Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

19 August 2011

Sound maps and SoundCloud

A MESSAGE ARRIVED recently from one of the SoundCloud team with a link to a sound map of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

For anyone who’s been sharing Grizzly Adams’s log cabin, SoundCloud has surged ahead as one of the internet’s leading audio-only platforms. It’s not hard to see why with its neat site design, clever pricing structure and array of sharing and messaging features.

You can find the Fringe Festival sound map here with a smaller version embedded below as well:

Two points of interest stand out. First, the appearance on the map of recordings uploaded by Time Out London and BBC Radio 1. These are the kind of media organisations that Audioboo look towards as potential customers for their paid-for channel services. Yet these channels don’t seem to attract large numbers of followers.

Christian O’Connell’s Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio, with a RAJAR-estimated listener base of 1.3 million, had 68 followers today for its Audioboo channel. Meanwhile on SoundCloud, the London Sound Survey has gathered about 12,000 followers, all drawn irresistibly towards its celebrity-free mix of cawing crows, buzzing telephone junction boxes and foul-mouthed street traders.

It also shows that SoundCloud can implement sound maps, but perhaps they haven’t yet decided if such a feature could or should be rolled out to their users in general. You can add a non-smartphone recording to the Fringe Festival map by retrospectively including latitude and longitude co-ordinates as tags.

But a more user-friendly method of adding geodata is already in use by Audioboo and Ipadio and is worth following. All it involves is plonking an icon down at the right spot on a small Google map and then saving.

Allowing SoundCloud users to make their own maps might appear pointless since most of them are musicians and DJs working from studios or at home. But there are others who might be more receptive.

SoundCloud has a small but growing number of field recordists, sound artists and radio producers who roam around and for whom there’s relevance in depicting the geographical context of their work. There are also moderated groups with contributions from different users in different places. Moderators might like to bundle all those tracks together in a map which they can display on SoundCloud or embed elsewhere.

Finally, there are the big state and commercial media organisations who may be keen to promote collaborative campaigns. For example, a couple of years ago BBC World Service ran a project called Save Our Sounds, which seemingly had to be built from scratch. And, yes, the map itself isn’t there any more, suggesting it was a hassle to maintain. An off-the-shelf mapping function from SoundCloud might prove more appealing in future.

Time will tell whether a double-dip recession leaves any room for such experiments.

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