Get Off SoundCloud While You Still Can

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 5 April, 2018


It appears that SoundCloud is a sinking ship, with more and more producers reporting music that they believe infringes no copyright being removed from it. More than ever, we believe you should head for the liferafts… Pic: Freejak

Got any mixes, mashups, re-edits or own productions on SoundCloud? It really does appear that time is now rapidly running out to get off the platform, or risk losing your files and followers completely. While the reasons behind the gathering doom around the site are manyfold, the bottom line is that it now sadly appears that absolutely nobody’s work is safe on SoundCloud.

So what’s happening?

SoundCloud is under great pressure from the industry to pay royalties on music hosted on the service, and to remove copyright infringers. This can be seen in several ways – inability of the record industry to keep up with digital times, SoundCloud as a dominant player mismanaging its business model, etc etc – but the bottom line is that SoundCloud has found itself in a very hard place: Needing to comply with the demands of the record industry, while at the same time striving to keep its users happy. Sadly, it appears to be failing pretty badly on both scores, with the record industry gunning for the service, and users being summarily removed.

You see, to attempt to satisfy the record companies and performing rights agencies, the service has an infamous “three strikes and you’re out” policy, where it informs what it believes to be copyright infringers twice, then cancels their accounts on the third infringement. But many DJs and producers are reporting that even if they put their own productions, devoid of any sampling, on the site, they are receiving the warning emails, and in some cases (many thousands, by anecdotal evidence), having their accounts summarily removed. Take a look at a very typical experience here, from London garage DJ legend Grant Nelson:

It’s sad that I have to write what I’m about to write but I have no choice. I received an email today from SoundCloud saying that they have terminated my account due to the “3 Strike rule”, apparently I didn’t respond to a copyright claim (probably for one of my own works – can’t be sure as I never received any email notifications about anything).

As you know I recently cancelled my Pro membership as I was sick and tired of paying for the disgusting customer service they offer and the unreliable service that they provide. That said, I had no intention of closing my account which has taken me years to build up a nice follower base of well over 30k people.

So now, they have deleted my account, my stats, followers, everything, and haven’t even given me a specific reason why. Just a blanket “3 strikes” email.

Obviously I am furious, but more than that I want to warn other producers out there. I’m going to urge all other producers with SoundCloud accounts to make a copy of any contacts that you want to keep before the same thing happens to you. Mine are all gone.

I know I’m not the only one that’s been affected by this. Twitter has been alight with a recent spate of account deletions and this chimes the final death toll for SoundCloud in my mind. Now they are simply deleting the accounts of the very people that made their platform a success in the first place they will have no content to provide for their subscribing customers when they “re-brand”.

Congratulations SoundCloud, you were innovative, you were great, then you were shabby and didn’t look after your customers, now you’re soon to be irrelevant. (Click here to view the original Facebook post & thread.)

So where do I put my stuff now, then?

There are two things of note here for DJ/producers. Firstly, although many DJ mixes survive on the SoundCloud, it expressly isn’t intended to host your DJ mixes, and never was. You’re far better off on a platform like Mixcloud, which is designed for that purpose and holds all the necessary licences. Alternatively, you could consider hosting your “promo only” mixes on your own site, where it would be best practice to mark them as such, and not offer downloads (which could be more strongly construed as copyright infringement were a record label to get interested in challenging what you were doing).

The problem with solutions other than the above for DJs wanting to host mixes (such as SoundCloud copycat, or podcasting service Podomatic, etc.), is that if you read their small print, they reserve the right to treat you like SoundCloud is to some of its users. The reason for this is precisely because they operate in the same arena, and the industry possibly isn’t coming after them because it currently has a bigger fish to fry in SoundCloud… but who’s to say it won’t turn its attentions to the smaller players next? (Plus, the reach of these platforms is minuscule compared to SoundCloud, another reason they apparently appear to be flying under the radar, for now at least.)

So if Mixcloud or your own site is best for your full DJ mixes, what about individual tracks? Well, when it comes to individual tracks that you’ve produced yourself (or even re-edits, remixes and mashups), we still think the best way to get exposure and listens is to put them on YouTube, with or without a perfunctory video. What tends to happen here is that if you are flagged for copyright, YouTube will slap advertising on your upload, the proceeds going to the third parties concerned. It’s not a great solution as far as the copyright issue goes (YouTube still has a “three strikes” policy so you need to keep a close eye on your channel’s standing, plus the policy varies by country), but what YouTube does have in its favour is massive reach. Or again, just use your own site.

But the very fact that close-to-perfect alternative platforms don’t exist shows what a hard place SoundCloud is in, and it’s a real shame the issue can’t be worked out, as there’s no reason why users and the record labels can’t gain from a platform offering exposure not only for original productions but creative remixes, re-edits and DJ mixes. We can but hope for advances and improvements to make the life of platforms like SoundCloud easier in the future.

Hard truth is though that we can imagine better times all we want for tomorrow, but it won’t stop the hard work of DJs and producers being destroyed in an instant today! So our advice (as it was over four years ago when we first highlighted this problem), is now, more than ever: Get off SoundCloud before your music sinks with it.

Have you had SoundCloud issues with your own music or your mixes, re-edits or mashups? Where have you taken your productions to escape from the platform? Please share your experiences, thoughts and advice in the comments.

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