How SoundCloud Collapsed

Although SoundCloud is a fantastic service for people who want to share audio–it’s pretty much the YouTube of audio–it’s never, ever made money. Now the company’s financial issues are all over newsfeeds. Will it survive? Or will it die, taking everything with it? BuzzFeed looks at what happened.

If you want an example of when SoundCloud’s mission to be a free-for-all music sharing venue collided with its desire to go mainstream, the time it accidentally banned Justin Bieber is a pretty good place to start. In late April 2014, a user named “Sir Bizzle” posted a song titled “We Were Born for This” on SoundCloud. The sparse acoustic track sounded so much like Justin Bieber that listeners assumed that it was the Canadian pop star. It quickly racked up a few thousand plays, and chatter on social media, before SoundCloud flagged the profile, assuming Sir Bizzle was an imposter with an ill-gotten Biebs jam, and took the song down.

Using SoundCloud’s online complaint form, Sir Bizzle asked that the track be reinstated. The company declined his appeal, noting that the account’s associated address, “123 everywhere street,” was clearly bogus. Sir Bizzle responded with a selfie — of Justin Bieber holding a notepad with a greeting to SoundCloud’s employees.

“OMG OMG OMG I JUST SAVED BIEBER!” wrote one employee on an internal email thread after verifying that it was the artist and restoring the song. The company’s community and artist relations teams jumped into overdrive to placate the world’s biggest popstar. Three days later, Bieber’s label, Island Def Jam Music Group, rehashed the issue, issuing a takedown notice for the tune before retracting the statement after learning that the artist himself had posted the tune.

Former SoundCloud employees familiar with the Sir Bizzle incident point to it as an encapsulation of the company’s promise, missed opportunities, and inability to coherently work with an entrenched music industry. Three years after Bieber’s selfie, SoundCloud has squandered its position as a maverick, but beloved audio platform and failed to build a meaningful business.

Keep going. (Via Peter)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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