Is Bandcamp the Holy Grail of online record stores? Hell yes.

The New York Times offers a nice writeup of your friend and mine, Bandcamp. Describing how it works and a bit of the story of the company. 15% distributor’s fee, 85% to the artist. “I often buy music on Bandcamp, because I know I’m putting a sandwich in someone’s mouth.”

As a listener and buyer, they just get everything right. They take your money, they give you a download link for just plain FLACs and/or MP3s. I gave Zurich ’81 and LisaWars actual sales by linking people my reviews in chat.

They do a great job on discoverability — I frequently dredge the new arrivals section for Rocknerd’s record reviews (in case you’re wondering how on earth I found your demo) and it’s ridiculously easy. Hit rate is about one in forty being worth writing up, which is better than I expected. (The problem with “anyone can do it!” being that everyone does. I’d like to filter the tag “synthwave,” which correctly translates “I can’t find a vocalist.”)

The deal with Bandcamp is that they just take their 15% and get the hell out of the way, leaving the musician talking to the audience just as Albini intended. I don’t have direct experience as an artist, but I do know there’s a pile of older musicians who’ve got back their catalogues and happily put up their complete works for a few bucks a pop (e.g., Severed Heads, Kim Salmon, Steve Kilbey) and of course labels doing the same.

So far musicians I’ve asked approve of it and don’t despise it, which is amazingly positive for any entity in the record business. It doesn’t make them much money from sales, but then nor does anything else. At least it does seem not to be evil.

  • “The interface and the available tools are all so well-thought-out it’s genuinely a pleasure to use. It’s also completely transparent how everything works moneywise.” (Desert M)
  • “Having some homemade demos give people the basic idea and help us get gigs booked.” (Station 5150)
  • “Don’t make much off it but it’s pretty good for my purposes. Fees are modest considering what they provide.” (Antlerland)

I’ll go so far as to compare Bandcamp to Rough Trade in the late ’70s and early ’80s: making the possibility of doing a record at all available to everyone (and without Rough Trade’s genre bias). At which point you have all the work ahead of you, of course.

The Hacker News discussion is pretty on-the-ball; includes reminiscence from Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby (who is a huge fan of Bandcamp), about how they did online music stores back in the day.

Go on — try out Bandcamp and give some deserving band a bit of cash today.

There are others out there. I need to hit Jamendo hard again. Soundcloud seems to be where people put demos and leftovers — Bandcamp where they put finished products. What other independent outlets are there?

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