SoundCloud has become one of the leading websites for hobby musicians in the last couple of years, as well as a platform for world famous names for sharing their music. In the author's opinion, it's like MySpace, except that it's better in every single way.
My two favourite things about SoundCloud are:
- Comments along the songs' timeline. Adds a wonderful sense of interactivity and community – being able to visually comment on specific parts is really nice. MySpace was about plays – SoundCloud is about interaction.
- Discovering fantastic music. Let's say I'm following Owsey. In my dashboard, I see that he has commented very enthusiastically on a tune by Sorrow. I then see Sorrow favoriting tracks by Stumbleine. And so on.
One thing about SoundCloud, and most such sites, is that the statistics are quite prominent. Everyone's number of plays, downloads, comments and followers is publicly visible.
These numbers and their ratios normally indicate popularity and/or quality. A favourable amount of favourites and downloads in relation to the amount of plays usually makes me listen, and does indeed often mean that the music is quite enjoyable. If someone has thousands of followers, it should mean something. More is better, right?
How many followers do you really have?
Unfortunately, there are always people who get caught up with numbers, or take advantage of the system. I've seen services which allow you to buy listeners, plays, followers and such. It might sound tempting to "level up" for a few quid, but I don't think it's the best idea.
I've been doing some thinking about the meaning of the various SoundCloud stats, and concluded that the best value by far comes from genuine and helpful interaction with other community members.
So, your track has received 1000 plays! Congrats! Imagine playing that song for 1000 actual people – it's kind of cool to think about it like that. However, do you have any info on the experience associated with those plays? Your track will receive a +1 playcount, regardless of the listener's reaction.
Elevator music receives lots of plays. Stupidity-ridden radio commercials receive lots of plays. "Justin Bieber – Baby" has the most plays on all of YouTube.
I won't lie, it feels really nice when you log in, and see that someone has added one of your tracks to his favourites! It's quite the compliment. For me however, the excitement has gotten progressively lower recently – favouriting is some times just annoying spammers at work.
However, when it's from someone you're having genuine interactions with, or if it's from someone you respect, you're allowed to celebrate – herbal tea, whatup! These favouritings can't be bought.
People following you
This was perhaps the statistic I got tired of first. "DJ XxX $up@b01 is now following you" – yeah, along with 1999 others (SoundCloud's maximum limit, funnily enough) – and many of them are indeed following him back. This is the guy who ventures beyond time and space, and manages to comment on 20 songs in 5 minutes.
When his profile shows up in a sidebar, he will probably have a nice little number of 2000+ followers next to his name. Clicking his profile (fictional for the purposes of this article), one will quickly see that he's just popular because he followed 2000 people, not because his music is good.
There's not much to do about all those followers. I stopped paying attention to them long ago. I know for sure that I don't have an fanbase of 300+ guys actively following my music and interacting with me. I'd guess around 20 of them are genuinely interested in my music, and that's okay. These few guys and girls provide me with wonderful feedback and interaction, and that's worth more than a thousand followers.
This is my favourite statistic. Someone taking his time to share his thoughts with me – now that's meaningful interaction! A compliment can brighten the day, constructive critisism can help the advancement of my music, a new point of view can deepen understanding, a joke can make me laugh, etc.
But then of course, nothing is sacred for the spammers. Some of them stick to their one-syllable vocabulary: "nice", "cool", etc. Others make the incredibly rude mistake of considering someone else's track as an acceptable place to promote their own music!
For example, "Cool track bro! Please check out my new Gotye moombahcore remix and my Flo Rida+Nicki Minaj mashup and don't forget to like my Facebook page thx!" is the SoundCloud equivalent of going up to random people in the street and belching ferociously in their face.
I'd rather have 10 genuine comments than 10 000 plays and spammy comments.
How to get the most out of SoundCloud
So, by going through some common violations of SoundCloud etiquette, you hopefully have a good idea on how to be a well-respected community member, and having a more enjoyable and meaningful SoundCloud experience.
Below is a suggestion for 5 simple SoundCloud rules:
- Be active in the community! Leave honest, helpful and imaginative comments when you find something you like. Discover fantastic music and connect with like-minded people!
- Focus on meaningful interaction and good music. Ignore the numbers.
- If someone is asking for critisism, do it constructively. Make sure that what you -do- like comes through, as well as your thoughts on which changes might work. Inaiya and autumna are shining examples of how commenting should be done.
- Respond to people's comments on your tracks. They took their time to write to you, so showing some gratitude is in its place. It's like saying "thank you" when someone says something nice in real life.
- When confronted with spammers or assholes, respond politely, or delete the comment. Their profiles have a "Mute x" option under their "follow" button – use it and move on to people who are worth your time.