefits between artists and fans, allowing full access to musical libraries for listeners.
One of the first platforms to serve as a legitimate outlet for mutual reception was Soundcloud. The difference with Soundcloud, and reason that it is seemingly the most popular among artists, is because it works in both ways. Soundcloud is a platform in which artists, both mainstream and underground, can create a library with no charge. And listeners can listen to the raw music from all over the country with no subscription or charge, just a search bar. This provides engagement between artist and listeners and also creates easy access to the music that became restricted at one point due to a result of back-lashing from illegal downloading. Before Chance the Rapper became a Grammy award winning rapper and worldwide icon, he was a Soundcloud rapper. Before PARTYNEXTDOOR became the prince of R&B, Soundcloud was the source for all of his sounds. Before Vic Mensa was discovered by the legendary Jay-Z and signed to Roc Nation, he was a Soundcloud rapper, busting thousands of streams via INNANETAPE. Before Bryson Tiller became the voice of the constant situationships we find ourselves consumed with, he was dropping covers to Drake tracks like “How About Now” via Soundcloud. Even artists who have already reached mainstream status like Drake, used Soundcloud to skyrocket themselves even higher than the ceiling that the top provided. When Meek Mill and Drake started their internet beef in 2015, Drake’s hardest hits came from the two tracks he released, “Charged Up” & “Back to Back”, via Soundcloud. Millions of streams have taken these artist from their bedroom to Madison Square Garden. The power of Soundcloud has always been able to cast a strong spell simply because it gives people a chance. Chance seems like a light idea to acknowledge but musically, we are still in a world where record labels and radio airplay, on the surface, seem to make or break an artist; Soundcloud allows for people to play a different way.
In a virtual driven world, where you find things online first before any other source, Soundcloud and virality go hand in hand. Stories develop usually or sprout on Twitter and Facebook where people can comment, create, and relate to in the freest way possible. Soundcloud gives artists nothing but options on how they share music, interact, and engage. For at least five consistent years, Soundcloud has been comparable to a powerhouse basketball program in the NCAA; a breeding ground of forthcoming success. Music and going viral work hand in hand with each other because in a lot of ways, going viral prevails the status of an artist, possibly taking them from being known only on their block to being known all over the county.
Before most people outside of Atlanta knew who Lil Yachty was, they knew his song “1Night”. Back in 2015, comedian Caleon Fox posted a video featuring Yachty’s “1Night” as developing background music to how a man reacts once a girl asks what their status is. The video instantly had fans searching for a place to stream the catchy track that smoothly introduced the concept of only wanting someone for one night. The viral video gained Lil Yachty over 1,500,000 streams on Soundcloud for “1Night” in just one week and caused huge traffic towards his debut mixtape Lil Boat, eventually solidifying a record deal with Coach K’s QC and turning him into a XXL Freshman. With streaming showing such confidence from the artist and range of audience, Lil Yachty went from a red headed college outcast to a countrywide new school icon and millionaire.
The same viral sensation and heavy influx of streaming can be pointed out within the case of Florida native Kodak Black.About a year after Yachty, another XXL Freshman Kodak Black began making his mark as hip-hop most intriguing artists coming out of the south, excluding the hip-hop capital of Atlanta of course. With some slight legal troubles, fans screamed free Kodak for months but when he wasn’t locked up, videos released of him premiering 30 seconds of a new song he was working on featuring a dance craze and tune that fans could not wait to experience. “Tunnel Vision” gained 82,000,000 streams on Soundcloud, making him a viral sensation with the numbers to prove that he was also worthy of being both signed to Atlantic Records and talked about all over the U.S.
It was a challenging season and Finals for the world’s best basketball player, Lebron James. After seemingly having to do everything by himself and losing to the Golden State Warriors 4-1, he went straight to the weight room after the season officially ended in preparation to even the series 2-2 between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers next season, seeing how they’ll both most likely be back. One of the first workout videos Lebron James uploaded featured a song called “First Day Out” by Tee Grizzley. Instantly, Tee Grizzley went from a XXL Freshman prospect to a household name in hip-hop. Alongside the new countrywide popularity, the video of Lebron and song prompted the #LebronJamesChallenge on Twitter, leaving Twitter users in tears watching people put their own twist on the footage. Tee Grizzley said himself that the workout video by Lebron tripled his song sales for “First Day Out”, proving how impactful the internet can be and its direct correlation to music. “First Day Out” also sprouted streaming numbers on Soundcloud, sitting at a calm 14,500,000 streams.
Soundcloud serves, and has served as the music industry’s biggest A&R, with the reach to other artists, manager, with the opportunities that arrive, and publicist for the limitless reach that songs can artists can gain. In a time where streaming is the forefront of all music consumption, Soundcloud is the outlet that’s actually doing it right. Unlike Apple Music which requires monthly subscriptions, Soundcloud uses it’s “Go” & “Pro” features as an option. And unlike Spotify which puts a limitation on everything you can possibly listen, Soundcloud is free to roam in every way. When consumers got word that Soundcloud only had funding for the next 50 days, it was truly a scary time in music. But not all superheroes wear capes. Chance the Rapper, who has avidly used Soundcloud since the early 2010s, back when he was handing out show tickets in the city of Chicago, somehow managed to save it all. We are not sure as to how but one thing we do know, is that music will continue to turn on the wheels of Soundcloud; the go to and prime example of what musical elevation can really be.
By K. High