Archive for September 13th, 2010

BandCamp: The End of It

I just read that Bandcamp now charges artists for free downloads of their tracks! That might sound to you like “fair”, but here’s some context:

– Bandcamp is (was?) the No1 resource for bedroom indie artists. Artists who don’t have distribution to iTunes/Amazon, because they can’t afford it, or because they don’t care. Bandcamp provided hosting for this niche in modern music. Sure, there are a lot of commercial artists on Bandcamp, but most of them are semi-commercial or non-commercial.

– Therefore, many of these albums, or some of their songs, are free for the world to download. Made out of love, with its artists asking nothing in return.

– Since 3-4 years ago, almost every indie album has had at least 1 legally free mp3. Some of them have had 3 or even 4. Even Kanye West, a super-star, now gives away free mp3s (three so far, from his new album)! As I have mentioned in the past on this blog, this is important. It has introduced me to many artists, that I later actually bought their albums! The method WORKS. How else do you think I spent over $2000 last year on music purchases alone?!? I, and many others I know, are heavy buyers BECAUSE of the free downloads!

Now Bandcamp wants to charge these artists to pay for every free download! What Bandcamp ends up doing though, is PUSHING artists to CHARGE for their music. These artists will have to either move to the chaotic SoundCloud, or charge for their music by stop offering free mp3s, and bringing the indie music BACK 5 YEARS. Bandcamp is UNDOING all the social progress that’s been done in the last few years!

I’ve seen a lot of these artists getting linked from blogs as big as Pitchfork. This means at least 5,000 downloads in a single day. Do you think that these artists can pay the $75 Bandcamp is asking for 5000 downloads? Most of these artists can’t even pay for groceries, let alone Bandcamp’s bullshit policy.

And as I said, SoundCloud is a mess. It’s what Youtube is, compared to the more artistic and presentable Vimeo. It can’t replace Bandcamp. Therefore, many of these artists might even stop uploading their music! Bandcamp is NOT helping the indie music, if anything, it takes it apart.

Bandcamp does not seem to realize that their core business is this “free culture”. They seem to have started their business with aspirations to become the new iTunes, but somewhere along the way their own artists decided that they don’t want to be traditional professionals. And of course, this doesn’t sit well with Bandcamp. So they’re trying to change their customers, pushing them back into commercialism, or getting rid of them!!!!

And this is wrong. Bandcamp can ONLY be BIG by NOT becoming iTunes. Technically, Bandcamp has nothing that iTunes doesn’t have, or can’t easily have. They’re fools if they think they can win over iTunes. Instead, Bandcamp should EMBRACE this new world order of bedroom artists, and offer something that iTunes CAN NOT offer. A lot of free music is a good way to do this.

If anything, add ads on pages that feature free music. Obviously, bandwidth costs money, and someone has to pay for it. But it definitely doesn’t cost $3c per download (usually, that’s ~10 MB for a 320 kbps track). It’s more on the range of $0.0003c per 10 MB, or even cheaper. But then again, these songs are unlimited streamable, so obviously bandwidth is not an issue for Bandcamp. Money is.

The best way to deal with this though is to ask for a flat fee from every Bandcamp artist. $10 per year is a good, and FAIR price. Regardless of number of downloads.

And let me say something else too, which has pissed me off even more.

Bandcamp has special support for Creative Commons music in its backend. Which means that they RECOGNIZE what Creative Commons is, and what it stands for. So asking for a CC artist to pay up, for music that it’s supposed to be free, given to the world as a gift, is totally not within the spirit. More so than for the indie semi-commercial artists mentioned above. It’s just stupid, and it’s missing the whole point of CC.

There’s a moral problem in this Bandcamp decision. Bandcamp took the “traditional business approach”, instead of thinking the whole thing through. They don’t seem to see the big picture. They only care about their pocket, and how to make a quick buck, instead of innovating by going with the times.

I’m totally disgusted. I was expecting more from Bandcamp.