The surprise is not that artists use bandcamp, the surprise is that they use anything else.
Great music is priceless, bad music is worthless. — Steve Lawson
The best way to support an artist is to pay then directly. — Ethan Diamond
When I am at a live music festival for example Staycation Live and the musicians tell the crowd to find them on iTunes I groan, when they tell the crowd to find them on spotify I want to scream out loud.
Why oh why, are they sending people to sites where everyone gets ripped off, where everyone gets a raw deal?
Amazon or iTunes, take a big cut, iTunes even charges for being there, spotify you do not even want to go down that sewer. The least said about spotify the better, other than major record labels have a stake and artists receive a pittance.
Bandcamp by contrast, takes somewhere between ten and fifteen per cent. It used to be a straight thirteen per cent.
With Amazon, a few seconds lofi sample. That is to insult both the musicians and those wishing to listen. How can you judge a piece of music in a few seconds except maybe to reject as unbelievably bad?
On the other hand on bandcamp, can listen to entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128.
Bandcamp was co-founded by Ethan Diamond as a site for musicians.
The principle behind bandcamp is if you want to support musicians then pay them directly, not pay a global corporation in the hope that something trickles down to the artists.
Two years ago, I found few artists knew about bandcamp, now I am finding more and more do, and it offers both them and their fans a very good deal. And yet what is strange, they are still directing fans anywhere other than bandcamp, even when they themselves are on bandcamp.
It is not only they and their fans, by directing to bandcamp, they benefit all the other independent artists who are on bandcamp.
If you have the resources to record an album and if not, play a few gigs, crowd source, then you do not need a record label.
Sometimes artists have their own kludgy media player on their website. Why re-invent an inferior wheel, when you can embed bandcamp media player?
From the perspective of the fans, you can listen to an album on-line, the entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128 unlike Amazon or iTunes where all you get is a few seconds lofi sample.
Download is easy. And can download hifi not lofi, mp3 320, or better still studio quality non-lossy FLAC.
Fans can choose to pay more. Many do. Jewelia recently reported someone paying £30 for an album listed at £5 (or maybe it was for the free download).
Monsters her début album, limited edition signed copy or digital download.
Artists set a low price, sometimes free, leaving fans to pay more if they wish. Because fans are not being ripped off, because they know the money is going to the artist, they quite happily pay more.
Bandcamp has a very unusual feature. What is selling is shown in real time, including how much is being paid over and above the asking price. This is in addition to a listing of the top selling albums.
Artists get the data.
Bandcamp is a model of how websites should be.
Bandcamp is not backed by venture capitalists. It is not supported by advertising or abuse of personal data. It is supported by the music community.
Because of the way bandcamp works, especially its sharing button, word, essentially word of mouth, spreads laterally, or in other words peer to peer.
In essence this is the gift economy, sharing, collaborative economy at work.
If you like a piece of music or an artist, you spread word of mouth using social media.
Those who like, will spread the word, they may download, they may toss some money by the way of the artist, they may attend a gig.
The important aspect here is sharing.
Those who share, do not get anything out of it, thus a gift, but the artist may benefit through their collaboration. The artist will then feel it is a viable way to earn a living, and do what they wish to do, play and produce more music.
Everyone has a stake in the outcome.
It would be an interesting social experiment, having mentioned Jewelia, what difference she sees.
The big record labels hate the internet, they complain of piracy, criminalise those who wish to listen to music.
Bandcamp turns this on its head, far from seeing the internet as bad, sees as a force for good, the means to share music.
If I listen or download music for free, no one has lost out. On the other hand, if I like, I may buy, I may attend a gig, I may tell others. In other words an opportunity has been created.
And it is a truism, I cannot like a piece of music until I have heard it. Through sharing, makes it more likely to hear it.
Those artists who only make available a few seconds lofi sample, or in too many cases, nothing at all, are not doing themselves or their fans any favours.
Hope & Social make their music available for free for digital downlands, the productions costs for a CD. They do not get ripped off. Turn up to one of their gigs, buy a CD, you set the price.
Cotton Wool and Knotted Wood a beautiful magical live acoustic album from Hope & Social is on a pay-what-you-think-it-is-worth or what-you-can-afford model. For CD it is minimum price of what the CD costs to produce (plus shipping).
Cellist Zoe Keating published her accounts on-line, to enable people to see a breakdown of her income.
2013 music sales & streaming numbers for a middle-aged mom in a non-album cycle http://t.co/4YEV44vDGB
— Zoe Keating (@zoecello) February 21, 2014
- iTunes 32,170 single tracks and 3,862 albums netted her just over $38,195
- Bandcamp 185 tracks and 2,899 albums netted her $25,575
- Amazon mixture of physical and mp3 earned her $11,571
- Spotify 403,035 streams earned her $1,764
Apple keeps 30% of iTunes sales, bandcamp takes a 10% cut of sales.
On bandcamp, albums considerably outsell tracks.
Jazz pianist and composer Will Todd is a classic of how not to.
I happened upon a rehearsal in a church for a concert that evening. A large poster for Lux Et Veritas. Had Will Todd been around I may have bought a copy of Lux Et Veritas. I was told he would be there in the evening. I checked out his website. Big record label outmoded thinking stamped all over it. Snippets of videos, lofi mp3 samples. This does absolutely no justice to the works of Will Todd and is an insult to those who may like and wish to listen to his music. He is not doing himself any favours.
What is the point, releasing music, then making it difficult to listen to?
Were I a radio producer, not a writer, they would be beating a path to my door asking to be put on my play list.
Very strange, musicians release music, which one would suspect they wish one to listen to, then make it difficult if not impossible to listen to.
Going back to the musicians telling the crowd where to find them, this time they say find us on bandcamp.
This makes a huge difference. Because of sharing, anyone who finds them, can click share, and immediately share with their friends, hey this is who I saw, they were great, word spreads. Or they may write about them and embed the bandcamp media player. Why write about music if no one can listen to what you are writing about? That would be as dumb as writing about a book or an author and not citing a few passages. Or writing about a work of art without a picture.
Although bandcamp is a centralised site not peer to peer per se, how it works in practice is peer to peer. There is lateral communication, and that is the key to the success of bandcamp, enabled by a share button.
We should never underestimate the power of sharing, of word of mouth.
What bandcamp does for music and the spoken word, leanpub does for the written word.
In the sharing economy, collaborative commons, a website should be an enabler that charges a small fee for its role, made self-financing by the users.
Note: WordPress should embed bandcamp media player, with which can illustrate points made. For reasons not known, it is not possible to on P2P Foundation (even though running wordpress). I am having to work around the problem, album cover, click through for album, where can listen on-line, share, download. Or go to expanded version of this article on Medium.