The year is 2017. Soundcloud’s popularity and criticisms have reached max capacity. The music streaming service has been around since 2007, but never before has the website spawned so many niche subgenres, so many outsider cliques, and so many headline-producingmachine rappers under the legal drinking age. Still though the website is in danger. Numerous reports have been posted, detailing the company’s supposed impending doom. The service just doesn’t make money compared to the likes of Spotify or Apple Music, and the SoundCloud Go tack-on is the definition of “too little, too late.” Even further, the content of SoundCloud has never been this left of center, bringing in equally left of center consumers. Is Lil Pump what SoundCloud CEO, Alexander Ljung, envisioned as the last bastion of hope against his dying brainchild? With the such a bizarre website standing on it’s very last leg while it’s hip-hop and experimental music counterparts grow more rapidly than ever, it’s worth theorizing any possible outcomes if the company does, eventually, go under.
First Things First
People are going to panic. #BringBackSoundCloud will start trending on Twitter within seconds. Blogs will contemplate the website’s legacy and whether it deserves to be salvaged. There might even be a grassroots movement to get the domain bought back by some of the sites mostre notable musicians (Chance? You out there?). And while the website definitely could use some usability and design touch ups, it’s hard to say that it would be so easily forgotten. But eventually, people will be ready to move on, and when they do…
New Sites Galore
SoundCloud currently has 10 million music creators signed up, with 12 hours of music being uploaded every minute. These people/artists aren’t just going to disappear when SoundCloud does. They’ll find a place to consume and share. While this happens every time a website with a strong culture dies, the nomadic, middle phase tends to be the most cumbersome. Several of new sites will pop up, claiming to do what SoundCloud couldn’t, claiming that they are the next culture creators, the next innovators. Ninety-nine percent of them won’t be, but that won’t keep the SoundCloud refugees from quickly latching onto one site over another arbitrarily. In the end, the actual layout and functionality of this hypothetical website is far from important, as long as it’s better than what SoundCloud gives us currently. The website is flawed to begin with, but like we said, that’s not what really mattters here. What matters is the people who choose to use it.
Factions, Teams, Sides, Whatever You Wanna Call It
After the dust settles, two or three sites will most likely emerge from all the noise and stand as the de-facto torch carriers from the SoundCloud era into this new one. The most easily imaginable scenario is that the SoundCloud rappers (Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, XXXTentacion, etc.) will plant their stake in one, the SoundCloud experimental hip-hop producers (SwuM., shamana, meltycanon, etc.) will grab another, and the site’s mainstream artists (Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Young Thug, etc.) will solidify their position, making whichever site they choose the biggest of the three. It’ll be interesting to see where the inbetweeners like Lil Uzi Vert (mainstream + new wave) take off to, or even just oddball legends who’ve been using the platform since its inception such as Lil B. Alternatively, maybe the new torch-bearing website sheds almost all of the SoundCloud culture, which brings us to the next step…
The New Era
Just like no one imagined clout goggles, colored grills, and or tie-dye dreads to be the trademarked SoundCloud look, no one will be able to predict the next phenomenon from the underground hip-hop community. Will we still be concerningly obsessed with youth? Will the Xxanax epidemic still plague the community, in a worryingly sardonic way? Or will the sampling and beat remixing somehow make it to the next level, finally pushing producers into the spotlight as artists themselves? While the SoundCloud popularity is one of irony and raw curiosity from an outside perspective, the circus world these musicians live in seems to be almost unsalvageable. I mean, it’s hard to get a day job with the number 69 tatted right in the middle of your forehead. Some of these trends will fall out of favor, quicker than we could guess, but there’s a hopeful suspicion that a phoenix can rise from SoundCloud’s ashes and be a better hub for honest expression and originality than the Cloud could ever be. And even though we might laugh at the current generation of “SoundCloud Rappers,” chances are, the next saviour of the game looks up to these people and their anti-charm. That person who is going to shape the culture for the next 10 years is probably screwing around on FL Studio or Ableton, listening to XO Tour Lif3, just waiting for their moment to shine.