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High [and Low] Points In SoundCloud's Failed Attempts To Communicate With Angry Musicians

Storm-clouds-charlestons-thedigitelIt would be easy to paint the scenario that SoundCloud has gone so corporate that its primary partners (and co-owners) are now the major labels, its primary users are casual listeners and its primary customers are future advertisers. But there's plenty of time for that. For now, it has to be noted that SoundCloud's communication efforts to date in response to creators' concerns about both the new iOS app and Universal's ability to pull music and flag accounts for closure have been a big FAIL. Here are some high points.

June 26 - New iOS App Released

When SoundCloud's new iOS app came out it was greeted with many positive responses to its design and simplicity. But it soon became clear from SoundCloud's announcement on their blog that musicians were upset.

In the comments the typical SoundCloud response to musicians' dismay at having all the creator functionality removed generally went along the lines of:

"Thanks for your feedback. We have a list of features that we're already working towards for future updates."

"We're already working on improved playlist functionality. Stay tuned."

"There are many things on our roadmap. Hang tight."

This rather lame, truncated initial response makes it clear that SoundCloud was either unprepared for the obvious or has decided to write off negative responses. But it also marks the point where SoundCloud saw that its creator class was upset.

Hypebot readers were appalled by this news and many who use the app shared their concerns.

June 27 - Universal's Access to SoundCloud Backend Exposed

On the next day news began to spread that in response to rights violations, SoundCloud had given Universal direct access to the backend to simply pull tracks at will and to specify which accounts should be shut down.

It took a while to spread but Hypebot readers were outraged by this news as well.

For whatever reason SoundCloud chose to give Mixmag a highly corporate statement in response to their coverage that forgets a key lesson of the Cluetrain Manifesto, the need to speak to humans in a human voice.

July 4 - SoundCloud Says "We hear you"

In a post that attracted little attention, SoundCloud finally addressed their fumbling of the iOS app release with reiterations that missing features are on the way and details of some of their plans regarding playlist creation.

Unfortunately this is still too little, too late.

It's important to recognize that by the time we're grownups all but the most pacified of humans knows that "we hear you" is not the same as we're going to do what you need us to do and, in fact, may be prelude to "but we're doing something else anyway."

In a revealing response in the comments, SoundCloud's Brendan Codey states:

"We care deeply about all of our users. Removing record was a very difficult decision made over many months. And when we made that decision, we also decided to partner with Retronyms to build AudioCopy - which allows you to record and upload to SoundCloud. It might not seem like it, but when we focus on making your music or audio easier to discover by making it easier for listeners to use certain products and features - that's good for creators. As noted in previous places, we're already working on other features for the app as well. This is the beginning state of this app."

If that's true, which it may well be, they've been spending a heck of a lot of time on this and yet not prepared for creator response. If they had they would have introduced the new app with more context and preparation or they would have launched the new app as a separate app for listening while keeping the old app as a creators app. Then they could update that with something built on the new platform.

Of course, there are good reasons not to take that path but whatever path one takes, one has to do more than care about one's users in a paternalistic manner. One has to actually attempt to understand them and to communicate with them in a way that will meet their needs.

[Photo of Cooper River Bridge storm clouds courtesy Charleston's TheDigitel.]

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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) also blogs at DanceLand. Send news about music tech startups and services, DIY music biz and music marketing to: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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