We examine two “producer-oriented” audio distribution platforms, SoundCloud and Bandcamp, which have been important repositories for the hopes of musicians, commentators, and audiences that digital technologies and cultural platforms might promote democratization of the cultural industries, and we compare their achievements and limitations in this respect. We show that the emancipatory elements enshrined in SoundCloud’s bottom-up abundance are compromised by two elements that underpin the platform: the problematic “culture of connectivity” of the social media systems to which it must remain integrally linked and the systems of intellectual property that the firm has been increasingly compelled to enforce. By contrast, it seems that Bandcamp has been relatively stable in financial terms while being at odds with some key aspects of “platformization,” and we explore the possibility that some of the platform’s apparent success may derive from how its key features makes it attractive to indie musicians and fans drawn to an independent ethos. Nevertheless, we argue that even while in some respects Bandcamp acts more effectively as a cultural alternative than does SoundCloud, Bandcamp is also congruent economically and discursively with how platforms capitalize on the activity of self-managing, self-auditing, specialist, worker-users.
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