So over the past day or so, Bandcamp has, with very little fanfare, released its Collection pages for fans. Basically, you sign up with the email address you’ve used to buy music (you can add multiple ones if you’ve used more than one over the years), and it makes you a little online record collection of all the things you’ve ever bought from bandcamp! It also lets you ‘follow’ bands, so you get updates when they have new releases, and other fans, presumably so you get updates when they’ve bought new stuff. Bandcamp pages now feature ‘recommendations’ as a result, meaning you can see how many people have bought a record, and lets you see reviews on the page. You can also have a wishlist for things you want to buy! You can check out mine here and get your own here.
As you may know, especially if you follow my other blog or have me on Facebook, I’m a massive fan of bandcamp as a tool to sell music and really do think it should just be standard at all levels of the industry and all levels of the scene to the point that I get annoyed if people don’t use it. Here’s the reasons why:
- It takes much less money from every sale than itunes and most other services.
- It has a very inoffensive method of streaming to try before you buy (something I mostly hate doing anywhere else).
- It’s a simple, standard and attractive interface for streaming and selling that gives all bands a level playing field and can be integrated in to other sites or used as a main portal as bands/labels please.
- It allows money to go straight in to the hands of bands and labels and, in return, puts high quality music directly, automatically, and instantly in to the hands of the fans.
- There’s no entrance barriers - there’s no struggle to convince someone to get your music on to Bandcamp, and there’s no cost to the artist.
- It seems fairly easy to use from an artist/label perspective.
- You can still use it to sell physical products too.
- You can pay through Paypal, which is the most convenient thing ever.
- It’s basically managed to make paying for downloads an attractive prospect by making it quick, easy, and beneficial to everyone in a way you can actually notice.
So, yeah, I love Bandcamp, and have been shouting for it to be the biggest thing in the world for a while now. People have embraced it to an extent, but I think the collections thing is what could really take things up a notch.
Social media is so ubiquitous now. You can’t escape it, as much as you might want to. There’s plenty of negatives to social media, but the upside of it, especially when it comes to music, is that it allows people to connect with bands, artists, labels and other fans, and just discover new music. By adding profile pages and letting you follow people, Bandcamp has basically gone from being an external site where you go to from Facebook to purchase the music you’ve discovered somewhere else (Bandcamp already had tools to find new music, yeah, but they were never the greatest…) to being a site where you can actually spend some time.
You can browse around, check out what other things people who like the same stuff as you do are buying and, as a result, find new music. You can add it to your wishlist, or just buy it straight away, and then you can write a little review of it once you’ve listened to it. You can present yourself through the music you buy in a way that seems a little more in-depth than just instagramming vinyl purchases. You can’t send messages, which is a bit of a shame, although I expect that’s just to avoid abuse of the system and focus on the music. Anwyay, just the fact that I can do all of these things has made me more excited about Bandcamp already. I’ve discovered bands I liked that I had no idea were on there, and I’ve got excited to go and buy some music. I bought seven things this morning, which are all added to my collection, and downloaded a bunch more for free.
Free downloads aren’t added to collections, which is something I was disappointed about originally, but I can see exactly why they’ve done it. This is meant to celebrate the act of actually regularly spending money on music - something that, for many of us, is a distant memory. If you want to show off, or want to hold any sort of influence on this new feature, you’re gonna have to buy music. When I first signed up and it generated my collection, I was a little bit shocked - there was a fair amount of stuff in there, yeah, but not enough. I’ve downloaded a ton of stuff from Bandcamp, but had paid for a small amount. And it made me feel bad. It made me feel guilty for taking so much from the bands I love and a big part of what made me spend money on those seven new downloads was, I’ll admit it, a little bit of shame.
It’s not the most noble reason to pay for music, sure, but when you consider how much damage has been done, and how much the traditional mindset of “if you want music then you have to pay for it” has been destroyed by downloading, this has been exactly the kick I need to buy music. It works for me in a much better way than any other alternative has, post-downloads. I have a blog and I obsessively self-catalogue at times, so having a history of everything I’ve ever bought in chronological order appeals to me massively, too.
So already it’s doing good things, but it could still do more. Upcoming Shows is a very often-neglected feature of Bandcamp, with bands using it as an afterthought and generally forgetting to recommend it. But if it could start being used in a more expansive way, where bands can have a tab on their page for upcoming shows instead of just a sidebar, and people can add them to a wishlist, or an attending list or something, that also shows in their collection, then fans essentially have a gig calendar and music-buying diary all in one place (which I think is pretty cool), and Bandcamp has finally succeeded MySpace as a one-stop space for music downloads/streaming and live information in a way that Facebook has never really managed to do. Once you’ve got that, and bands can’t afford to not be on Bandcamp, you’ve finally got it as your standard platform, with dedicated music fans buying music from hard-working bands and independent labels who are controlling their own means of digital distribution and taking the lion’s share of the money.
The only disappointing thing about it so far is that I’ve seen a very small amount of people actually bothering to write little reviews or comments on their purchases. I know it’s only early days, but pretty much the first thing I did was add some comments on the things I’ve bought. I’m a big fan of original content, of people talking and putting forward their own ideas, which is why I hate the ‘repost without thinking’ methodology that has come to dominate tumblr. Unfortunately, though, this mindset has spread to all corners of the internet and I’m concerned that this important feature is going to go neglected. If people don’t use the more social features, bandcamp won’t be encouraged to implement more. The reviews part is, at the moment, how you can get to know someone through bandcamp. It also means you can remove the assumption that you like everything you’ve spent money on. It lets us buy music and then talk about it, and that is something that I feel is very, very important that we keep.