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Tuesday
May242011

One Man's Ode To The Beauty Of Bandcamp

The album format has it tough these days. With all the FB posting, tweeting, and social networking going on, how can any musician hope to grab attention with a product that takes longer than three minutes to experience?

Many have been quick to declare the “inevitable” demise of the format, along with the return of the single. But what about those of us who are still willing to invest a bit more of our time in listening to music? Are we to be left in the cold, dank recesses of history as a mere footnote?

Freedom

Perhaps I’m old fashioned. I’m one of those music nerds who’d walk through the aisles of the record store, looking for nothing in particular. Picking out a diamond in the rough was my specialty… though looking back, I wasn’t very efficient at it. I bought hundreds of crappy CDs with the little disposable income I had… But I figured, how could I discover anything I loved without finding out what I hated?

All of a sudden, digital music was here. It was going to save everyone and their mother. No more middlemen. No more Top 40 garbage. We could finally listen to whatever we wanted at any moment!

What we got was DRM, 30-second snippets, 128 kbps standard (!!!) MP3s, and everyone (experts and non-experts) yelling at each other about what direction to take the “industry”. So much for the digital utopia.

Luckily, there are some people who know what’s up. The folks over at Bandcamp.com have been in business for a few years providing exactly what most of us want (listeners and independent musicians alike) — freedom. Not freedom in the crazy-hippie, “all-music-should-be-free” sense.  Freedom as in FREEDOM.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the site by now, but after using a few of the more popular methods of Internet music consumption, I’m convinced that it’s one of the most useful independent music services ever created.

Listener’s Side

On one end, there’s the musician looking to get his new album into your ears – they can offer it free to stream, with paid downloads. On the other end, you’re craving some great new tunes by some fresh new band, but apprehensive about putting down the money, then finding out that the every song outside of that catchy single is crap. You find out that you can test out the album as much as you want before making a purchase. I see it as just like going to the record store, but you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars trying to find that rare beauty.

Bandcamp provides the connection both parties are looking for with the least amount of hoop jumping of any service I’ve experienced. Without all of the frills attached to so many other sites (listener accounts, incessant social network integration, tweeting for a track, etc.), there is absolutely nothing in the way of you and the music. From personal experience, I’ve found that above all else, a music fan should be able to listen (in full) to music before making a purchase, or even providing an email address.

The Bandcamp masterminds recognize this and continue to provide a no-nonsense approach to listening, while simultaneously giving an unheard of amount of power to the musicians trying to make money off of their passion.

Musician’s Side

On the independent musician’s end of things, the site can be fully integrated with an existing website. The site provides a completely dependable store complete with some basic stats for selling albums, digital or physical. No bloated applications, no annoying up-sells. They take a 15% cut of sales (as of this writing), which is more than worth the unbelievable service that they provide.

Of course, without dedicated social networking features, marketing your music is completely up to you. Beyond genres and tags, there’s not much to differentiate your music from the others. But that, I’ve found, is one of the benefits of the service that Bandcamp provides. With so much clutter everywhere else on the net, with so many social networks vying for your info; Bandcamp stands above them all with a simple, no-nonsense, high quality interface for enjoying and selling music.

Side Note: For all those super nerds out there (and those of us who still purchase music), they’ve just implemented a feature to download albums in multiple formats. So, for example, you’d like to get a set of lossless FLACs, but also the 320-kbps MP3s for compatibility’s sake. You can now rest easy knowing that both are available to download when you purchase an album. No more conversions, and no more getting annoyed by having to tag all the tracks.

The Beauty of Bandcamp

Like I was hinting at above, the beauty of the site is in its reluctance to add bloat. The less hoops to jump through, the less links to click on, and the less passwords to remember, all makes it immeasurably easier to get you to the music. It also provides for one of the most customizable ways to offer independent music for sale. Its denial of the death of the album format makes it a premiere destination for anyone with more than an ounce of attention for music.

Mark Dowdell runs the music filtration site Bandcamp’s Best, which provides concise reviews of the best albums hosted on Bandcamp, and other music recommendations from Soundcloud. Mark is also an independent electronic musician. You can find him on Facebook & Twitter.

This post was originally posted at TightMixBlog on May 11, 2011.

Reader Comments (15)

I am ready to release my album, and Ive been trying to Deside between bandcamp.com and topspin or maybe even nimbit. Here is basically my predicament. Topspin charges you a monthly fee plus 15 percent of your sales, however they also provide a way to collect emails, and send massive email messages, bundle packages etc, its probably the most comprehensive way to go but, I don't like the fact that I have to pay a monthly fee AND give a percentage of my sales to them. I also don't like that they charge you a bandwith fee per month for everytime people play your music. Thats just weird to me. Any way love bandcamp, but, they do not provide email messages and autoresponders, so that means I have to get a Awebber or fanbride or reverbnation fan reach, which costs 29 to 49 dollars per month. Which means I won't have 1 place to go to handle my needs but 2 or 3, which is not what I wanted. Then I looked at nimbit, I don't know that much about them really, they have the cheapes comprehensive thing, but there's not much exposure for them, and im not sure if they are the best way to go. They have the cheapes rate tho 20,000 emails per month for 24.95 per month, which is not bad, topspin is $49.99/month plus they take a percentage and charge extra fees, Bandcamp is free but then I have to pay Awebber which is 130$ per month for 20,000 emails. So thats my predicament. I need to make a decision soon, And I don't know what to pick!

May 23 | Unregistered CommenterChris

As a customer, Bandcamp works well if you're looking for specific musicians, but not as well if you want to browse. It's hard to sort through all the music efficiently.

May 23 | Unregistered CommenterPN NJ

I think freedom is the key word here. I've been using bandcamp for a year or so now and just love the fact that once a single/album is finished it can be online and available within a couple of hours or less. No waiting for itunes to process it once the post has finally delivered it to them. Then you have full control over pricing, quality. its the way forward.

@PN NJ

Hence, the reason I started Bandcamp's Best. Sorry to blatantly plug myself, but I've found that navigation of their artists/albums is lacking. Tags and genres are fine for someone like me who's willing to sift through it all, but it's a lot to ask of a typical user.

Though, it also could be construed as one of its strengths - they're not bogged down by providing too many options and spreading themselves too thin.

May 24 | Unregistered CommenterMark

It can't be explained in words, how much I appreciate all of this, not only as a music producer, but as a life-long fan of front-to-back records. Being able to stream this type of art fills a huge void for me, as far as internet distribution goes. Turn off the lights and just listen.

I use Bandcamp as part of a larger offering that includes iTunes and Amazon. It's great to have some flexibility in pricing and file formats.

My only complaint about Bandcamp? The embeddable widgets are super slow to load in my experience. I wish they'd do something about that.

May 24 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

I first heard about bandcamp a few years ago, right at launch I think, and then got a chance to hear bandcamp's founder, Ethan Diamond, speak at a conference. i was sold. When I compare it to reverbnation and other services, it's just a thing of beauty, so clean, simple, fast and elegant. Most important, as the writer of this post points out, bandcamp keeps the focus on the music.

The 'camp is mighty!

I just got this week the opportunity to join a prelaunch of an interesting global independant music platform called bandplanet. I am amazed what these guys are up to. They offer a plattform where you register as a musician then you can set up you band page(s). The cool thing about bandplanet is that they have a premium club that cost only €9.80 per month and offers musicians and bands 8 different way to make money. One of the incredible ideas they have is that we can keep 100% of the money paid for the download as a club member!! They take no share for downloads!! They also created a bonus system, they call it profit sharing. As I understand when I invite people to my profile like musicians, band and FANS and they also become a premium club member, bandplanet will pay me between 3% & 20% of the membership fee every month to me. This is just fantastic! I can create residual income on top of getting 100% on every download. Oh, and one more thing I think is special, I can set the price for my songs myself and if someone wants to pay more to support me, they have a cool system to do that that. Well anyway I got this link from a friend working at bandplanet, not sure I am allowed to provide you with this link, but hey guess they want to have all of us musicians there in any case. So here is the secret prelanuch link if you want to check it out: https://www.bandplanet.com/en/promo_code/NVCACE I heared the official kick of of bandplanet is planned for June 6th. Rock on guys - EJ

I just got this week the opportunity to join a prelaunch of an interesting global independent music platform called bandplanet. I am amazed what these guys are up to. They offer a platform where you register as a musician then you can set up you band page(s). The cool thing about bandplanet is that they have a premium club that cost only €9.80 per month and offers musicians and bands 8 different way to make money. One of the incredible ideas they have is that we can keep 100% of the money paid for the download as a club member!! They take no share for downloads!! They also created a bonus system, they call it profit sharing. As I understand when I invite people to my profile like musicians, band and FANS and they also become a premium club member, bandplanet will pay me between 3% & 20% of the membership fee every month to me. This is just fantastic! I can create residual income on top of getting 100% on every download. Oh, and one more thing I think is special, I can set the price for my songs myself and if someone wants to pay more to support me, they have a cool system to do that that. Well anyway I got this link from a friend working at bandplanet, not sure I am allowed to provide you with this link, but hey guess they want to have all of us musicians there in any case. So here is the secret prelaunch link if you want to check it out: https://www.bandplanet.com/en/promo_code/NVCACE I heard the official kick of bandplanet is planned for June 6th. Rock on Guys - EJ

bandcamp is indeed a great thing, yet they still have no shopping cart, which drives our customers nuts and is a glaring omission to an otherwise brilliant service.

Well said Mark!

May 26 | Unregistered Commentermark

The link to Mark Dowdell's site Bandcamp’s Best seems misdirected...

May 27 | Unregistered Commenterventilo

Wow, what an oversight on my part... guess something got lost in the shuffle. The link should be http://www.bandcampsbest.com. Thanks for picking up on it!

Hey what do you guys thing of vibedeck?

May 30 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I've been using ONErpm.com. They seem relatively new, but offer more of the BandCamp, FanBridge, etc. type services in their free service. I believe if you don't choose the premium account, you can still sell your music for a 70% / 30% cut, or give it away for free and collect email addresses. You can even do this through their new Facebook app, which I haven't been able to find anything similar.

June 6 | Unregistered CommenterTed N.

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