Bandcamp is simultaneously one of the most important and least understood aspects of the modern music industry. While on the one hand it certainly is a major boost to the music economy, especially for independent bands I get the distinct impression that most bands don’t understand the full potential of Bandcamp. They also have kickass editorials I want to look into the potent magic of Bandcamp and start to guide you guys along to figuring out what needs to be done in order to get the most bang for your buck when using this service. It’s something that can drive your work to brave new heights, but a resource of such massive potential that to ignore all that it could do for you is functionally shooting yourself in the foot. I’ve met many artists who make their living almost exclusively off of Bandcamp, and this is exactly what drives so many labels to use it almost exclusively and what inspires the masses to become so deeply invested in what Bandcamp has to offer.
First off is the importance of things being totally pay what you will. While evidence seems to suggest that if you make it totally free you will get more downloads, having it be pay what you want assures that assuming your music and marketing isn’t godawful you should be getting at least a little money. It’s the sort of thing that can help you subtly generate enough income to maybe get a few van repairs or perhaps another run of CD’s. Putting your stuff up for pay what you want on Bandcamp is a great way to help get your music onto peoples desktops and other solid state devices. Sure most things are streaming oriented but downloads still hold a significant part of the market and you need to be able to tap into that and help people have easier access to your work. Remember at the end of the day – Bandcamp is all about facilitating access to your band.
I think one of the main things that most bands don’t seem to even realize is that you can sell your bands merchandise through Bandcamp. Not only that but you can do it at a preferential 10% rate as opposed to the normal 15% rate that most bands have (Until of course they reach $5,000 in digital sales) Selling your merch on Bandcamp has actually replaced many bands webstores. It simply makes more sense, after all – it all fits onto one page that simultaneously showcases your music. If you can’t get behind that then you are once again – just shooting yourself in the foot. Considering that most webstores cost money to run, this is actually a cheaper option for most bands involved since they probably aren’t making back their monthly fee in merch sales every month. Bandcamp provides a mostly free alternative that keeps your price per piece a helluva lot more reasonable. It’s just another way that they help to create a better future.
Tied into this is the subscription model that Bandcamp has. While I think this was probably more intended for hip hop and rap artists who can regularly drop massive amounts of tracks there certainly is validity for any rock band that is able to produce a large amount of singles for whatever reason. This also is a great model for labels to use in order to ensure a certain base income. If you can come up with a model that makes sense for your band for a subscription method then you are going to start finding a very real success. I think that a lot of the bands who launch these usually have large back catalogs and the incentive for signing up is that you get the back catalog for free. If you’re in a situation like that too it can help you to create a nice little boost in income. Knowing these little tips and tricks on their own probably can’t bring your bands financial realities to a whole new level, but the combined assault tends to be surprisingly helpful.
So why is it that bands never seem to be able to take advantage of even these three fairly basic features of the platform? Well it is simply because they don’t spend enough time with the scene, checking out bands who have been able to really capitalize on this whole thing, and not only that but figuring out that if you just read the Bandcamp blog you are going to wind up with a much greater chance of making a whole bunch of money. Don’t think that anything is guaranteed though. For example – if your music sucks and the rest of your marketing is awful then you’re not going to find any sort of reliable way forward. By the same token, you have to be going out there and promoting the fuck out of your Bandcamp. What many bands do is they reinvest all of their Bandcamp record sales back into promoting the Bandcamp and consequently their Facebook page. This leads to greater long term triumphs and allows them to grow even when they aren’t touring.
At the end of the day, Bandcamp is not an especially difficult thing to understand. It’s a service that helps bands move their music in more effective ways but also lets fans subscribe for regular content and buy merch. It’s a straightforward and frankly kind of beautiful system that has been able to make massive economies of scales and find a way forward as an independent music seller in an industry that seems to be pushing more towards monopoly with every passing day. Not only that but their blog frequently suggests great music and helps you find a way towards making your Bandcamp even more effective. If you can’t start to get behind everything that these guys represent then maybe there never was a place for you in the world of independent music.
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