So how can it be fixed?
I'm not going to go as far to say the audio portal design is flawed - More that it is not suitable for the volume of users it currently recieves. Back in the early days, it would have been a good idea to moderate EVERY track that goes up, but that's simply not viable.
The biggest problem stems from the concept of exposure - the same problem occurs in the flash portal. The audio portal front page is cleared pretty much daily of new submissions and while the submission count is high, the view count is dissapointingly lower. Understanding why is the key to working out how to fix this.
Firstly, people aren't coming to newgrounds for audio - It's not really an advertised feature. Since conception, the audio portal was raised as a resource for flash artists, and the infrastructure employed to make it serve that mission is very good - flash credits etc. I find the most exposure I get from a track is when it is featured in somebodies flash work, regardless of the success of the flash submission. Even if the game or movie is crap, people can watch it and think 'Oh that's a nice song, I'd like to get that'. By making this process more obvious, the audio artists will benifit greatly.
Secondly, browsing the audio portal is difficult at best. If you go to listen to a track, you get five unobvious suggestions in a corner of the page of similar tracks which tend to not actually be that similar. I'm not sure what system governs what tracks are displayed there, but I'm assuming it's based on what people who downloaded the track also downloaded before. People are not actively encouraged to delve deeper into the audio portal. You can see a list of tracks the artist has also made, but all the information you are given is a title, which doesn't give any hints into what the track is like.
The best solution for exposure, in my opinion, would be a you-tube style menu appearing in the audio player at the end of the song (or even during) listing a few recommended listens as well as tracks by the artist, with facts such as download counts, rating and genre. The artist could even pick some of his tracks to plug at the end of his song.
I also feel that the top 30 would be better replaced with a 'recently downloaded' list of tracks that have been downloaded that do not currently reside on the front page, this would garantee 30 tracks exposure every few hours that otherwise would have no impressions on the casual audio protal browser.
The search feature could also be improved greatly. At present, it doesn't seem the search feature searches song commentaries - only their breif 100-and-something short descriptions, which audio artists don't bother with anymore because they are no longer actually shown anywhere on NG. The flash portal isn't much better for searching, but there are many more ways of getting from one flash submission to another.
I also feel the audio forum does have some part in making exposure difficult. The stringent rules on advertising and plugging is somewhat counter-productive. The audio advertisements thread is long and moves quickly, and while I agree people shouldn't be making their own threads solely to advertise their music, it would be nice to be allowed to make comments and critique threads where the work can be discussed with full interaction - responding to comments isn't really enough, the reviewer can't argue their points in any way.
Being able to preview songs on the audio portal page would also be benificial. While it makes sense for each track to have its own page in the same way each flash has its own page, people aren't going to be staying on individual track pages for long before browsing away, so it would perhaps be better if a lot of tracks are available to be played on a single page. If somebody listens to a whole track, they could be prompted to leave a review and a vote.
The next problem, and arguably the biggest, is how to moderate the system. I'm sure people do upload copyrighted and stolen music, but I feel the problem is not as big as it is made out to be. I appreciate Wade has obviously made this thread in response to the massive ammount of PM's from banned users who broke the rules, but i'm also convinced that, of the people who are banned, the vast majority know exactly why and will either not attempt to submit again or circumvent the system - both of which are pointless tasks. Idealy, such powers should be in the power of the viewers, but thats a problem due to the competative nature of the audio portal.
The voting system is one of the largest flaws, and I feel the feature was poorly ported from the flash portal. The 0-5 voting system is too complicated for the number of viewers that actually vote on tracks. Also, the worth of votes is a problem. For example, if you enjoy a track and you vote 4 while the score of the track you are voting on is HIGHER than 4, you are actually harming the submitter of the track by dragging their score down. Simplifying the system to work more like the review voting system with a like/dislike/abusive choice of options would, in my opinion, bring more honest results. You wouldn't even need to be able to see the numerical score the track had achieved to guage how well it has been recieved by the listeners - instead just give a number of people who liked the track and a number of people who disliked the track. Such a simple system would also mean that the listener would have to think less about what score to give the track, encouraging more voting at the cost of having a less accurate representation of the tracks performance.
Some arbitary rules could also be enforced for the purpose of cutting down on zero voting. Vote weights could be different depending on circumstances such as whether or not YOU have submitted a track on the day that you are voting, it could also keep tabs of how many low votes that you have given and adjust your voting power in case of consecutive low voting - that, however, may not be effective as, unfortunately, there tends to be large numbers of tracks that genuinly deserve a lower score. All things considered, I feel the best way to stem zero voting would be to only allow voting with an accompianing review. The downside of this is that tracks will recieve less votes, however, it will allow much more insight into what those votes are. Intentionally low voters would expose themselves, and could have their reviews marked as abusive and removed.
Also a few other kinks - It's hard for an audio artist to keep track of new reviews on their tracks and also if their tracks get used in the flash portal. Currently, the only way of doing the former is to look over your entire body of work, and the 'new reviews' count only works off a 3-day basis, it doesn't count 'unread' reviews. The latter is even worse - You have to check each of your audio submissions individually to see if they have been used.
Finally, bring back the rewards system! Gold, platinum and diamond were a wonderful way to keep the artist informed of their successes, and really encourage people to make more tracks. Awards for getting your tracks used in the flash portals, high batting averages and high number of listens would be a good way to make submitting to the audio portal really feel worth it.
Still, those are only my thoughts from using the audio portal for the last four or five years. None of the problems I have suggested solutions to have ever put me off coming back to submit my tracks here, but I'd definatly be more active if they were addressed.