Tag Archives: SoundCloud

Twitter Has Invested $70Million in SoundCloud

SoundCloud LogoNews items about SoundCloud are so repetitive, they’re starting to sound like a broken record. We’ve reported more than once about how either SoundCloud is rapidly burning thru the money it has, or that it’s taken on more debt in the form of venture capital. This week’s SoundCloud news is focused on the second of those two, as apparently Twitter has invested $70million dollars in the audio platform.

This fact on its own is amusing considering Twitter itself has yet to actually turn a profit. Also, this isn’t the first time SoundCloud and Twitter have been linked financially. In 2014, rumors began circulating that the micro-blogging service was about to buy SoundCloud. But that deal ultimately fell thru. Now the two companies have come back together. But this time, Twitter isn’t going for the full buyout.

Since its launch in 2007, SoundCloud has raised over $193million in funding thru a total of five investment rounds. The money has come from nine different investors, including Twitter. Historically, it’s been difficult for audio-streaming services to reach profitability. The biggest hurdle these kinds of companies must overcome is dealing with the licensing and legal issues that arise around streaming music. SoundCloud has even had to consider giving equity to the major record labels in order to keep them happy.

While it does provide services for podcasters, SoundCloud has always been a music-first platform. It’s hard to say what SoundCloud’s financial standing could mean for podcasters who rely on the service. But if the company doesn’t at least break even soon, SoundCloud’s future doesn’t look very bright.

SoundCloud Podcasting Services Down For Many Users

SoundCloud LogoSoundCloud, the so-called “YouTube of audio,” isn’t really living up to that title for many users this weekend. SoundCloud’s Podcasting Community Forum has been inundated with reports of audio files and RSS feeds not working. The problem seems to be primarily affecting SoundCloud users who rely on the service for their podcasts, as opposed to music-based users. The common problem amongst most of these complaints is that media links contained within users’ RSS feeds are returning 403 Forbidden errors. Here’s an example post from SoundCloud user Hector Trujillo 12, who’s just trying to listen to a SoundCloud-hosted podcast:

I receive “Error 403” whenever I try to play or download an episode of the “Guys We F****d” podcast via my podcast app. I contacted the app developer and he informed me that it had nothing to do with the app but actually with the hosting services of the podcast’s platform which in this case is Soundcloud.

Here’s a post from user DJ FOTN who is running a podcast thru SoundCloud:

I’ve been having difficulty this morning getting iTunes Connect to Validate my feed. I’ve tried all of the suggestions and have made sure all my Artwork is set up correctly (I think), I’ve even deleted and re-uploaded the episode.

The Episode is showing up in iTunes Connect but can’t be downloaded.

When I check the feed on https://validator.w3.org/feed/ it says the feed is Validated.

Just a note, if you paste the feed into a browser and locate the mp3 link, following this link returns the error message:
403 Forbidden
Request forbidden by administrative rules.

The only clue to be found as to why this is happening comes from SoundCloud’s status blog:

April 30th, 2016 9:39 PM CET / 1:39 PM PST

“We will be doing maintenance on our site shortly that will affect RSS feeds. This feature will be disabled for all tracks until further notice. Please continue to check our Status Blog for updates.”

Considering the podcasting side of SoundCloud relies on RSS functionality, it seems likely that this maintenance is what’s causing users to get the 403 messages. No word on how long SoundCloud will be performing this maintenance. Problems like this with podcast feeds can cause them to be delisted in the iTunes Store. Hopefully, SoundCloud gets this sorted out before that starts happening to the many users who rely on the service.

SoundCloud Launches New Service, Spotify Gets More Funding

SoundCloud LogoSoundCloud and Spotify are two big audio platforms that have made their fair share of podcasting news over the last year. Here’s a brief roundup of what the two services have been up to lately.

Earlier this month, SoundCloud launched its new SoundCloud Go service. SoundCloud Go is aimed squarely at music fans. It’s unclear what this new service may mean for podcasters. SoundCloud Go boasts these features:

  • More tracks: 125 million+
  • Listen offline
  • Unlock previews as full tracks
  • Ad-free

SoundCloud Go is currently offering a one-month free trial with a price of $9.99/month after that. U.S. based SoundCloud users with Pro Unlimited accounts will be able to subscribe to the service for a discount at $4.99/month.

Swedish streaming service Spotify announced it’d be adding podcasts to its platform almost one year ago. Since then, the company has kept its podcasting support in a fairly limited beta stage while it manually adds new shows to its directory. Last month, it was announced that Spotify received another $1billion worth of funding:

The money is technically “convertible debt,” which means the investors will have a chance to buy in at a discounted rate should Spotify decide to go public. Some experts say that’s going to happen in 2017—Spotify already had $600 million in the bank at the time of this new round, so even though they’re losing money (Spotify lost $180 million in 2014), this new investment will likely keep the company afloat until their IPO.

spotify logoThe launch of SoundCloud Go puts the two services in more direct competition. SoundCloud’s financial status has been somewhat grim for awhile. SoundCloud Go may be a good way for the company to bring in desperately needed revenue. Meanwhile, Spotify’s growth has been slow but steady. However, the company faces increasing costs due to the complex and costly nature of music licensing. If the two services don’t reach financial stability soon, it may the beginning of the end for them both.

Podomatic’s Year-End Deal Targets SoundCloud Users

Podomatic logoMedia hosting and podcasting services company Podomatic announced a year-end promotional deal as well as some new features in its November newsletter. And while the newsletter doesn’t specifically state that the company is trying to court SoundCloud users, it kinda looks that way.

First off, Podomatic has developed an inline Facebook player for its users. This allows clickable players to automatically spawn inside of users’ Facebook feeds. From the newsletter:

…we’ve released a brand new Facebook timeline player with a slick new design and improved sharing capabilities. While other companies are removing Facebook players entirely, we realize how important it is for our podcasters to have their content shared with the world, from anywhere in the world.

Earlier this year, SoundCloud disabled its own Facebook player, which caused a lot of consternation among users. This is probably what Podomatic’s referring to with that “other companies” line.

Second up, Podomatic has created a tool to import media directly from SoundCloud accounts:

Providing our podcasters with a centralized and secure location for their audio files is a commitment we take very seriously. We know how important it is to have your content readily available for your listeners 24/7 without the worry of your work being removed. With our new import tool, you can now transfer all of your episodes and mixes from any hosting site to Podomatic effortlessly, all with just a click of a button.

While the newsletter says Podomatic will import media from any service, its import page sarcastically asks, “Had enough of SoundCloud?”

Finally, Podomatic is having a Fall Sale, with an offer of three months free media hosting with the promo code FALL2015. The Fall Sale offer is good thru December 7, 2015.

Anyone who’s followed podcasting trends in 2015 has seen plenty of negative news when it comes to SoundCloud. So, it’s no surprise that Podomatic is trying to target SoundCloud users. If things continue on as they have for SoundCloud, this tactic might just pay off for Podomatic.

Third-Party Platforms Don’t Care About Your Podcast

SoundCloud LogoAn article about how the Guy Friends Podcast was recently banned from SoundCloud due to copyright claims is getting a lot of attention this week in the podcasting community. It’s a cautionary tale on two fronts about: 1.) Using unlicensed music in a podcast. 2.) Relying solely on a third-party platform to host all of your podcast assets, including your RSS feed.

The first point about unlicensed music is definitely key to the story. But a dozen lengthy blog posts probably wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on that topic. The second point, relying on a third-party platform, is what I’ll focus on here.

In podcasting terms, we usually think of “third-party platforms” as service providers like web or media hosting companies. To get literal, you (or your podcast) are considered to be the first party. (We’ll skip over the second party for now.) As the first party, anyone you hire or pay for services is then considered to be a third party. And while often times in podcasting, third parties hold important assets like web or media files, they don’t technically own them. Unless otherwise specified, those assets are yours. You own and control them. You’re just renting some space from whatever third-party service(s) you’re using. That makes these third parties into quasi-landlords over your digital domain. Break their rules, and they can (and probably will) evict you with little warning.

In the case of the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers thought they were following the rules by relying mostly on music that itself had been mixed and mashed up by SoundCloud-hosted artists. The show’s producers understood that the songs contained unlicensed samples. But it only stood to reason that, if the DJ’s who remixed those samples weren’t getting takedowns on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast should be safe, too. They were even careful to make sure the songs they picked were licensed under Creative Commons. But these precautions weren’t enough to keep them clear of SoundCloud’s content ID system. After three years of hosting everything (including the show’s RSS feed) on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast was completely removed from the platform:

You can’t listen to anything we’ve ever created in three-plus years on iTunes either, as the RSS is broken. We face a dilemma many others who work online have dealt with as websites are shut down or reworked; our links are dead, our content is sailing around like ghost ships on the internet.

Again, getting back to the copyright topic, there’s a whole lot that could be written about how SoundCloud handled the removal of the Guy Friends Podcast. But if the producers of the show had taken the time to establish their presence on a domain they owned and controlled, the SoundCloud issue would’ve been a bump in the road instead of a major disaster. Instead, the Guy Friends Podcast went all in on SoundCloud’s platform. Now, the show’s producers are faced with the challenge of rebuilding their audience in a new location, with no direct way to carry over their previous subscribers.

This kind of thing has happened many times before in podcasting’s history. But usually, it occurs when a podcasting platform closes shop on short notice, leaving its users out in the cold. The situation with Guy Friends Podcast is slightly different, as SoundCloud is still in operation. But the outcome is the same.

Throughout the article about the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers lay out a series of points that led them to believe SoundCloud was supportive of their show. But SoundCloud eventually gave them the boot because, in the end, third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast. They can (and will) remove your content if you break their rules.

The best preventative measure against this is to always own and control your own space, especially your RSS feed. Knowing that third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast, ask yourself this question: Do you?

SoundCloud Making Changes to e-Mail Handling

SoundCloud LogoEarlier this week, SoundCloud sent a mass e-mail to users about an upcoming update to its e-mail handling procedure. Previously, SoundCloud only sent certain account notifications to an account’s primary e-mail address. Once this change goes into effect, those notifications will also go to secondary e-mail addresses. From the e-mail:

Beginning October 20, 2015, all notifications surrounding your account’s security will be sent to all email addresses associated with your account. These notifications include password recovery emails, notifications related to email changes and confirmation of account deletion requests.
Currently, these notifications are sent only to the primary email address associated with your account. At SoundCloud, we take security very seriously—we are making this change to make sure that you will always be notified when important or unauthorized changes have been made on your account. To ensure that you can always get back into your account, you can then use any of your connected email addresses to sign in.

The notifications that will be sent to all e-mail addresses include:

  • Password recovery messages
  • Notifications related to e-mail changes
  • e-Mail addresses added to your account
  • e-Mail addresses removed from your account
  • Confirmation of account deletion requests

By default, SoundCloud sends all notification to an account’s primary e-mail address. Those notifications could include the ones listed above. But it’d also contain less critical correspondence, such as newsletters, etc. I’m guessing SoundCloud extended these more important notifications to secondary addresses because a lot of people tend to ignore most of the e-mails they get from the services they use. Sending these more-important notifications to all of an account’s e-mail addresses should help to ensure the security of all SoundCloud accounts.

SoundCloud Takedowns Trigger Massive Purge

SoundCloud LogoI’ll admit that I’ve never been a big fan of SoundCloud. With that being stated, I have no ill will towards the service or its users. Still, it seems we write about SoundCloud here fairly regularly and the news usually isn’t positive. That brings us to the latest SoundCloud-related tidbit. Earlier this month, the company began a massive purge of files in response to takedown requests from the major record labels. These deletions don’t appear to have yet affected any podcasts hosted by SoundCloud. But it seems inevitable that this will happen.

The story on SoundCloud is pretty familiar by now. The company began as a collaborative tool for musicians and then evolved into its current platform as the so-called “YouTube of audio.” SoundCloud’s early adopters were mostly DJ’s and other artists who relied on samples to round out their mixes. As SoundCloud’s popularity grew, it got onto the radar of the big players in the music industry. Those players wanted to know how SoundCloud would compensate them for using their intellectual property. Since then, SoundCloud has taken on more venture capital funding, and engaged in equity sharing talks with the big record companies. All this on top of reports that the company is hemorrhaging  money, and now SoundCloud is removing sounds by the truckload.

So far, SoundCloud has managed to keep the music and podcasting sides of its operation separate. But that can’t last forever. SoundCloud is responding to these takedown requests swiftly and without appeal from its users. If you’re using SoundCloud as your primary media host, you’ll need to be vigilant about not including any copyrighted sounds in your podcast. But even that’s no guarantee against your episodes disappearing due to an errant takedown request. Indeed, it might be a good time to start formulating an escape plan should these aggressive takedowns make their way to SoundCloud’s podcasting accounts.

SoundCloud is Losing Money

SoundCloud LogoWhen you think of SoundCloud, the thing that probably comes to mind first is music. In addition, there are quite a few podcasts that are hosted directly through SoundCloud. The 405 has reported that SoundCloud is losing money. What could this mean for the podcasters who have shows on SoundCloud – and nowhere else?

The 405 reports that “sources” and “insiders” are saying that SoundCloud is losing money. This isn’t just a dip in profits, either. It is a significant amount. Part of the problem appears to involve the big music labels. Sony and UMG have threatened to sue SoundCloud. WMG has reached some sort of deal with SoundCloud. In short, it seems that SoundCloud has been forced to spend money on lawyers.

One thing that could help SoundCloud is a subscription tier service. This is something that SoundCloud has previously announced. Cofounder and CTO of SoundCloud, Eric Wahlforss, confirmed that the subscription tier service would launch later in 2015.

So far, the cost involved with the subscription tier service has not been revealed. There is no way to know for certain if the subscription tier plan will be popular enough to improve SoundCloud’s financial situation.

What does this mean for podcasters who currently have their shows hosted on SoundCloud? If your podcast is only available on SoundCloud, now would be a good time to start migrating it over to somewhere else. Make a website for your show, post your episodes there, and connect with a good podcast hosting company. Doing so will prevent the problem of having all your podcast episodes disappear if SoundCloud ceases to exist.

SoundCloud Updates Stat Tracking for Podcasters

SoundCloud LogoI’m somewhat less skeptical than I used to be about SoundCloud as a reliable platform for podcasting. Now that the company’s years-long beta program for podcasting has finally matured into a real product, it looked like SoundCloud was headed in the right direction. Of course, maturation never comes without some growing pains. And it turns out some SoundCloud users may be affected by a recent change to the company’s stats system.

Yesterday, Michael Wolf, host of the NextMarket podcast and curator of the Technology.fm podcast directory, posted this tweet about an e-mail exchange he’d had with SoundCloud support:

Wolf sent the e-mail to SoundCloud asking why he was seeing a noticeable change in his stats. SoundCloud’s response states that the company had recently reconfigured its metrics because their system had been tracking downloads made thru RSS feeds in the same manner as plays thru embedded SoundCloud web players:

As part of our podcasting service coming out of beta, there have been some changes in how data will appear.

We’ve started tracking RSS downloads as their own unique, private metric to help you more clearly understand how your audience is engaging with your content.

Previously, RSS downloads and SoundCloud plays were tracked together under the same ‘plays’ metric. Now, podcasters can clearly see RSS download activity and the country, city and top app data associated with those downloads.

Since you were using SoundCloud to distribute your sounds via RSS before April 28th 2015, play counts may appear higher on older episodes and lower on newer episodes, but the difference in displayed play count is not due to any loss of listenership. Rather, the play count displayed publicly on newer tracks may appear lower because the public play count now only reflects SoundCloud plays and excludes RSS activity.

Before the change, SoundCloud players that displayed the total number of plays for a podcast episode were showing play counts based on web listens and RSS feed downloads together. Now, those players will only display numbers based on listens made thru SoundCloud players. Downloads that happen thru RSS feeds will be tracked separately and those numbers will be available only thru the SoundCloud dashboard.

It’s unclear as to why SoundCloud made this change. Overall, it seems like a smart move, as it’ll allow podcasters to have a better understanding of how listeners are engaging with their episodes. Still, this move could make some producers unhappy as those numbers publicly displayed on SoundCloud players will probably go down. The only solution SoundCloud offers is to simply turn off the public play count that’s shown on embedded media players.

Probably not the favored option for podcasters who felt a sense of pride over big numbers being shown on their public players. But in podcasting, as in life, change is inevitable. Over time, I think most producers will appreciate having these two types of separate statistics.