Copyright Infringement and Greedy Labels Kick Us Off Soundcloud
FUCK YOU SOUNDCLOUD.
I HATE YOU AND YOUR STUPID COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT POLICIES.
I’m just trying to share the beautiful music I love with the rest of the world and I don’t understand why you’re making things so difficult for me? Not to mention, ripping me off and stealing the 135 bucks I paid for a premium subscription.
Okay, well maybe you didn’t steeeeeal it. You did warn me about this possibly happening… and you did give me a few chances to change my ways.
But I don’t understand WHY it matters if I upload someone else’s sounds to a cloud?
And I need you Soundcloud. I need your followers. You’re the most convenient way of reaching my audience.
I need them to hear this music!
Why are you doing this to me?
I thought we were friends?
Was there something I could have done differently?
Why do some things get me in trouble for copyright infringement automatically and others don’t?
Now I’m asking the right question.
Even Kaskade Gets Kicked off Soundcloud
As you can see I went through almost every emotion upon receiving the news that our Soundcloud page had been shut down for uploading sounds that weren’t ours. This happened about two weeks ago, and I’m just now getting around to sharing our story with you, but what you read above was written the day I found out. I feel a little better knowing that Kaskade and I are having the same issues, but it’s clear there are larger factors at play we need to discuss. So come with me on a journey as I discover some of the answers to my own questions posed above.
How we use Soundcloud right now
We used our soundcloud to host our podcast….and yes, there were a couple of tracks that we wanted to upload, but only so we could highlight them on our site (aka share them with you!) and because we couldn’t find them anywhere else on the internet. You all know there are a few sets out there you just can’t seem to find on Soundcloud, but you can find them on Zippyshare. Not to mention soundcloud’s HTML5 players are mobile friendly so they’re a super important part of how we share music with you on the go. The normal wordpress code doesn’t show up on a mobile phone.
I’ve been working with our head of social media Sean Peterson to lock down a process for building our Soundcloud following and things were just starting to pick up for us; we’d gained 2,000 new followers in the last two months. A week later, I woke up to a text from my developer letting me know we had been given the boot from Soundcloud.
Do I have the right to be pissed off?
Yes. Yes I do. For multiple reasons and at multiple people. But I want to be careful about who I go to war with. Soundcloud had to make a tough business decision to become fully legal or get sued out the ass; the internet isn’t the lawless place it once was. But then my question becomes: who is making the rules? Google? Seems like it. Soundcloud is an amazing platform and an important part of the music industry. I love Soundcloud. I use it everyday. I’m sure you do to, but it’s clear that a lot of us are…umm..unclear about how to use it. Or really, just wish we could use it in a different way than it’s letting us.
What are you up to Soundcloud?
Over the last few months Soundcloud has been making updates to their autodetection algorithms. This means that as soon as you upload a track to soundcloud you awaken a little gnome in the backend of their site that gets to work trying to figure out whether or not the song you’ve uploaded is really yours.
I found some interesting comments on the internet from people having similar issues, and sometimes, very different issues that ultimately led them to the same conclusion. ‘ChairCrusher’ from music.cornwarning.com shared a post about his (odd) experience that led him to this conclsuion:
“Soundcloud’s audio fingerprint software is able to detect common elements in two songs. That’s great, but it can’t distinguish between one song sampling another, and two songs containing common source material. So it’s going to generate thousands of false positives. I guarantee that the worst-paid people at Soundcloud are the poor shmoes who have to wade through all the people contesting false positives for copyright infringement.”(http://music.cornwarning.com/2013/03/26/in-which-soundcloud-sends-me-a-hilarious-takedown-notice/)
Trying to figure out if you’ve infringed on someone’s copyright? If you want to read their whole spiel about copyright you can do that here, but for our purposes, only looking at this from the side of someone who uploads music, this section of their site outlines most everything:
(Feel free to skip this)
For music uploads:
Can you answer “yes” to all of the following questions?
- Did you compose the music yourself?
- Did you write the lyrics yourself?
- Did you record and produce the track yourself or do you have permission from the producer or record label that made the recording?
- Do you have written permission from all copyright owners to use any samples contained in the track?
Can you answer “no” to all of the following questions?
- Were you signed to a record label when you recorded the track?
- Do you have a publishing deal?
- Are you a member of a performing rights organization or collecting society?
- Have you licensed your track to anyone else?
- Does the track contain the entirety or any part of someone else’s song(s) Is it based on someone else’s song(s)?”
I understand the appeal of automation and the necessity to create algorithms that help us move the world forward. Automation is great for letting humans spend their time on more ‘important ventures,’ like browsing tumblr and reblogging this cute exercise panda.
But what happens when it starts effecting Kaskade, or TJR for that matter? TJR couldn’t upload his Ultra set to YouTube because the set contained tracks from different labels. So when he went to upload his set, YouTube’s auto-detection automatically wouldn’t let him.
THIS IS ANOTHER REASON YOU MIGHT HEAR SIMILAR SETS FROM ARTISTS AT EVERY FESTIVAL THEY PLAY.
They want to share it online and in order to do so they have to follow the rules of the platform. A live set is coveted like gold in our community, and management knows how powerful of a promotional tool a live set can be, so they’re obviously going to tell Hardwell to make sure he only plays tracks from his own label (as much as possible). And then Dyro and Dannic will follow suit and we end up with the same shitty music 3 times. Yuck. It’s a control issue.
Where the Labels Fit in
In my opinion, the labels are really at the heart of this issue. They cling to their old ways and fight for every penny they can drain out of an artists good name when we all know there’s not a substantial amount of money in selling music.
It’s all a giant facade. The one thing labels are supposed to do for young artists is promote their music; but in the electronic dance music industry the labels are absolutely horrible at promoting their artists. I’ve been a music blogger for over 3 years now and I’m still shocked at how little some of the labels do; or when they do, the lack of professionalism.
In the end, we wind up with a few types of EDM labels. We won’t even include drum and bass in this conversation because it’s just sad how terrible that entire genre is at promoting their amazing music. DnB has such a loyal core following, and it’s my second favorite genre, but somehow Avicii is a household name while Fred V & Grafix are…I don’t know…chillin in London somewhere?
1) Figure it out on your own labels
Some labels like Ultra do provide a healthy payout for the rights to your tracks (but remember! They own your song now) and provide you with some money to find your own PR/marketing etc. So you better make sure you have a damn good manager, publicist, and booking agent because Ultra just wants to use your music to make money, licensing your tracks so they can be used in commercials or Disney movies.
2) Labels that cockblock their own artists
Then you have labels like Armada, who push Armin’s new tracks but don’t do anything for their smaller artists besides play them on ASOT or invite them to ASOT events (which is a big honor). I’ve noticed Armada’s been creating new sub labels for their B-level artists like Orjan Neilsen (In My Opinion), Aly and Fila (FSOE), Andy Moor (AVA), Max Graham (Rebrand), and W&W (Mainstage Music), but do any of you think they have the money from record sales to support the infrastructure of a traditional record label?
(Not sure what the traditional organization of a record label looks like? This picture might help)
And the short answer is no, they don’t. These are small businesses folks (Obama voice). One person might wear multiple hats within a label and their inability to generate revenue in a post-napster world leads me to believe, along with my own personal experiences, that many of these labels have less than 3 full-time employees. Nothing wrong with a tight ship! (I’ve heard Armada has 8 people)
3) Labels that try to do their own PR
Labels, like Enhanced, who send out spiffy newsletter blasts. Newsletters go: straight into my spam or a folder that I’ve created for them and usually forget to look at.
As a music blogger I get a ton of emails, so I use the service Unroll.me to organize my inbox. It’s amazing. Definitely worth checking out. But I also create filters in gmail that automatically put emails from labels and publicists into specific folders I’ve created for them. This is in no way comparable to the strategic PR, marketing, and promotion done by organizations in other industries. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few PR companies in the EDM industry that do an amazing job (theoryX, Tim Stark and Sixth Degree to name a few), but they’re usually contracted by the artist’s manager who realizes the label isn’t going to help them promote the track and knows that it takes a full time publicist to help make and mold an artist. Unfortunately publicists are extremely underrated and underappreciated in the edm industry because 1) It’s such a new market. DJ’s are just starting to make the big bucks, so there aren’t many artists who can afford the 10k month publicity retainers that exist for hollywood stars…but it’s coming… and 2) There are a ton of wannabes that work for free and think the job of a publicist is getting a DJ drinks at their show. No. That’s not right. Stop it. You know who you are.
The negative effects on new artists
Now we have all these new artists pumping out tracks with the goal of getting them signed to a label….but why? Because that’s how people become famous? Wrong. Because that’s how artists make money? Wrong. It’s cool? Well, yes, it would be cool to be on Anjunabeats and hang out with Above & Beyond, but you don’t need to be signed to Anjunabeats in order to make money or build a following. Wake up people! Take the time to do the research and figure out for the best path to accomplishing your goal, for yourself, by yourself. It’s is called “Making a name for YOURSELF.” Doesn’t matter what label you’re on if you’re a douche.
One time a kid emailed me a new track and he asked me to let him know what I thought. So I asked him what label he was trying to sign the track to. He said he didn’t care, he just wanted to get signed to any label. There were two things about the way this conversation was playing out that really blew my mind:
1) If you are going to create something specifically to get signed by a label, have your end goal in mind. A track that you want to get signed to Toolroom is going to sound a lot different than a track you want to get signed to Armada.
2) What the hell is the point of getting signed to a label these days as a musician in the electronic dance music industry?
Would you like to weigh the pros and cons? Honestly I don’t even know if we need to. The reality is that a label is supposed to have a promo pool and they’re supposed to send your tracks out to radio shows etc. to help boost the track and get your name out there. We’ll come back to this idea in just a bit….but first…
Why wouldn’t you let me upload your track to Soundcloud?
You scared bro? Am I stealing plays from your account and stopping you from getting booked? Does that qualify as truly stealing something of monetary value? Or am I just promoting your tracks and helping spread your music through the internet, resulting in new fans who fall in love with your tracks and are willing to pay anywhere from $10-500 to see you perform?
I’m going to use Armada as my example in this article. I’m a #TranceFamily guy till the end, but they are one of the strictest enforcers of copyright infringement on YouTube and Soundcloud that I’ve come across in EDM. I tried uploading a few old tracks for a Throwback Thursday article on OTB and they were immediately flagged by Soundcloud’s anti-copyright infringement algorithm; two of our four strikes resulting in our expulsion from the SC platform. And ya, they actually give you 4 strikes.
Again, what’s the point in blocking me from uploading these tracks? Is Armada’s ultimate goal to drive people directly to the artists Soundcloud page resulting in more followers for the artist? I can see the arguement there…but I’m going to follow someone I love on Soundcloud regardless of where I discover their music. And I’ll tell you what, I rarely EVER discover someone new ON Soundcloud. I discover them via podcasts or other blogs. Does it really matter in the long term where I discover them? When the long term goal is to get more bookings?
Things have changed guys. If people hear something they like, they’re going to google it and they’re going to find the artist, and if your music is good enough, they’re going to follow you. Even better, they steal it and show it to all their friends.
One valid argument I can see from the labels is that they are attempting to control the artists’ (and the labels) brand messaging. Limiting the locations of where people can hear the music allows them to keep a sharp eye on the content and also the feedback. But at the same time, it’s music people. And you can’t control the internet! People are going to download Armada’s music illegally whether they like it or not, so what’s the point in attempting to limit people’s ability to discover the music in the first place? Stopping us from uploading your track is not the same as stopping us from uploading your track to Zippyshare.
If someone hears a song and wants that song in their itunes or on their phone they are going to do one of two thing: buy it or steal it.
That doesn’t change depending on what label releases the track… it depends on the person sitting on the other side of the screen. And I can tell you right now there are a lot more people stealing music than buying it. I created a poll asking our users this exact question in my article about hacking beatport. You can still vote on the poll, but in reviewing the current results approximately 75% of people stated they download music illegally or stream it. 53% Download illegally, 23% stream music, 19% purchase music on Beatport, and 6% on iTunes. Which is even more frustrating to me because as I mentioned before, it seems as though the labels intent with deploying these DMCA takedowns and registering their catalog with SC and Google is an attempt to get people to buy music….When we know that these labels aren’t even selling enough money B2C (business to consumer) to support their infrastructure.
Labels now exist to license artists music for big commercial paychecks; and depending on how your contract is set up, take a chunk of everything you make. Yes, on the surface there are benefits to getting signed by a large label such as immediate connections, but again, who’s your manager? Are they fighting for you? Are they making the right plays? Are they putting you in situations where you can be successful as an artist? Answer me this. What label was Tim Berg’s hit track “Bromance” released on? You don’t know. It was Pink Star. And Pink Star didn’t make Avicii. His manager Ash did.
EMC 2012: The Avicii Case Study with Ash Pournouri
Last week I was creating a video tutorial for my team and when I went to upload it to youtube it was automatically muted and none of them could hear what I was saying. Talk about frustrating. And can you guess why it was automatically muted? Because I was listening to a podcast while I was making the video and a track signed to Armada just happened to be playing at the exact time I recorded the video. So instead of 50 contributing writers listening to the track and potentially having a conversation about the sick song in the background, potentially going to google to research the artist after the conversation….they…just….hear nothing.
These are real things I’m talking about guys, ZMOT or Google’s zero moment of truth, I’m talking about real stages of the consumer purchase cycle. It doesn’t make sense, from a business standpoint, to hinder potential new customers abilities to to FIND YOU.
On the flip side there are labels and artists I work with that get it completely and they’re fine with OTB uploading their tracks to our Soundcloud. They get it. They understand the value in letting that content live on our platform where our audience can engage and interact with it. Red Bull Records is one of them. Go figure. They’re only have the most genius marketing team in the world.
Awareness + engagement = profit.
If you run a label and you want to increase awareness, but only want that awareness to come from your ‘Owned Media’ (SC, Youtube, FB, the channels you literally own and publish content on) you’re going to have to spend more money with Paid Media (advertising) in order to drive traffic to those channels. But you’re resources are already limited by your profits and how you choose to allocate that cash. Doesn’t it make sense to let your artists songs spread organically throughout the internet boosting awareness which will result in natural engagement? You can pay for ads to get eyeballs on specific pages, but that doesn’t mean those users are going to be as engaged (or have them same purchase intent) as someone who’s seeking out the artists on their own.
Clearly there’s just a lot of people in the music business who don’t know shit about business. But that makes sense because most people who DO know something about business know music isn’t a business you go into if you want to make money. That’s why guys like BT spend their free time scoring movies and ensuring their audio engineering skills will turn a profit for them when they’re done touring. There is a huge difference between people like BT (or Tritonal ,who have audio engineering degrees) and someone like 3lau. Who, from what I can tell, got famous for doing mashups and only has one original production by himself (which leads me to question if he even created it by himself. I have to be skeptical.)
I guess that’s one reason I’m so drawn to Trance as a genre. You can’t get famous bullshitting a trance track. But you can make a hit EDM song and top the beatport charts in 5 minutes and 12 seconds
I’m looking for that melodic euphoric big room Trance. And while someone like Matt Lange can make a track in any genre, because he’s a genius, I doubt Steve Aoki could make a trance track. I’d love to see him try, but he won’t. There’s a big difference between music composition and performance art with cake. To each their own.
(p.s. I love Benihanas and Steve would probably be an awesome guy to hang out with, I just don’t want to go to one of his shows)
The Future of Labels
Back to the labels!
All of the biggest edm artists just go ahead and start their own labels once they’re big enough to do it. Mau5trap, Fly Eye, Oslaw, even armada was born out of the relationship between Armin Van Buuren, David Lewis and Maykel Piron.
“Armada Music was founded in June, 2003 by Armin van Buuren, Maykel Piron and David Lewis, whose names stand for ‘ArMaDa”
And at that point, I feel like the artists I’ve mentioned above are using their labels more like “squads” or a “crews” i.e. YMCMB. That way they can release music of a particular genre on the same label and hang out together on tour. Where they make the real money. Yes, there is a bit of personal development going on and a LOT networking when someone gets signed to a label, but you guys, I keep telling you this, all of the money is in the bookings. And a booking agent is something totally different. Getting signed to a label in the edm industry is more about aligning yourself and your brand with the messaging you want your brand to convey. So you can reach the right audience. I am in no way trying to take away from the idea of what it means to be signed to Anjunabeats or Armada etc. Only the best artists get signed to the labels we’re talking about, and we continue to respect them exactly for that reason. But If you want to get signed to a label soooo badly…just start one. Anyone can do it. Anyone can sell tracks on itunes and beatport. Anyone with a couple hundred bucks can start an LLC right now. Don’t do something just because that’s the way it’s always been done. The higher the risk, the higher the reward. You’ll never make as much money as the guy who owns the business. Just make sure you’re doing it right.
What can we do to avoid getting kicked off Soundcloud?
I’ve scoured the internet, reading old blog posts and forums in attempt to get a general consensus about the best way to avoid this issues, but the reality is I keep coming back to one answer:
Don’t upload anything from any major labels’ catalog.
What are the other options?
Or hosting all your own sounds on Amazon’s AWS
Where do we go from here?
Soundcloud will continue to be an important platform for us to use in order to connect with new fans and electronic dance music lovers, but it will be as a social platform, not something we depend on to share music with you.
As a media outlet, and a business, we cannot and will not be dependent on them. It’s a terrible idea. Instead, we’ll use it to post our podcasts, live sets from festivals, and tracks that we do get clearance on. Yet, when it comes to publishing content on this site, we’ve realized we need to move to Amazon’s AWS in order to have 100% control over our own content. I drive myself nuts going back through old content fixing 404’d Soundcloud players. I hope I’m not jumping the gun here with this announcement, but we’ve already started the slow process of this ultimately necessary transition away from Soundcloud.
As an industry…Well, we’ve talked about these issues before in articles such as:
But the reality is that the change has to come from within. And things are changing. My outlook is optimistic. Everyday I get contacted by more new artists, managers, and PR people who have seen the light. I hope this article was able to shed some light on the subject for you.
So while you’re here, head on over to our NEW soundcloud and give us a follow, we’re still there, for now.