by Alex Cosper (7/31/18)
SoundCloud is a publishing platform for independent musicians, allowing them to upload their music online and sell it to fans. Several rappers have gained notoriety first on SoundCloud, attracting millions of views, leading to record labels taking notice. In many ways the site outdates traditional record companies, giving unsigned artists various tools to get their music to the public.
Rapper Russ, signed to Columbia, is an example of someone who rose through SoundCloud before getting a recording deal, which turns out to be more of a partnership. Russ maintains full control of his music and even gets away with criticizing the music industry in his video interviews. Russ is proud of his roots as an authentic indie artists, while despising kids born rich who pose as indie, but are really backed by big money.
Other artists who have been signed to major or medium labels following SoundCloud success include the late XXXTentacion (Caroline), Lil Uzi Vert (Atlantic), Travis Scott (Epic), Ski Mask the Slump God (Universal), Post Malone (Republic), 21 Savage (Epic) and Odunsi Bowo (Universal).
Founded in August 2007 in Stockholm, Sweden, the site has grown to attract millions of registered users. The site went online a year later. The company's valuation rose to about $700 million by 2014, after developing a following of 40 million registered users. That year talk died down that Twitter would buy the company for $2 billion. Early big investors in the platform included actor Ashtun Kutcher and Alanis Morissette's producer Guy Oseary. SoundCloud went on to make deals with Merlin in 2015, representing thousands of indie labels. It also make deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.
A few years later rumors began to swirl that Spotify was interested in purchasing the company, which went through a period of financial uncertainty. In 2017 former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor became the new leader of SoundCloud, replacing co-founder ALex Ljung. The company also announced in 2017 that it was laying off nearly half of its 400 employees and closing its San Francisco and London officers. One of the attempts to attract subscribers was to launch SoundCloud Go+, which gives them access to millions of songs for $5 per month.
Indie artists view SoundCloud as a valuable social media tool for attracting fans and meeting other musicians. Uploading songs to the platform allow for artists and fans to share their music through other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The SoundCloud Pro package lets musicians upload six hours of audio. The audio does not necessarily have to be completed songs, as some producers make money by selling beats, soundbites or mixtapes.