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?
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.
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.
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.