Every label should have a Bandcamp

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Every label should have a Bandcamp. It’s that simple. A record label is a business, and an important goal of any business is to make money. If an artist can crack the Billboard charts purely with Bandcamp – Zoë Keating, #7 Billboard classical chart, no iTunes, no label – a label with an aggregation of artists can do much more.

Bandcamp helps labels make money in three ways:

1. Fully functional

Recorded music as a basis for purchase boils down to two things: (1) getting people to hear music, and (2) getting people to buy it. Bandcamp offers both these functions with its streaming music player and capability to (a) sell digital downloads directly and (b) link to physical purchases.

2. Lightweight and portable

By lightweight, I mean that labels don’t have to host album streams anymore. Now they don’t have to worry about building web pages, putting audio players on them, and paying for bandwidth to stream audio. By portable, I mean that Bandcamp audio players – complete with purchase links – are shareable in every meaningful content distribution network: email, Facebook, blog platforms, and so on. This changes the flow of energy from inwards to outwards. Before, labels tried to direct web traffic into landing pages that contained audio players and store links. Now each Bandcamp widget is a little landing page with audio player and store capability – and infinite numbers of these widgets can propagate throughout the Internet.

3. Label retains control

The past year has seen an explosion in streaming audio as events on sites such as this one. Track premieres! Full album streams! Guess what: that’s not necessarily the best way to do things.

First, album streams are a pain in the ass for all involved. Multiple uploads and downloads must occur between the music provider and the music streamer. The music provider also must deliver promotional materials (images, video) alongside the actual music. Of course, a creative, full-blown multimedia ad campaign – and that’s what a properly mounted album stream is – can be effective – but it potentially takes a lot of time and resources.

Second, when a website hosts an album stream, the website is the real winner, not the label or artist. The website gets tons of traffic that the label or artist could have gotten, and – assuming that the website is considerate enough to include a purchase link alongside the stream – fans have to go through an additional click to purchase the music. If you are selling music, you want fans to be able to purchase music at the same time and place that they hear it. Every displacement away from that will cause a drop-off in conversions, i.e., purchases.

So with Bandcamp, you’re not beholden to some blog presenting your album stream for you. If I, a blog owner, negotiate an exclusive album stream with you, that just means that I’ve taken your audio off the rest of the market. On the other hand, if you’ve set up a Bandcamp, you can just disseminate that link, let people embed the widgets, and your market is potentially the whole Internet.

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Two caveats:

1. Bandcamp takes a cut

15% until you hit $5000 in sales, then 10% afterwards. (See details here.) Of course, every method of distribution comes with costs (fees, percentage cuts, shipping costs), and Bandcamp is no different. So you may want to use Bandcamp to augment, not replace your web store.

2. Sometimes an album stream is the way to go.

If your choice is between having NPR deliver an exclusive stream, and simply giving NPR the same Bandcamp link that you give the rest of the Internet, you’d probably want to go with NPR’s stream just to lock in, at least initially, a big number of eyeballs (and ears) that will be exposed to the music. If after your deal with NPR expires, you want to spread a Bandcamp link around, you still have that option.

Most labels, though, aren’t in a position to get one of the few NPR streams each year. That’s fine; my point is that Bandcamp offers them tools that previously only were available to labels with much higher budgets.

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Here are some labels doing good things with Bandcamp.

Grindcore Karaoke

Every single fuckin’ release is downloadable for free, complete with liner notes. Is this even a label, or is it really just J. Randall’s download blog? We interviewed him here; you can decide for yourself. If you really, really, really like grindcore – 56 releases currently up; can J. Randall even tell them apart? – this is your jam. We’ve reviewed two out of the 56 releases so far, Romero and Gripe.

Heavy Artillery

If you’re a metalhead stuck in the ’80s, Heavy Artillery may be for you. We’ve written about Spellcaster and Evil Survives, Vektor, and Volture. The latest At War record is underrated, too.

NoVisible Scars

Very cool cassette label making a foray into digital. The specialties are underground hessian metal and noise. Somehow that makes complete sense. Check out Nightbitch and Vestal Claret, both downloadable for free.

Relapse

Relapse is the biggest label I know with a Bandcamp, and, boy, are they doing it right. This is your chance to stream a lot of their current catalogue for free before Spotify establishes its US presence. Currently 55 releases are up, though not-yet-released ones have little to no audio. (Right now I’m streaming “Natasha”, the 37-minute doom/noise behemoth that’s my favorite music by Pig Destroyer. Fuggit, I’ll embed it right here. See how easy Bandcamp is?) You can also preview and pre-order upcoming releases.

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Tankcrimes

If you like your metal lo-fi, punky, and skateboard-y, Tankcrimes is for you. Some stuff is free (check out the Obsessor EP), and a lot is cheap (check out the Abscess/Population Reduction split).

Throatruiner

Super-cool French label oriented towards post-hardcore/grindcore/sludge. Every single fuckin’ release is downloadable for free (you’ll have to click through to the actual Bandcamp pages, which provide Mediafire links). I am super-big on Nesseria (for fans of Converge and The Secret – fuggit, I’ll embed it right here; see how easy Bandcamp is?), and I’m super-stoked on the upcoming split between Nesseria and Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire.

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Know of any more labels doing Bandcamp right? If so, please let us know in the comments.

— Cosmo Lee

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This post is a follow-up to “Every band should have a Bandcamp”.
Thanks to reader Max R for the suggestion.

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