That Spotify and other streaming services pay artists badly is hardly news anymore. Many groups and labels direct you towards Bandcamp, which offers a vastly better payday, as well as giving them control of their music and a connection to their fanbase.
So, what is Bandcamp? It’s a platform for downloading music, including hi-res files, as well as a way of selling physical music and merchandise. Once purchased music can be streamed through the Android or iOS app as well as downloaded. The company says: “Bandcamp’s mission is to help spread the healing power of music by building a community where artists thrive through the direct support of their fans, and where fans gather to explore the amazing musical universe that their direct support helps create.”
And it’s that community connection that helps artists who often don’t have access to support from labels or PR companies to create newsletters, announce presales and release information through the platform. Artist accounts are free, and you can sell, albeit in a limited way, for just a 10% share of the sale price back to Bandcamp. For $10 per month, you get access to the suite of management tools, analytics, and control over access to your material. Comparing that to a typical $0.004 per stream from Spotify means for the artist it’s a clear win.
For the listener, it’s also a win. If they actually get paid, then artists continue recording and releasing music. The last decade has conspired against independent artists in many ways, from George Osborne’s imposition of VAT on digital services in 2014 to the pandemic. The range of music available is huge and it includes big names as well as emerging artists, as we’ll see in a little while.
Are there any downsides? For the artist not really, although Bandcamp’s acquisition by Epic Games, which is backed by Sony, in 2022 led to a few concerns, nothing negative has happened so far. If as a fan you see paying for music as a problem, then I’m not sure we have much to talk about.
What can you buy on Bandcamp? They have an Americana tag for artists to use (look under the country section) and you can find many albums reviewed by AUK. Several Bandcamp releases scored 9 out of 10 in our reviews. Emily Dongray reviewed Sierra Ferrell’s ‘Long Time Coming’. Bandcamp’s current number 1 Americana Album, Jason Isbell’s ‘Weathervanes’ got the same score, as did ‘Kassi Valazza Knows Nothing’ which Joe Graham reviewed in May.
Another advantage of Bandcamp is the discovery element of the platform which means that albums have a longer shelf life than other ways to sell. By using special offers and bundles an artist can reactivate sales of older material alongside a new release. The Bandcamp top 10 americana albums at present includes Margo Cilker’s ‘Pohorylle’ which is gaining listens on the back of the presale for her new album due in September. The success of Isbell’s latest album has pushed ‘Reunions’ which Helen Jones reviewed 3 years ago back into the charts. Of the most widely read reviews at AUK in recent months many are available on Bandcamp, including the excellent Pink Stones, and the Milk Carton Kids, both praised by Martin Johnson.
If all this sounds like an advert for Bandcamp then guilty as charged. It’s the platform that makes most sense for artists, labels, and fans. For an artist’s view of the situation Alec Bowman-Clarke’s eloquent piece for AUK back in 2020 sums it up better than I ever could. Corduroy Punk, the label owned by his partner Josienne Clarke is a great example of how Bandcamp can work for the independent musician.
A few of my recent Bandcamp purchases…
An album that continues to grow on me is William Wallace’s ‘Lighthouse Keeper’
The aforementioned Josienne Clarke’s 2022 album ‘Now and Then’ includes this great version of a Sharon Van Etten song.
The title track from Matt Owens’ latest album. I’ve loved seeing him live with The Delusional Vanity Project at some local gigs in Bath recently and you should as well…