Music blogs erupted yesterday afternoon with the announcement that Soundcloud will begin limiting streams utilizing their API to a limit of 15,000 plays per day. Strategically, this is meant to push traffic to Soundcloud itself, ultimately impacting ad revenue. Tactically, this means music blogs promoting artists’ new tracks will face the prospect of hosting temporarily-dead links for successful posts.
Ostensibly meant to protect artists from third-party applications that “abuse creator content,” Soundcloud reps have clarified that the the limit will not impact embeds (the most commonly-found form of Soundcloud content outside Soundcloud), which automatically softens the blow to blogs. And while there is some confusion over whether the 15,000 play limit is cumulative (across outside clients) or individual (per client), in practice it is unlikely to affect anything but major releases.
Most interesting, however, is the fervor with which the online dance music community reacted to the news. Creators, in particular, appeared ready to interpret the announcement as an attack, couched though it was in the language of protection. In exposing (and upsetting) the delicate balance between music producers, streaming services, and content-delivery infrastructure, many were quick to bemoan the move as a death knell for Soundcloud.
However, this tension between artists / streaming services / blogs has always been wholly predicated on the habits of the consumers. If Soundcloud opens a dialogue with its users, perhaps third-party abuses could be curtailed from the demand side. And if it’s additional traffic that Soundcloud wants, simply by making a point to click the Soundcloud link from any third-party stream (including embeds, because why not), dance music fans can continue to support the blogs they love while avoiding stream limits. I have some 20 tabs of music open at any given time (and would have more if that wasn’t the sweet spot before I have to force-reload my entire browser), meaning I’m already reading about new music faster than I can consume it. When most of your waking life is spent listening to music, it’s not hard to spread the traffic love across blogs, third-party applications, and Soundcloud itself.
This might expose me as basic, but I’d write love letters to Spotify, Soundcloud, and Beatport. I don’t miss the wild west of Napster any more than I miss dial-up internet. I would hate to see increasing regulation, encroaching ads, or hastily designed policy changes threaten the beauty of a system that lets artists seamlessly distribute fresh beats to hungry tune heads. Neither creators nor consumers want to see Soundcloud suffer, knowing full well we’ve got it pretty good.
So let this be a message to Soundcloud: the fans want to know what we can do to make your business easier. We want to do our part to keep the system viable and productive for everyone involved. If we have to, we want to save you from yourself.
~ Michelle Shevin