SoundCloud has done something of a net-zero adjustment to its social aspect over the past few years. On the one hand, it diminished the presence of discussion groups to the point of making them nearly non-existent. On the other, it increased the means by which non-musicians can contribute. It accomplished this by making reposting a means by which someone can add something to a feed. The reposting has its demerits. Some rampant reposters — and they know who they are — can clog up your feed all too easily. The functionality is the equivalent of Twitter’s “retweets,” though of course it takes a split second to read a tweet, whereas a retweeted hour-long EDM DJ mix or audiobook sample can mess up your afternoon background listening. It’d be nice, as with Twitter, to turn off those retweets — or, in SoundCloud parlance, “reposts.” (It’d also be nice to have another Twitter feature, “lists,” both public and private, but that’s a whole other subject.)
In any case, whether or not reposts have expanded the SoundCloud user base’s sense of collective participation, another feature, used less frequently than reposting, provides a great means by which a listener can contribute to the listening of others. This is the “playlist” functionality. It’s the same tool used by musicians to collect tracks into albums, and it’s a way to make digital mixtapes of material from multiple accounts, too. A great example of the functionality is a new project by Audio Obscura, aka Neil Stringfellow of Norfolk, in the U.K. He’s begun producing short “Artist of the Week” playlists, the first of which features Yasutica Horibe, of Hiroshima, Japan. Horibe records as Stabilo-Speaker-Gain, and his music is a collage of tiny materials, scrapes and drones, threadbare waves and gentle percussives, just beautiful stuff. Stringfellow is onto something here.