SoundCloud’s Mission to Combat Digital Obscurity in the Music Industry

by Barbara

Emmy Lovell, global head of music at SoundCloud, highlights the platform’s struggles and strategies in an era of digital abundance. She explains how the perceived level playing field of digital music can often become a graveyard for unplayed tracks. Lovell emphasizes that repeat visits by users are the earliest sign a track or artist might explode and stresses that if too many tracks go unnoticed, SoundCloud is failing in its mission.

The Sound of Silence in a Digital Age

In today’s digital landscape, the biggest challenge for music is not just competition but obscurity. Every day, hundreds of thousands of new tracks appear online, yet many go unheard. SoundCloud aims to rescue millions of these tracks from total obscurity, even though it cannot compel users to listen to everything.


Back in late 2008, MySpace was at its peak, offering musicians a platform to bypass record label gatekeepers. SoundCloud emerged towards the end of that year, amplifying the DIY ethic MySpace had kickstarted. Today, with over 40 million creators and more than 375 million tracks, SoundCloud remains a vital breeding ground for new music. Emmy Lovell, who joined SoundCloud in January 2023, has a rich background in senior digital roles at EMI, Warner Music Group, and Napster.


“I’ve championed artists my whole life,” says Lovell. “At a major label, there were the chosen few, but SoundCloud is for the masses.”


The Value of Catalogue and Discovery

SoundCloud’s Go and Go+ tiers offer a vast music catalogue, including tens of millions of creator-uploaded tracks. However, Lovell points out that a large catalogue is meaningless if the music remains unplayed. According to Luminate, 45.6 million tracks on DSPs last year had zero plays, and 158.6 million had 1,000 or fewer plays. This issue is increasingly concerning for SoundCloud, given that 170,000 new files are uploaded daily.

“These are songs where people have put their heart and soul into trying to create something,” Lovell notes. “To have zero plays is soul-destroying for these people.”

Addressing the Challenge: First Fans Initiative

To tackle this issue, SoundCloud’s product team introduced the First Fans initiative. This program gives unplayed tracks a chance to be heard by real listeners through algorithmic playlists based on user tastes. “Not all of them would listen, but it would be given to 100 listeners for them to listen to. If that did well, it would then go to 1,000 people to broaden it out,” Lovell explains.

Since the launch of First Fans in June 2023, over 3.5 million tracks have benefited from this exposure. From there, successful tracks can be elevated to the Buzzing playlist. “It’s our duty to make sure that people discover new stuff,” Lovell asserts. “That’s why they come to SoundCloud.”

The Importance of Early Discovery

Without the discovery of new music and musicians at the earliest stages of their careers, SoundCloud’s purpose becomes null and void. “Then we’re just like every other platform,” Lovell warns. “We have all of that as well, but our exciting area is helping people discover their new next obsession.”

Fixing the issue of unplayed tracks is crucial for SoundCloud, which serves both music fans and the music business. When these groups intersect, tracks can explode, like Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes” in 2016 or Cassö’s remix “Prada” last year. “We have so many fans on our platform that do the music discovery or the first layer of A&R for us,” Lovell says. “There’s no barrier between the creators and the fan communities.”

Success Metrics and User Engagement

Success metrics on digital platforms have evolved, from registered users to active users, dwell time, likes, and follows. For SoundCloud, the earliest sign of a track’s potential success is return listens, distinct from repeat plays. “We were seeing the telltale signs of something interesting because people were coming back and listening again and again,” Lovell explains.

Return visits to tracks hold significant power in SoundCloud’s user data. “The key thing here is every successful artist or track that goes on to exceed everyone’s expectations on SoundCloud always starts with an action,” Lovell says. “The actions that someone takes, whether it’s as simple as liking a comment, listening to the track constantly, or contributing in the comments, is the single biggest indicator for potential success.”

The Future of Music Discovery

The past quarter century’s democratization of creativity, coupled with the ubiquity of music from all eras, represents a profound change and challenge for the music industry. The irony is that while anyone can create and release music, the reality of zero plays persists and increasingly feels like a feature rather than a bug. SoundCloud’s mission is to ensure that new music finds its audience, maintaining its unique position in the digital music landscape.

Related topics:





You may also like


Rnada is a movie portal. The main columns include trailers, movie reviews, celebrities, movie knowledge, news

Copyright © 2023