In Praise of Bandcamp: An Oasis of Control in a World of Musical Chaos

In Praise of Bandcamp: An Oasis of Control in a World of Musical Chaos

While streaming services battle it out for the heart and mind of Taylor Swift, there’s a place where creators can post all their music, and whatever else they’ve made, quickly, directly and on their own terms. It’s Bandcamp. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s cheaper than iTunes (if you choose to set the prices that way); the downloads import into Spotify playlists; and you can get high-res versions just like Tidal.

But most important, if you download something, Bandcamp lets creators know who you are so you can stay in touch, just like…well, none of them.

I suppose you can argue that downloading is “antiquated,” or something, but having a connection between buyer and seller is not. Those big streaming services call that connection “Big Data,” and having that connection is what values them in the billions. That’s the very “not antiquated” element to a Bandcamp purchase.

You know that’s why none of the other services help us stay in touch, right? Basically, they’re jealous. Yes. They’re insecure that if we know each other we’ll get together without them. And you know? We might!

That’s the whole point of “discovery,” isn’t it? To let us discover a) what we like and b) who likes us back? Can you imagine if Tinder had been set up so you could swipe right on someone, but they’d never find out…ever? That’s what it’s like to be an artist on a streaming service.

Could streaming services change that? Well, considering Taylor Swift sneezed and Apple changed its entire pricing structure, I’d say yes. Until then, consider this: Whichever streaming service doesn’t facilitate the two-way street that is actual music discovery is a streaming service that does not actually care about discovery at all.

Screen shot of Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp co-founder, being logical.
Full presentation:

For me, using Bandcamp is like signing my mailing list, but instead of going to a show you liked, you download an album you liked. And if it doesn’t work out between us, breaking up with me is easy — it’s a one-click unsubscribe in the next newsletter I send. No histrionics. Hey, it’s cool. We gave it a shot. High five.

If you’re creeped out that an artist would have your email, I’d ask: Do you know what they — those monstrous, billionty-billion-dollar tech companies — do with your information? Well, me neither. Do you think they sell your information to other Big Data types? Well. I couldn’t say, but I’d guess those services are not valued as they are because they know all our connectionsbut aren’t planning to do anything with the information, right?

Besides, what would someone like me do with the email address of someone like you, who has macheted your way through the Internet to tell me that you like my work? Sell it to…oh…Skrillex? Band-Aids? No.

And no, I don’t work at Bandcamp, but if I did, what an infomercial, right? Maybe they’re not perfect, either (artists don’t get paid when you stream a song on their site, for instance), but they still connect buyer and seller, and that’s better than anything the rest of them have offered to artist or fan. If you’ve seen better services, let me know, because like I said, I don’t work at Bandcamp.

So then why am I writing this? Because I’m a recording artist and songwriting professor who owns his music and wants to stay in touch with the people who buy it. I wrote this because maybe other artists, fans and students will want to do the same. Tada. That’s it.

Crazy? The future? Who cares. Bandcamp is like going to the grocery store: get a cart; squeeze the peaches; if they feel good, take ’em home.

My Bandcamp page:

Thanks for checking this out. If you liked it, please share with friends and artists who might also benefit from the service.

Mike Errico: Official site | Bandcamp | Facebook