Soundcloud & Copyrights

Kaskade Speaks Out

A Digital Era Dilemma

Written by Randy Harris




The music business has always struggled to keep up with technology. The 8-track tape, and then the cassette tape, ruined vinyl. It also offered consumers the ability to make copies of tapes. Then, the compact disc (“CD”) ruined the cassette tape. After that, the Internet and the mp3, or digital download, ruined the CD, and now, finally, streaming and Internet radio have ruined the digital download. When each of these changes in the consumption of recorded music occurred, the music industry freaked out. Then, once they found the “solution,” they stopped and waited instead of moving forward and predicting the next change. Meanwhile, technology continually evolved, keeping the music industry on its heels. Today, recorded music exists in a world of mass controversy, and, most recently, that controversy has been directed toward one of the biggest free music sharing platforms in the world… Soundcloud.

While the controversy currently surrounding Soundcloud is primarily being expressed in the EDM scene, the problem extends way beyond dance music. For those of you who have not heard, Soundcloud polices its accounts for copyright infringement with a “soulless robot” (as described by well-known DJ and producer Kaskade), which has led to a lot of frustration among artists. If the system believes that an uploaded track is guilty of infringement, the track is deleted and the account holder is given a warning. After three deleted tracks, Soundcloud will delete the entire account, leaving no evidence of the followers and play counts these artists work around the clock to obtain. It makes sense that EDM would be the easiest targets, with all of its sampling, mash-ups, remixes and DJ mixes. However, what happens if a band covers a song live and posts it on Soundcloud? Or even if a band like Umphrey’s McGee teases a Led Zeppelin lick in one of their live improvisations on an original track and posts it on the site?

Recently, 70% of Kaskade’s Soundcloud account was removed after he received 32 emails citing copyright infringement on a combination of mash-ups, remixes and even his own original tracks. The esteemed DJ/producer has made the decision to get rid of his entire Soundcloud account and build his own online platform, following in the footsteps of fellow producer and collaborator deadmau5, which will allow him to share his music as he pleases. Kaskade took to his blog to discuss his thoughts on the matter:

“When I signed with Ultra, I kissed goodbye forever the rights to own my music. They own it. And now Sony owns them. So now Sony owns my music. I knew that going in. Soundcloud is beholden to labels to keep copyright protected music (read: all music put out by a label, any label) off their site unless authorized by the label. Am I authorized to post my music? Yep. Does their soulless robot program know that? Not so much. So some stuff they pulled was mistakenly deleted, but some tracks were absolutely rule breakers. The mash ups. (Read about those little beauties in “Politicking of a Mash Up”.) I post mash ups mainly because I don’t need to keep these things tucked under my pillow, pulling out my little Precious only to be played at gigs. You want to hear it? Grab it. Like it? Great. The end.

But the labels, they aren’t feeling this approach so much.

There’s always been this cagey group of old men who are scared to death of people taking their money. Back in the day, they were upset that the technology existed to record onto cassette tapes directly from the radio. “What! (Harumph!) Why will people buy music if they can just pull it out of the air?!” Yet, people still bought music. Because it was more accessible. Because more people were exposed. Because Mikey played it for Joey on the corner and then Joey had to have it. It’s music, and we buy what we love. We can’t love music we haven’t heard.

Innovation helps the music industry. The industry only needs to make the effort to keep up and adapt. Make no mistake: exposing as many people as possible to music – all music – is a good thing. Everyone wins. The artist, the audience, even the old guys who just want some more cash.

The laws that are governing online music share sites were written at a time when our online and real-life landscapes were totally different. Our marching orders are coming from a place that’s completely out of touch and irrelevant. They have these legal legs to stand on that empower them to make life kind of a pain-in-the-ass for people like me. And for many of you. Countless artists have launched their careers though mash ups, bootlegs, remixes and music sharing. These laws and page take-downs are cutting us down at the knees.

And yo, musicians definitely need knees.

We have moved beyond the exhausting notion that our greedy hands need to hold onto these tunes so tightly. The world just doesn’t work like that anymore. I’d happily parse out the pieces of every song I’ve made for others to use. Remix that. Use that. Think you could do it better? Show me. It’s laughable to assert that someone is losing money owed to them because I’m promoting music that I’ve written and recorded. Having the means to expose music to the masses is a deft tool to breathe new life into and promote a song. It’s the most compelling advertising, really.

But it’s more than advertising. It’s sharing. If a person likes one song, then you know what’s likely to happen? They’ll press the download arrow and own it for free. You won’t believe what happens next! They become familiar with the artist, and seek out other material. Maybe they buy that. Maybe they talk about it online. Maybe they go to a show. Maybe they simply become a fan and tell a friend.

I’m cool with that. The labels should be too. It’s exactly what they’re trying to accomplish by funneling endless money for Facebook Likes, Twitter trending hashtags, and totally ridiculous impotent advertising campaigns. Let the people have the music. Or, to put it in language that makes more sense for the ones who can only speak dollar bill – Free the music, and your cash will follow.”

While I would have phrased it a little differently, I essentially agree with Kaskade. We live in a world in which consumers expect to have a free option (YouTube, Internet radio, Spotify, Radio, etc.), and, while most artists out there understand the power that free advertisement and exposure can hold, label executives and other industry bigwigs see the immediacy of the reduced cash flow and freak out. Also, the last time I checked, the music industry is a consumer driven business. Consumers do not adapt to what the labels want them to receive, the labels must adapt to what the consumers want or they will fail.

Now, there are two sides to every story. Many people believe that Soundcloud is doing the right thing and that the results will actually improve the music. Many people, inside and outside of the EDM scene, even despise the idea of remixing and sampling. These music fans hold that Soundcloud’s deletion of these “infringing” tracks will lead to a renewed interest in creating original music, instead of building off the ideas of others.

Another view supporting the site’s actions states that free platforms, such as Soundcloud and YouTube, have saturated the market, making it harder for those who are truly talented to be recognized. The barriers to entry into the eyes and ears of consumers are much lower than they once were. This means that it is much easier for less talented artists to be seen and promoted, gaining them a following they may not have otherwise been able to obtain through pure talent and hard work, while some of the more talented artists become lost in the jumble of Soundcloud account holders.

No matter which way you look at it, there is obviously still a vast miscommunication about the policies of online music platforms among the players in the music business.

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