A recent announcement heralded the news that after a supposed 5 years of negotiations, the PRS for Music in the UK (Performing Rights Society, collect revenues and royalties for artists) are to open legal action against Soundcloud for lack of paid revenues and licenses. Initially I was incredulous at the entire news, especially that Soundcloud had stuck to a single defence for over five years and my first thoughts contemplated the death of the service as it buckles under the weight of a lawsuit - something made more poignant as I have only just paid for another year's subscription.
NB: Apparently PRS' official name is "PRS for Music", but it is rarely referred to as this in the news. In this article, PRS and PRS for Music refer to the same organisation.
I would like to have said that I had held off of writing about the PRS' decision because I needed time to think, but the truth has been more practical and benign: I've just been too busy. It has also given me a chance to step back and see what the reaction has been; Soundcloud and PRS have issued some minor statements and at least as far as I can see, it is business as usual at Soundcloud.
Regardless of how I might feel about Soundcloud (in short: I think it's an excellent site for original music, amateur music and for labels of all sizes to host and promote their music and the internet would be worse off for its demise) and what might happen to the service I do think it is a prudent thing to look into alternatives, especially as Soundcloud appear to have been having difficulties outside of this lawsuit. While I would be upset to lose my connections and comments metadata, it would be more annoying to suddenly lose all my online stuff overnight.
So aside from paying for expensive website hosting for your original tracks, what are the alternatives to Soundcloud that are preferably free, offer decent streaming rates and sharing with external sites?
From first impressions, a very similar user interface and social integration experience as Soundcloud, with plenty of familiar names and labels represented on the site already. I can see this being a credible go-to as and when Soundcloud goes completely tits up and something I ought to investigate myself as another channel to maintain. Good for mixes as well as individual tracks.
Again, another slick looking Web 2.0 interface, but not as well adopted as Hearthis.at. From what I can see it looks like a good hub for a lot of amateur musicians and has a variety of niche genres represented in the exploration queue. If you're looking for something busier this might not be for you however.
One of the earliest sites for music streaming and sharing and one that also supports artists and labels by providing methods for paid-for content (PayPal account required). There's a much greater emphasis on customised presentation and Pro versions of the site also offer video integration as well.
While most sites have embraced Web 2.0, some are very much stuck in the dark days of the pre-2000 web. Soundclick is very much one of those sites, with profile pages and privacy system that is incredibly reminiscent of the old days of Myspace. Older users of Myspace will feel right at home here, but others may want to look elsewhere!
Whilst primarily a video site, YouTube has increasingly been used as a place to listen to and find new music. With the weight of Google's indexing engine for suggestions, excellent stats comments sections and integration with other Google services, this might just be the next best site to Soundcloud. The problem is: YouTube's model suffers from similar issues when it comes to hosting unlicensed content, though I expect Google keep far more lawyers on staff than Soundcloud for any issues that may arise!
Alternatives for DJs and long mixes
One of the reasons that the PRS have been interested in arranging a license agreement for Soundcloud is because of the amount of unlicensed content (read: remixes and long mixes) that have been released on their service. If you happen to be interested in making long mixes, then these might be alternatives better suited for your style of musical offerings. It's also worth noting that as I don't produce mixes, I have limited understanding of these sites, but are worth checking out.
A relatively new site that focuses on playlists rather than mixes in an attempt to recreate that old-time mixtape feel of days gone by swapping cassettes.
Under the banner of Re-think Radio, I have always seen Mixcloud as the antithesis to Soundcloud. The yang to the ying, Mixcloud is a great place for radio shows, podcasts and DJ mixes and should be your first stop if you are a DJ looking to host your mixes and with similar comment functionality as Soundcloud. One of the main things about Mixcloud is that all of the content is non-downloadable, meaning it's a stream-only service.
Again, a similar website to Mixcloud that also offers its own social sharing tools rather than Facebook integration and also allows downloads. Along with the social aspect, there's also a nicely curated selection of music-related news and blogging on the home page of the site, but I can't tell from first hand whether it edges out or matches Mixcloud in terms of content and number of users.
A rather boisterous playlist and mix sharing website with a strong American College theme, Fratmusic seems more about curating content from other sites - including Soundcloud - and theming it together for college events, parties, studying music etc. It's a good place to go if you are looking for a one-stop shop for middle-of-the-road EDM for house party music from what I can see, but less so if you're looking to host your own content.
I realise this is merely a drop in the ocean when it comes to alternative sites and I am sure there are other alternatives. From what I can tell from this little search, the smart approach is to not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to sharing your music online, but not overstretching yourself and use absolutely all services available to do so.
Do you have any alternatives I haven't listed that are worth checking out? What sites other than Soundcloud do you use? Hit me up in the comments or drop me an email.