Starting a blog post with a convoluted analogy is frowned upon by many of the content marketing gurus, but I don’t care. I’m a maverick! So – remember the Simpsons episode where Moe decides to refurbish his bar to attract a better class of clientele? Thirteenth season, not a classic, cameo from REM?
The plot’s too convoluted to precis here – use Wikipedia like everyone else – but, rest assured, the project ends in tears and Moe sheepishly returns to what he knows best.
A similar scenario appears to be unfolding in the world of media streaming services, with platforms keen to adapt to the needs of consumers but in danger of abandoning their original ethos entirely.
YouTube is one example. Originally envisioned as a space for user-created content, it has recently come under fire for its treatment of indie record labels and appears keen to reposition itself as somewhere for watching official videos and trailers. This could lead to profits, but it’s a far cry from the anarchic, creative days of yore.
Soundcloud has also faced a backlash from users that feel it is more concerned than with consumers than creators.
It all started innocuously when the Berlin-based service launched a new iPhone app. Seems reasonable enough, but within hours the company was deluged with criticism from musicians who felt they were placing all their metaphorical eggs in the figurative consumer basket.
Creators expressed concern over a loss of functionality, an inability to engage with their listeners and the lack of analytical information – they can no longer track how popular a particular track or see how many people have favourited it, among other things.
But it isn’t just the Soundcloud app, which quickly became a lightning rod for further concerns about the direction many streaming sites are taking. To unsigned and amateur musicians, it seems to be obvious that the streaming services are pitching for mainstream consumers at the expense of the creative community.
Faced with these concerns, will platforms make like Moe Szyslak and return to their roots? (See, it all ties together!) Nobody seems certain what’s going to happen, but the anger among many users highlights the ongoing debate over exactly who multimedia sharing sites should be for.
Bloomberg recently revealed that Soundcloud is close to signing deals with some of the world’s biggest record labels for streaming licenses, eluding any potential legal imbroglios in the future.
Along with YouTube’s plans to launch a subscription music service, this would represent a forceful indication of the direction the sector wants to move in – away from indie and unsigned creators, towards the cash-filled swimming pool of mainstream music consumption.
If that’s just the way things are going, smaller acts could find themselves struggling to compete against heavily-backed pop acts with a stranglehold on distribution. Do media sharing services have a responsibility to help?
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