Repatriating my Sounds

I posted my first sound to SoundCloud in October 2007, about a month after the service launched. That first track — a bootleg recording of a Garnet Rogers concert at the Trailside in Mount Stewart, has internal track ID of 488; the last track I posted, of Oliver’s birthday greeting to me earlier this month, has a track ID of 257472209, meaning that 257 million tracks have been posted in the intervening 9 years. That’s a lot of sound.

I joined SoundCloud on the strength of having heard co-founders Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss at the reboot conference in Copenhagen; they were interesting polymaths and I reasoned that anything they would launch would be similarly interesting. It didn’t hurt that I was working with Plazes at the time, and Plazes and SoundCloud inhabited the same Berlin neighbourhood, both geographically and spiritually.

And I love sound; I’m a collector of sorts. I’ll record a waterfall here, record a podcast there. SoundCloud was a piece of enabling infrastructure for that: before it was widely possible to post easily-playable sound online, SoundCloud made upload-and-share easy. I’m not exactly, a prolific collector: I’ve only posted 155 sounds of 9 years. But I’m nothing if not a diverse collector: I’ve gathered the sound of my parents cold-room door opening (before they moved house), of a café in Tokyo, music hacks with The Island Hymn, saxophones on Victoria Row, a Bruce Guthro bootleg, and myriad CBC Radio interviews.

When my yearly invoice for SoundCloud Pro Unlimited arrived early this month, though, for $115/year, I decided that it was time to repatriate my sound, to get it out of SoundCloud and into the same Drupal content management system I use to manage everything else I produce online.

A lot has changed since SoundCloud launched: it’s become much easier, via HTML5, to host and serve audio to the browser, and there are lots of JavaScript libraries that make this even easier, libraries that integrate well with Drupal. And SoundCloud itself has evolved, narrowed and professionalized its focus, and entering the same marketplace as Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music. It didn’t feel like the right home for my sound hacking anymore.

So I wrote a script to use the SoundCloud API — always and still one of the greatest features of the site – to pull metadata and media files for all the sounds I’ve uploaded to SoundCloud over the years (what a motley collection these media files were: WAV, MP3, AMR, M4A). I converted all of the audio to MP3 (which is now playable directly in all modern browsers), created a Drupal content type, and imported each sound’s metadata. And so on the end of all the links to sounds above you’ll find their repatriated versions.

There’s a reverse chronological list of all the sounds here, and sounds are also integrated into lists of related posts, like this one for Tokyo, elevating sound from something I stash elsewhere to “first level content,” so to speak.

I wish SoundCloud all the best, and I feel bad about leaving after such a long run; it continues to be the most interesting place for sound, and there’s nothing like sticking a keyword in the search — banjo punk, for example — and letting it role. There’s no better way to let new sound wash over you.

I’ve still got some SoundCloud embeds to update in archival posts around the blog, so there will be a transition period. And I’m not closing my SoundCloud account, just cutting it off at the un-unlimited knees, so links out there will continue to work.