SoundCloud needs to make its move – and soon

800x500_white-on-orangeLet’s set out a few facts here. First: SoundCloud is experiencing massive growth, particularly since its “Next” iteration went live for all late last year. Second: with that growth and switch to a Twitter-like “follow” mechanism, artists are seeing huge growth in fan numbers on the platform – in some cases rivalling or exceeding Facebook. Third: SoundCloud pay nothing to rightsholders.

Among my peers, the same question keeps getting asked: “When are SoundCloud going to start paying?”. Make no mistake: people are starting to resent the fact that they’re seeing all these plays and getting no payment per-stream. There’s a Catch-22 here: as the platform grows and delivers more plays for artists, so will the annoyance among rightsholders who are seeing those big numbers with zero payouts.

Here’s some observations as I see it:

1. SoundCloud needs to introduce ads
Right now, SoundCloud is in the same place as the pre-monetisation YouTube. They’re growing rapidly, and need to satisfy rightsholders who at some point will make a put-up-or-shut-up demand on them. Additionally though, their costs must be spiralling on an epic level. An audio platform is not a cheap one to run, being fairly bandwidth-heavy, so logic would dictate that at some point Soundcloud’s investors are going to demand a stronger push to monetise and offset costs. Advertising is inevitable: its the only way the requisite revenues can be generated. Look to YouTube for the precedents on this one.

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Further fun with Twilio: two easy, clever things you can do

logos_downloadable_roundOn my last post I detailed a simple way in which you could use Twilio to be a central phone number directing on to wherever you happened to be (home, office, abroad etc). What I didn’t detail though was some of the extra stuff I’ve done with my number which underlines why I use Twilio and don’t just buy a Skype number, for example.

First up: Twilio and Zapier. Zapier is very similar to IFTTT; it allows you to feed one API into another to make something happen. A large number of services are supported and you connect them up to do things like tweet when a new Mailchimp campaign has been sent, for example. In this instance though, what I’ve done is set up a “zap” where if I text an email address to my own number, it adds that address to the Daily Digest mailing list. I often have people ask about signing up when I’m at events or meetings, so this is a perfect way to take action on that; I can just text their email to my Twilio number, and it then adds that address to the Daily Digest list, then sends a confirmation email to the subscriber. Simple, but hugely effective. In time I’ll probably buy a separate number so I can publicise the feature – ie “text your email to [number] to subscribe”.

If you do have a Twilio number, Zapier is really a must-have service as it just opens up the possibilites no end – particularly to non-developer types like myself. For example, you could have Twilio call you when one of your artists updates their Facebook page. Or you can have it text you when someone adds a new file to your Dropbox. The possibilities are endless, so do check it out.

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Twilio: getting hands-on with phone-number-meets-web fun

logos_downloadable_roundPermit me a small backstory here. Like most people, I tend to be contacted most on my mobile where work matters are concerned. Now I work from home a lot more though, I’ve found that the reception here is, in short, appalling. I could change network, but my deal is an awesome one that makes that a pretty unappealing prospect. Similarly, I don’t want to give people my home number, and fitting a second line could prove expensive – a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Enter Twilio. For a while now I’ve been curious about this service, which interfaces telephony with the web. My mate Syd Lawrence has done some very clever stuff there, which in turn had me interested in what was possible from a marketing perspective. However what tipped me over the edge into using it was this post, explaining how you could use Twilio to dodge roaming costs when travelling. From that, I learned a few things. Firstly, you could buy a number for a tiny amount ($1 per month). Secondly, you could then do a LOT with that number. In some respects, Twilio is like a more powerful version of Google Voice – a service unavailable to anyone outside the US.

Twilio has solved my problem. How? By giving my business a flexible landline number (and a local London one too!) that my clients can call. How the number behaves it entirely up to me – and believe me, it can do some funky stuff if I so desire. In the simplest terms though, I can have the number forward on to either my home landline, or my mobile. Alternatively, I can just have it dial me on my computer, allowing me to use it in the same manner as a Skype phone number. As the above blog post demonstrates too, I can also use it to handle my being abroad, by having Twilio forward to a local SIM that I’ve bought in whatever country I am in. Similarly, whilst I am there I can use my laptop to call clients via the web and it won’t cost me the earth. Usefully, they also just see the same number calling them, so they always know it is me. It allows a reliability that my clients will appreciate (only one number to call, anytime, to get hold of me) and with that brings a touch more professionalism to my business.

So – how do you go about doing all this? Well, its pretty simple really:

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Spotify & Deezer’s apps: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 15.08.16Recently I decided to familiarise myself with Deezer, because I feel the service could start making some big moves this year and that therefore it would be good to have some insight as to the platform, the user interface, what’s possible etc etc.

Something that really caught my eye when using their web client though was the way in which many of the Deezer “apps” were basically just external websites that were using the Deezer API to provide their audio. This led me on a train of thought around both Deezer and Spotify apps, where I concluded that in many respects what we have here is a massive case of Emperor’s New Clothes. A chat with Syd Lawrence on Twitter basically confirmed that, too – which you read on Storify here.

Let’s start with the basics. Spotify’s desktop client is basically a jazzed up Chromium browser, as I understand it. The Spotify apps that run within it are, to all intents and purposes, websites. They’re code being pulled from elsewhere and run within the Spotify desktop client. Similarly, Deezer’s apps run in a similar manner – though often not even within the Deezer web client.

That being the case, one has to ask the question: why are the people behind these apps not broadening them out to run on the web, connecting in with all available services? Take the Earache Metalizer Spotify app, for example. I’d wager that with probably an extra 20% of time spent on it, that could have been adapted to also run within Earache’s website, pointing people to the streaming service of choice, be that Spotify, Deezer, Rdio or potentially something else.

This isn’t – and shouldn’t be – an “either/or” scenario. I would assume you could have the same app available in Spotify, Deezer *and* on your website if you so desired – and why not? It provides convenience to your users, after all. So why aren’t people doing this?

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New Soundcloud seeing massive growth in fan numbers

Late last year Soundcloud finally made their “Next” iteration live for all. Among the various feature improvements was a more Twitter-like following setup, wherein it was made much easier to follow artists on there. Something else I really liked was the Repost function, akin to retweeting, where you could repost someone else’s track or set to your own followers. For labels, this is a godsend: it means you can post a track to the artist’s account, but repost it to your own followers. Similarly global licensees can do the same.

What I’ve really noticed though is just how much Next Soundcloud has led to a surge in follower numbers – and in some cases how drastic those numbers are when compared to other social networks. Don’t believe me? Check out the rate at which SBTRKT gained new fans when the new version of Soundcloud went live (click for larger version of the image – graphs taken from MusicMetric):

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 12.17.52

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