Bandcamp — Dead in the Streaming Age
Streaming Music 7: Bandcamp
Bandcamp is a likeable brand. They seem like nice people and they were likely the best option for artists through the transition from physical to digital medium. Artists could set their own prices in order to have control over the perceived value of their product, royalties to artists were the highest offered for MP3 sales with a distribution partner without selling to listeners directly, they quickly became respected as a company who put artists first and the links to sales pages integrated nicely with Soundcloud.
The problem with Bandcamp? They represent the problem with the music industry.
They represent the transitional period between physical music mediums and true digital accessible music (i.e. streaming).
In May 2016, Bandcamp took the liberty to post an article boasting about their business growth and insulting the streaming industry movement, indirectly implying that their model is a better solution.
The article starts by throwing around its metrics, a 35% growth over a year. But just what exactly do they mean by growth? Profit? — A good effort, and at least they’re not exploiting the tax loopholes associated with some of the big players in the streaming industry (as hinted to in their ‘now-quaint revenues-exceed-expenses sense’ comment).
In reality, all their metrics only indicates a good brand and marketing presence rather than a new industry model. People buy from Bandcamp because artists have been sold the idea that Bandcamp is a solution that gives more back to artists, then artists sell that idea onto consumers.
Their ‘subscription-based music streaming is an unproven business model’ argument is only as relevant as Bandcamp being an ‘uncontested artist-centric support plea model’. In this respect, streaming music can be looked at like electric cars. It’s something that everybody knows is required for a better world, it’s something that actually performs better than its classic competition and it’s something growing rapidly but not yet the leading option. Also, like electric cars, what holds it back is those making capital from the old ways.
Eventually consumers move along and they find easier ways to consume music as indicated by the pirating crisis that gave birth to all of these new industry solutions. What’s clear is that streaming music is the easiest way to both store and play music on demand. The only things stopping people having unlimited access to any music they like are internet connectivity, subscription costs and release legalities — all things which are increasingly being assessed and improved for listeners.
Bandcamp do focus all of their energy on being the best solution for artists. Their metrics reflect that they provide a service that consumers respond to, but what it doesn’t do is offer the buyers a better solution — something that will work better for them on the long term.
Streaming offers for consumers (at minimum):
· An on-demand option of music.
· Simple to use platforms.
· Personalised recommendations based on user data analysis.
· Marketing and music exposure through listening automation and automated playlist curation.
Bandcamp as a platform relies on artists and small labels to make their own marketing efforts. Whilst I’m sure a lot of them are capable of this, I personally would far rather see these artists and labels putting the time it takes to accomplish strategizing and running good marketing & sales campaigns, into making music instead.
The fact is, we’re talking about a future. This digital music age is more than just a choice for consumers between whether they want to buy CD or MP3, this movement is completely aligned with technological advances across the board as we move deeper into a highly connected digital reality. We’re talking about self-driving cars with Spotify built in, so a potential for taxis that you can control what music you want to listen to on your journey.
We’re talking about a further decrease of wiring and an increase in space-saving in an ever-overpopulated world. It’s not just the way consumers are choosing to listen to music, it’s why they are. These are the factors that matter.
The truth is, I think that Bandcamp feels threatened by the growth of the streaming model. That both makes me sad to see a company that means well falling into irrelevance and pleased to see the industry as a whole moving towards a new solution that suits both the consumer and the artist.
Bandcamp lives in a world where they want to let consumers continue in the status quo, regardless of the fact that it will become increasing difficult to do so. BDEM lives in a world where we embrace the future and want to see us move towards a technologically-advanced world that assists us on our day-to-day, makes things that should be easy, even easier, and gives us that feeling of freedom to be creative.