Why my music is on Bandcamp now

The last few years of trying to figure out the "new music business" have convinced me to release all my music on Bandcamp. Here's why.

In the last few years, I’ve thought a lot about recording and marketing original music. After all, having great music doesn’t really help much if nobody knows about it, right?

Opportunities for independent musicans look pretty interesting these days. International distribution and promotion, which were exclusive to big record companies, are now available to everyone. (I’ve been into home recording, on and off, for over 30 years.) Even making music videos is a thing now (and I’ve dabbled there too).

So I did a lot of research, followed courses on music marketing, learnt a bit of video editing, released a few songs, even tried running Facebook/Instagram ads (and reached a few new people all over the world on the way). I’ve even posted on Tik Tok (which looked like a toy for kids at first, but is now one of the main ways that people discover new music.)

Eventually, however, I burnt out. I was frustrated at not actually having time for music anymore. Now I’ve decided to simplify everything, get back to the music – and release it on a great platform (that some people haven’t even heard of) called Bandcamp. Here is why.

Bandcamp compared to Spotify


You don’t need me to tell you that Spotify has become the most popular music streaming site. Its founder, Daniel Ek, jumped in at a time when free downloading was badly hurting the music industry, and it is now a huge global player. (It has also become immersed in some controversial issues, but that’s not something I am going to go into.) It has mostly been unprofitable however (although that might be changing.) That is mostly because its “eat all you want for 10$ a month” model cheapens music itself. These days, anyone can get their music on Spotify via various distribution services (but it costs an annual sum to do so).

By contrast, Bandcamp is like a global “indy record store”. It is far more focussed on helping artists. If you don’t know about it, let me summarise:

  • artists upload music to Bandcamp for free, specifiying the sale price
  • users can stream songs for free a limited number of times (also controlled by the artist) and buy the song or album for a fixed price if they want
  • 80% or more of that money goes directly to the artist in a few days
  • Bandcamp also has content for discovering new music, ways to foillow people who have similar tastes to yourself and so on
  • Bandcamp (since the start of covid) have regularly run “Bandcamp” Fridays, where 100% of proceeds go to the artist
  • Bandcamp is not small potatoes – fans have paid over a billion dollars to artists through it, and $187 million in the last year (a fact proudly displayed on their front page).
In a nutshell, Bandcamp is treating music as a valuable commodity, and in the process doing a lot to help artists. This is reflected in the fact that it is actually more profitable than Spotify. As this article puts it :
“Bandcamp is profitable and Spotify is not, because Bandcamp’s minimalist business model — allowing the exchange of money for music and merch on terms that artists and labels set themselves — provides the opportunity for people to spend as much as they want. The premise that people want to buy things makes the company something of an overlooked pioneer in applied behavioral economics. By contrast, Spotify adheres to an outmoded understanding of humans as economic agents that seek nothing but cost minimization.”
I know which side of that equation I want to be on.

I have to make the time I have count

I work full time (a good thing, as it helps pay my kids’ upbringing). I try to practice saxophone most days. Any time left over, I want to spend creating music.

My experience with Spotify and streaming platforms was dissapointing. I know that a few indy artists do OK with them, but many more release and self-promote for no profit at all (I’ve seen people reporting spending several thousand on ads for a tune of Spotify that probably made no more than half of that).

Spotify is now a bit like radio used to be. It reaches a wider audience, but it’s a competition for very short attention spans. It favours tunes that have a catchy hook in the first five seconds. Much of my music isn’t like that (I love intros that build a mood).

In contrast, Bandcamp is like an old fashioned record store – a hangout for music geeks. (I’ve discovered, and purchased, quite a lot of new music I love there.) It just feels like a better vibe.

My priority now is to become musically productive again. I have little time for self-promotion other than just “getting it out there”. I’d rather place my music where I might reach a smaller but more appreciative audience.

I’m not ruling out trying to push the odd song on other platforms in future. But for now, I’m going back to basics with Bandcamp as my main output channel.

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