Streaming Platforms Need To Be Different
5 min read

Streaming Platforms Need To Be Different

Hey y’all. I had a little issue with Tinyletter delaying the newsletter this morning, but hopefully this arrived safely in your inboxes. This is the last week of Penny Fraction till 2018, where I'll return January 3rd! I truly appreciate everyone who reads, leaves comments, and even hopped on the phone with me. Much love. Speak to y'all soon!

Let’s get a little meta. How do you stream music? Think...okay thinking over. I ask because last week SoundCloud introduced some changes to their mobile app that makes me question—like I did last week with YouTube—if this platform knows its core users.

SoundCloud’s new app interface is no longer a straight feed of songs, but instead offers: recommended tracks based on what you listened to, artist recommendations, SoundCloud’s own curated playlists, new releases, and down towards the bottom community created “mood” playlists. I do see value in a less cluttered way of diving into the app, but none of these new features help SoundCloud’s core product of fans and artists directly interacting with one another.

Most SoundCloud communities I’ve followed and talked this year are not passive users of the platform, but instead are on the service to find the latest song by a kid in the middle of Russia or in New Orleans. These users don’t need the music brought to their attention, cause they’re find doing the legwork of hunting for it.

I harp on that hypothetical user because when I go to SoundCloud’s charts the only music I see is rap and EDM. The curation on the platform never came from the top down, like an Apple Music or Spotify, but rather arose from the bottom up. That lead to issues of repost sharing and trading degrading feeds with endless Chainsmokers remixes no one wanted to hear, but shifting the app in a way that pulls power from the community feels wrong-headed.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch wrote a wise assessment of where SoundCloud may want to look. He highlighted that SoundCloud should fight harder for the legally grey area material like remixes and DJ mixes that populate the service, while places like Apple Music and Spotify don’t know exactly how to handle such work. Then he mentioned that the platform in a way need to become more fan friendly to both creators and fans. For creators that means giving the ability to sell merch, tickets, maybe even a Patreon like subscription, and for fans allow for us to be given more options to display our fandom towards artists. Trainor told Billboard Soundcloud does plan to offer more ways for artists to make revenue, but it feels like a miss opportunity not to lead with that foot forward.

SoundCloud’s app homepage now even more looks like Spotify, despite the fact Trainor said to NPR: “SoundCloud is not in the world to just go head-to-head with mass streaming services to try to deliver the same commodity catalog.” For comparison sake look at Bandcamp and what they did earlier this fall in introducing an app that allows artists and managers to track their stats down to the individual fan. Spotify and SoundCloud can brag about how much data they provide artists, but when Bandcamp can show how much a single user is willing to fork over for an artist, that’s far more actionable data than how many times a song is streamed.

The other major news maker was Pandora. Last week, the company announced they were going to offer essentially a freemium tier to compete with their rival streaming platforms. Again, my first thought was why? Bluntly put, Pandora isn’t gonna to replace Spotify/Apple Music/YouTube—nope, nada, no way. That one must experience a 15 second ad before they get even get access to said service reads like enough of a barrier to write it off before it even gets a chance to grow. If Pandora’s core product is easy listening channels, then adding seemingly infinite choice to the service appears to be missing the reason for use of core users.

Deezer introduced a feature to identify songs, because all of these services are converging into one. Facebook continues to hire old music executives, which I don’t have a lot to speculate on, except that another platform potentially entering the music space needs more than some old music heads a large user base—yes, I’m talking about you YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, Universal officially signed on for YouTube’s soon to be here streaming service. I said my peace last week, but similar to SoundCloud there are so many thing YouTube could do to make itself dominate from an artist perspective that I'll be disappointed if their new service is just Spotify-lite. Post-Napster access to all of the world’s music is a given, but controlling the creation tools is what could be exciting and unique. Not saying that’s where the money is, but in the long term I’d rather own the ecosystem for music creation, not just the final product that we’ve depreciated to nothing.

Playlists! Lawsuits! Fake Songs! The Biggest Streaming-Music Trends of 2017 - Pitchfork

Marc Hogan’s yearly summation of streaming news arrived this morning. The piece is a fine primer on this year in music streaming, but one note stuck out to me. Hogan mentioned the controversy around YouTube’s chorus only loop videos that got a bit of flack when Post Malone went no. 1 with his song “Rockstar.” Now until today YouTube’s never offered any public comment, but a representative from YouTube told Pitchfork that they were removing the videos and actively prevent such content from appearing on the service. It’s nice that YouTube appears to be attempting to any moderation of content on its service.

How To Get Rich Playing Video Games Online - The New Yorker

The New Yorker went in on the live of Twitch streamers. I wanna write about Twitch and music later, but this just reconfirmed my own skepticism around Twitch and even some Patreon communities, where the physical and emotional burden put on creators is unsustainable. Now of course most of these people doing it are in their early 20s, where that’s fine, but live streaming your life will lead to burn, exhaustion, or worse. Probably not the best model for business, but nor is journalism and here I stand, or I guess sit at this very moment.

What Will It Take For Streaming To Grow In Japan? Dispatches From Tokyo Dance Music Event - Forbes

Again this newsletter does a horrible job of following the world of streaming across the globe, so when I can drop a little bit of info about what’s going on outside of the United State I’ll try. This report from Tokyo Dance Music Event helped show not only the strengths of Japan’s music industry—CDs (!)—but maybe might actually open a few eyes about how the business works elsewhere. Also, reading this piece I couldn’t shake that the colonialist idea of pushing a western mode of music consumption (streaming) onto a non-western market might not just be racist, but business wise fairly stupid. Music thrives with a diversity of consumption options, because again all the music in the world is available for free, how one swindles money outta fans isn’t gonna work in every market.

Internal Emails Show Twitter Struggled To Interpret Its Own Verification Rules While Hunting Trolls - Buzzfeed

This is becoming a Charlie Warzel fan newsletter for which I do apologize, if one is tired of me posting weird internet news. But I’m throwing this piece here because throughout this newsletter I never know if I’m being too harsh or not giving too much benefit of the doubt with decisions that are being made by these companies. Honestly after reading these emails from Twitter executives makes me feel like we’re all being too kind to these tech companies and that when they fuck up, it might because the task is hard; but also cause they have no fucking clue what they’re doing. : )