Bandcamp Doesn’t Need to Replace Streaming to Win Big

It’s good for musicians, and for fans, too

  • Bandcamp’s app just added user-creatable playlists.
  • It won’t replace streaming, but it doesn’t have to.
  • Bandcamp is one of the best places to discover new music.
A MacBook on a desk with audio equipmemt and headphones, with Bandcamp displayed on the computer screen.

Stocksnap / Mockup Photos

Bandcamp app users can now add their purchased tracks to playlists and listen to those playlists offline.

Bandcamp's app is quite curious. You can listen to the daily-pick playlists and also access and listen to any of your purchased tracks. Now, with the addition of offline playlists, it adds an essential feature that takes it one step closer to rivaling purpose-built streaming apps. But it will probably never be able to replace them—and that's just fine. 

"Now, about using Bandcamp as your main music app as a consumer, I'm not sure if it would be viable for the majority of listeners," Ramiro Somosierra, a musician and founder of Gear Aficionado, told Lifewire via email. "Mostly because the catalog is restricted to the bands that use the platform actively, and as far as I know, they are not licensing songs from musicians outside their scope."

Band Together

Bandcamp is a store where independent artists can sell their music. It can be a straight download, or you can add a physical format—cassette or vinyl, but in all cases, you can also stream your purchases at any time on the website or in the app. This makes it super convenient to support a band by buying their music because you can listen to it immediately on your phone. 

"I think Bandcamp is a great alternative for smaller artists seeking to monetize their work. Other streaming platforms favor the big stars to the detriment of indie musicians," says Somosierra. 

What makes the Bandcamp app stand out is that it offers unique content you can't find anywhere else.

What Bandcamp is not is a fully-stocked streaming service. Because it is made up mainly of indie artists and labels, it doesn't have the depth of catalog that streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music do. Nor is there any way to pay a fixed monthly subscription fee for unlimited streaming. While many, if not most, artists let you listen to their music for free to check it out; the idea is that you buy the music.

It's a perfect concept. The artist gets the majority of the payment (and on Bandcamp Fridays, Bandcamp forgoes its cut), you get to enjoy the music however you like, and you can find stuff that's just not available elsewhere. 

"Bandcamp is vital to artists because the goal of this creator economy that we are all building is to allow individual creators to be in complete control of their income, which will ultimately lead to a better global humanity," Jamal Hansen, artistic director of OTAON Music, told Lifewire via email.

Your Only App?

Bandcamp is best used in combination with a streaming service. If you like an artist you find on Apple Music, you can buy their records so they can actually make money from their work. Or you can check out the amazing Bandcamp Daily blog, which is, in my opinion, one of the best places on the internet to find interesting new music. 

"What makes the Bandcamp app stand out is that it offers unique content you can't find anywhere else. It is a platform for independent artists to sell and promote their music directly to fans, so the app features a wide range of genres and artists that you might not have heard of before. I find it user-friendly and easy to use. It has a simple interface that makes it easy to find new music and browse different genres more so than iTunes or Spotify. The audio also is higher quality (trust me, I am an audio engineer), and it is available in both FLAC and MP3 formats," audio engineer and music production blogger Talal Khan told Lifewire via email.

Someone sitting on a leather sofa with headphones on listening to music from a laptop.

Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

You then combine this with a streaming app for your more mainstream tastes. It's kind of like a modern equivalent of listening to the radio (free) and then buying the vinyl or CD (not free). But with this new app update that adds the ability to create playlists from your purchased songs, the lines are blurred a little. 

Bandcamp is not, as we have said, a replacement for Spotify, etc. But on the other hand, it could be. It's not necessary to have access to all music at all times. Sometimes a little scarcity can make you better enjoy what you do have, and with Bandcamp, you don't have to buy a record player and catch the vinyl habit to do it.

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