Every band should have a Bandcamp
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Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live recently called MySpace "the Internet's abandoned amusement park". How right he was. Bands are increasingly serving notice that they're no longer checking email on MySpace, often due to spam. Often that spam is other bands asking one to join them on Twitter or Facebook.
Meanwhile, MySpace looks as janky as it did five years ago. Pages take forever to load, the streaming player is rickety - if one can even find it amongst the thicket of widgets - and the "Music-Only" browser plug-in is often a necessity if one wants to hear actual music. MySpace is a hindrance, not a service.
There are some MySpace competitors, like ReverbNation and PureVolume. But does any music fan actually visit bands' pages on those sites? ReverbNation and PureVolume pages are simply too cluttered to be functional.
Bandcamp is much better as a competitor. It is all (well, almost all) of the good stuff of MySpace, without the bad stuff. MySpace's good stuff is (1) streaming player, and (2) social networking. MySpace's bad stuff is (1) hardly works (unreliable streaming player, primitive email functionality), and (2) ugly as hell (ads all over the place, template virtually impossible to improve). The bad stuff cancels out the good stuff.
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Here's what Bandcamp offers: streaming audio, access to lyrics and artwork (if a band offers it), and direct sales capability of music in all file formats - MP3, FLAC, AAC, etc. That's all a band needs, really. Social networking? Use Twitter and Facebook for that. Just drive people to your Bandcamp page, and they can stream and buy music instantly - with no intermediary like Amazon or iTunes. The interface is clean and simple. It invites one to stay. With Bandcamp, labels don't get to sign bands just by looking at profile views and play counts. That's a good thing. Maybe labels can sign bands based on what they actually sound like! Imagine that.
Here are five Bandcamps I recommend. I don't know of many more, since Bandcamp doesn't have (a) a directory (though it does have genre and location tags), or (b) the "everyone has one" ubiquity of MySpace. But Bandcamp's popularity will rise. It's that good. In the meantime, check these out.
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I told Kelly from Embers to get a Bandcamp. That let you guys download the band's tracks from its latest split for free. (I talked about those tracks here.) The Bandcamp has a link to buy the 12" with its awesome artwork. You can also download the band's 2007 debut for free. It's worth it. (I reviewed it in Decibel's demo column for the March '10 issue (Fear Factory cover).)
The Unnamed EP (reviewed here) is available for download for $5. You can also buy the 7" from the band's Big Cartel site. (Big Cartel is a simple store interface for selling physical product.) Stream all the tracks, look at their production credits. If only we could preview vinyl like this back in the day.
This is a new label that's a metal offshoot of the redoubtable Balkan label Moonlee. The label's Bandcamp has three bands up. My pick is True, a death metal band featuring tamburica, a traditional Croatian stringed instrument. Three euros get you the album as a download, and the artwork as a PDF.
Oskoreien is a folk/black metal act that's appearing on a compilation soon alongside the like-minded Agalloch, Fen, and October Falls. Fen is probably closest in sound. This two-track demo is quality stuff, and is available for free (or whatever price you choose).
I've waited for new material from Spain's Wormed for years. (I wrote about their Planisphaerium album in the early days of the site here.) Their technical death metal values "strange" as much as it does "finger-wiggling". Gorguts meets Origin, maybe? Now they have a two-song EP out, with graphics straight out of a rave flyer circa 1998. Their Bandcamp states, "All the money going to Wormed directly, no intermediaries". Ain't that great?
If you know of any more worthy Bandcamps (or want to plug yours or a friends'), please leave them in the comments box. And tell your musician friends who don't have one yet to get one. We need to get bands off this MySpace Titanic and onto this Bandcamp boat.