It happened overnight.
On May 6, Jude Mc and Marcellus “MFK” Marcy, roommates in Los Angeles, were hanging out in their Koreatown apartment and ruminating on the current state of music streaming platform SoundCloud and the changes the site’s Berlin-based founders might make next.
Since 2014, SoundCloud has rolled out a number of additions, revamps, and policy changes to what was once the Wild West of music streaming and sharing. When the site launched in 2007, it was a place where half-finished demos, bootlegs, and copyright-infringed remixes could be uploaded and shared freely. Now that copyright infringements are staunchly patrolled, songs — and sometimes entire playlists — are regularly nixed from the site.
In the beginning, SoundCloud was free. Today, it offers paid subscription plans ranging from $38 per year to more than $100, and caps non-subscription users’ uploadable content. A continuous play feature that slips in “featured” songs has been added (unlike YouTube’s autoplay feature, it cannot be turned off), and the site has been rebranded to appeal more to listeners rather than the artists and producers who upload content in the first place.
The conversation between the roommates became heated. Marcy, a founder and producer of the avant rap crew Goth Money — which owes its existence, at least partially, to SoundClound — was particularly exasperated.
“If I were to listen to my music on there, then somebody else’s music would start playing, without me even following them,” the 27-year-old explains to SF Weekly. “It’s become this big, annoying thing. I’m on this website just to listen to music I like, not Justin Bieber.”
Mc had heard similar complaints from his roommate before, and although not a musician (he does web development and directs music videos), he empathized with Marcy. So that night, when Marcy declared, “We should just do our own streaming site,” Mc piped up. That could be a reality, he told him.
“I had everything set up, so I could just crank it out,” he says.
So they did.
They spent the rest of the night brainstorming the site’s name, creating a logo with Photoshop, and building their music streaming and sharing platform from scratch. Nine dollars and a night’s worth of sleep later, Yungcloud was born.
The site went live on May 7, when Marcy announced Yungcloud’s existence to his roughly 5,000 Twitter followers in a one-word post that simply read: “Yungcloud.”
The aim, he explained, was to create a music sharing and streaming site for musicians, by musicians. Unlike SoundCloud, which many people, including Marcy, feel has turned its back on the indie and up-and-coming artists who built it, Yungcloud is meant to connect up-and-coming artists and provide them with a platform to get their music heard by larger audiences.
“It’s about building more of a community, rather than a corporate-feeling, big website,” says Mc, who has been building websites since he was a kid.
It was through SoundCloud, YouTube, and Twitter that Goth Money grew its fan base. Those millennial-friendly sites were also responsible for helping the crew’s formation in the first place.
Marcy discovered the rapper Black Kray in 2012 after doing a search for “trillwave” on YouTube. Another member of the crew, Luckaleannn, was also found through YouTube.
“We exist because of the internet,” says Marcy. “It was how we linked up and got others to start fucking with our music.”
The site’s initial investor was a 22-year-old Texan named Patrick Graham. He’d heard about Yungcloud through Twitter and funneled some of the $20,000 he’d earned from Treasury bonds into Yungcloud.
“I’ve been a big fan of Goth Money for a while now,” says Graham, who dropped out of Reed College to pursue a full-time job with the record label Thraxxhouse (which he’d also invested in). “I think that’s specifically why I was super excited to work with them. They’ve already been innovators in the field for awhile, in terms of their marketing and dedication to working within themselves, rather than relying on an external lifeboat.”
To date, Yungcloud has approximately 10,000 registered users and more than 20,000 uploaded tracks. Well over half of its userbase is between the ages of 18 and 24, with most hailing from the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K., and France.
In its current iteration, the site has many of the same features as SoundCloud, such as artist pages, direct messaging, playlists, song sharing, favorites, and embedding of tracks on other websites.
But this, says Mc, is only the beginning.
Once Yungcloud gets more investors, Mc says they plan to “build on top of that framework and make it something more original than it is.”
Already, they offer 50 GB of free uploading space (or about 500 hours of audio), which far exceeds SoundCloud’s three hours of free upload space (or six hours for a Pro Account).
In addition to adding group chatting and customization options for pages, so artists can tailor them to their liking, Mc says they also want the site to be a user-friendly resource for discovering new music, especially micro-genres.
“Lots of sites show what songs are trending,” he says, “but they usually just show Drake or whoever else is big at the moment. They don’t really have smaller charts for subgenres, so we want to have a charting system like that to help people discover more underground, less obvious music.”
Perhaps Yungcloud’s most ambitious goal, however, is to delve into distribution services for artists who want to get their music on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music. The goal, Mc says, is to be a one-stop shop for newbie artists who want to both stream and sell their music. Yungcloud will take the place of a label and provide artists with a venue to sell their merchandise and albums all on one site.
“A lot of people right now have a SoundCloud and a BandCamp, so we’re going to be combining all these different services so you only have to go to one place to get everything done,” he says. “You could create an album and it could be for sale on Yungcloud, and also you could pay a flat fee to have it go out to distribution so your album is now on iTunes and Spotify. Then you’d be collecting royalties on streams, but you could also sell it yourself on Yungcloud.”
Mc and Marcy have plans to turn Yungcloud into a nonprofit business and open a free pop-up recording studio in Los Angeles or elsewhere. As it grows, problems will inevitably arise, especially in regards to copyright infringement. For now, the site still hosts remixes and uploads without policing them, but they’ve already experienced a few problems with leaked tracks (namely, Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean,” which was posted on Yungcloud a day before the song’s scheduled release, resulting in a lot of traffic for the site, as well as plenty of take-down notices).
Eventually, the site will become monetized, as users will have to pay a fee for the distribution services, and bootlegs will have to be taken down. But remixes, which are more of a legal gray area, are something that Mc says Yungcloud is willing to fight for.
“If we get too big, they’re going to come after us,” he says, referring to artists and their labels. “And, at that point, we’re going to have to make a decision about whether to fight to keep our remixes up or go along some other route.”