Hacking SoundCloud - Rawfare’s interactive track

Attila Haraszti aka Rawfare has hacked SoundCloud by creating an innovative interactive track that’s rave-inspired and changes according to the plays. He’s passionate about creating new ways for artists to get more influence over social platforms and we interviewed him about the SoundCloud ‘Pipo’ track and his other exciting projects.

Rawfare

A self-made third culture kid (now) based in Berlin, Rawfare is known to oscillate between the outer edges of club music, with a special affinity for polished noise and vibrant sparkles of distortion. His label Haywirez was created as a vehicle to explore new ways of releasing and presenting music.

His release ‘Pipo’ has been making waves - it’s a rave-tinged track that was inspired by his neighbour’s parrot, and is full of surprises!

Describe your creation on SoundCloud

It’s essentially an interactive track - it automatically changes based on the number of plays it receives. I wanted to create a track that can be “unlocked” by giving it attention. Pipo is completely distorted by default and gradually gets replaced by “cleaner” and more bearable versions, but only if the weekly play count is high enough. Otherwise it distorts itself back.

What motivated you to do it

Over the last few years I’ve seen the music industry wane and assume a sort of a lame duck type of position. They’re the grumpy olds complaining about change. Meanwhile the tech industry vacuumed up everything and changed culture. People are spending way more time with social apps and games than listening to music. Music in it’s 20th century form has a secondary cultural role now because the context has changed.

Also, everything I have in music is thanks to the Internet. The traditional infrastructure of labels and agencies was of very little help to me. Things always worked out better when I just directly put my creations online. I realized that I should double down on what works. I’m trying to change and play with the current medium of my music, explore what’s possible outside the norm.

How does it work

I first had the idea during last year. You have the option of manually replacing the sound file of your tracks on SoundCloud if you have a Pro account, but it needed to be automated. It took me quite some effort and research to figure out all the details of how to do that. First I attempted to use SoundCloud’s API (a way to connect other applications to SoundCloud) but ran into lots of roadblocks. Then I realized you can just automate a web browser, and pretend that you’re doing it yourself. It’s basically a robot string puppet, navigating to pages, clicking buttons and typing text on your behalf. You can apply this approach to anything on the Internet.

What kind of feedback have you had and have SoundCloud been in touch

I put up the track early in February and it was mostly ignored at first, feedback was very slow. I wanted to present it in a more obscure and magical way but it wasn’t an easy thing for people to immediately grasp. So I wrote a detailed explainer blog post that I put on my “label” website (Haywirez) and that suddenly exploded. It “charted” on Hacker News which is the #1 site for the tech community. That made me very happy. It’s very symbolic. Even some people at SoundCloud tweeted about it.

Do you think artists have enough influence over social platforms

Not at all, creators are completely exploited. You’re giving away free content to the benefit of the platform, and your already weak leverage decreases over time as the platform grows. The platforms are unnecessary middlemen between you and your audience that can channel attention away at any time.

How could this change

One thing that could help is if the creators started using overall social media feedback within their works. Make your art change based on feedback. I wrote a tracking engine that gets the metrics
from all platforms I use – likes, plays, shares, subscribers etc. I can assign different “exchange rates” for their values, based on how useful they feel to me. So for example a play on Youtube is
worth more than on Facebook, and a new e-mail list subscriber is worth more than almost all metrics combined. If enough artists did this, it would create a new form of pressure on the platforms, because you would subtly steer your audience away to the places you as an artist get the most value out of. I want to open up the tracking engine to others soon, it’s called Songsling.io.

What do you think about the approach of the music industry generally towards artists

I really don’t see what use they are to an artist anymore, especially at niche scales. If they approach you, you are already strong enough on your own. The only value left to provide is a social value, they could build a strong community and introduce you to them. But at the same time you could also get in there on your own, because we are communicating directly. It’s weird.

What would you like to see happen

I’d like to see a change of mindset in creators. We are really stuck in the 20th century. Think of your music as something more than a simple recording. Think about it more like a game or an app, a “Gesamtkunstwerk” type of an approach. Take inspiration from Youtubers and podcasters. Open up the format.

Are you part of a group of likeminded experimentalists

In terms of music I’ve been mostly working on my own. There’s some interesting work in the academic community, but it’s…too academic. I want to bring a new approach to a more typical dance/club music context. I also enjoy collaborating with visual artists, always on the lookout for inspiring ones to work with. We did videos with Jelly Gummies and DLGNCE, as well as an earlier one with Michelle Kee. Most of the Rawfare and Haywirez artwork was done by Mr. Pataki. I admire them a lot.

What are you working on next

There are one or two tracks still left in the Pipo saga. I will put them up in a similar interactive manner, something even crazier. One of them is called Pipo’s Dream. I’ve also been working a lot on a brand new club music project that I’m excited about but it’s too early to tell. It’s all purely Internet-first.

Where can people best find you

Everything is on my site, rawfare.com and haywirez.com. I’m also on Twitter as @haywirez or @rawfare.

Free download: https://rawfare.com/pipo/