The 10 Best alternatives to Soundcloud for sharing and finding new tracks

Earlier this week I got an email from PRS saying that they were joining the long line of record labels, distributors and royalty societies attacking Soundcloud. I’m not going to dwell on the issues they’ve been having as there many excellent articles on it already. However it’s got to the stage now where it seems like Soundcloud might collapse under the weight of all the legal disputes.

Soundcloud silver lining 2

The thing is that Soundcloud has no direct competitors, at least none that are doing the same thing at the same scale. There are a few good choices for hosting your mixes, but noone else hosts nearly as many new tracks as they do. This means that if it does implode or fall out of favour, no one is quite sure who would take over.  So if you’ve just rendered you’re next massive hit, or you’re looking for the freshest underground music, where should you go?

The old guard

1, Bandcamp

If you’ve never used it before. Bandcamp is a truly excellent service… it was one of the first websites to truly democratise music distribution, by giving any artist who signed up a streaming platform and digital storefront that they could manage themselves. This was really revolutionary at the time (and in a sense still is). It offers some really nifty features like the ability to make download codes to hand out or send to people (if you’ve ever met me IRL, I probably will have given you one), offer discounts/free downloads and website integration. I really like this service, in fact the download page of this website is run using Bandcamp and has been for years. More recently they have built more social networking/music discovery features into the platform with the ability to set up fan accounts, follow people, comment, make wishlists and browse the (vast) collection of music available. There is however a problem (at least in the context of this article) and that is they take copyright very seriously … so if you upload an unauthorised remix or mashup and someone complains then there will probably be consequences. This is not the place for DJ mixes either for the same reason. If you make original tracks though, I wholeheartedly recommend it

2, Youtube

Youtube has some obvious advantages for taking Soundcloud’s crown. Firstly, it has way more music on it than soundcloud does. Its actually hard to find a piece of mainstream music that isn’t on there in some form or another. New tracks are easily uploaded and promoted and its videos will work pretty much everywhere. Obviously adding a video is also a chance to create a more immersive experience. Just pop a download link in the description and you’ve got all you need from a music promotion service right?

Well, not quite, firstly remixes and DJ mixes can be content blocked, just like on Soundcloud so it doesn’t really sidestep the current soundcloud problems (especially as, like soundcloud, they actually scan content for potential infringement). Youtube has come down strong on repeat offenders recently and losing your account would be a real bummer. Also the community is not solely music orientated and there are a lot of trolls around, so an earnest request for feedback from a new producer could quickly turn nasty. Something I don’t think I’ve ever seen happen on Soundcloud. I can’t really imagine posting a WIP track up there for similar reasons, even Youtube users specifically searching for new music are looking for underground, not unfinished. But like everything on the internet, this could always change with use

3, House-mixes.com

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House-mixes is an interesting one. It has lots of content and a pretty active community, yet almost everyone I’ve mentioned it to has never heard of it. As the name implies the focus is on DJ mixes, not just House ones though, every major electronic genre has a decent representation here. You can host your tracks here too and, excitingly, they actually have sections for Mashups and Remixes. Looking through their T&Cs, they don’t seem to specifically ask for prior permission to upload things there. They do reserve the right to remove content (so they can deal with requests from an angry labels) but for the most part, they seem pretty chilled out. Mixes and tracks can be set to download and the player is pretty decent. It has the standard like/comment/share options (although theses seem to be fairly underused compared to Soundcloud) so there are no glaring omissions. I will say that it is not the prettiest site in the world and sometimes it feels a little bit clunky. However it has really good functionality and offers you the ability to have both your mixes and tracks under one profile – which is what a lot of people loved about Soundcloud before mixes started getting shot down. So it’s in a fairly strong position to entice Soundcloud users across, it just needs to stay on top of the legal side of things. Otherwise it’ll suffer exactly the same problems

4, Reverbnation

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Reverbnation is primarily a social network for musicians and music opportunity/distribution platform. Its not really aimed at fans per se but there is really no particular reason why it shouldn’t be. It has good streaming and social networking tools and aggregate your popularity from various sites to create artist charts based on genre and location. They make it clear that you have to have the right to what you upload so I’d imagine they’d take a pretty dim view of you putting your bootlegs or unlicensed mashups on there (although I don’t know what sort of action they’d take about it). If you make original tracks, its a great place to put your music. In fact, even if you have no music that would be suitable to stream, the tools they offer are really useful for producers and musicians of any level, so its well worth making an account.

5, Myspace

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Do not adjust your sets, this isn’t 2003. Myspace used to be THE place for any band, DJ or producer to host their web presence. I know, Facebook kind of killed it as a general social network but, actually, this has led them to go back to focusing on music again. I’ve seen many artists go back to actively using it. I still only update mine once every couple of years but who knows, maybe I’ll try to make more of an effort. The music player is decent and easy enough to get files on. No download options though and they make it pretty clear you should own the rights to what you upload, so remix at your own risk. Either way it will probably need to gain a lot more momentum if its going to become the next big thing … again

6, Facebook

Facebook is a bit of an infuriating one. Its pretty much vital to have a facebook page to promote your music and you can obviously post tracks from pretty much anywhere there. All good so far but when it comes to actually hosting music, it has changed its music player so many time I’ve lost count. Even the page app/widget support keeps on changing e.g. the bandcamp app (which I use to host my entire released catalogue on my facebook page) has now become unsupported so if I were to uninstall it, I’d lose it forever. Facebook video is ironically your best bet, in fact one of the commonest ways I’ve seen for sharing WIPs is by uploading a video (usually taken through a mobile aimed at the computer for maximum quality degradation) to share with groups etc. I’m not sure why this seems to get a good response but it does. Also it only really works within Facebook. Anyway, even if Facebook starts to offer amazing new music hosting/downloading services, I’d probably approach them tentatively

7, Soundclick

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Soundclick is an old site, really old in fact (1997 according to the copyright notice). I’ve had an account since 2009 and honestly, the look and feel of it have not changed much in that time period. In fact until I was researching this post, I’d kind of forgotten it even existed. It was one of the first places to try to be a social network for musicians. It offers a fairly solid music player and upload system (including the option to sell tracks or give them as free downloads) and there is fair potential to use your profile page as an oldschool myspace style blog. You can upload cover versions to the site but remixes require written permission from the original artist (quite frankly if you have that you could upload it anywhere). Its not bad, and definitely gets the job done but I think it probably would need an overhaul if it wants people to flock back there in droves

New Kids

8, Hearthis.at

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Visiting Hearthis will give Soundcloud users a very familiar experience. They have the same like/comment/repost system for tracks and an active community – though not as much as traffic as Soundcloud yet. The site is also quite easy on the eyes, with a slightly more contemporary look than Soundcloud (but maybe a little too much on screen sometimes). It has excellent metadata features and all tracks are assigned a secret download link you can use to send promos to DJs etc. You don’t need to set up a separate private track like Soundcloud and it has some pretty cool other features too (including wordpress integration, app set up and Landr integration). Its upload limits are a little unusual, letting you upload as much as you like until you hit 10,000 plays or 5000 downloads at which point it will stop you but its paid for packages are not expensive. The only major Soundcloud feature missing is the ability to have groups (and the default non premium streaming format is fairly low quality). All’s good so far, but the problem here is: running the site in a similar way to Soundcloud risks encountering the same pitfalls (there are already a fair number of bootlegs there). My advice to them would be to get the lawyers involved now before they get big enough to gain the unwanted attention of record companies etc. Excellent site overall though, I hope it works out.

9, Logamp

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Logamp is certainly unique, rather than trying to just be a music discovery platform it also hosts artwork and literature too, trying to become a one stop shop for all creative media. There are some advantages to this, the social options (sharing, liking and bookmarking) are common to the different media types and the broad scope may attract users that may not be interested in any of the other sites on here (well apart from Facebook and Youtube). It has quite a nice minimalist design to it and you can leave the music playing while you browse some art and literate, which encourages you not to switch tabs. It was only set up this year and so the community is quite small (although seems to be relatively active) so it will be intresting to see where it goes. On one hand it could represent a new way of combining different media, on the other hand it could lack the focus to be taken seriously by any experienced producers, writers or artists. Only time will tell I suppose.

10, A different approach

You might be noticing a certain theme here which is basically, despite white labels (mashups and bootlegs) being a massive part of the evolution of electronic music, it is really hard to find a home for them on the internet. You can upload them to a smaller streaming site but if they gain popularity it is probably only a matter of time before they get a DMCA request slapped on them and get taken down. Most websites don’t fight this, even if the level of sampling could be considered ‘fair use’. So what people seem to be doing more and more often is to split the music hosting and the ‘social’ side between 2 different services. There are many places to host your music with little or no discovery features at all. Zippyshare is a classic (and has a built in streaming player as well as download options) but any filesharing service would do. Then you can share your link wherever you want. It is highly unlikely that facebook, twitter or your average production forum would care about the fact that your mashup is legal grey area as they have no liability for hosting the files. Likewise most record companies lack the resources and the will to systematically screen these sites (or the hosts) for infringement (unlike youtube or soundcloud which use automated detection to pick this up). So, hopefully your link will remain valid, and if it doesn’t, you can always put it somewhere else and share that link instead. You might piss off some people in the process but it is unlikely anyone will slam you with a cease and desist for doing it. Perhaps in a post soundcloud world, this might become the de facto standard. I hope not though as the loss of the musical social network would be a very sad thing.

Bonus – Revive the dead

These websites don’t exist anymore (or at least not in their original states) but a revival would really be beautiful. And if it happened they would still be excellent options

thesixtyone

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This is by far and away the website I miss the most. You’d upload your new track and the first people to like it would basically become your promoters and the more people that listened and liked that track the more experience they would gain (and you would too obviously). They’d have ‘quests’ to complete certain listening tasks to gain additional XP so that you could level up and get various bonuses. This is honestly one of the best ideas that anyone has ever come up with in music discovery, why? Because unlike almost any other music discovery service, the biggest incentive was to listen to the new tracks, the new artist and be the person to uncover something amazing. Likewise producers were genuinely grateful to all of their fans because your gains would become their gains. It was fun, had an amazing community and when you uploaded a track people would start commenting on it within minutes so it was a great way of getting feedback. So what happened… well it went from a really clean functional design to a graphic heavy impossible to use one and everyone hated it. So much so that it pretty much killed it in a matter of weeks, even thought they still kept to old design active as a subdomain (like beatport and facebook did after they redesigned). If you think all of my seemingly random comments above on website design were completely extraneous, this stuff can be really important. It still exists, ironically even now you can access both the old and the new designs. However the lights are on but no-one is home, the uploader is broken and according to a stark (bright red) warning on its wikipedia page even if you do get it to work and you set your track to free download it might get stuck like that with no way of resolving it as the site admins are MIA. However, its a huge site to host and someone is clearly still paying the bills. So please James Miao and Samuel Hsiung, if you’re out there, somewhere and you’re listening, just fix the uploader, turn off the new design and people will flock back, I promise

Amiestreet

Aimestreet was a low cost music marketplace where unsigned artists could upload tracks. They would start being available for free and the more popular a track became the more it would cost (up to about $1). Again this really incentivised people to search for the next big thing before everyone else had found them. You could even invest in other artists’ tracks which would accelerate their progress and you’d get a cash reward if the track became popular. There was also a social networking aspect to it (although quite basic by today’s standards) and people would readily make connections and give feedback. Eventually though, it was bought by Amazon and essentially shelved (although parts of it may have been implanted into their music marketplace). So, truly dead at the moment but there is no reason it would have to stay that way. I mean Amazon already allows 3rd party sellers of products and independent authors to sell their books to kindle… so why not set up an independant arm of their music store using the Amiestreet model. I mean they already own the rights to it and I can’t see any reason it wouldn’t work today. Win Win

Stereofame

Stereofame was another game based listening platform, allowing people to either act as artists or records labels (allowing you to ‘sign up’ artists). Again it encouraged exploration of music and cross promotion and was a good laugh in the process. The community was not quite as friendly as thesixtyone (although still pretty lovely) and there were lots of competitions, challenges and other things to keep things interesting. Now the domain has been sold to someone different (a record label called Stereofame) and there is very little evidence it ever existed.

As you can tell though from all of these old sites, I really think that we are missing a trick these days, they offered true music discovery. They encouraged you to find that amazing artist that noone has heard of but the moment you hear them, you know everyone should.

Summary

So where should you actually be putting your tracks these days. Well, original content can go pretty much anywhere but I’d particularly recommend bandcamp, hearthis and youtube to cover all the bases. Remixes and mashups, your best bet is probably house-mixes.com, or sharing links. Of course you can try putting them anywhere but there may be consequences.

We should all still keep on uploading to Soundcloud too, it is still as active and vibrant as ever from a community perspective. One thing is for sure though, if you rely solely on Soundcloud to get your music out there at the moment, you should definitely have a backup plan, as sadly the future is pretty unsure.

Peace, Love, Unity, Respect

Dataphiles