BANDCAMP – IS IT THE WAY FORWARD FOR ARTISTS?September 7, 2020
Self-Releasing has become increasingly more popular over the past 4 years. There have been lots of new developments; new self-release distribution portals, new promotional tools have become available and an increased number of artists/labels are favouring this option over standard distribution methods.
Article by Blue Amazon -10 minute read
Is Bandcamp where artists and labels want to pitch their tent?
Its a topic we have covered in detail in the past whilst exploring the reasons why and the various options available. This article is solely focused on Bandcamp, its recent influx in activity, increased positive awareness, artist direct feedback, the store’s features, and frequent questions.
Since the unfortunate COVID outbreak and related lockdowns, Bandcamp has been embraced further and has become a focal point. More established artists/labels are talking about its positive use and more are making a transition or using the portal as an additional outlet.
Notably on the electronic music side of music, labels such as John Digweed’s – Bedrock Records and fellow artist Sasha are using Bandcamp and talking openly of its benefits.
Why has COVID increased Bandcamp use and will it continue?
There are many reasons why more established outfits have embraced Bandcamp throughout this period. For some, it’s a portal they always considered using but hadn’t implemented it due to prior time constants. Some are studying music consumption statistics and trends that COVID has highlighted.
It’s no secret that the majority of music consumption is now stream-based and a physical sale, which also includes downloads have vastly been reduced.
The majority of other digital stores are moving to a predominate stream-based business model and this also includes Beatport as well apple that made the transition some time ago
Whilst streaming is a preferred audience choice, it’s of a low revenue to artists/labels and since COVID there have been reduced figures in-stream based audiences. This also includes stream rates on bigger platforms such as Spotify, Apple, and others.
This potentially points to increased direct radio listening with human voice interaction,
we also have masses of free streams on Facebook and others. Albeit in the majority, these streams are non-licensed and also negatively affects artist/label revenue, but that’s a different topic and huge debate.
Back to Bandcamp – how does this match up with statistics when BC store focus is downloads and physical sales in terms of merchandise?
Well, there is still a specialist market for downloads, and whilst they have become less of a focus for the other stores, Bandcamp still offers this and with better options than the others.
When you purchase a download from Bandcamp you can re-download it, as many times as you like, in any audio format you like and all purchases are permanently held in your account. You can stream in full before purchase – to a limited amount and unlimited after purchase. Bandcamp is a direct to fan model that supports the artist or labels with an almost instant payment structure. The overheads are far less compared to using digital distribution aggregators and combined store deductions.
Music fans also want to support artists/labels directly, they are becoming very aware of the pitfalls of streaming and especially considering the number of illegal streams on the net.
Bandcamp consistently increases the number of features for fans to directly support and interact with artists/labels they like. Options like pay as much as you like, messaging, regular artist/labels discount codes, Bandcamp Friday, and the store waiving their fees.
New options to subscribe directly to an artist/label channel and receive whole music catalogues. Exclusive content, video, crowdfunding vinyl releases, and of course limited merchandise. Bandcamp has an artist/label app that allows a direct connection with music fans and automatic release updates to their feeds.
These are all options that are not available on any other store.
Lets now explore some common questions
Isn’t releasing via Bandcamp more work than releasing via label or distribution outlet?
This is another topic we have explored previously, and the answer is yes and no but it’s also directly beneficial to you as an artist or label to promote yourself.
Here are some of our previous thoughts, considerations, and ways to promote your music on Bandcamp.
1. You are responsible for your promotion and creating release awareness –
2. You are responsible for your own image/artwork
3. You are responsible for your audio quality, such as the mastering of your music
Whilst you are responsible for these areas yourself,
that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t achieve great results on your own”
Mastering of your music to professional standards is relatively cheap to purchase as a service – there are lots of available audio mastering services with good reputations – costs between £10 to £30 per track, or less depending on the volume of masters to be completed.
Artwork – having a nice visual representation for your release can certainly help and make your finished release look more attractive. You don’t necessarily have to employ an expensive artwork designer, you could download a design template and modify the art yourself, you could even run a campaign on social media asking people to design the sleeve for your next release.
Promotionally there are some great options/services out there for you to use – Once again we are not suggesting you should employ an expensive PR company and have a huge advertising campaign budget.
For more commercial based music – band or solo based artist, you could consider http://www.kingsofspins.com/ who provides a great radio promotional service to a mass of radio stations around the world – once again reasonable pricing.
If you are looking to promote electronic music to DJs – research some services and pricing. Some labels offer sub promotion services using their databases and using apps like Inflyte (https://inflyteapp.com). SMP3 promo service has been running successfully for quite some years and hits the who’s who of the electronic music world. Likewise, Reach Promo
Be mindful of promotional cost vs potential return
Further ways to create promotional awareness for your self-release.
The obvious choice is using social media such as Facebook for advertising – whilst some people are anti-Facebook advertising, it can be an effective tool if used correctly.
Here are some pointers on using Facebook advertising for your releases.
- Ensure your post includes information on where your music is available (Bandcamp Link).
- Ensure your post includes the release art/image – or the art is displayed from the link you are posting.
- Include a tagline with something interesting about your release – maybe something about the style of the music or something of interest that’s engaging.
When using Facebook advertising tools or boosts, which you can do relatively cheaply, a campaign running for 1 week can cost as low as £7.
It is important to set your targets on the boost/advertisement. With Facebook advertising tools you have the option to set a target audience age range, an audience age range which you think is suitable for your post/music. You can also select specific countries and territories around the world as targets. Importantly you can also set an audience interest target.
Audience interest targets are very useful because you can select the interests based on other popular artists, DJs, or record labels that you might consider close to your music. For example, if you are promoting a Techno release you could add interest of – Carl Cox – or if you were promoting a guitar-based band release, one of the interests could be a band like – Kasabian – for example. This can help target your post/advert to other people with similar interests to your style of music.
Video posts are another way of promoting your releases.
Video posts are a very effective way of engaging people with a visual representation combined with your music. Likewise, when posting videos and advertising via Facebook the same process of setting a selected target audience/interest applies. Direct video uploads to Facebook also instantly play which another engaging factor when trying to draw attention to your video. Video uploads to YouTube are also another option but we would recommend using Facebook direct uploads first.
Ok, if you don’t have the means or skills to create a good video, well there are lots of great video creators out there, and most are reasonably priced for a short music video. Ask around for options, a typical cost of £40. – You could also record a video of yourself talking about your release.
Can I still release it to other outlets whilst on Bandcamp?
Of course, you can, Bandcamp isn’t exclusive and you can still use other self-release / distribution portals to expand your music to other stores such as Beatport, Spotify apple, or other. There are lots of self-distribution services that are available to allow you to do this – such as Ditto and Distrokid for example.
What if I’m already in a digital distro deal or label deal, can I still use Bandcamp?
This depends on the label or distribution companies’ mindset or willingness. Lots of distribution companies are very open-minded and allow labels to set up their own Bandcamp store whilst still in an exclusive distribution deal.
Some distribution companies understand that they can’t service Bandcamp directly themselves and don’t see it as a threat to their revenue.
Likewise, some record labels are very open-minded about this whilst their artists are signed in exclusive deals.
There was a very interesting article posted via https://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/ the other day that explores those issues with streaming and to quote “it’s a model that cannot be fixed”. Interestingly, the blog also highlights that in the modern-day artists or labels have the power to negotiate terms and preferences. Nothing is set in stone and the use the phrase “if you don’t ask you don’t get”
I have been very fortunate to be involved with companies, both distribution/labels that are open-minded and have allowed several actives that don’t directly conform to exclusivity, it’s the modern way!
Bandcamp still isn’t as effective as releasing via a label or digital distribution?
This depends on your reasoning for doing one or the other and what benefits it offers.
Releasing via label or distribution can be rewarding and more convenient than self-releasing. Some companies are already established and have a big audience/following, by default, you are exposed to their audience when releasing with them.
Some labels are very good at artist promotion
and exercising other avenues such as licensing your music for film / TV, radio plugging, and more. Some still even offer advances and invest into remixes or other.
Ask the question, what are the label or distributor’s plans for your music before signing? Maybe get it in writing first?
However, don’t fall into the trap or school of thought that by default this will auto guarantee you a huge amount of gigs (outside of COVID) or more. Consider, your sales/stream revenue will automatically be greatly reduced in this type of deal.
Another consideration when looking at this type of deal – what are the labels main objective or business model?
Lots of labels release for the love of music, very passionate about it and some do it very well with rewarding results. Some labels release music regularly and are not concerned with current decreased stream or sale value, often their main focus is label merchandise sales or sponsorships, etc. and the releases are part of the mechanics of that.
In most cases, artists are not a part of the labels merchandise deals or other. You can still be faced with low DL sales (regardless of store charting) and reduced stream value.
The question is –
Do you want to help them sell their branded T-shirts or create a base to sell your own?
Understandably, it’s difficult to grasp how self-releasing via Bandcamp can equal or more compared to an established label or distribution. It’s still a relatively new concept in many ways and it’s the opposite of the current or outdated music released methods we have become accustomed to over many years.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misleading information surrounding releasing music, false perceptions of success and that’s mainly for marketing reasons.
But there are lots of success stories from Bandcamp and it’s also very visible to see.
Most artists’s/labels profiles on Bandcamp show the list of supporter or purchaser for a release. The supporter lists or avatars are from the registered Bandcamp users,
However, Bandcamp also allows you to purchase without being a registered user, this implies that supporters per release are higher than what is directly visible.
The store isn’t like other DL stores and littered with sub-genres upon more genres, you can still search genres like any other store, and is a great music discovery platform.
Bandcamp is free for anyone to register to start selling, they do take 15% from any download sale and slightly more from merchandise sales, but their figures are very transparent and can be easily found via their web site.
Artist – label Bandcamp experiences
Dmitri Bronson is one half of the soulful and creative San Francisco duo – Slope114 alongside vocalist Elise Gargalikis.
The act is very much a shining example of a self-releasing / DIY approach and this includes a focus around Bandcamp (as well as crowdfunded vinyl releases). It’s a system that has worked very well for them, one that hasn’t hindered touring outside the USA and increased their fan base.
In the exact own words
“Do your art on your own terms continually, and stick out like a sore thumb.”
Recently Dmitri posted a self-recorded video and posted it on Facebook.
He talked about his experiences with self-release, highlighted some of the myths associated with digital store charting and other areas often known in the industry but not said. He explained how he spent 8 years away from from the main release portals/methods as an artist, but continued to release music positively and in an artistically beneficial way.
We managed to catch up with Dmitri to get further insight for his self-release passion and drive for positive industry change.
IUM: Dmitri, thanks for talking to us, I firstly wanted to ask what was your motivation for recording such a compelling video and posting it on social media?
Dimitri: The birth of the mp3 was supposed to de-centralize the power structures in the music industry which it did for the majors but for Underground House Music It did the opposite. It went from hundreds of record stores all over the world to a handful of download stores.
That’s called “centralized power”
When you have such an unbalance of power some labels will be favoured by the system while many others will be overlooked & will not receive perceived benefits of working with such a system. I just wanted to tell independent producers & new labels from my own experience that they will make more money by exclusively promoting a Bandcamp page than with all the other major download stores/ streaming services combined.
IUM: Watching your video, I picked up on the idea that self-releasing was more of a dedicated choice for you rather than forced (as in some cases). Can you tell us more about that?
D: When I met Elise Gargalikis in 2010 (now my wife) she was singing for a bunch of producers but none were paying her. I decided to figure out how to get her paid for her singing/songwriting.
Through trial & error, I figured out that the best way to get paid from your music is to produce & release it yourself. We ended up running Kickstarter to release records with no capital investment. Say you want to raise $3,000- to press 300 copies of a record, + shipping fees & some T-shirts. On average for us, it took 70-100 people pre-ordering a record + T-shirt to reach our goal of $3,000-. Then 1/3 of the records are already pre-sold to the Kickstarter participants. Put the remainder of the records on your Bandcamp at full retail cost ($10 or $15) & give some out at gigs. You will make more money selling that remaining 200 vinyl copies than a whole year of streams & downloads sales from major stores.
Imagine a world where musicians can afford to buy deodorant!
IUM: How much has Bandcamp been a positive for – Slope1114 and outside the financial aspect?
D: Through the COVID lockdown (which we are still in here in SF) getting money from Bandcamp has been super helpful!
I don’t know anyone who works there personally but they did commission a feature blog piece about us for Bandcamp Daily & we didn’t even have a lot of content up at the time!
I just think that’s a cool testament to how the company operates. They’re just promoting interesting music/artists. Giving people like us a chance.
IUM: At this stage, if you were offered a recording contract with a good label, would you consider it?
D: A recording contract?! I would for sure read it! But if someone is gonna pay you to record, they’re probably gonna expect to own your recordings, publishing & possibly even your name!
I would never give up my wife’s songwriting publishing or sign her into a bad deal. So we’re not hoping & dreaming for some A&R rep to change our lives by signing us as recording artists.
It blows my mind that people still dream of that
All one needs to do is listen to the radio to know that labels don’t invest in musicians anymore. They just buy an autotune box & sign an Instagram model, It’s millions of dollars cheaper for them! I’d be more interested in a distribution contract with a big label but am not actively seeking that. We’re more concerned with documenting our best possible versions of songs than being famous or climbing a social ladder. Services like Kickstarter & Bandcamp enable us to do so by feeding us. When it comes to labels my answer is always “Money talks bull shit walks”.
IUM: Are you aware of other artists like yourself that are embracing Bandcamp and doing well?
IUM: With Bandcamp reporting to have taken in millions of dollars every month in 2020, I’m sure there are many successful musicians, independent labels & producers on there.
Specifically, for my genre House Music, I’m seeing more & more good tunes on Bandcamp every day. I think this year may start a big migration from the download stores for House labels to Bandcamp.
Imagine if producing House Trax generated money for the producers again! Here are some names to feed your BC search: Strictly Jazz Unit, House Salad, GVNR, blackcataloguemusic, daveaju, moodymann, roydavisjr, toytonics, Ron Trent, Kerri-chandler
IUM: Can you please share any of your future recording plans/releases via the portal and are you considering setting up the subscribe option for fans?
We have a vinyl exclusive album currently being pressed for a recent Kickstarter. Also were releasing a new exclusive Slope114 download single to Bandcamp every first Friday of the month for the rest of the year. I have a few more crowdfunding schemes up my sleeve that I plan to run once we finish releasing the vinyl.
Some people don’t like the vinyl exclusives saying that it’s classist. Well, we don’t do it to divide classes or to only cater to those with money. The reason for it is to retain control of the supply of the product. By doing that while building a demand, we manage to control the value.
I’ve seen too many labels fail
& stacks of their releases end up at local second-hand shops for 50c. Instead of that, we’ve self-distributed limited vinyl exclusives & those prints have retained their value.
Our Satya record has sold on Discogs for $60- & not by us! Likewise, by releasing downloads of entirely different new Trax exclusive to Bandcamp we ended up making money from our downloads without needing to be on any chart because Bandcamp only charges me 15% while the other stores charge at least 40% before distribution fees. Also, our reason for releasing on the 1st Friday of every month is because Bandcamp waives their fee on that day, giving 100% of the money to the artists! “Bandcamp Friday”.
We may continue to release the downloads via digital distribution to all streaming outlets & download stores (each release one month later than Bandcamp) for the remainder of the year but I see no monetary benefit from it & if we don’t see any money from digital distro by end of the year we will probably stop feeding it to focus on Bandcamp & Kickstarter releases. We have not yet considered the subscribe model. Maybe in the future.
Please follow my weird house music duo with Elise Gargalikis slope114 on Bandcamp!
Lee Coombs is very well known for his electrifying breaks tracks that have entertained us over the years with lots of energy and diversity. Notably remixes for such as – New order – Crystal, Moby – Extreme Ways, Planet Funk – Inside All The People, The Freakazoids project, tracks on Finger Lickin Records, his Thrust Recordings label, and The Future sound of retro mix compilation.
He has an abundance of experience in the industry from being an artist, running labels, working for one of the biggest European vinyl distributors, and Bandcamp is now his release home.
Thanks once again Lee for talking to us,
IUM: As an artist and record label owner with a wealth of release experience, what prompted you to start using Bandcamp as your release home?
Lee Coombs: I have seen the whole evolution of how we sell music right from the mid-’80s.
When vinyl and CD’s died as major formats in the mid/late 2000’s
we lost something very special
with buying music. Record stores became harder to keep open and everything just seemed to migrate online.
Beatport was kind of exciting for a while but now it’s just a whitewash of generic-sounding fodder. There is still good music to be found on there but it’s becoming harder and harder to find as more and more music gets uploaded to the store.
I found Bandcamp around 2014 when I did my Freakazoids album. I used it to primarily sell the merchandise and vinyl albums that we made. I did a very successful crowdfunding campaign and needed somewhere to be able to sell the rest of the T-Shirts, Vinyl, and CDs. The great thing was that I could sell the digital files alongside the merchandise of the album. Through that, I saw that Bandcamp was going to be a very powerful online store, that are doing things very differently to the other stores such as Beatport and iTunes. It was more like a real record store that you go to and discover some new releases on that day.
IUM: Previously and particularly in electronic music, Bandcamp wasn’t always considered a priority outlet. Do you think that has gradually changed?
LC: I am finding that Bandcamp is a great place for established and non-established artists to release their back catalogues and anything special or exclusive. Because artists have the power to upload their catalogue, it makes it a place where we can release anything we feel like. More and more electronic artists are moving to Bandcamp because of its flexibility and freedom to release special edits etc.
artists have the power
How much has Bandcamp been an inspiration for you releasing new music and would you consider going back to prior release methods?
I now use Bandcamp to release my music exclusively for about a month. Then I let the other stores have it.
It used to be Beatport would get the exclusive but I don’t see any point in that these days as I don’t care about their charts anymore, which is what Beatport is all about. It makes no difference to me whether I am number 1 or 100 in any of the charts. The thing is, you don’t have to sell huge quantities of a release in a short time to be successful in these charts.
One of the best features of Bandcamp is that they let the customer name their own price as long as its more than the minimum. This is an amazing feature as there are lots of people that want to pay more than the zero or minimum price that the label is asking for a release.
This feature alone makes Bandcamp win above all others
IUM: Self-promotion is a big part of using portals like Bandcamp, is that harder work or a positive?
LC: I almost exclusively use Facebook to promote my releases. I barely look at Instagram or Twitter if I’m honest. All of my networks seem to be on Facebook.
I also pretty much only use Facebook for music-related stuff, studio production, or my various releases. When you use it like that it is very powerful. Bandcamp does have a follower system and that does generate sales, but it’s all about posting on Facebook for me. You have to be clever about the way you post a link on FB. I generally make a relevant post and then add a link in the comments, which seems to reach a far wider audience than
if I just posted a link and said: “Buy my shit!”
IUM: Your Bandcamp page also includes merchandise such as t-shirts, is this something you have or would have done previously without this portal?
LC: Probably not! Bandcamp did ticked all those boxes – allows us to easily sell merchandise and music at the same time.
IUM: You have recently added the subscribe option to your Bandcamp page, what does your subscription offer?
This is something that I have just set up. It’s a great option where any subscribers get everything that I release from that moment on and a bunch of back catalogue items like various albums. They also have different tier options, where the artists can get creative and offer special deals or anything really. Something that I want to do in the future.
IUM: Final question, what encouragement would you give other labels/artists considering using the portalLC: I would say definitely do it!
Don’t expect everyone to come and buy all of your back catalogue straight away. You have to give people incentives to buy from your Bandcamp.
Things like exclusive edits of tracks or stuff that they can only get on Bandcamp. It also helps if you do have a nice amount of releases up there when you release something brand new. 8/10 customers will buy more than one release so the more selection the better.
Another great function is that you can set a price to buy your whole discography. I have done some 75% off deals in the past and I sold lots of my whole catalog. It’s a win-win because those people probably would not have done that otherwise. There are so many options for labels to customize the way they sell their products that I don’t see any other competition right now.
You can also stream everything you have bought through their app
which makes it somewhat similar to other streaming services, only your music will be more carefully chosen by you…
Interested in discovering more music on Band Camp? Join the Bandcamp pool group on Facebook lots of cool music is being added to the group each day.
Article by Blue Amazon