Content: Where and how should I manage it?
Where would you host your music if SoundCloud Closes?
Recent news about Soundcloud started making rounds in quite a few social media group forums I lurk in frequently. The most popular article shared was the article by Tim Ingham published on Music Business worldwide. Another article by Andrew Liptak published just days later on The Verge spun a similar story. There was a common question that had popped up due to the alarm it was causing, “Where would you host your music if Soundcloud closes?”
While many professionals across music and sound-related industries are confident Soundcloud will not just up and disappear, the conversations carried out across many forums immediately focused on looking for alternatives. Thus, the conversations ultimately became about Content: where and how should I manage it?
This issue not only affects music makers – whose livelihood is the very content they’re sharing and trying to monetize but also businesses and professionals who utilize SoundCloud as an advertising service to showcase their sound-based products and services. Because of this diverse cross-section of Soundcloud users, the potential avenues toward the solution that may work for one may not work as well for the other.
What is Soundcloud?
In a nutshell, Soundcloud is essentially Youtube for sound. Soundcloud is accessible via the web and their own mobile applications just like Youtube is. Whether you use Soundcloud regularly, or have yet to discover it – if you’ve done anything music-related such as web-surfing a music blog, or visited a sample developer’s site, you’ve likely encountered Soundcloud embedded audio players.
With Soundcloud, Youtube, Vimeo, and so many other content “platforms” out there now, all working tirelessly to make it easy to socialize, embed, and share on one another’s services, it’s no wonder we’ve all grown accustomed to the concept of putting our content up on one of these platforms and then embedding it into our pages, posts, and social media pages.
I – like many other businesses and professionals have grown accustomed to, embed players from platforms like SoundCloud and Youtube directly onto my website. For most, it’s the convenience of having a third-party host:
- Potentially faster load times. Whether embedding on your own website or a social page, the content itself is being streamed from a different server.
- More universally locatable: your content being directly served on a major platform like Youtube, Vimeo, or SoundCloud has the potential of gaining more exposure than if you were hosting it directly on your own website and trying to drive traffic to it. That’s the whole point of these platforms, In a nutshell, to tap into the user bases these platforms offer.
- Mobile Friendly: Youtube, Soundcloud, and even Vimeo’s mobile app feed make it a lucrative tool for exposure by bringing the web to mobile devices. Even if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your content can still be found by those on-the-go.
It all sounds well, but as the world of new media grows, the complexity grows with it. SoundCloud is only a small node in a large, intricate network. As you dive into researching all the channels of distribution, publishing, syndication, and streaming of your content, you’ll find there is virtually no end to the services cropping up to fill the demand.
Each platform presents its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. As you grow your brand across multiple platforms, the time spent investing in each platform will likely become exponential – thus the companies that wield it the best have teams of people dedicated to managing their online presence. The benefits that each platform offers can also become the drawback depending on what your intention is, and what kind of audience dominates that platform you’re trying to tap into.
The Pros & Cons
Step back for a second and revisit the question re-framed: where should I post my content, and how should I manage it? The immediate, if not obvious answer is, that depends. What kind of content is it? Where is your target audience most likely to be found? What’s the best way to reach that audience? What do you plan to do once you’ve grabbed their attention? Along with trying to find and follow your traffic, consider the following:
Hosting your content directly on your site gives you complete control over security, privacy, and autonomy over access. You can choose whether to make your content freely viewable, downloadable, shareable, listenable; or hide it behind a wall.
Maybe you want to monetize the content directly, so you may want your audience to pay for access. Maybe you simply don’t want to make your content public, but for doing business you need to share your content with specific people. Giving them access by logging to your site so that only those with the proper credentials can access the content makes perfect sense.
While Youtube and Soundcloud offer some content control solutions, they may not meet all of your specific needs. Content creators who use multiple platforms will undoubtedly run into things that are beyond their control. For example, Youtube doesn’t just analyze every upload for copyrighted material identification but they’ve also implemented loudness normalization. More platforms are starting to implement the same kinds of processing and the content creators don’t have any say in the matter. You upload your content to their platform but they can shape the user experience beyond your control. The path of totality keeping all of your content under your direct control is to have it hosted only on your site.
“All roads lead to Rome”, “All revenue flows towards the author”, and in this case, all traffic flows to your site. All clicks and engagement with anyone interested in your content are invited to your website to encourage them to discover more of what you offer. While embedding may be common practice, it still means relying on external platforms which could stifle the potential traffic that could be directed to your site.
Think of all the embedded videos and music being shared on Facebook. When viewing that continuous stream of updates it’s indeed easier to get views or listens because the user can simply press play, but the chances are high that your typical social media audience is going to continue surfing and forget the content is even playing. If they refresh or do something else, they may even disrupt the media they were streaming, and at that point, they will put minimal effort into trying to find and resume it.
If a click is a click, then it is no extra effort for that newly engaged audience to deal with an extra tab or window as you direct them directly to your site to begin viewing or listening. they can freely go back to their social media browsing without disrupting or losing track of your content. Think of how much more focused your insights and feedback can then be compared to having embedded media that will take them to the platform it’s hosted on first, and then you have to provide links in the material’s description if your intent is to get them to your site to allow them to explore more of what you offer.
Even if you decide to push your content to Youtube or Soundcloud and then embed into your site, this strategy is still beneficial. However, if your primary reason for wanting those platforms is for the statistics, you can get the same traffic analyses by using Google’s analytics tools and tying them to your website.
S.E.O. and analytics can also see positive effects from Centricity listed above by hosting all of your content directly on your own site. If you’re concerned about search rankings and your visibility online even the slightest, then you’ll want to follow guidelines and best practices. Having accounts (and in many cases even multiple) on each platform could make finding what you want your audience to see first harder to manage.
Depending on what your intent is with your content, you may want it available in fewer places, not more. If you do a google search on yourself (or your business), see what results come up and the order they come up in. Checking your own google search rankings is a quick way to identify whether your site, Youtube or SoundCloud channel is getting the search ranking you want it to. Furthermore, depending on your content, if your youtube or SoundCloud profile outranks your own website, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate how you’re managing things.
In the music world, many professionals still swear that simply having your music in as many outlets as possible is always the best solution, but I say that is context-sensitive. Artists and business professionals who have created accounts on every platform will attest trying to manage every single channel is an exercise in futility. Instead, pick a few you can manage well so that you grow a solid connection with the audience you are connecting with. If you want all searches for anything you’ve created to funnel to just one place, you may find that hosting your content directly on your own site is the best way to go.
Less Account Juggling
Logging in to develop and manage your site is serious work. in the case of WIX and other “freemium” web services, you may not get much space at all and are forced to utilize 3rd party hosting solutions and then embed. Regardless, as your pool of content grows, juggling your website development, and every other profile like Youtube’s content creator dashboard really eats up time. Now multiply that for each platform you want to publish to.
Maybe in the future, we’ll see a reverse integration into site services such as posting your content directly to your site and having it push that content onto Youtube, Soundcloud, and beyond, complete with all the proper accessibility and metadata attributes. That simply hasn’t happened yet.
Perhaps the single most compelling reason to host your content directly on your own website. The entertainment world is most acutely aware that presentation is everything. While you can modify profiles on Youtube, Vimeo, and Soundcloud, ultimately the way they let you present your content may not be what you truly desire. These platforms have entire API’s to allow sharing of and embedding the media pushed to these platforms. This is a clear indicator that most of us really do want even more control over how we’re presenting that content. If the only reason you’re using Youtube or Soundcloud is to embed on your site, perhaps now is the time to consider hosting it directly.
Most hosts will let you install CMS optionally: WordPress is the most commonly used and actively developed. On top of that, there are literally a TON of free and paid add-ons in the forms of plugins and themes which give you complete solutions over the look and feel of your site. They even provide you with W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G. editors so you can build your site how you want without having to learn how to code. All the web tools available today have grown in sophistication and ease-of-use, which means you get even more control over how you wish to present your content online.
Every host charges for storage costs. The more content you publish to your site, the more likely it is that in the future (or possibly now) you may have to pay for additional storage. Every host also defines traffic/bandwidth allotments. the terms that define this can quickly get very confusing and nebulized if you don’t read the fine print. In the case of Hostbaby, they don’t even specify in their marketing material on their site, they just say on their FAQ page that they can “work with you to find an agreeable solution”.
Whether you’re an artist trying to push your single or a sample library developer launching your new product, using one of these content platforms means the burden of handling that traffic need not be your concern. Your hosting service’s service agreement may limit how easily you can scale your service to handle the needs of your expanding market. Surpassing your allotments can get costly and there’s no guarantee the increased traffic you’re getting is also the paying audience. If you’re just starting out, pushing your content to 3rd party platforms like Youtube and Soundcloud are the easiest and most convenient ways to keep your website’s footprint small, and your bandwidth allotments in check.
Each host may offer their own set of pre-programmed modules that you can simply configure and use on your site, but some can be downright obtuse to figure out. If you’re willing to commit the time and energy (or money to pay for development or management), WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal – Content Management Systems, are sophisticated tools that have the potential to make it easy to implement your content directly onto your site. Unfortunately, these can also become yet another burden with paid plugins and subscription plans to manage as well.
Committing to a CMS based site, paying for development, management, or 3rd party plugins or themes means diving further into the website building conundrum, and probably further away from the work you would rather be doing. Depending on your situation, it may be wiser to hold off on this level of commitment until you can properly manage the plunge.
Part of the beauty of the major platforms is that they are relatively easy to use. Maybe you aren’t ready for a dedicated website presence yet. Focusing your time and energy on established platforms where you can interact more directly with other users and establish a rapport as you build your brand is a great start.
If your host server goes offline, your content goes offline with it. There are tricky, techy solutions around this; for example, one could use Google cloud services to host a site in the cloud (ElegantThemes described how to do this with WordPress), but this is an advanced setup and the costs scale with the usage and scaling needs of your site. It could potentially alleviate the need for a backup solution that traditional hosting would require, but you will spend the same amount of time, energy, and money, regardless.
But, what if you stop your web-host service altogether? If the only place your content existed was on your own website and you take it offline, your internet footprint will shrink. As you go offline, search engines will still carry echoes of your content, and leave your audience frustrated when searches end with errors.
Where else can your content be found? Do you want it to be found? If you’re a musician or artist, the answer will most likely remain an emphatic “yes!” in which case uploading the same content onto every available platform might be quite appealing. Taking the extra steps to manage the various platforms fully might be time-consuming, but gaining the redundancy of your content being available in multiple places can be a boon if your primary goal is exposure.
At the risk of completely contradicting myself for the same reasons I mentioned in the pro’s, having your content in a single place can work against you especially if you’re in your early stages of anything – business, professional, or music artist. Your content is your business card. It may be more opportunistic therefore to consider leaving your business card everywhere (on every applicable platform) and provide links back to where you ultimately want any onlookers to end up. This is especially true for any budding profile. When you are just beginning, you will not have an audience, a client base, or a customer circle. Any press, then, is good press.
Maybe your goal is to ultimately entice your audience to buy your song or product. If the only place they can even audition or review your stuff is on your site, then your need for active marketing and advertising is even more critical than if you were to have your media on shareable, embeddable platforms like Youtube and Soundcloud where it can be socially spread.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have the potential of expanding your brand exposure passively or the alternative buzzword: “virally”. Pushing your content onto the big content platforms and sharing on social networks is the easiest, quickest way to start building your brand’s presence without the same kind of investment that active marketing and paid advertising would require. Note: that’s not to say social media marketing can replace active marketing and advertising, the best marketing strategies should incorporate both… However, social media marketing is a great place to start especially when you cannot afford the kind of investment that traditional advertising would require.
While there are admittedly more “pros” than “cons”, the weight the cons carry is extremely important. These points outlined can apply universally no matter the nature of your business. Hopefully, you can take these considerations and make more informed decisions as you move forward with your business.
At the end of the day, the wisest know not to put all their eggs in one basket. Leveraging a platform like SoundCloud should simply be one of many platforms you can wield depending on what you intend to use it for. Whether you’re an artist itching to get your content exposed on the world-wide-web, or a budding business professional with products or services you want to advertise, the key is to apply some critical thinking, and leverage the content platform(s) you’re considering in the ways that will yield the biggest impact.
Have you recently had to face this very question? What solutions have worked for you and your brand? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below! As always, happy productions!