As an artist, a prominent question you’ll ask yourself is, “Where should I release my music?”. When searching online for platform options, you have probably come across Bandcamp.
Bandcamp is an online audio distribution platform founded in 2008 by Oddpost co-founder Ethan Diamond and programming gurus Shawn Grunberger, Joe Holt, and Neal Tucker, based out of Oakland, California. The company was only recently acquired by Epic Games, masterminds behind the wildly popular Fortnite, in the spring of 2022.
The goal of Bandcamp was to be a simplified online robust platform for artists to upload and sell their music and merchandise. The tricky (and often hair-splitting) file format converting is user-friendly and doesn’t require tech genius skills. Bandcamp also provides a space for direct messaging to fans and other artists, joining a like-minded community that, in turn, provides fan base network growth across the world. The founders envisioned Bandcamp as an alternative to MySpace of the time. Should you release your music on Bandcamp? Let’s dive in to find out more, and let you decide.
Why Should You Release Music On Bandcamp?
- Bandcamp puts the artists first. According to their website, the artist gets on average 82% of the purchase of a product. Bandcamp only makes money when you make money!
- Bandcamps platform gives you direct communication with your fans. The platform gives fans both an in-page message and an email so that they won’t miss any of your releases!
- The Bandcamp platform provides automatic notification alerts when you release any new music or merchandise.
- Bandcamp provides an artist guide to help you gain success on the platform. The platform also provides support to the fans, so you can focus on making your music, instead of replying to troubleshooting messages or IT issues.
- Some additional features include the ability to set your own prices and the ability to live stream content.
- Bonus – Bandcamp even offers a vinyl pressing service!
The best part of all of this is that an artist account is FREE! No sign-up fees and any other fees are upfront and transparent. They have a Bandcamp Pro upgrade option at $10 per month, but it is not required to create an artist, fan, or record label account.
The Bottom Line – Income
I know there is a deep love for the music craft, but when it comes down to it, making money is essential not only to fund music production but also to give you the psychological energy boost and motivation needed to keep creating. According to Marc Hogan at Pitchfork, the artists he interviewed, like New York’s 75 Dollar Bill, who released on Bandcamp, were more financially successful in much less time than other platforms like Apple Music, YouTube, or Spotify. Guitarist Che Chen of 75 Dollar Bill mentioned this regarding Spotify –
Streaming is a joke. We might make $100 a year from streaming. On a recent statement of mine, the royalties for one track that had 580 plays on Spotify was zero dollars and 20 cents.https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/how-much-more-money-artists-earn-from-bandcamp-compared-to-spotify-apple-music-youtube/
Bandcamp takes a 15% commission for music downloads and a 10% commission for merchandise purchases. This has become a huge selling point for artists unable to afford to maintain a website or web storefront just yet, helping further increase potential income streams.
Although Bandcamp Pro costs $10 per month, artists who use Pro think it is well worth it. Bandcamp Pro allows batch upload, allowing artists to upload a complete album or set of music instead of one track at a time. Additionally, you can create a customized web domain of your choosing, offer private streaming, and host an advertisement-free video experience.
Another offering is the ability to use targeted messaging. This lets you target messages and ads based on fan location and even by the amount of money they’ve already spent on you. You can use this to encourage new fans to make purchases, send messages to more listeners, and thank those who already support you.
Things To Consider
There are noted pros and cons for each music distribution platform, studied from differing perspectives and demographics, and Bandcamp is not exempt from an honest critique. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of platform options and don’t know where to start – relax – this resource by Show4me Music Interaction Group presents an unbiased comparison list analyzing Patreon, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, ReverbNation, and PledgeMusic, noting pros and cons for each.
I prefer to jump in and immerse myself in whatever is passionately pulling me to do so, as money and schedule allow. Personally, as an artist who gets nauseous if I don’t listen to my inner wisdom or “gut”, it is almost compulsory on some level to follow that intuition. Even if I come to find I don’t like something, am not very good at it, or downright despise it. I enjoy the try as much as the win, if only for the knowledge gained and experience in niche x, y, or z.
Principals, PayPal, And Profits
One negative aspect that has been hard to predict is PayPal payment issues, possible delays, and lackluster customer support reported by both artists awaiting payments from sales and by fans who had made purchases through the Bandcamp platform using PayPal. Whether this was a payment withheld or delayed by PayPal or receiving less-than-timely responses from their support team.
Now, maybe PayPal has worked out some of these kinks. On the side of experiencing this first-hand unrelated to music, personally, I deleted my PayPal account due to funds withheld without warning in the fall of 2021, which was never rectified.
Thankfully, there are alternative options with similar fee structures to use in place of PayPal to make purchases on Bandcamp. This includes any gift card, debit card, or credit card. (Pro tip: Align Pay or Gab Pay, which do not embed algorithms that fish, spam, or withhold funds of some individuals while allowing others access to their money, are worth checking out if you decide to ditch PayPal.)
While Bandcamp is great for new artists and bands to get their music, brand, and merchandise sales started, there is a drawback for more established bands to get new listeners. The social media and live show promotional integrations are improving from when the company started. Still, this vital component for success could benefit from a more aggressive redesign to be appropriate for larger, seasoned artists. This could, in theory, increase the likelihood of those with larger influence wanting to call Bandcamp their all-in-one site for EP and Album downloading, contact and press inquiries, and ticket-purchasing. That aside, this could already be well in the works, so let’s move on and take a deeper look at more attractive features of the platform.
Artist Support Offered By Bandcamp
When the pandemic put live gigs on hiatus and Bandcamp could see their artists struggling, they elected to remove their share of revenue on the first Friday of the month beginning in March of 2020 as an incentive for both artists and consumer fans. Wildly successful, this generated 78 million dollars in music and merch sales in just 21 Fridays.
Bandcamp in 2022 will continue to waive their 10% share on the first Fridays of the month—November 4th and December 2nd— to put more money in the artists’ pockets. This stood out as an unexpected support system that is void in most online business models and merchant sales platforms. See more Bandcamp updates, promotions, and incentives straight from Bandcamp here.
This article by DJ Tech Tools lays out additional things to consider as an independent artist when releasing your music to the world. It answers common questions like how much planning is involved, insights on choosing album art to make your work stand out, and other useful tips for creating your distribution strategy.
Bandcamp For Your Fans
Fans are the thing that provides vital energy to an artist. According to Unlockyoursound.com, Bandcamp markets to fans as equally important to the artists they support. Bandcamps’ appeal and purchase model speaks to a true music fan, not a passive consumer. This is your ideal audience and target for your sound.
Fans can also sign up for a free account. The platform allows members to have unlimited streaming of their purchases via the Bandcamp mobile app, which offers functionality, popular common user controls, and the ability to re-download past purchases. Your fans can create a wish list, share their music collections, and be featured on the home page as ‘featured fans’. This allows your fan to expose your music to new listeners worldwide.
Unlock Your Sound has a fantastic YouTube video highlighting Bandcamp that you can view here.
Bandcamp For Record Labels
Bandcamp offers three creator options when signing up for your account on the site. Option as an Artist, an option as a Fan, and an option as a Record Label. I found this interesting and unique and went digging to learn more about that business model.
YouTube channel and website OtherRecordLabels.com offers this video and additional resources designed to cater to independent record labels. Their goal is to help drive success in this singular industry by providing resources to novice independent record labels. This group offers insight to help navigate the business formation process and explains the level of marketing required, offering e-books, podcasts, and short tutorials.
Now you may say, “OK, I’m interested, but how hard is it to set up an account?”. Singer-songwriter and trombonist Natalie Cressman shared with Musicminds.com just how easy the process is.
The first step is setting up your artist page. It’s quick registering, smoothly transitioning to selecting your genre, adding genre tags, and your location – My personal favorite prompt states:
“Your genre selection determines where your music appears in Bandcamp Discover. It’s OK if you don’t fit perfectly within one of these-” (Who does anyway?!) “-just use the genre tag field below to provide more granularity.”
Next, it’s all about creating your landing page, uploading custom designs and, music, merchandise, and building the personalized artist persona you want to be shown to the world. It took me all of about 8 minutes to get the bones of my account and page created, taking a pausing breath to decide what to fill my page with! It could not have been a more intuitive, simple, and pleasant experience. (Plus, the lack of overly-invasive A.I. in the setup process was incredibly refreshing!)
Bandcamp seems to be popular among artists and fans alike. The number of record labels joining the platform is also gaining traction each year, increasing quarter over quarter by 0.6%. As a whole, Bandcamp doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Now with the acquisition by Epic Games, the growth of Bandcamp is seemingly limitless.
From new music and merchandise stores, social media integrations, and Bandcamp Fridays, we may soon see faster profits than the slow and steady ones we’re accustomed to while keeping the commission rate and original business model in line with the Bandcamp we know and love.
Our Answer, In Closing
Back to the original question, should you release music on Bandcamp? To me, the answer is YES. Simply put, what do you have to lose by trying it out? With no fees and an artist community, in combination with the ability to connect directly with your fans and sell other products in your own space – these are all unique benefits to consider. The small percentage Bandcamp retains from the work you produce and the merchandise you sell gives the platform an edge compared to Spotify and other competitors in the arena.
In closing, the honest purchasing of music to directly support the artists who made it is a message we can all get on board with as a good thing.
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