Hey, there, ChipWINners, and welcome back to SYWMAC, a column dedicated to helping you be the best chiptuner you can be. This time around, I’m going to be talking about music hosting websites because of SoundCloud’s recent financial troubles. Despite the fact that a couple financial firms seem to be in late-stage negotiations to keep the service alive, it’s yet to be seen if this intervention on SoundCloud’s behalf is truly a life-saving measure for the company. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to scour the net to find alternatives to SoundCloud that might be more suitable to your needs. In doing so, what I’ve found is that while I wasn’t able to find a perfect substitute for SoundCloud, I have found some spaces that offer benefits that might make you reconsider your dependency upon it. If you’re someone looking for a back-up space because you don’t want to pay for SoundCloud Premium, you’re skeptical of SoundCloud’s longevity, or simply feel the site isn’t suiting your needs, then read further. I may have found a solution for you.
Mixcloud is a music hosting service that caters to long-form content creators. As the name implies, it’s a service that caters primarily to DJs, as many of the site’s strengths stem from the ability to playback and share hours of mixes, talks, podcasts, and other extended length sessions. Upon joining Mixcloud, you’ll be asked some basic questions about your preferences as a user, and be presented with a variety of channel suggestions. Each will have anywhere from tens to even hundreds of thousands of listeners, with content ranging from ambient to classical, synthwave to deephouse. These curated channels offer some of the best listening experiences the site offers, but you’re by no means limited to just what’s presented to you, and can easily choose to follow whomever you wish, much like SoundCloud. The simplicity and brevity of the sign up process is matched by the site’s intuitive, clean user interface: a, smooth, clean, and stylish design that seems to take a lot of notes from Material Design philosophy. Furthermore, Mixcloud’s mobile app navigates like a dream, and its energy consumption is on par with Spotify, so users can listen for a considerable length of time without significant worry for their battery life. These aspects make Mixcloud an ideal format for listeners on the go, meaning whatever fans you have that might need to migrate from one platform to another to keep up with you will be able to make a smooth, comfortable transition to an intuitive format. Speaking of fanbases, Mixcloud also offers fan interaction similar to SoundCloud, but isn’t quite as vivacious or exciting as the latter. While you can’t click on a specific part of a wave form during a track to leave a comment on a specific time slot, each upload still has a drop-down menu that shows all comments left on it for the artist, allowing for creators to interact with their fans and maintain a presences in their respective communities outside of social media.
Perhaps most important of all, however, is Mixcloud’s greatest asset: unlimited file upload. Unlike SoundCloud, you don’t need a premium account for Mixcloud to take advantage of unlimited upload space to the site. This is made even more exciting by the fact that Mixcloud allows upload of several format types, including Mp3, AAC, M4A, Ogg Vorbis, and MP4 Audio, allowing for content creators to produce, share and distribute the absolute best quality versions of their work available (short of FLAC or a high-bitrate WAV file, that is). It would seem that with all these features at the disposal of content creators that Mixcloud would be the ultimate replacement for SoundCloud, yes? Unfortunately, despite how wonderful Mixcloud is, the service is not without its faults.
Mixcloud, as was previously mentioned, is a service intended for long-form content creators. That means it doesn’t offer music hosting services for albums, mashups or single tracks. Anything that falls into the aforementioned categories will get taken down and Mixcloud will remind you that it’s against their policy to use the site in such a fashion. This is a real shame, because while I can understand not wanting to host several single tracks for each content creator they host, I feel the inability to share albums really hits the site hard when it comes to the content it can offer. For the diversity of shows that are available through it, not being able to share an album seems counter-intuitive to the idea of being a space that hosts longer format media. It should also be noted that it might be harder to develop following on Mixcloud than other services like SoundCloud, Spotify or Bandcamp, because it doesn’t have the user base those services do. This means you’ll have to be a bit more aggressive in sharing your mixes to get the most out of this digital venue. Despite these setbacks, if you are the kind of person prone to making mixes, playlists or podcasts, Mixcloud is the perfect site for you. Its free services are impeccable and its premium services (which offer options such as scheduling and user statistics) are merely icing on a well-made cake that deserves to be indulged in by more people.
-Simple, easy to understand UI
-Unlimited uploads for content creators
-Solid social interactivity
-Fun, stable app for mobile devices
-Decent security, will ask you to verify identity with Captcha if it detects unusual activity
-Smaller user base than many other music services
-no uploads of albums or single tracks allowed
Ideal for: DJs, Podcasters, Playlist junkies
SoundClick is a music hosting website that has been around for years. In fact, as far as music hosting services go, it’s the oldest one I know and was the first I ever came across. Some of my first interactions with the chiptune and vgm communities at large came through browsing SoundClick as a teenager, listening to artists like DJ Zircon and Midi Lives, as well as comedic rapper turned noise producer Ill Mitch and darkwave band Negative Flood Cycle. It was a haven for new music, providing a space for everyone from folk singers to beat makers to not only upload their music, but to share, profit and lease their services and music to others. In fact, SoundClick was the first site I remember using that allowed producers to license out their unused beats to up and coming rappers and DJs for track production. In many ways, SoundClick was ahead of its time, and still offers a lot of services that are to be lauded.
For starters, much like Mixcloud, SoundClick has unlimited upload storage for users, regardless of whether or not they’re premium users. Each content creator is able to upload any number of tracks, albums, or covers they desire to share with the public. Furthermore, SoundClick, even for non-premium members, offers a semblance of user statistics, as a great many of the artists featured on the site will be presented in a list akin to a Billboard top 2o chart, showcasing everything from the most listened to tracks of the week, artists who are hot and climbing the charts, and advertisements for artists who have to paid to get their name and services out there over their competition. These stats are further broken down based on genre, so if you’re looking specifically at who you’re competing against, you can see who’s currently topping the charts and use the site’s services to pay for more advertising, if you’re so inclined to do so.
SoundClick also has a lot of options for connecting its users beyond music, as well. Although its forums are no longer active, SoundClick does have options for users (both listeners and content creators) to share photos, favorite artists, blog posts, and messages on their own walls or the walls of other members. Furthermore, content creators also have the option to share video through SoundClick, so if you happen to have concert footage, music videos or bonus content such as interviews for your fans, SoundClick will host them and allow you the share them easily. The whole experience is vast and diverse, and offers a lot of potential to connect with fans, artists, and other music related outlets that use the service, such as MusicDish: a long running e-journal that caters to up-and-comers looking to make it in the industry. Combine this with the fact that this year marks SoundClick’s twentieth anniversary, and it’s easy to see why SoundClick has persisted. Let that sink in for a second. SoundCloud has only been around for seven years and is hemorrhaging money, but SoundClick has managed to persevere for two decades as a premier service for independent artists to host their work. However, despite these boons, SoundClick is not without its faults, and SoundClick’s weakness are quite noticeable. Remember what I said about how SoundClick has persisted for two decades? That doesn’t just apply to their longevity: that applies to their user interface, as well. SoundClick may have been ground-breaking for its time, but it’s also true that SoundClick has very much just stood still.
Its user interface, fan interaction, even the way players load up in mini windows after a link to a song is pressed, it all hearkens back to this MySpace kinda vibe that feels like it never grew up past 2005. This is a crying shame because SoundClick really does offer some incredible bang for your buck. Premium services offer advanced users statistics and access to advertising options on the front page, but much like Mixcloud, SoundClick’s foundation is strong enough that premium membership is merely icing on a rather solid cake. Unfortunately, this cake isn’t exactly fresh. It’s more like finding that Christma-themed pound cake at a bakery outlet that in April: it might still taste good, but is it worth the risk? Heck, why am I even suggesting a service I’m comparing to old cake? Quite frankly, it’s because there is something to be said for a service like SoundClick that has a legacy, and if any community can appreciate what something older has to offer, it’s the chiptune community. Two decades on the internet is like immortality on the internet. When we’re talking about possibly losing what is currently considered by many to be the best and most popular music hosting service, then compare it to SoundClick, it’s clear that the comparison is analogous to the fable of The Tortoise and Hare that is worth looking into, even if only as a backup. It may not offer some of the things Mixcloud does, such as the ability to host remixes or mashups, but with unlimited uploads of music, video and pictures, it certainly makes for an enticing option. Perhaps with enough usage, SoundClick might finally make that long-awaited transition to “Version 4” that some of the dead links on its site allude to, and give it the well needed face-lift it rightfully deserves, and become a place that’s new and exciting once again.
-Capable of hosting video as well as music
-Built in blogging and social media
-Arguably the longest running music hosting service on the internet. Period.
-Good Security. Will ask you to verify logins by confirming IP address via email if it suspects unusual activity
-Loss of popularity over the years
-No mobile app
-Long alluded to update to ‘Version 4’ still in the air
Ideal for: Producers, Session Musicians, Touring Musicians
I don’t think anyone reading this article can say they didn’t see this coming. With billions of hours of video uploaded every year, and with the success many artists have found by uploading themselves singing, performing live, or just sharing straight uploads of their albums, YouTube might be the best alternative to SoundCloud you’ve thought about using but haven’t made the jump to yet. Universally used and abused the world over, the video hosting service has not only stood the test of time, but has continued to evolve over the years to meet the needs of its market (or at least, has attempted to do so). Whether it be on a computer, smart phone, tablet or portable gaming device, YouTube’s ubiquity means it is potentially the greatest service available to any content creator, in terms of both upload space, reaching an audience, and ease of use, and is a strong contender for anyone looking to back up their music or share it the world over. Robust comment sections, the ability to PM content creators, content scheduling, monetization. YouTube has it all. It also has problems with all these things.
First would be the community. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the comment section of anything labeled ‘chiptune’ or ‘8-bit’ on YouTube, but if it has more than 10k plays, you should expect some form of ‘screeching’ in one way or another. People get into arguments all the time over the merits of hardware vs software, and discussing what’s actually chiptune, or even music in general, while some schmuck uploading guitar tab to midi conversions of songs run through GXSCC gets all the views you aren’t. There’s also problems with YouTube’s monetization. I’m sure we’ve all seen jokes about how content creators don’t make squat, and this is true across many platforms, but in comparison to Bandcamp, for example, those ad dollars and clicks on your videos on YouTube mean you might eventually be able to buy a warm can of Sunkist in a couple of years. Also, perhaps more importantly, you might be aware of YouTube’s three strike system. YouTube allows content creators, users and third-party corporations to file copyright claims on videos, which can be helpful if used properly, but often times these systems are abused. While it doesn’t happen too often to musicians from what I’ve seen, I’ve seen it happen enough to know that some larger known content creators in the community, including us at ChipWIN, have had to deal with copyright strikes in the past to ensure the channel didn’t get deleted.
So, why recommend YouTube even in the face of all these issues? Quite frankly, the reason is its benefits, primarily its nigh-monopolistic grasp on video content online, makes it the ideal place to share, upload, and spread word of your work outside of music-dedicated media services. Combined with the fact that YouTube even launched YouTube Music and YouTube red for the sake of providing music listening services that work akin to Spotify on mobile devices just to cater to the massive audience that uses YouTube for music means I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend it to you. YouTube may be toxic, at times, but it is perhaps the most well-known media hosting service on the planet. If you aren’t making use of it now, you’re doing yourself a considerable disservice.
-Vast potential audience reach
-Fantastic fan interaction
-Jokes allowed. If all you wanna do is shitpost, go for it.
-Risk of encountering more toxic members of community
-Potential Headaches dealing with YouTube’s Copyright Claim System
Ideal for: Everyone. Despite its setbacks, YouTube can work for just about anyone.
Well folks, that does it for this edition of SYMWAC. This article only scratches the surface of the myriad of options out there for music hosting venues, so I’d encourage you to use this article as a jumping-off point to start a discussion over your preferences for venues that you like hosting and sharing your music through. I’d also encourage you to keep checking back with the blog, as we host new content thrice a week for you to indulge in. Last but not least, if you’re an artist struggling to get noticed, or even struggling to get started, don’t be afraid to reach out to the community. SYMWAC is but one of dozens, if not hundreds of resources available to you to help you get started and thrive in the chiptune and VGM community. If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for here, don’t be afraid to ask elsewhere. Most involved in the scene are pretty amicable and you’re sure to find what you’re looking for sooner than you’d expect. Best of luck to you always.
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