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Reposts Are Killing SoundCloud

For those on the outside of the SoundCloud rap scene, it seems like anyone with a Lil or Yung in front of their name can make it. Today, that’s not really the case. While many artists who emerged from the platform shared a fondness for colorful dreads and distorted instrumentals, none of these attributes truly made them stand out. On the contrary, these artists owe their success to SoundCloud’s repost feature. The aesthetics and style of the music were merely symptomatic of the burgeoning repost universe.

Most underground-turned-mainstream artists don’t simply emerge out of nowhere. In fact, it’s the very opposite - their introduction to the scene, especially these days, is meticulously calculated and organized around the repost feature of SoundCloud. There are entire websites, such as repostnetwork.com, dedicated towards automating the process. It works by artists linking their accounts together to form a “chain” of reposts scheduled every hour on the hour for days, sometimes weeks, depending on the scale. The model is simple, if one is able to pay enough artists to repost their music, and the artists has access to a large network, then SoundCloud artists are able to rack up thousands of reposts overnight, almost like magic.

Today, due to the volume of reposts on well-known accounts, the quality of the songs being reposted has become quite diluted. Unfortunately, pay-for-play isn’t a new concept in the scene. I’ve seen it done recently on the concert circuit - promoters sell literally fifteen-minutes-of-pain packages for “artists”, who are really teenagers without even properly mixed songs, can play in-front of the ten people who arrived on time to the venue.

The saturation and abundance of artists and influencers who not only support the practice but also encourage it is a recent development. SoundCloud has always had its repost feature but traditionally it was only used in rare circumstance by bigger artists. When it was used I remember discovering plenty of dope artists.

The scarcity of a repost by a larger artists meant the song was usually one that stood out. This fundamental feature of SoundCloud which once reflected genuine artistic achievement, and made scrolling through SoundCloud exciting, has been now been reduced to dirt by those who proudly and unabashedly abused it for dollars. As my friend Duke Nukem puts it, when the machine can’t find anything else to feed on - it eats itself.

Not only has this practice ruined the listener’s enjoyment of the music but it’s also ruined the authenticity of the movement and the reputation of artists whom were quick to sell out for a cheap buck.  

The obvious perpetrators and ones at fault for normalizing this behavior are those are the top of the food chain, large influencers, such as Adam22 of No Jumper. Once an incredible channel filled with avant-garde content curated by Adam22; today No Jumper is merely filled with paid promotional music videos of sub-par “artists” who typically would not have the opportunity to be posted. It used to take talent or relevancy to make it onto No Jumper, now all you need is a couple hundred dollars and an email.

Above is a photo of the “repost” button. By clicking it a user is able to share their desired track with their followers.

Above is a photo of the “repost” button. By clicking it a user is able to share their desired track with their followers.

In a little under a year the repost system went from an exalted honor and rarity to a tainted practice. Of course it is still essential to current musical success on the platform but the next wave of emerging artists may have to evolve their techniques to become culturally and statistically relevant.

Sadly, this type of pay-for-play behavior isn’t just on SoundCloud - it’s on Spotify and YouTube as well. But if everyone online is listening to artists who paid to be heard then is it even possible to discover authentic music in 2018? Perhaps the internet is contributing to cultural homogenization - I’m not sure yet.

But without the repost system certain incredible artists wouldn’t have honorably burst through onto the scene. So, for that reason, I’m glad it exists. However, over time, the system has morphed into SoundCloud’s Achilles heel.

In an ideal world, the repost system isn’t inherently flawed but the end of 2017 its collapse became inevitable. As more and more people began to realize their timelines were being filled with garbage from their favorite artists not only did fans begin to grow annoyed by the spam but they also became disillusioned with SoundCloud as a birthplace of authentically “viral” sensations.

Now that is almost the end of 2018 and the repost market has quieted down considerably and the dust has been able to settle, the results have been arguably catastrophic not only for SoundCloud as a platform for its artist as well. SoundCloud, once a place for discovering new music, has in a very short amount of time has compromised itself. It’s almost impossible to discover new music you enjoy when the timeline is filled with amateurish, unfinished tracks which were only shared for money.