I’ve been putting records out since 1993. I was out of the game for many years when I got back into recording about six years ago. At that point, a lot had changed.
First of all, CDs had gone by the wayside, replaced by popular streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, and most recently, Apple Music. Services like TuneCore made it much easier and more affordable to get your music on many popular distribution channels at once.
So when I put out my first record in many years, 2017’s In Between the Spaces, I used TuneCore to get my record on iTunes and the other platforms mentioned above. I did the same thing on Bandcamp, but without really considering that to be my top way of getting my music out there.
Since then, I’ve become much more of a Bandcamp power user of sorts, simply because I feel like it suits my needs as an independent musician much better than the other platforms. Since In Between the Spaces, I’ve curated all of my music on Bandcamp, and it’s become my favorite online destination to showcase and sell my music. I haven’t even put my most recent LP, Lost Angeles, on TuneCore yet because… well, it costs money, and all of these other reasons below why I think Bandcamp is the best place to focus my efforts and precious time in terms of distributing my music.
Let’s start to unpack why Bandcamp is so great.
#1. Bandcamp lets me build a following
I get notified every time I make a sale, which, honestly, is not only motivating and gratifying, but also rewarding in that I get the buyer’s email address. I always follow up with an email to them asking if I can put them on my email list. With streams on Spotify and sales on iTunes, I have no idea who’s buying and no way to convert them into becoming a fan and follower.
I can build a following on Bandcamp. Bandcamp lets people follow you, so I can message them directly, anytime I want. I tend to only do this when I’m releasing new singles, which I typically do for free on the average of about every four to six weeks. Perhaps more importantly…
I can export email addresses. When you follow someone on Bandcamp, it also asks you if you’d like to join their mailing list. All this means is that the musician can then export, at any time, the email addresses collected this way. This is huge, because email is a free way of making announcements, versus something like running sponsored posts on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and the like.
Bandcamp also lets you choose if you require an email address for someone to free-download a track. I don’t use this option, but it’s yet another way Bandcamp helps you collect email addresses.
I can connect with my listeners. Anyone can comment on your music, and can contact you right from your page for each song or single. I don’t play out live anymore, so getting appreciative emails from fans all over the world saying how much they like the music is incredibly rewarding. With iTunes and Spotify, there’s no way for someone to contact you.
#2. Bandcamp gives me sweet insights
I can see how many plays I’m getting in real-time. Plus as you can see from the below, I can see them charted out by “all time,” 60, 30, or 7-day view, and Today. This is invaluable for telling me what’s most popular, and for seeing spikes based on any social media posts or other promotion someone else might be doing (like an album review, for example).
I can see my sales to the day. With iTunes and Spotify, I have no idea when something sells, or streams. I guess for iTunes sales I can look at my TuneCore monthly or annual report or whatever they offer these days, but that feels about as lame as having an old-school accountant I have to dial with my rotary phone.
#3. Bandcamp gives me full control and flexibility
I can quickly and easily share links to specific songs and records. OK, I can do this with iTunes and Spotify, too, but when someone goes to my Bandcamp page, they’re seeing my whole catalog and everything else I’m talking about here. iTunes and Spotify are all about the interface, not about my music or the community and following I’m building.
I can embed songs in my blog or website. As someone who tries to blog fairly regularly, this is also huge and helps make a connection between my writing and my music. You can do this with Spotify and iTunes as well, but Bandcamp’s player is clean and simple, and potentially leads the user to all that other good stuff above.
I get a dedicated page for every single. This is a big one for me. I view every song I do as a work of art on its own, in addition to being part of a larger collection. Plus I typically release one song at a time, so each song has its own page with lots of nice options for supplementary information and context, including the ability to add lyrics, a story about the song, credits, tags, and custom artwork. Oh, plus once all of these singles add up to an LP, I can make a page for the LP, too. I can’t do this on iTunes or Spotify—I’m stuck having to release a full EP or record like once a year, and there’s no way to contextualize or color each single or LP with all of this information that constitutes a more customized experience from me as the artist.
I can direct traffic to my other social media channels and website. Bandcamp’s page template lets you list all of your social media channels in the right rail. This is genius, and again, Bandcamp’s way of making this about you, not about them as the platform that doesn’t necessarily have a vested interest in taking you off their platform by jumping to your social media pages.
I can display my full discography. I love that my main Bandcamp page automatically displays a tiled view of my entire catalog of LPs and singles. It’s a great place to send both fans and press, to get the full picture of what I’ve been up to these past few years.
I can add, replace or delete music whenever I want. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. I haven’t done it often, but there have been times when I’ve released a song, and realized a few days later I wasn’t happy with the mix or the master. With Bandcamp, I can easily overwrite the “source” .WAV file, and then that’s the one people can download. I’ve also recorded a song or two that I released, but later decided I didn’t want it to be public anymore, or at least temporarily. With Bandcamp, I can simply set that track to “private,” so no one can see it, but all the info and files I’ve put on that page are available for me to public again at any time.
I can toggle between selling or giving. My current system is to release singles for free, then when the collection of songs is built to an LP, I set them for sale only. I have no idea if this is good business or not, and it doesn’t matter a whole lot for a small fry like me in terms of sales. But I love having the option, and I believe in getting paid for my hard work. It lets me give it away to help more exposure for a certain period of time, then lets me say, “OK, it’s time to pony up for the full record” whenever I want. Again, this just isn’t possible with iTunes and streaming platforms like Spotify, and it’s one of those things that makes me want to sell (or not) on Bandcamp exclusively—because it gives me that flexibility.
People can donate if they want. I love that Bandcamp lets you do this. When I set up a song or LP page, I can tick a box that allows people to donate more than the asking price. I can tell you that as a musician, there’s no better feeling than someone paying you MORE than what you’re humbly asking for in exchange for all the time, money, energy, care, and thought I put into my music.
Did I mention… ?
Bandcamp’s app is awesome. I can check my plays and sales, and easily message followers anytime, without an email campaign. It’s a very clean and simple dashboard to see what’s going on with your music and community in real-time. I love the usability—clean, simple, no bells and whistles to clutter it up. Love it.
Let me know what you think
If you’re a musician and you’re thinking about selling your music online, what are your thoughts on selling exclusively on Bandcamp? Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
And thanks for reading, I appreciate it. Now go listen to some of my music, and consider donating, on my Bandcamp page.