I don’t get any kick-backs from SoundCloud to promote their service, but I do find it to be one of the easiest and most valuable ways for DJs and producers to distribute their beats and mixes. Plus, I personally discover loads of new and emerging music on the daily. Here are some tips for maximizing your SoundCloud experience.
Build Your Brand
Be sure to complete your profile, add a headshot, location and include a brief bio with a description of the music you bang. Any text you add here will be indexed and return in search results. Having your latest tracks in one place is the best way to share your music with fans, promoters and club managers. Make sure your SoundCloud URL is easy to remember and discover.
By far the easiest way to stand on the bleeding edge of new and upcoming releases. Following your favorite DJs allows you to discover other artists thru their reposts. I often hear previews of amazing upcoming releases and simply take note of them for future purchase. Once you follow an artist, SoundCloud does a decent job of recommending related artists within its Who to Follow widget.
Share Your Sounds
Upload your DJ sets, remixes, mash-ups and original productions. Add a brief description and details in the info box. If your material is available for sale, be sure to include that link. Mark tracks as “private” if you want to keep them to yourself.
There’s something disheartening about gaining a new follower, only to learn they have no sounds posted, and zero followers.
Use Ableton’s Upload to SoundCloud Feature
Yes, this is the only Ableton-specific tip in this post. I’m not exactly sure when this feature was introduced (8.1 / 9?), but it’s pretty sick as it cuts a number of steps out of the distribution process. It does upload a WAV, so expect a longer experience:
- File > Export Audio/Video
- At the bottom, click the button to enable “Upload to SoundCloud”
- Once the track finishes exporting, you’ll automatically be presented with a SoundCloud login window
- Put in your credentials and complete the upload flow
Available from the share icon, customize and embed track / playlist widgets onto your blog, Facebook, or anywhere else you can feature their branded player. This expands your reach to those not regularly visiting the SoundCloud domain. Ahem.
Tag Your Tracks
Use the built-in auto-complete feature to add relevant genre tags. Again, these are used primarily for search results and artist recommendations. Users can also click these tags to jump to related content. For DJ mixes, I add tags for all the artists & remixers that appear in the set – this helps to boost visibility to my material.
I only recently started using groups, and there are millions of them – from generic and popular, to bizarre and niche. Once you’re in the group, you’ll have the ability to share your music to the group’s followers. I don’t know how often people use groups, but they are one solid way to share your tracks with a group far larger than your own follower network. Side note: groups are rather difficult to find in the navigation, but you can find them here or in left-side navigation of search results.
You get three hours of upload time with a free account. But once you hit the threshold (easy with a couple DJ sets), your oldest tracks disappear from your profile. They aren’t gone, rather, they’re hidden. If you have a lot of material to share, upgrade to a premium account to unlock more time and additional features. Pricing has come down quite a bit over the years.
A great feature for Premium subscribers, you’ll see a comprehensive breakdown of who is listening, which of your tracks get the most play, and where your listeners are coming from. I’m typically delighted by the insights featured, and am always surprised to see which of my mash-ups are performing.
I maintain two separate accounts: one for my DJ sets, and one for my original productions. Both are Pro subscriptions, since I try to release material as frequently as possible. Think about this: there are countless examples of artists who break out from their norm to experiment with different sounds, styles and genres. By releasing content under a nom de plume, I can leverage my second account as a (somewhat more anonymous) test environment to push demos and works-in-progress.
Dodging the Ads in Your Stream
There was a recent announcement that SoundCloud would be using a “promoted” track (sponsored) advertising model we’ve already become accustomed to on Twitter. I was disappointed to hear this, given the site had been ad-free for so long, but in all honesty, I’ve barely come across any of these placements and my stream remains generally unaffected. This may be due to being a premium subscriber. In any case, I’d much rather hear a promoted song vs. spoken radio commercials like those featured on Pandora or Spotify. I suppose we should acknowledge that SoundCloud needs to diversify it’s monetization strategy beyond premium subscriptions – it is a business, right?
Regarding Copyright Protection
SoundCloud has beefed-up their copyright detection, and although I’ve heard of some workarounds (using strategic fades, stutters & pitch shifts), you legally aren’t permitted to share anything you don’t own the rights to. This is probably the biggest complaint users express online, many jumping to less restrictive alternatives like MixCloud.
But what about my DJ mixes? Yeah, I’ve had some mixes removed myself, and it can be frustrating, especially since I legally purchased these tracks (as raw material) and would argue I’m re-packaging and presenting something new – for promotional use only. Of course, it’s far easier for SoundCloud to use algorithmic detection for removal, than to manually listen to each of the million incoming tracks they likely receive each day. Still, I wish I had a better understanding of the specific track(s) that has been detected. Exporting, uploading and processing an hour mix takes a significant amount of time; getting a copyright violation notification in the end, without any actionable details, is just downright irritating. Boo.
I only have one complaint about the existing user experience: not being able to remove individual tracks from my stream. There is a “mute this user” feature, but it’ll hide everything the user has ever posted – not that one wack track I’d prefer to permanently skip forever. I have submitted this feature request a number of times. While we’re at it, I hope to one day see a “Follow Me on SoundCloud” button, too.
Be sure to download the SoundCloud mobile app – it’s really well designed, and continues to be my default for music on the go.
To wrap this up, I’m an aspiring DJ and producer. I don’t have 5M+ followers. I don’t have a marketing budget to have sponsored tracks appear in others’ streams. But I do stand behind the SoundCloud platform for what it offers emerging artists and music lovers. Love it or hate it, it’s one of the best services for DJs and producers today.
As an Ableton DJ / producer, let me know how your SoundCloud experience has been in the comments below.
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November 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm
Well said. Agreed that a lemon plus soundcloud is invaluable, I use them together to listen to mixes in different environments, on my chine, over car speakers, on the hi fi in the living room. I also release the whole album as private tracks, and then open them up on at a time over many weeks to keep the fans coming back for more.