I could be productive. I honestly believe that it’s possible. I’ve got a stack of books in front of me, Microsoft Word is open and I’ve got enough snacks in my drawer to render going to the kitchen every five minutes unnecessary. Sounds ideal, right? Aside from one thing. That ‘thing’, that irritating, distracting, wonderful, absolutely amazing thing is Bandcamp, and it’ll forever be the scourge of my academic ambitions.
For those now wincing from American-Pie induced nostalgia, the Bandcamp I am referring to is in fact one of the best things to happen to music for a very long time. An online platform akin to Soundcloud, Bandcamp allows artists to host and sell music and merchandise on a fully customisable microsite, which can also display tour dates. Whilst this might sound pretty-run-of-mill (why not just use Spotify?), Bandcamp differs in a number of respects that set it a long way apart from other overtly commercial, self interested services.
Firstly, Bandcamp cares about artists and thus people. That may sound like a cheesy advertising campaign, but it’s true. Signing up to Bandcamp is completely free, so no loss there. Secondly, they only take a 15% cut of every sale, which drops to 10% once artists reach $5000 in sales. Thirdly, it’s all done through PayPal, so Bandcamp do not hold your money. Boring, yes, but that makes a huge difference to the earnings of a small, indie artist without a label, who otherwise would have to bow down to iTunes’ 30% cut, often hidden upload fees and questionable relationship with major labels. Streaming music is also completely free (no adverts) meaning that fans, particularly poorer ones like us students, are able to listen to an artist without resorting to the evils of illegal downloading or hearing some annoying bloke shout ‘HELLO’ in between songs on the pre-drinks playlist.
Another feature, which has excited some sections of the media, is Bandcamp’s promotion of alternative selling models. A large proportion of artists on the website put up music for free download, but others opt for the innovative ‘name-your-price’ feature. Whilst it is completely acceptable and possible to put in “0” and grab it for free, a surprising number of fans pay more or less what it would normally cost out of goodwill. My now-defunct band, for example, once received $40 through Bandcamp for 5 tracks. We contacted the buyer, assuming it was a mistake, but he fully intended it. The Internet is crazy. A more prominent case occurred when US band ‘Everyone Everywhere’ made it into Forbes magazine after setting aside 100 pre-order vinyl copies of their self titled record and putting them on Bandcamp for ‘name-your-price’. Considering the cost of pressing vinyl, this move seems unbelievable, even stupid. However, the band received roughly $7 per vinyl, covering pressing costs and exciting the interest of the independent music community worldwide.
Bandcamp caters mostly to independent artists but not just in the punk/indie scene; it is a hub for all kinds of music, from underground hip-hop to heavy metal. Users can search by ‘tag’ or seek specific bands, and in my experience it is almost impossible to click off the site after 20 minutes without having discovered something new, fresh and exciting. The music industry is in a state of panic as artists increasingly shun labels and traditional promotion (here’s looking at you Beyoncé), and has a lot to fear from Bandcamp. Your move, Cowell et al.
Huh What & Where
by Joe Stewart, Razz Music Correpsondent