in praise of Bandcamp


I really wanted to release this album on vinyl. Still do. But when I polled my Facebook friends about who might buy a vinyl record from me, the reaction gave me caution. “Release it also on wax cylinder, then we’ll talk”, someone said; others suggested that they’d buy it only if it had a really cool cover art, “as a collector’s item.”  All of this made me realize that my fan base is not one who ventures into Halcyon or Westsider Records all too often. Fair enough.

At the same time, I read somewhere that a friend of ours, upon receiving a free CD from an artist at an expo, decided instead to hear the same record on Spotify.  This made me realize that the last time I actually played a CD of mine was to make sure the mastering and spacing between the tracks was correct – not once ever again.  (I still own probably 1000 CDs from my college days, but those are most often played on repeat in the archives of memory.)

With the CD on its way out, and Spotify paying artists less than a penny per stream, I decided instead to release the album on my own terms, via my page on Bandcamp, circumventing the popular channels like iTunes and Amazon, and Spotify completely.

More than any other site, Bandcamp has several grand advantages — you can name your own price, upload audio at higher sample rates (double or triple the CD quality), embed any song or album on any website, and stream all of the music for free.  Unlike iTunes and Amazon, who respectively charge 33% and 55% fees on any sale, Bandcamp takes just 15%. Because of this, I was able to reduce my prices — buying any of my albums on Bandcamp costs just $2 for a download, or $7.50 per physical CD — and yes, I do take CDs to the post office myself, every week, though increasingly we sell downloads.

Bandcamp also gives me incredibly detailed stats on how many people stream each track, and how. Now I know that shorter tracks get streamed in entirety, but longer tracks get skipped midway. This is heartwarming, frankly – I listen exactly the same way sometimes while browsing. The stats also show that, on average, 1 in 13 people who stream the record will buy the entire album.

Over the past month, I have sold more digital copies of “Melting River” on Bandcamp than I have sold “Lost in Kino” in the entire year since its release. Though the download price is $2, most fans have generously elected to pay an average of $5, with some folks contributing $10 or even $15. I am incredibly excited, and grateful to everyone for their support.

I’m also very excited about the future of touring — in the past, touring with a suitcase or two of merch was a necessity.  In the near future, we plan to bring Bandcamp download cards.  If a memory of a show would cost only $2, would you buy it?

In short, I am incredibly grateful to our fans, and to Bandcamp, for making this possible. Sharing music has once again become personal, affordable, and happy for everyone involved.  The music industry will be fine — for now.

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