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Bandcamp Free: Everything you need to know (Updated 2022)

Bandcamp is a clean and modern platform with a unique model that pays artists their fair share and then some. The only gripe I have with Bandcamp is that its Discover function makes it harder to find new artists than it should be. Regardless, ethnomusicologists will look back at Bandcamp and marvel at its uniqueness for having a democratic model, which makes it stand out amongst a sea of predatory, exploitative companies.


Nicole Sommer
Last updated: Saturday, 03.June 2023
Author Biography
Hello. My name is Nicole Sommer. I am a big soccer enthusiast and do a lot of reserach around the easiest way to watch soccer on TV and online across the whole globe.
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This is the joke - for indie musicians, DIY bands, and music lovers who are interested in finding out about new and obscure music, Bandcamp is a huge source of fun. I am talking about the platform that has become very closely associated with the DIY music scene in America. You can see it easily on any college campus - there are usually many young people who have an album or five up on Bandcamp.
So Bandcamp is a website where people can upload, buy, and share music. It started out as a way for people to sell music they made themselves, but now it's also a place where people can buy music from other artists. People are hype about it because back in the mid-2010s, it was one of the first places where bands could sell their music online.
Here I will be examining whether or not Bandcamp is worth its salt. Is it an effective platform for discovering new tunes? And is it just for obscure artists to post their garage-band basement sludge EPs? What differentiates it from other similar platforms? Let's find out.

How it Started

The Oakland, California-based company Bandcamp began to grow in 2010 when Amanda Palmer eschewed her record labels in favor of hosting them on the platform and taking promo-responsibilities into their own hands. Indie game developers quickly followed suit, hosting their games soundtracks on the platform. Quickly, the DIY zeitgeist of this era found expression in Bandcamp's model, and it quickly gained popularity throughout the music scene.
Since its creation in 2008, Bandcamp has become the go-to platform for small-scale musicians to host, promote, and sell their albums and merchandise online. While it doesn't generate quite the same excitement it did during its salad days, it has staying power, and likely will for some time to come.

How it Works

Many of us know that musicians and artists are not given much respect in the economic sphere. The puny payments bands are given for their streaming royalties, the manner in which lesser-known artists are treated by the music industry itself, or any of the other mistreatment small artists receive, all lead to a sense that something is out of balance. This is why Bandcamp?s beauty lies in its fairness towards artists. By giving these artists the same pay that is given to more well-known artists, Bandcamp is helping to restore balance to the music industry and ensure that all voices are heard.
The timeless cliché of the starving artist is as old as civilization itself, but today more than ever, with income inequality at a peak, musicians and other creatives bear the brunt of economic injustice more harshly than most professions. This is why Bandcamp?s model has won them such a loyal following with those in DIY and low-level music scenes.
Many people have called Bandcamp an "online record store," but I don't know of any stores that only allow you to pay for records if you want to. This is Bandcamp's greatest strength, because as an artist, you have the freedom to offer your music either as donation-based content (pay whatever you want) or access-only paid content. Although this freedom may seem inconsequential, it affords artists more control than they've had for centuries.
As stated on Bandcamp's website, the company's core belief is that "music is an indispensable part of culture, and for that culture to thrive, artists deserve to be compensated fairly and transparently." Without this belief, our mission would be meaningless, and we've built our business around a model that puts the artist first.
Bandcamp charges no hosting fees or membership fees, taking only 15% of any money an artist makes on sales.
Let's say Tommy Longtooth offers his album for $10 on Bandcamp. For every album he sells, he'll take home $8.50 and Bandcamp will keep $1.50. Jenny Frogtongue decides to post her album as a "pay what you want?" offering. If somebody decides to pay Jenny x amount of money for her album, Bandcamp will only take a cut.
So, to reiterate, Bandcamp only makes money if the artist makes money. This is beneficial to musicians because it incentivizes Bandcamp to help their artists make money. If you're a struggling musician, this might be the first time you've ever heard of a large company doing such a thing. If you're a music fan, you'll also be happy to know that you're dealing with a platform that takes care of its musicians. It's reassuring to know that the money you pay for an album is actually going to the person who created it.
Many people find allure in Bandcamp because it hosts a wide variety of untapped talent. Sure, there are Tens of Thousands of talented musicians with personal websites or Facebook pages, but how could you accidentally stumble upon them? Very difficult. With Bandcamp, you can browse through unknown bands, allowing chance to guide you along. Maybe out of every Five bands you listen to, four sound like the large intestine of an elephant. Don't let that dissuade you though; keep searching and you're bound to find gold.

Design of the Website

Do you want to go to the website's main landing page and see a pretty standard showcase banner featuring curated playlists, listening guides, and best-of lists? Beneath this banner, you will see a randomly generated "Selling Now" list. This list is updated in real-time with the tracks that have just been purchased. Scroll down and you will find Bandcamp Daily's section. This section is updated daily with album-of-the-day picks, op-ed articles, curated lists, and staff picks.
As I write this, Bandcamp Daily is streaming the album Batuco by the Mexico City-based group Son Rompe Pera. This album is described as a modern distillation of Mexican, Peruvian, and Colombian folk and I've found a new treasure in 5 minutes.
I browsed through a few artists' pages and noticed that they all looked very similar. I think that continuity between profiles helps fans navigate the platform more easily. An artist can customize their page to a certain degree, but the basic layout remains fixed, and I find this one of Bandcamp's strengths. Each profile is sleek, streamlined, and free from clutter, which makes it easy to find what you are looking for when you discover a new artist.

Prime Video?s Weaknesses

The catch with having such an equitable platform is that it attracts masses of musicians. This creates an infinitude of content, and Bandcamp has not done the best job managing this. One would hope that the Discover function would make it easy to browse through the catalog and find new bands, but in reality, the algorithm seems pretty weak. It works in a similar way to Pandora did in its heyday, in which it will recommend songs it thinks is similar to what you just listened to, but it often falls short of my standards.
It seems that this can be mostly blamed on Bandcamp's focus on their artists, rather than their fans. Perhaps a slight re-balancing of priorities would be in order. If Bandcamp managed to pay their artists the same rate they do now, while also creating a top-notch Discover system, it could really capture the loyalty of music-discoverers everywhere.
Nicole Sommer
Nicole Sommer is a true soccer fan and loyal supporter of FC Arsenal and 1.FC Köln. She plays actively her self as central forward in the women's aquad of TuS Köln in Germany. In her spare time she spends a lot of time online including researching the soccer streaming space. Her research has been published in several online soccer magazines.
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