Ryan Mac at Buzzfeed has a detailed story on how SoundCloud found itself in its current situation:
Today, SoundCloud appears stuck in no man’s land, according to former executives and employees. Though the company found validation with the major labels and launched a me-too subscription music service, former employees and music industry executives argue it bungled a great opportunity by losing sight of what made it unique: serving as a listening platform for non-label controlled content. Jake Udell, the CEO and founder of TH3RD BRAIN, a management company that represents artists like Gallant and Grace VanderWaal, said that SoundCloud used to be the first place he’d go to post music of his up-and-coming acts.
“Back then I would have to fight the labels to have songs on SoundCloud,” he said. “Now it’s not even part of the conversation.”
My takeaways from this story:
- If you are a small scrappy startup going up against entrenched players (as SoundCloud was, going up against not only the music labels but also Apple Music and Spotify), your expectations and timeline for success need to be correctly calibrated and your execution needs to be flawless.
- At a startup as small as SoundCloud, one person in power has the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage to the company and its workforce.
- An absentee CEO can absolutely destroy morale.