I’m going to miss Soundcloud

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It seems that Soundcloud is about to disappear: the sound-sharing website has only a few weeks, possibly months, of money left in the coffers and, if current reports are to be believed, once that has run out it will disappear. There are reports of backups being made, by archive.org and even individuals, but time will tell how accessible and/or user-friendly those might end up.

On NewMusicBox today, bassist Gahlord Dewald has posted an overview of why musicians might share their music, and what other services, besides Soundcloud, might serve people in the future. I really just want to add to that to say what value Soundcloud has had for me as a writer/investigator into new music over the last few years.

And that is: enormous. When I first noticed a few years ago that composers and performers were putting their works up on Soundcloud it was a tremendously exciting moment. Until then, it had been possible to access bootlegged new music, live recordings and so on through chatrooms and personal contacts; but from a research point of view it was a laborious process that required a certain amount of pleading. Now with Soundcloud – and for some reason this seemed to be the breakout platform everyone was using – I could search for things proactively, at my own pace and according to my needs. Asked to write a programme note about composer x? Chances were, if she was under, say, 45, I could find a bunch of her work on Soundcloud. Wanted to explore who was on this year’s Gaudeamus shortlist, or currently at Schloss Solitude, or making waves at Darmstadt – again, Soundcloud. When Riot Ensemble ran its most recent call for scores, the overwhelming majority of our 279 applicants had posted their portfolio works on Soundcloud. For a generation of composers, I got the sense that Soundcloud had become a default setting – and in that respect it was becoming a transformative technology for the visibility and reception of new music, and especially that by composers too young or too weird to have record deals or broadcasts. This was undoubtedly new, and very healthy. Sites like Soundcloud have made it easier to know what composers in their 30s are up to these days than composers in their 50s or 60s, who may be locked into more traditional modes of dissemination for their work.

Now, when Soundcloud is gone no doubt something will arrive in its place. Still more likely, though, several things will arrive at once. And some will already be here: Bandcamp is covering some of that territory, and I’ve even heard talk of retreating back to MySpace. And this will mean fragmentation across platforms, with all the inconsistencies, annoyances and break-ups of putative communities that that entails. You can’t follow a thread of likes between platforms, for example. You can’t easily curate a playlist of recommendations.

Soundcloud wasn’t perfect, and there wasn’t anything inherently special about its offering. (Although I did like its feature that tracks would continue to play even if you clicked to a new page. This seems so intuitive it always surprises me when it doesn’t happen on other sites.) But it had become something of a norm, a standard. And when those disappear everyone will be back to square one. I’m going to miss it.

Update: … If, that is, those reports can be believed. Since I posted this, a Facebook reader alerted me to this post on the Soundcloud blog, from 14 July and written by Soundcloud co-founder Alex Ljung, which claims that ‘Soundcloud is here to stay. … The music you love on SoundCloud isn’t going away, the music you shared or uploaded isn’t going away, because SoundCloud is not going away. Not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future. Your music is safe.’ I’m still wary, especially in the fragile world of Internet economics, that there’s rarely smoke without fire, but let’s hope this post’s claims are true.

The Rest is Over Here

Missed Alex Ross’s classical music and the internet piece in print last October? Well, you’re in luck – it’s republished in today’s Observer (Review, pp.10-11). No sign of it online at the Guardian website at the moment, or I’d throw you a link.

P.S. – TRIN is now showing on Amazon.co.uk with an attractive new black hardcover.

classicLive Launches Internet Concerts

In the inbox this morning:

classicLive sells tickets for Internet concerts by top world orchestras

classicLive is a new Internet portal – an international network offering live concerts by some of the world’s finest orchestras. The system requirement for this service providing TV-standard images and almost CD-standard sound is broadband access of only 1Mb. Access for the portal concerts at www.classiclive.com can be purchased online by credit card per day, week and 30 days.

classicLive is a unique concept providing access to many great orchestras via a single portal. The first classicLive concert webcast will be from the Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland on September 6, when the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under its Chief Conductor Osmo Vänskä will be performing the Kullervo Symphony by Jean Sibelius. All orchestral concerts from the festival will be streamed live and concert webcasts continue throughout the season.

The second orchestra to appear on classicLive, on September 25, will be the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra under General Music Director Zoltán Kocsis. In addition to works by Bartók and Brahms the concert will include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3 with Alexei Volodin as the soloist.

Along with these two orchestras, a Letter of Intent has been signed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic. Other possible partners include the Philharmonia Orchestra from London, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Each classicLive concert will first be streamed live via the Internet all over the world. Following brief editing it will then be visible and audible on demand at any time during the next three weeks. The rapid repertoire turnover will thus maintain interest in the portal among classicLive subscribers.

“The short-range objective is to create a limited premier classicLive league of no more than15 orchestras,” says Tuomas Kinberg, General Manager of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. “There will be mainly one orchestra from each country. One thing the members of this organically-growing network will have in common is that they will all be among the very finest orchestras their country has to offer. We are very proud to be part of this network.”

Osmo Vänskä, also Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, considers this service a historical moment. “classicLive offers a platform where, for the first time, great, dynamic orchestras can provide concerts to music lovers around the world.”

“No doubt, we are writing music history,” Géza Kovács the Director General of the Hungarian National Philharmonic agrees. “Nowadays when we often feel that classical music is in danger and when more and more people use Internet, classicLive offers real value for millions of people. We are proud to be a member of this ‘exclusive club’ where the main rule is to give people the joy of music on the highest level.”

classicLive is the first major commercial producer of classical music content on the Internet. The pioneering nature is what appeals to the number-one ensembles in various countries. David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra says:

“As the first orchestra to present a live concert webcast, the Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to offer its support to classicLive in launching this exciting new initiative, which will bring the highest quality live concerts to a new global audience. We are in very positive discussions with classicLive about becoming active partners in this project and wish them every success.”

Roy McEwan, Managing Director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, said:

“classicLive opens up a whole range of exciting opportunities in bringing classical music of the highest quality to audiences across the world. We wish this adventurous new initiative well on its launch and look forward to exploring further the prospects of being part of classicLive”.

Valery Gergiev, the Artistic & General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, emphasises the importance of reaching the global audiences:

“The Mariinsky Theatre supports all efforts to overcome the obstacles of distance and borders, to bring performances of great music to the doorsteps of faraway audiences.”

“The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra is very excited at the chance of being involved in classicLive,” says Executive and Artistic Director Stefan Forsberg. “The idea of providing concerts on the web corresponds completely with our ambition of being an orchestra in touch with the future. We are thrilled at the possibility to make the music of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic accessible to as many people as possible worldwide.”

classicLive offers new potential in the field of music education, as Pieter Pryck, the Manager of Artistic Department of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, says:

“classicLive is the most fascinating and modern medium to bring classical music to everybody; young people especially.”

Conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who will begin as Artistic Advisor of the Lahti Symphony in 2008, sees the value of classicLive as new approach to the concert tradition.

“I am glad to participate in this visionary effort that will bring classical music to music lovers and new audiences all over the world. This exciting new media format will show classical music as part of our daily life and will help to generate new audiences.”

Main responsibility for the service lies with Saltarello Ltd. The technical platform and operations are being supplied by TietoEnator Corp., another Finnish company.

“We have developed the concept for the classicLive portal, the visual image and the streaming technology in close partnership with Saltarello,” reports Kalle Simola, Consultant, from TietoEnator Digital Innovations. “Designing this unique subscriber service has been both interesting and challenging, combining the planning of a good consumer experience, our streaming technology know-how and the construction of the portal’s technical platform.”

Each network orchestra will be responsible for the initial production of its Internet concert streaming videos in accordance with the high artistic and technical quality specifications applying to portal concerts. The portal language is English.