“Soundcloud Shut Us Down” – The Soundudes Startup Story
In this piece, music tech entrepreneur Jonathan Yaari takes us his journey through the rise and fall of Soundudes, a platform designed to allow indie artists to connect with their fans and monetize their music; before the site's untimely shutdown at the hands of Soundcloud.
Guest Post by Jonathan Yaari, the co-founder of Soundudes
We started our journey two years ago. Friends for many years, we found our great passions connect: our endless love for music, our deep connection to electronic music, along with our admiration for independent musicians and our strong connection to technology. The stars aligned and timing was just right for us to join forces. And so we did, Soundudes was born.
is was here for indie musicians to grow their audience and monetize their music, by connecting them with relevant fans who would love their music, share it and support them – their Superfans.
It was a marathon in sprint-mode from that point on. Bootstrapping to prove our concept, and algorithm, connecting with our first users who trusted and supported us. Then came days and long hours of fine-tuning: adjusting our algorithm, building our 1st product, UX, UI, to best serve our musicians. Proudly, we launched our beta to the world. We listened to our users. Their feedback and inputs helped us to figure out what we needed to nail before launching.
Success came knocking at our door
We formally launched our public version in October 2015 (read more about it in our hello world blog post). Like our users, we worked hard, to grow our audience and find our Superfans. And we did.
We built it, they came: We grew at 10% weekly, connected our users to many new fans and more engaged ones. The results and numbers surprised us at first.
Our users’ support and gratitude kept us going (link). Other players in our ecosystem started noticing and connecting with us, direct-to-fan, distribution, label services, others.
In the past months, we were gearing to launch our premium tier (paying user plan). We felt we are on the right track, and that we can live our dream too: build a business we are passionate about.
And then we hit a dead-end
Regrettably, the attention and feedback we received turned against us. Last week SoundCloud notified us they were to “limit our access to their API”.
We’ve been using their API for over 18 months. We had meetings and conversations with the API technical people, and throughout the last 2 months, we worked with their biz dev/partnerships team, to understand what needs to happen for us to keep growing while playing by the book. Imagine our surprise to receive SoundCloud’s notice!
We showed them we comply with their terms-of-use (their 1st claim). Then came their 2nd claim: “community guidelines and daily limits”. Again, we showed them our alignment. 2 days later came their last email (#3): “misuse of functionality” and the fact “they have features on the platform that recommended artists and tracks to people”.
No one else is allowed to help artists connect with their fans? And in a different manner?
Their safety and trust team rejected our explanations and many requests to talk/meet/extend the deadline to allow us to clear this “misunderstanding” !
Win-win for all, but not for SoundCloud
From its early days SoundCloud “built great tools for creators, and then started building a community” (SoundCloud’s co-founder and CEO Billboard interview).
We followed a similar approach and built a win-win solution for everybody: the creators, the fans and the streaming platforms.
I looked up at SoundCloud which for years refused to play ball with the major labels and was considered disruptive.
The music industry is managed by the majors, who exercise dominant control of the music business. This is the indie musician/alternative music business battle which SoundCloud was part of.
Could we outsmart SoundCloud and still use the API? Technically – We sure can! But we choose not to.That’s the cat-and-mouse game others (read: bot companies) are playing.
We are here to help indie musicians and build great products for the millions of them out there. But if that’s not the case and we are forced to play this cat-and-mouse game, I choose to move on and seek other ways to achieve that.
So long and thanks for the fish
It’s been a hell of a ride and I truly enjoyed it: Doing good, helping independent musicians, getting creative, innovating, building, connecting with a lot of new people and interesting companies, acquiring domain/market expertise & understanding. The list is long, but the bottom line: we built a strong product, fulfilled our mission, and made lots of musicians happy.
On a personal note, I would like to thank the thousands of artists who believed in us, enjoyed the service, and helped us to get better and better. Without you, we’d be nothing. Thank you for loving Soundudes from the beginning (link), spreading the word about us and showing your support in the last few days.
I’d like to thank our investors, advisors and everybody who took part in our journey. Your support enabled us to build a business we are passionate about and help many musicians.
So for now, lights off.
I wish the alternative music business (not controlled by the majors) would grow and thrive. I long to see the direct-to-fan revolution furthers develops and scale. All, so that musicians out there could live their dream. I wish there was more for me to do and contribute for this to happen. And I promise to keep looking.
Keep on, Keepin’ on, creating music. Because without music, life would be a mistake (Friedrich Nietzsche).