Bandcamp | P2P Foundation

The surprise is not that artists use bandcamp, the surprise is that they use anything else.

Jewelia acoustic set Staycation Live 2014

singer-songwriter Jewelia acoustic set Staycation Live 2014

Great music is priceless, bad music is worthless. — Steve Lawson

The best way to support an artist is to pay then directly. — Ethan Diamond

When I am at a live music festival for example Staycation Live and the musicians tell the crowd to find them on iTunes I groan, when they tell the crowd to find them on spotify I want to scream out loud.

Why oh why, are they sending people to sites where everyone gets ripped off, where everyone gets a raw deal?

Amazon or iTunes, take a big cut, iTunes even charges for being there, spotify you do not even want to go down that sewer. The least said about spotify the better, other than major record labels have a stake and artists receive a pittance.

Bandcamp by contrast, takes somewhere between ten and fifteen per cent. It used to be a straight thirteen per cent.

With Amazon, a few seconds lofi sample. That is to insult both the musicians and those wishing to listen. How can you judge a piece of music in a few seconds except maybe to reject as unbelievably bad?

On the other hand on bandcamp, can listen to entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128.

Bandcamp was co-founded by Ethan Diamond as a site for musicians.

The principle behind bandcamp is if you want to support musicians then pay them directly, not pay a global corporation in the hope that something trickles down to the artists.

Two years ago, I found few artists knew about bandcamp, now I am finding more and more do, and it offers both them and their fans a very good deal. And yet what is strange, they are still directing fans anywhere other than bandcamp, even when they themselves are on bandcamp.

It is not only they and their fans, by directing to bandcamp, they benefit all the other independent artists who are on bandcamp.

If you have the resources to record an album and if not, play a few gigs, crowd source, then you do not need a record label.

Sometimes artists have their own kludgy media player on their website. Why re-invent an inferior wheel, when you can embed bandcamp media player?

From the perspective of the fans, you can listen to an album on-line, the entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128 unlike Amazon or iTunes where all you get is a few seconds lofi sample.

Download is easy. And can download hifi not lofi, mp3 320, or better still studio quality non-lossy FLAC.

Fans can choose to pay more. Many do. Jewelia recently reported someone paying £30 for an album listed at £5 (or maybe it was for the free download).

Monsters her début album, limited edition signed copy or digital download.

snapshot of bandcamp sales

snapshot of bandcamp sales

Artists set a low price, sometimes free, leaving fans to pay more if they wish. Because fans are not being ripped off, because they know the money is going to the artist, they quite happily pay more.

Selling Right Now: Monsters sold for £25, £20 over the asking price.

Selling Right Now: Monsters sold for £25, £20 over the asking price.

Selling Right Now: The Kitchen Table sold for £16, £7 over asking price.

Selling Right Now: The Kitchen Table sold for £16, £7 over asking price.

Bandcamp has a very unusual feature. What is selling is shown in real time, including how much is being paid over and above the asking price. This is in addition to a listing of the top selling albums.

Artists get the data.

Bandcamp is a model of how websites should be.

Bandcamp is not backed by venture capitalists. It is not supported by advertising or abuse of personal data. It is supported by the music community.

Because of the way bandcamp works, especially its sharing button, word, essentially word of mouth, spreads laterally, or in other words peer to peer.

In essence this is the gift economy, sharing, collaborative economy at work.

If you like a piece of music or an artist, you spread word of mouth using social media.

Those who like, will spread the word, they may download, they may toss some money by the way of the artist, they may attend a gig.

Serendipity plays a part, as people stumble across something they may like, or a friend may tell them, or share with them. I stumbled across Quantic whilst writing this article on bandcamp.

The important aspect here is sharing.

Those who share, do not get anything out of it, thus a gift, but the artist may benefit through their collaboration. The artist will then feel it is a viable way to earn a living, and do what they wish to do, play and produce more music.

Everyone has a stake in the outcome.

It would be an interesting social experiment, having mentioned Jewelia, what difference she sees.

The big record labels hate the internet, they complain of piracy, criminalise those who wish to listen to music.

Bandcamp turns this on its head, far from seeing the internet as bad, sees as a force for good, the means to share music.

If I listen or download music for free, no one has lost out. On the other hand, if I like, I may buy, I may attend a gig, I may tell others. In other words an opportunity has been created.

And it is a truism, I cannot like a piece of music until I have heard it. Through sharing, makes it more likely to hear it.

Those artists who only make available a few seconds lofi sample, or in too many cases, nothing at all, are not doing themselves or their fans any favours.

Hope & Social make their music available for free for digital downlands, the productions costs for a CD. They do not get ripped off. Turn up to one of their gigs, buy a CD, you set the price.

Cotton Wool and Knotted Wood a beautiful magical live acoustic album from Hope & Social is on a pay-what-you-think-it-is-worth or what-you-can-afford model. For CD it is minimum price of what the CD costs to produce (plus shipping).

Cellist Zoe Keating published her accounts on-line, to enable people to see a breakdown of her income.

  • iTunes 32,170 single tracks and 3,862 albums netted her just over $38,195
  • Bandcamp 185 tracks and 2,899 albums netted her $25,575
  • Amazon mixture of physical and mp3 earned her $11,571
  • Spotify 403,035 streams earned her $1,764

Apple keeps 30% of iTunes sales, bandcamp takes a 10% cut of sales.

On bandcamp, albums considerably outsell tracks.

Jazz pianist and composer Will Todd is a classic of how not to.

I happened upon a rehearsal in a church for a concert that evening. A large poster for Lux Et Veritas. Had Will Todd been around I may have bought a copy of Lux Et Veritas. I was told he would be there in the evening. I checked out his website. Big record label outmoded thinking stamped all over it. Snippets of videos, lofi mp3 samples. This does absolutely no justice to the works of Will Todd and is an insult to those who may like and wish to listen to his music. He is not doing himself any favours.

What is the point, releasing music, then making it difficult to listen to?

Were I a radio producer, not a writer, they would be beating a path to my door asking to be put on my play list.

Very strange, musicians release music, which one would suspect they wish one to listen to, then make it difficult if not impossible to listen to.

Going back to the musicians telling the crowd where to find them, this time they say find us on bandcamp.

This makes a huge difference. Because of sharing, anyone who finds them, can click share, and immediately share with their friends, hey this is who I saw, they were great, word spreads. Or they may write about them and embed the bandcamp media player. Why write about music if no one can listen to what you are writing about? That would be as dumb as writing about a book or an author and not citing a few passages. Or writing about a work of art without a picture.

Although bandcamp is a centralised site not peer to peer per se, how it works in practice is peer to peer. There is lateral communication, and that is the key to the success of bandcamp, enabled by a share button.

We should never underestimate the power of sharing, of word of mouth.

What bandcamp does for music and the spoken word, leanpub does for the written word.

In the sharing economy, collaborative commons, a website should be an enabler that charges a small fee for its role, made self-financing by the users.

Bandcamp and leanpub fulfil that role.

Note: Reposted from P2P Foundation. An expanded version of this article on Medium, with additional examples and extensive notes.

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19 Responses to “Bandcamp | P2P Foundation”

  1. keithpp Says:

    We can never underestimate the power of word of mouth.

    On Sunday, twenty-six years after publication, The Alchemist marked three hundred and thirty-five continuous weeks the in New York Times best-seller list.

    Adultery, shot to No 1 on publication in Germany. It is back at No 1.

    It is only rubbish that has to be hyped, it would not sell otherwise.

  2. Peter Coulson Says:

    Bandcamp is quite restricted though. You can’t stream from Bandcamp to networked audio equipment like Sonos. Soundcloud does allow it.

  3. keithpp Says:

    What a joke, bandcamp is restrictive because cannot stream through a crap system like Sonos.

    I would not wish to stream through Sonos.

    This is like saying bandcamp is not spotify (thank God).

    It is like saying overpriced Beats headphones provide high quality sound. Er, I think not.

    And of course it is to completely miss the point of what bandcamp offers.

    Any system with phono output, lets you connect whether live streaming or from downloads, including downloads of non-lossy, high quality FLAC to a high end sound system.

    And many high end systems now let you plug in a usb memory stick, hard drive or tablet, containing audio files.

    Thus a contrived restriction.

    Moral of the story, do not waste money on Sonos.

  4. Peter Coulson Says:

    You misunderstand, Keith. I use a Sonos connect as a streamer, taking optical SP/DIF into a DAC, then using a Roksan Caspian amp and Kandy speakers. You don’t get much better quality than that. I don’t use the SOnos speaker units.

  5. keithpp Says:

    OK, point taken.

    Do not use Sonos.

    Use a different method to access the net.

    And if you download, as I said, you can use FLAC, which can give you 24-bit, studio master tape quality.

    I have downloaded a Gigabyte studio master tape.

    Some, like The Sixteen, are charging more for high quality from their own site.

    Bandcamp are not.

    On digital download, choose format and automatic conversion. Choose more than one format and play around. See if you can hear the difference.

    If you insist, can download mp3 320.

    You are not going to to get high quality streaming, you are going to have to download if you want high quality.

    Try downloading what I have listed in longer version of article.

    View at

    Or simply access music, and trawl through what you may like.

    Live streaming is not going to be high quality as the bandwidth is not going to support the data rate.

    Bandcamp is mp3 128. Reasonable quality.

    Most are very poor.

    The other reason poor quality, aimed at mass market, listening to badly produced moronic pop on cheap rubbish systems, and usually background music, surrounded by background noise.

  6. Peter Coulson Says:

    I don’t use the Sonos for mega high quality audio, mostly for accessing radio stations, it’s ideal for that, very convenient. No computers on, no antennas, also for podcasts.

  7. keithpp Says:

    You can use tablet or laptop or even a decent smart phone.

  8. Peter Coulson Says:

    Sonos will stream FLAC too, of course.

  9. Peter Coulson Says:

    Smartphones and tablets rarely encode at a high rate through their audio USB streams, no DSD. The whole point of using the Sonos is to avoid having my computer connected, it’s much neater.

  10. Peter Coulson Says:

    Have you looked at Deezer? That’s a 320k streaming service, excellent.

  11. keithpp Says:

    No, not looked at Deezer, but you are still missing the point, bandcamp is not a streaming service, though can stream with bandcamp app (I will come to that).

    Note: Streaming services like spotify rip off artists big time. Facebook model, collect and abuse personal data.

    Bandcamp was established to give artists a platform for their music.

    Independent artists are only viable, if we support them.

    Can listen on-line, share, download, bandcamp takes a small cut.

    Artists keep the data.

    Some artists abuse bandcamp, only samples, but the idea is, listen to an album, decide if you like, you choose what to pay.

    Contrast with other sites like Amazon or iTunes where everyone gets ripped off, Lofi few second samples.

    Then we have artists who think they are being clever, re-invent an inferior wheel, a kludgy media player with a few seconds lofi sample.

    Then they have their own on-line shop, which is not worth the hassle of trying to use.

    Bandcamp app has streaming for all the music bought. I could not see what this was offering when can listen on-line, but maybe it is offering higher quality, maybe it will work with Sonos. I do not know, as have not tried. I download music, then install.

    Downloading and playing music on Google Nexus 7

    Try installing the bandcamp app, download music, let me know.

    Lotus Flower
    Into The Trees
    Where are the Arms
    Cotton Wool and Knotted Wood

  12. Peter Coulson Says:

    No app to download? (Using iPad)

  13. Peter Coulson Says:

    I can stream straight to the Sonos from other services, but not from bandcamp. I’ll have to use the computer, then copy it across, I can’t use my phone or tablet? Not very convenient!

  14. Peter Coulson Says:

    They’ll need an iOS App if they want to get mainstream.

  15. keithpp Says:

    There is a bandcamp app for Apple and Android, with a link to download.

    I have had installed Android bandcamp app for some time, but never used, as could not see a use.

    Bandcamp app can be used to live stream purchases, but as can listen to albums on-line, does not appear to offer anything.

    To be able to live stream, have to register and log in. A somewhat pointless exercice being forced to register as a fan, when already registered.

    Once registered, see in bandcamp app, music purchased, can play, if scroll down see other music from same artist which can play.

    In other words begs the question: what is being offered that is not already available?

    Not only that, for any purchase, will already have audio files, which can play any time, without being on-line, without consuming data.

    The only advantage, would appear to be, can download past purchases any time. Which can probably do anyway.

    But a very bad downside.

    If fan register, appalling abuse of personal data and privacy.

    Receive a welcome e-mail, which gives details of six other people and what they have bought. The implication being, the same has been done with my personal data.

    Explore the collections of these fans whose tastes are similar to yours, and consider following them.

    Do I care what other people like? No.

    Do I wish my likes, buying habits, to be communicated to unknown third parties? Absolutely no way.

    I expect this abuse of personal data by facebook or spotify. I expect better from bandcamp.

    This seems to have been very ill thought through by bandcamp and they need to think again.

    See below open letter to bandcamp.

  16. keithpp Says:

    Open letter to bandcamp

    I am to say the least appalled by the bandcamp fan account.

    Firstly, as I already have an account, I see no reason why I have to waste my time registering again. I should have been able to access music purchased using my existing account.

    But what appals me, is the abuse of privacy, when I do register.

    Is this quote some sort of sick joke, as that is the impression I am getting?

    Bandcamp, Inc. (“Bandcamp”) knows that you care about how your personal information is used and shared, and we take your privacy seriously.

    I have no problem when buying music, that my details are passed to the artists, indeed it is excellent that they do get this data, as it indicates to them who is interested in their music, they can keep informed of new releases, etc etc.

    What I object to in the strongest possible terms, is my details being passed to third parties. This is the abuse I expect from facebook or spotify, not bandcamp.

    The first e-mail I receive, lists six other fans what they may like, the music they buy.

    This is of absolutely no interest to me, indeed it is none of my business, what people I do not know may or may not like.

    But the implication of this is, what I may like, may buy, is being passed without my permission to person or persons unknown.

    I was presented with no option to opt out of this, which should be the default, In other words opt in to abuse, not opt out. But right now, do I even have the option to opt out.

    If I wish to pass to people what I like or do not like, that will be my choice, not that of bandcamp.

    I have to date, encouraged people to use bandcamp, but with this extremely serious abuse of personal data, I will have to think again.

    PS Not having a copy of his e-mail address to hand, a copy of this e-mail is to be passed to Ethan Diamond, with confirmation this has been done.

  17. Peter Coulson Says:

    There’s not much point using a PC to play FLAC files, most built-in USB to Audio DACs in PCs as standard are only 16/44.1 converters. If you want 24/96 you need to add on a different DAC or use a Mac and OS X, which supports 24/96 as standard (as does the Sonos Connect). Again, tablets and phones have restricted audio output DACs.

    Or, use a network connected DAC where you know the performance.

  18. Peter Coulson Says: This is quite a find, on Bandcamp.

  19. keithpp Says:

    You can find lots of good stuff on bandcamp (and a lot of rubbish).

    I used to randomly click on what was currently selling.

    Once something interesting found, often who they were associated with was worth checking out.

    Serendipity, discovery and collaboration

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