As music has become more durable, it has—paradoxically—also become more ephemeral. Your physical records don’t evaporate if the store you bought it from closes shop or the record label that published them goes out of business. If a streaming music company goes under, a stockpile of important cultural artifacts could go with it.
Fears that exactly this could happen erupted this week when a financial statements from popular audio hosting site SoundCloud surfaced online. The company, which has become a vital resource for independent musicians and podcasters, lost $44.19 million dollars in 2014 even as it increased revenue to $15.37 million, according to the regulatory document filed with the UK government. The revelation led to immediate speculation that SoundCloud could go offline, taking with it the 110 million audio tracks it hosts.
Fortunately there are alternatives to SoundCloud, such as Bandcamp, which a spokesperson told us has been profitable since 2012, and YouTube, which has become an increasingly important part of Google’s overall strategy. But SoundCloud users would have to re-upload all of their work—if they even still have copies of it. Much of what lives on SoundCloud today would likely vanish forever.
The article does point out that fears of SoundCloud capsizing are likely overblown, though it is generally agreed that 2016 is the service’s make-or-break year. But the warning is good to heed, as it should be assumed that any of these services you may be relying on could suddenly be offline – or at least altered overnight in a way that doesn’t align with your goals or ‘brand.’ My repeated advice is to future-proof yourself by focusing primarily on your own site and promotional ecosystem, treating these third party services only as complimentary outlets. The fan-outreach gateways that you fully control should always be the primary sources of attention.