;singer-songwriter Jewelia at Staycation Live 2014 / Keith Parkins


The surprise is not that artists use bandcamp, the surprise is that they use anything else.

Keith Parkins
Dec 25, 2014 · 10 min read

Great music is priceless, bad music is worthless — Steve Lawson

The best way to support an artist is to pay then directly. — Ethan Diamond

When I am at a live music festival for example Staycation Live and the musicians tell the crowd to find them on iTunes I groan, when they tell the crowd to find them on spotify I want to scream out loud.

Why oh why, are they sending people to sites where everyone gets ripped off, where everyone gets a raw deal?

Amazon or iTunes, take a big cut, iTunes even charges for being there, spotify you do not even want to go down that sewer. The least said about spotify the better, other than major record labels have a stake and artists receive a pittance.

Bandcamp by contrast, takes somewhere between ten and fifteen per cent. It used to be a straight thirteen per cent.

With Amazon, a few seconds lofi sample. That is to insult both the musicians and those wishing to listen. How can you judge a piece of music in a few seconds except maybe to reject as unbelievably bad?

On the other hand on bandcamp, can listen to entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128.

Ethan Diamond on bandcamp at XOXO Festival http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/ethan-diamond-on-bandcamp-at-xoxo-festival-2014/

Bandcamp was co-founded by Ethan Diamond as a site for musicians.

The principle behind bandcamp is if you want to support musicians then pay them directly, not pay a global corporation in the hope that something trickles down to the artists.

Two years ago, I found few artists knew about bandcamp, now I am finding more and more do, and it offers both them and their fans a very good deal. And yet what is strange, they are still directing fans anywhere other than bandcamp, even when they themselves are on bandcamp.

It is not only they and their fans, by directing to bandcamp, they benefit all the other independent artists who are on bandcamp.

If you have the resources to record an album and if not, play a few gigs, crowd source, then you do not need a record label.

Sometimes artists have their own kludgy media player on their website. Why re-invent an inferior wheel, when you can embed bandcamp media player?

From the perspective of the fans, you can listen to an album on-line, the entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128 unlike Amazon or iTunes where all you get is a few seconds lofi sample.

Download is easy. And can download hifi not lofi, mp3 320, or better still studio quality non-lossy FLAC.

Monsters http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/monsters/

Fans can choose to pay more. Many do. Jewelia recently reported someone paying £30 for an album listed at £5 (or maybe it was for the free download).

Monsters her début album, limited edition signed copy or digital download.

snapshot of bandcamp sales

Artists set a low price, sometimes free, leaving fans to pay more if they wish. Because fans are not being ripped off, because they know the money is going to the artist, they quite happily pay more.

Selling Right Now: Monsters sold for £25, £20 over the asking price.
Selling Right Now: Yippee Ki Yay sold for $20, $20 above asking price.
Selling Right Now: The Kitchen Table sold for £16, £7 over asking price.
Selling Right Now: Monsters sold for £15, £10 over the asking price.
Selling Right Now: Monsters sold for £10, £5 above the asking price.

Bandcamp has a very unusual feature. What is selling is shown in real time, including how much is being paid over and above the asking price. This is in addition to a listing of the top selling albums.

La Plata http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/la-plata/

A very recent feature is video. For which artists have to be bandcamp pro subscribers and pay $10 per month. Main advantage is no advertising embedded in the video.

La Plata http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/la-plata/

From my brief experimentation, video comes associated with track or album, as opposed to being able to embed separately cf youtube or vimeo.

Artists get the data.

Bandcamp is a model of how websites should be.

Bandcamp is not backed by venture capitalists. It is not supported by advertising or abuse of personal data. It is supported by the music community.

Because of the way bandcamp works, especially its sharing button, word, essentially word of mouth, spreads laterally, or in other words peer to peer.

In essence this is the gift economy, sharing, collaborative economy at work.

If you like a piece of music or an artist, you spread word of mouth using social media.

Those who like, will spread the word, they may download, they may toss some money by the way of the artist, they may attend a gig.

The Way of the Bow https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/the-way-of-the-bow-8fa015ad5713

And it is not only music, spoken word too.

Serendipity plays a part, as people stumble across something they may like, or a friend may tell them, or share with them. I stumbled across Quantic whilst writing this article on bandcamp.

The important aspect here is sharing.

Those who share, do not get anything out of it, thus a gift, but the artist may benefit through their collaboration. The artist will then feel it is a viable way to earn a living, and do what they wish to do, play and produce more music.

Everyone has a stake in the outcome.

It would be an interesting social experiment, having mentioned Jewelia, what difference she sees.

The big record labels hate the internet, they complain of piracy, criminalise those who wish to listen to music.

Bandcamp turns this on its head, far from seeing the internet as bad, sees as a force for good, the means to share music.

If I listen or download music for free, no one has lost out. On the other hand, if I like, I may buy, I may attend a gig, I may tell others. In other words an opportunity has been created.

And it is a truism, I cannot like a piece of music until I have heard it. Through sharing, makes it more likely to hear it.

Those artists who only make available a few seconds lofi sample, or in too many cases, nothing at all, are not doing themselves or their fans any favours.

Hope & Social make their music available for free for digital downlands, the productions costs for a CD. They do not get ripped off. Turn up to one of their gigs, buy a CD, you set the price.

Cotton Wool and Knotted Wood http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/cotton-wool-and-knotted-wood/

Cotton Wool and Knotted Wood a beautiful magical live acoustic album from Hope & Social is on a pay-what-you-think-it-is-worth or what-you-can-afford model. For CD it is minimum price of what the CD costs to produce (plus shipping).

Crypt Covers: Golden Brown performed by Duke Special and Hope & Social http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/crypt-covers-golden-brown/

The Crypt Cover Project, Hope & Social invited musicians down into the crypt, their recording studio within the crypt of a church, and within the space of a day they record a song and get it on-line the next day. They have now collected the first series of recordings together Crypt Covers I and released on bandcamp.

FingerPainting https://medium.com/@keithpp/fingerpainting-f68a1c01dbb8

Steve Lawson released FingerPainting, a multi-album set of a recent tour on bandcamp. This would not have been possible, it would not even have entered the mindset, within a major record label. He has also put the multi-album set on a memory stick, in a little presentation box.

Cellist Zoe Keating published her accounts on-line, to enable people to see a breakdown of her income.

  • iTunes 32,170 single tracks and 3,862 albums netted her just over $38,195
  • Bandcamp 185 tracks and 2,899 albums netted her $25,575
  • Amazon mixture of physical and mp3 earned her $11,571
  • Spotify 403,035 streams earned her $1,764

Apple keeps 30% of iTunes sales, bandcamp takes a 10% cut of sales.

On bandcamp, albums considerably outsell tracks.

One of the curious features of bandcamp, implicit rather than explicit, is that is encourages collaboration and innovation, for example the release by Steve Lawson of a multi-album set of a tour, which was the result of a collaboration between himself, Daniel Berkman and Artemis.

Artemis has released Triptych, a three album trilogy. The artwork of Triptych I (Eight for a Wish) was created by San Francisco artist Eden Gallanter, inspired by the song Supernova, which she heard the first time Artemis performed it live, at DNA Lounge in December 2012. It is well worth exploring more of Eden’s deeply intuitive art and science through her new Cheimonette Tarot deck at kickstarter. The deck includes a compilation CD of music inspired by the cards and Eden’s readings — songs from Meredith Yayanos, Jill Tracy, Unwoman, Mark Growden, Star St. Germain, Myrrh Larsen and Artemis.

The Triptych trilogy was released as a series of limited editions with artwork.

That is another feature of bandcamp, limited editions.


Jazz pianist and composer Will Todd is a classic of how not to.

I happened upon a rehearsal in a church for a concert that evening. A large poster for Lux Et Veritas. Had Will Todd been around I may have bought a copy of Lux Et Veritas. I was told he would be there in the evening. I checked out his website. Big record label outmoded thinking stamped all over it. Snippets of videos, lofi mp3 samples. This does absolutely no justice to the works of Will Todd and is an insult to those who may like and wish to listen to his music. He is not doing himself any favours.

A frack free compilation http://www.frackfreesussex.co.uk/a-frack-free-compilation

Balcombe in Sussex has found itself at the front line in the fight against fracking. Brighton has many excellent musicians, therefore makes a lot of sense for Frack Free Sussex to issue a compilation album featuring local musicians as a fund raising exercise, although personally I do not like compilation albums. But, a youtube video with tiny snippets, not possible to hear entire album, no links to the artists contributing, have to search around even to find how to buy. On the other hand, had they uploaded album to bandcamp, set pay-what-you-wish, they would have reached a far wider audience, raised more money, could have embedded the bandcamp media player, and still sold the album through their own on-line shop. All the more ironic, several of the artists have released on bandcamp.

The Kitchen Table http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/the-kitchen-table/

Carrie Tree released her début album The Kitchen Table on bandcamp, and yet regrettably did not release her later albums on bandcamp. Her latest album Home to the Invisible is on offer as a bundle with her first album. Only no way of knowing if Home to the Invisible worth listening to, as cannot listen to. Even more perverse, it was pre-order on iTunes. Home to the Invisible was made possible through crowd funding.

Give Your Heart to the Hawks

Give Your Heart To The Hawks by Evi Vine, all of 59 seconds.

What is the point, releasing music, then making it difficult to listen to?

Were I a radio producer, not a writer, they would be beating a path to my door asking to be put on my play list.

Very strange, musicians release music, which one would suspect they wish one to listen to, then make it difficult if not impossible to listen to.

Going back to the musicians telling the crowd where to find them, this time they say find us on bandcamp.

This makes a huge difference. Because of sharing, anyone who finds them, can click share, and immediately share with their friends, hey this is who I saw, they were great, word spreads. Or they may write about them and embed the bandcamp media player. Why write about music if no one can listen to what you are writing about? That would be as dumb as writing about a book or an author and not citing a few passages. Or writing about a work of art without a picture.

Although bandcamp is a centralised site not peer to peer per se, how it works in practice is peer to peer. There is lateral communication, and that is the key to the success of bandcamp, enabled by a share button.

We should never underestimate the power of sharing, of word of mouth.

What bandcamp does for music and the spoken word, leanpub does for the written word.

Sharing is encouraged, writers set a low price, readers can pay more if they wish, a slider shows what goes to the writer, what to the publisher, with leanpub taking a small cut.

As with bandcamp, which automatically converts to selected download format, leanpub does the same, and converts to appropriate download format for an e-book.

Leanpub has an interesting feature. E-book can be published in parts, in essence serialised. Once the reader has paid for their book, they get regular updates cf software updates. This was how all the great 19th literature was published, in serial form.

In the sharing economy, collaborative commons, a website should be an enabler that charges a small fee for its role, made self-financing by the users.

Bandcamp and leanpub fulfil that role.

Lotus Flower by Jewelia http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/lotus-flower-2/
Lotus Flower by Jewelia http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/lotus-flower-2/

As is is Christmas, Lotus Flower by Jewelia, which was released on Christmas Day as a gift. Enjoy the video, or download and share from bandcamp.

Note: An edited version of this article posted on P2P Foundation, and reposted on wordpress.

Top Story 24↑7 (Tuesday 25 August 2015).

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Keith Parkins

Written by

Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade