By Cole Altmayer, copy editor
The advent of social media and the internet has completely changed the most important aspect of breaking of into the music industry: getting noticed. Gone are the days of talent agencies skulking around dingy punk venues looking for the next big hit. Would-be musicians have now turned their sights on popular streaming websites such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp to achieve their 15 minutes of fame.
Most notably, these sites have given birth to an entire new generation of rappers like XXXTentacion, Lil Yachty, Lil Pump and Lil Uzi Vert. Lil Uzi Vert in particular rose from 52,000 followers at the beginning of 2016 to 857,000 followers by the end of the year.
With SoundCloud and Bandcamp being accessible and such easy-to-use mediums to share music, many other amateur artists, who might’ve never flirted with the idea of sharing their music online otherwise, have been compelled to throw their hat into the ring.
One such artist is junior Colin Alberts, better known on SoundCloud as “Yung Alb,” decided to begin rapping early this summer.
“It was just one of those things [that my friends thought would be funny] if I did it, so I just did it for fun one time,” Alberts said. “Then I realized it was actually kind of fun, so I kept doing it.”
By August 3, Alberts had been prolific enough to release a six-track album, simply known as “The ALBum.” His track “Grind” in particular has enjoyed success, with 1,600 plays and counting.
Alberts stated that “The ALBum” has received a mostly positive reaction from his peers, even though it’s something he does just as a hobby. Though he’s not sure if he’s going to continue with rapping, Alberts is proud of his output so far.
“[Rapping] really benefitted me during the summer,” Alberts said. “It gave me something to do instead of just wasting time.”
Junior John Schultz has had a longer history with making music, but only started uploading to SoundCloud relatively recently. While Schultz has been playing bass guitar since sixth grade and taught himself to play both piano and guitar, he started uploading music on his SoundCloud account, “urfriend,” around four months ago.
Earlier, Schultz had lost interest with his music for awhile, but decided to pick it up again recently to begin recording tracks for “urfriend” with his friends. His account is a mixed bag of a variety of styles, from improvisational comedy to extended instrumental jam sessions. Schultz sees the account as a musical journal for his demos and oddities so he and his friends can review their progress as performers.
“It’s just nice putting all my songs in [one] place as opposed to just keeping them all to myself,” Schultz said.
Junior John Ruiz also makes music on SoundCloud under the username “.?.SUSANOO.?.” For Ruiz, rapping runs in the family, as it was a passion of his older brother Lorenzo as well, who performs on SoundCloud as “.SuYung.” Ruiz has been uploading ever since August 2015, and follows the SoundCloud music scene very closely, naming SoundCloud graduates like Ugly God and Playboi Carti as some of his biggest inspirations.
Ruiz likes to keep his friends and family updated on his SoundCloud career, often texting them links to new tracks as soon as they drop. He tries to keep a regular schedule with his music as well. Ruiz often collaborates with other rappers on tracks, one of which is an old friend from Detroit named Zeke Barrera, known on SoundCloud as “Zaveyy.”
Ruiz also handles most of his own production and instrumentals for his tracks, and has even produced a music video for his song “World 4.”
“I just like [looking back on] my own music,” Ruiz said. “A lot of people think that’s weird, but for me? No. I think it’s great to just look back at something you created on your own. … There’s a sense of pride there.”
Ruiz, Schultz and Alberts all enjoy SoundCloud due to its easy audience access. Schultz and Ruiz both keep links to their SoundCloud pages in their respective Instagram bios, and Alberts often receives direct messages over social media from people who enjoy “The ALBum.”
Despite SoundCloud creating an open platform for all kinds of artists, it has also created some steep competition: with 10 million artists joining a year and 175 million listeners globally, a lot of music can get lost in the shuffle. However, Ruiz believes that the site does a good job of showcasing lesser known artists, as SoundCloud will redirect users to less popular but similar artists they might like after listening to an album or a single.
“You’ll be listening to Chance the Rapper, and [after that track’s done] you’ll be listening to something else, and you won’t even know who that is,” Ruiz said. “SoundCloud kind of sponsors you in a way for using their app. It just all depends on how much music you have on there.”
For Schultz, the slim chance at stardom isn’t even the selling point. Streaming sites provide an easy platform to showcase music from budding artists, and Schultz believes that creativity can often be its own reward.
“A lot of people will buy a guitar and hope that’ll spark something creative inside them at some point,” Schultz said. “[That might work, but] it’s all constructive. Music is a skill that people consider putting time into but never really do.”