Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bandcampers: "This One Time at Bandcamp ... I Paid for a Download"

When my allowance was bounced up to $15 a week the only logical destination for my cash was the local record shop. There, I was guided through classics like Fresh Fruit For the Rotting Vegetables, Damaged, and Among the Living. When I looked for things on my own I was left with few options or waiting on the owner to order it. Scouring the web for obscure French black metal or long out of print British crust left few options as my parents wouldn't offer a credit card and money orders/mailing cash seemed a bit too much for me at 13. Enter Napster.

I cuaght the tail-end of Napster, but fully embraced (and later suffered) Kazaa and flimsily grasped torrents. Thankfully alternatives filled Napster's gap and Myspace/Youtube became the new purveyor for previewing a band. Still, the problem was unsolved for cds/records that were out of print and without alternative means some music simply became impossible to listen to. This is why, more than Myspace, which was never great at all, Bandcamp and similar sites have filled important roles.

Bandcamp to me is so crucial because it's so simple. No friends to add, or pictures and ads to get lost in, just the music I came here for. For those of you unfamiliar with Bandcamp, it is a site tailored to each artist/label that provides the ability to sell music as well as stream full releases. Downloads typically are "pay what you'd like to" and are available in almost every format/quality (many times free downloads are an option). Mathias Huxley, half of Australia's thedowngoing, points out that "...the direct connection between artist and fan is a great way for independent artists to keep their fans up to date on their music and releases." This connection is something lacking in entities like Amazon and iTunes.

Will Butler, sole dude behind To Live a Lie Records has been on a mission to upload as much of his label's discography as possible to bandcamp, and all for free. Proudly posted on TLAL's facebook Mr. Butler claims "zero dollars made on Bandcamp and counting!" While many bands and labels stress the option to download the music for free or whatever you wish, the streaming ability has proven to be another great asset. Fellow label runner, Adam Bartlett of Gilead Media, feels that...
"Bandcamp changed the way I operate the label. They've given me an amazing outlet for streaming and downloadable audio that directly benefits the bands and the label. They filled an enormous void where many other sites tried and failed."

While Mr. Bartlett and I's backgrounds might be different, I completely agree that Bandcamp has only been an improvement for fans, labels, and the bands themselves (and hopefully is the death knell for buggy, awful quality Myspace). I spend a lot of time going through records, whether it be in a real store, or online, so having the ability to listen beforehand has been humongous.

Many labels are using Bandcamp to showcase their catalog, Grindcore Karaokee however is an unusual presence in that it is a label strictly operating through Bandcamp. Run by Agoraphobic Nosebleed vocalist Jay Randall, Grindcore Karaokee has a vast catalog of bands covering every possible spectrum of grindcore and all available for streaming or free downloads. This offers a unique and easy to access platform for many smaller acts and those who lack the means for larger physical distribution.

I'll admit my perspective might be narrow in regards to the world of trends and the music biz, being that I grew up with cassettes and saw their demise and was really a child of CDs, but in an age were people are less inclined to pay for digital files, Bandcamp has been a pleasant surprise and an effective halfway point between blog-whoring download links and artists/labels getting their names out. As Mr. Butler points out...

"The Internet is a great place, and I'm scared the SOPA thing, ISP monitoring downloading, and the whole download blog crackdown is going to affect free underground music heavily... so these are my wants to keep my releases available for free (Bandcamp) and cheap but making the money count (digital distribution via my aggregator)."

If we are entering an era of a Phillip K. Dick-like crackdowns on internet freedoms, then Bandcamp might be a strong contender for maintaining our collective wants as enthusiasts and supporters of independent bands and labels.


TheThirdChildren said...

Bandcamp only accepts PayPal and credit cards from countries approved by PayPal. Sucks for me as I live in a country not on the list.

Otherwise it is great and it's the biggest reason for wanting PayPal. Big thanks to Randall & others who put out their stuff for free.

Andrew Childers said...

i still miss record stores. but i find myself investing more in vinyl. i actually have to take time out of my life specifically to listen to music when it's on vinyl. i've found it's actually become a more important musical experience to me.

but yes, bandcamp is extremely important and necessary. it's cool to break the backs of the old record label power base and directly connect to the fanbase.

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