So here’s a big one that we had some good discussions about in Bacons Bits episodes and podcasts, Bandcamp. For the uninitiated, (And you really should be initiated at this point!) Bandcamp is an in browser streaming service used by everyone from unsigned artists to some pretty big independent labels who have major distribution. What differentiates it is both its ease of use and its huge audience who are empowered to pay what they want for physical products and downloads, though bands can of course put a minimum amount that needs to be paid. Bands can also vend their products via the built in webstore. Bandcamp takes a straight 15% cut (Though it occasionally varies slightly depending on the size of band and a few other factors) and gives the user a ton of data. They have become an underground favorite, not just because of their great interface and tools, but also because of their badass blog which has become a key tastemaker in the underground.
Bandcamp is great because its low barrier of entry has made it to rock and metal what Soundcloud is to rap. Of course there are rappers on Bandcamp and vice versa, but in terms of cultural capital that’s just where we are at. Of course it is important to take full advantage of the platform, something not enough bands do. I think the first and most important thing to do when structuring your Bandcamp though is to realize that it is a center of cultural capital and that it brings a lot to the table for any band, even if they are independent. So you need to first and foremost have the patience to build it up and build it with the realization, that this is going to be just as important a page as your Facebook or Instagram and that people will almost automatically stumble upon it when looking for you, especially if you are not on Spotify. In fact, most listeners would tell you that if you are not on Spotify or Bandcamp your music straight up won’t get listened too because the tagging and search functions on other platforms just aren’t as strong.
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So if you are building with the idea that your Bandcamp is a vital platform you have huge control over and will see a lot of traffic then you need to first sit down and focus on making sure the aesthetics look right. You need to focus your efforts on ensuring that your page looks as good as it possibly can. This means no abrasive colors, photos designed for their particular specifications and all that good stuff. I know some of that can be tricky, but you can’t forget that Bandcamp is a central platform. You wouldn’t let your Facebook page look like shit would you? No, of course not. Similarly, you shouldn’t let your Bandcamp go to the dogs, otherwise you’re just going to be another band who gets lost in the haze, or at worst be a band who are treated as a bunch of shit munchers because the place you go to stream their music is in and of itself disgusting. Spend time making sure that it looks good and don’t be afraid to commission Bandcamp centric art, this shit lasts. Realize you are catering to music nerds too, this means uploading extra goodies like lyrics and bonus art, I know it’s extra work, but it gets people invested in what you are all about, and ideally turns them into superfans, the real key of it all.
Tied into all of this is pricing, you need to be very careful with how much you ask people for and where you are expecting them to come in. I think that asking for more than five dollars or so for a full labum download is ridiculous in a world where people are going to easily be able to go stream your stuff for free in perpetuity on that goddamn platform. It’s made even more ludicrous by the fact that countless AWESOME bands have their stuff for pay what you will download. This is also part of why limiting the number of streams is a bad idea too because then you will just have fans moving over to Spotify. It doesn’t inspire sales. Bandcamp is a stronger platform though because it lets you collect e-mails which is vital for building up your list and getting more sales. ALWAYS use your Bandcamp for the email list building tool it is, otherwise you are seriously fucking up. In terms of pricing for your merch items just do whatever you’d do at your merch stand at a live show plus shipping, pretty standard stuff.
Also important is the use of tags. This is crucial in order to let people differentiate your band and see what you are all about. A lot of people go on deep searches on Bandcamp and having a few highly specific tags is going to help you. While it is definitely helpful to be a band affiliated with more mainstream tags, having a few highly specific ones is definitely going to help. I guarantee you that there are dudes who will search explicitly for new releases under specific things like “Folk black metal” or “Trad doom”. You want to get granular because Bandcamp is a place where music nerds congregate so if you are able to help them get directed towards something that might specifically be for them then you are winning. This also means, and this is important, that if you use inaccurate or bad tags people are going to think you are a loser and get frustrated with your approach. So be very very careful when posting a record to make sure that you aren’t overselling yourself or confusing your positioning. Furthermore, don’t be afraid though to give out download codes, they don’t cost you anything and are a great way to cozy up to tastemakers in the bandcamp world. You may need to seek them out but they are out there and will be very grateful for a download of some free music. Just pitch to them the way you might pitch to any other journalist.
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As a final point, it’s important to realize that Bandcamp is essentially a form of social media at this point. Much moreso than its former competitor Reverbnation. (As an aside, the Bandcamp/Reverbnation war should be considered done with Bandcamp as the triumphant victor and Reverbnation a pathetic husk of a platform) Not only do you have the ability to oint fans some of your favorite bands after someone gets your record but also you can go out and leave reviews of other bands you like or get reviews from fans and infuencers. Labels have their own accounts too which you can interact with. So be careful with who you follow and be graceful about it. There are some real players on the platform and the people who really invest their time and energy into the community generally find huge ROI because it is a community of music nerds after all and they are excited to meet other nerds like them. Toss in the fact that the blog is super well curated and features weekly podcasts among countless other cool bits and bobs and you start to see just how much value Bandcamp is bringing.
Bandcamp is a hugely potent platform and if you’re not on it in 2018 as an independent artist then you are fucking yourself over and you are going to look like an asshole This is the huge problem that we are all acing that we need to deal with, that Bandcamp is one of the most important and valuable platforms for independent artists of the last decade. It’s how people discover new bands and if they work hard at it, promote themselves This is an easier point of entry than Spotify and offers up the opportunities for so much more growth and expansion. Bandcamp is a truly special and valuable thing that brings a ton to the table and is going to be bringing value for decades to come. Either embrace it and get good, or get lost in the kerfuffle.