The rumors are true, and indie music producers are bracing for the worst. Several executives representing all the major industry giants, like Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), have disclosed that they will soon be filing lawsuits against SoundCloud for “massive copyright infringement.”
This move comes just before SoundCloud’s plan to switch from a free user platform to a subscription-based one. SoundCloud’s CEO, Alexander Ljung has earned a reputation for being a Robin Hood of sorts in the music industry, primarily because of his insistence on maintaining a free tier for his users. The site also pays advertising revenue to its contributors.
“We’ve been a very powerful, very crucial tool for the indie community for a long time,” Ljung said. “We built a lot of great tools for those creators to use the web and a lot of great ways to reach an audience. What we’ve really been longing to do is enable artists to make some money off of their music.”
SoundCloud started out as an unlicensed free music service only five years ago, where indie music enthusiasts went to find mixtapes from their favorite DJ’s and share remixes of their own. The site is considered to host a strong community of discerning music lovers and indie music producers. But five years along, the project has gotten big enough that it is edging towards the mainstream, and Ljung has begun signing partnership contracts with various indie labels and agencies, like Merlin and A2IM, in order to encourage the use of the site as a space for sharing and collaboration. Merlin is a music agency that represents more than 20,000 indie labels.
But since SoundCloud has also been drawing music listeners away from the mega-labels like UMG, Ljung finds himself facing some heavyweight enemies. In recent months, Soundcloud uploaders have been finding their content blocked based on trumped up copyright claims from companies like Sony.
“They just don’t like SoundCloud’s attitude,” reported an anonymous source from inside one of the major labels. “I’m not saying this is another ‘legal jihad,’ but lawsuits will be filed.”