Because of the Internet

The platform where students turn their passion for music into a potential career

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Words || Ashley Regan

From tape to Garageband, from vinyls to mp3, the influence of technology has put the music industry in a constant state of change. The internet has created the expectation that we can get everything for free, making it easy for us to forget that the bands we love depend on us to pay their rent.

The industry had to figure out a way to compete with the internet. Streaming services swooped in, providing greater reliability than free downloads,and more accessibility than the virus filled Piratebay’s. For a small fee we get unlimited access to all the music in the world, where artists make income but more importantly get exposure.

Not only has this streaming technology made the industry more profitable but it has also expanded it. Both a blessing and a curse, Soundcloud has created a platform for amateur artists to create music in their bedroom and instantly upload it to the whole world, but the question is; can you make a living from it?

As an escape from mainstream music, Soundcloud offers an alternate route to musical success while along the way attracting the attention of fans and the music industry. Rory O’Connor (aka @rorty) uses SoundCloud to promote his music before he jumps out into the mainstream platforms. “When I first started producing hip hop I fell into a rabbit hole and put all my time and effort into it, because for once I was making the kind of music I listen to. Opposed to the classical music I played when my parents forced me to play piano or rock when my friends asked me to join their bands. I’ve been uploading to Soundcloud a year now, and I’m still not ready to sell my music. Uploading to a free platform where posting a song is as easy as a post on Facebook or Instagram means I can release music with no investment of time or money and no need to stress about making a profit. I do think I will upload to Spotify one day when I’m confident that I will gain something from it, I’m still at a point where exposure and experience as producer is more important than streaming revenue.”

Soundcloud is famous for its DIY aesthetic, and rapper Andrew Papadopoulos (aka @SMEAR) fully embodies the amature look of the platform. Andrew has always been a huge fan of the platform, “At 18 I solely listened to Soundcloud to find local tech artists so I could go to their gigs. When some fucked shit happened to me last year, a breakup and being in hospital, Lil Peep and XX (the original Soundcloud rappers) really helped me through that time. I met Alex Francis and I sow how big he had gotten by just uploading to Soundcloud, seeing his confidence I thought I might give it a go too, so I started uploading in November 2018. In total I’ve done eight songs which I am really proud of, already I’ve been messing with my style, the first song I ever uploaded is on private now because it’s shit my sound has developed so much from that first upload. There’s some songs I post that are super emotional but other songs are just for fun, one song I have is called ‘No Hook’ where I just rap about fishing.”

“My job on the side of Uni is walking house to house delivering pamphlets, for the hours I walk around I listen to SoundCloud and freestyle lyrics in my head. By the end of my shift I’ve got the first five lines sorted then at home I’ll keep adding to it. My recording is so ghetto you’ll laugh, I record into my headphone microphone and mix in Garageband, it’s so simple and heaps shit but it works well for me. Everything is self-taught, I’ve slowing been building my confidence with every track I post. Before I post, I’ll send it to Alex and other music friends asking “if it’s shit just tell me”, I really count on the constructive criticism from the people around me. Right now I’m focusing on trying to make more tracks, I need to make 5 or 6 deadly songs then I’ll start promoting myself to maximise my exposure, maybe purchase Soundcloud pro or start uploading to Spotify. My Security Studies degree definitely doesn’t help my music, the music is a hobby right now, the plan is to do a postgrad in security and someday be a spy.”

Soundcloud is definitely the space for experimentation where creators get their foot in the door. Without first uploading to SoundCloud Alex Francis (aka @cecil) would not have the startup cult following he has today, with twenty thousand plays on Soundcloud and two thousand monthly listeners on Spotify. “I’ve always been a super creative person; music was the perfect fit for that creative outlet while also giving me an opportunity to tell my story. I first started on Facebook posting crappy videos of me rapping to the camera, I moved over to Soundcloud in 2015 when I got more passionate about music. I knew Soundcloud was the platform for my music as it has an established internet community of hip hop artists; I’ve been able to network with artists because feedback on tracks is so instant. Whereas Spotify and stuff you don’t get comments on your music, you don’t get the audience interaction, Soundcloud builds a community with easy audience interaction that helps an amateur develop their style.”

“The platform has changed heaps since I’ve been using it, 2016 was peak and then by 2017 it started to die off. Once Soundcloud rap went mainstream, artists took their music onto other platforms and got signed to labels because there was more money in it. Fans didn’t just have to use Soundcloud anymore; suddenly they could listen to them everywhere from Youtube to Radio to Spotify. Personally I’ve done the same by transitioning from Soundcloud to Spotify. I think initially when I was recording on my computer it was perfect for Soundcloud because I was doing it myself, making music to just bulk out a portfolio. The expectation of being a polish piece isn’t for Soundcloud, the audience doesn’t expect a mixed or mastered piece, they want the raw and organic stuff. The audience is definitely a big factor as to why the music is so DIY because that’s what they come to Soundcloud for, rather than a known artist. My Soundcloud was definitely an experimental stage, it was a place to start, even my last couple of songs on there are completely different to what I am doing now, and I don’t think they could be on any other platform than Soundcloud.”

“Now I only upload to Spotify and I have to deal with all the industry stuff, I never thought I would get so professional when I started uploading my shitting mixes on Soundcloud. Music has always been the thing I’ve really wanted to do, music is number one and Uni is second. I definitely come to University to make Mum happy; it’s hard to say “Mum I’m going to be a rapper”. But my digital media and marketing courses has taught me how to work with industry people, and developed my understanding of the business and analytical side of things. But just down to simply making music it’s all self-taught and comes from my creative side that I’ve always had. Right now I’m focussing on playing gigs and promoting my brand. It’s definitely getting a lot more serious, but it’s super exciting. It’s a big change, years ago when I got three likes on my Soundcloud post I was over the moon, now it’s draining to look at my streaming numbers on Spotify, my monetization and my placements.” To join the startup cult check out Alex’s Spotify @cecil and head to ‘The Blue Fig Bar’ on the 30th of March for a few beers.

SoundCloud has created a new wave of music, which could quite possibly define our generation, much like Harlem who defined the 1920’s by Jazz and Blues, and Seattle who defined the 1970’s by Alternative Rock/Grunge music. Although technological advancements have made the music industry indefinitely unstable, the similarities of generation-defining-subcultures are clear.

Stephen Collins a Senior Music Lecturer at Macquarie and started making music in the 90’s, and his DIY mixing technique is the same as the SoundCloud creators of today. “I was very unfamiliar to using a PC and digital uploading, but I really liked remixing so I taught myself how to produce my own stuff. I loved taking someone else’s song, discard all the components except the vocals, then to would re-write new music for it, making a new song but with the same vocal line”.

Andrew Robson also a Music Lecturer at Macquarie, commented on the artist mentality as being stable. “The desire as humans to connect with others, to express ourselves, no matter if we are recording on a wax cylinder or uploading something to Soundcloud, that seed of creativity is the same to produce something tangible. The inspiration to create is an innate quality of being human, technology won’t change that.”

They both encourage anyone with an interest in music to pick up an elective with the department to try out their equipment, and meet their amazing staff to help you build a music portfolio. Who knows, maybe they will get your song viral. You could be the next Post Malone or Lil Peep. Back in their day, they would browse through bins in a record store and then invite friends over to sit around the record players and have a listening party. Now we listen to our playlists on Spotify, whilst our friends watch through their screens in real time.

We are lucky to have technology such as Soundcloud. It has reduced costs so we can all record and produce high quality music. Whatever the next stage of music is, there’s never been a better time to release music from your bedroom, and these Macquarie students might be touring the world sooner than anyone would think.