EDM.com controls a large and very important network of accounts on SoundCloud with more than 1.5 million followers. While they’re most known for Dubstep.NET, they’ve branched out in the past few years to create genre-specific channels for trap, trance, house, and drum & bass, and their play counts are unarguably some of the most consistent on SoundCloud. Their understanding of SoundCloud’s repost feature continues to grow their networks exponentially, and their policy of reposting content within their own networks ensures that their giant accounts get bigger and help grow smaller ones that they control. On the surface, it seems as if a group of guys living in Colorado are truly helping independent musicians succeed, and doing quite well at it when, in actuality, this isn’t quite the case.
I’ve known this team for quite some time, as I headed the launch of TrapMusic.NET in February of 2013 and spent months as the sole contributor. I ultimately decided to cut ties 10 months ago and dedicate my time fully to other ventures after walking this platform to tens of thousands of followers and millions of plays for numerous reasons, but the biggest factor for my departure was their “Slingshot” service, which is nothing more than an agreement between independent artists and small labels to pay for their networks to hit repost on records in exchange for money. Calling what would be known anywhere else as payola a “PR service,” these guys have effectively created a market for themselves that’s completely in-house, and any artist with a spare $3400 can get 10 records reposted to boast respectable numbers that are far from organic.
If there were nothing to hide, I wouldn’t have anything to write about, but EDM.com doesn’t publicly offer their “Slingshot” service anywhere, an indicator that this service might not be ethical, and isn’t information that has appeared for consumption anywhere on their networks in the year that they’ve been clearing money by gaming SoundCloud’s new interface. Instead of being transparent about these so-called “promotional” fees, artists and labels that reach out for placement are emailed with the option for “promotion” in the form of posts and reposts, which has caused a flood of incredibly-average records with massive play numbers without coverage from credible news outlets. Artists can take those numbers and get booked by promoters that only know how to digest numbers, regardless of quality. I also wouldn’t have anything to write about if this repost feature didn’t directly violate SoundCloud’s Terms Of Service.
We’ve sent several messages to SoundCloud to see if there was any reason why more than a dozen accounts were repeatedly and continuously allowed to violate their policies, and there was no response whatsoever once we gave a rundown of details. Though they reached out to confirm that this was a violation (as you can see above), all communication went black when we inquired deeper about EDM.com. The email we reached out to is the same one that has messaged us back within 24 hours with thumbs up on clearance nearly half a dozen times, yet this subject was repeatedly ignored. Funnily enough, this information unfolded months after I was gone via a public post in January by Alvi at Consequence Of Sound giving the EDM Network “Slingshot” fees that an artist had handed him, and we quietly watched as EDM.com responded on Twitter and quickly deleted this response saying that these fees were for “PR Services.”
Did I know about the fees while I was with the network? Sure. I controlled content on a site within the network. The prices spiked after I left and continued to rise. Did I think that shitty records were going up simply because money was exchanging hands? Absolutely. I never earned a penny for the five million plus plays I got on the network, never asked an artist for a penny for any of the tracks that I uploaded, and didn’t really care what they were doing at all. Though I never received a cent for months of work through the .NET Networks, I was still able to post most of the tunes that I felt to be relevant, and this had a huge affect on organic success for a lot of incredible artists. I was told that SoundCloud was aware of this service, and that it was on the up and up. As it turns out, this was absolutely incorrect.
Over the weekend, I asked three artists for a quote on why they use this service. One responded, one got shook, and one went back to the EDM.com team to let them know I was poking around. They responded in kind by shooting out an email to their entire list of artists, called me a “disgruntled x-employee[sic],” and called DoAndroidsDance “small.” I’ve also never manipulated a quote in my life, but the notion is adorable, and I truly appreciate the free press:
Artists that have gotten support from this network flooded me to let me know this email went out, and that alone is quite telling of how producers actually feel about the people representing their content and their culture. I’ve been sitting on all of this information for more than six months, and the motivation to move forward with exposing this brand was a remix contest hosted by EDM.com that an artist by the name of Dr. Fresch won. All would seem on the up and up, and it looks like a solid remix from an up-and-coming producer earned the opportunity to spin at Red Rocks until you realize that Fresch is PR & Artist Relations for The EDM Network, and that someone that works for the site that hosted a remix contest won a remix contest.
There are a few things that really aren’t up for debate here. One is that if you’re charging for preferential treatment on a platform that you control, that’s not PR—-it’s payola. Though the term has forever been associated with radio play, it’s defined as “a secret or private payment in return for the promotion of a product, service, etc., through the abuse of one’s position, influence, or facilities.” We certainly have a secret payment that results in promotion of a product through the abuse of facilities. It’s against the law. We’re not saying that it’s unethical practice within the dance music community. We’re saying that violation can be enforced by the FCC.
The real issue here is that a lack of revenue streams, regulation, and ethics within the industry make these practices par for the course for anyone that actually wants to make money in music. Most bloggers aren’t getting checks for writing records up, and most of those that get paid aren’t making enough money to pay their bills. We’re fortunate enough to have a hands-off parent company that allows us to post whatever we want, and this really should be the standard for music. I’ve praised Complex publicly and privately for what they’ve allowed us to do at DAD.
If this was the norm, this industry would be amazing. Sadly, greedy and unethical practices are far too common, particularly in dance music. The standard for success is a consistent and obvious top-down effect on content, where someone in a position of power uses that power to pull strings in an effort to pull someone up and hand them some tools to become successful. We now have a system where most successful people are doing little more than holding the map to success and pulling themselves out of reach for the competition, and selling alliances instead of offering quality content.
I’m certianly not disgruntled. Complex treats me well, and I love my squad here at DAD. You know who should be disgruntled, though? Bloggers that are working hard to curate incredible content and aren’t getting paid while a platform is getting paid $500 every time they hit the “repost” button. Artists that are making better records than those that are paying for placement and stealing their bookings. PR firms that are losing employees and getting a fraction of the results while playing by the rules. Fans of music that are being tricked into believing artists are bigger than they actually are, and the promoters that book these acts only to find out that the fan base isn’t real. And they have every right to be upset. I’m sure the EDM.com team is gearing to send shots of their own, and that’s fine. I’ll be busy over here posting records that artists didn’t have to pay to get featured.