Why Bandcamp Is the Best Place to Support Musicians

The blog is fantastic, artists get more money, and there's even vinyl.

Key Takeaways

  • Bandcamp connects artists and fans.
  • The site takes a straight 10%-15% cut of download sales.
  • Bandcamp Daily may be the best place to find new music on the internet.
wireless headphones leaning against books

blocks / Unsplash

If you’re looking for new music, you might head to Twitter or Facebook. Don’t. Instead, head over to Bandcamp and get your musical mind blown.

Bandcamp is a marketplace where you can buy downloads, vinyls, even cassettes, and you can stream your purchases with the Bandcamp app. But more important than all that are two simple features. Bandcamp connects artists directly with fans, and the artists actually get most of the money you spend. Oh, and it has a killer blog for finding new music.

"Bandcamp's ‘Fair Trade Music Policy’ is certainly very favorable for artists, but they’re a very small player in a market dominated by streaming platform giants such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube," says Brian Clark of music website MusicianWave. "I feel that the business model of buying music is now outdated in comparison to how the general population currently consumes music."

Streaming Is Killing Music

When you listen to a track on Spotify or Apple Music, the artist gets almost nothing.

"Although the total monies paid over to the music industry are significant, streaming services pay fractions of a penny per stream. How that is paid out to artists is arguably one of the major issues in the current business model of music streaming," researcher, music producer, and mix engineer Ahmed Gelby told Lifewire via email.

"I feel that the business model of buying music is now outdated in comparison to how the general population currently consumes music."

Bandcamp lets artists control what you can stream for free, like a kind of pre-purchase sample. Then, if you like it, you can buy it. The site offers lossless and MP3 downloads, streaming, and physical media. Usually, that means vinyl, but sometimes it means you get a tape. Physical purchases also include the digital version. Bandcamp’s angle is that it works like a storefront, taking a 10%-15% cut of download sales.

Crucially, when you buy music on Bandcamp, you connect directly with the artist. You can choose to receive news on future releases, concerts, promotions, anything. Compare this to streaming, where the artist has zero connection with their fans. As well as taking most of the money, streaming services and record labels control the entire relationship. 

Does Anyone Care About the Artists?

If you ask a Spotify or Apple music user if they think artists should be paid for their work, they’ll probably answer "yes." But they may not know the truth.

"I think a huge demographic have no understanding of how musicians make a living and consequently have a difficulty understanding that streaming pays increasingly little to artists," says Gelby.

MusicanWave’s Clark agrees.

"There is such a vast supply of music in the industry that I feel that music is now seen as a commodity by subscribers," says Clark. "Many subscribers don't care that artists are getting such a bad deal from music platforms, while others are simply unaware."

a music room with instruments set up and the lights turned on

John Matychuk / Unsplash

For streaming services, music is just "content," interchangeable units whose purpose is to fill their catalogs like coal being shoveled into a steam engine. Quality doesn’t matter, and neither do the artists. In a disturbing trend, creators themselves have started referring to their own work as "content."

Meanwhile, these artists are the folks who take the hit when things go wrong.

"We have seen artists take some of the biggest hits of any field because of the closure of venues and the availability of live performances," Graeme Rattray of Home Studio Labs told Lifewire via email. 

"Although the total monies paid over to the music industry are significant, streaming services pay fractions of a penny per stream."

Outlets like Bandcamp not only provide an honest marketplace for musicians; they also actively promotes them. Possibly the best part of Bandcamp is its new music blog, Bandcamp Daily, which posts articles about albums, artists, songs, and—perhaps best of all—groups of artists from around the world, and from genres you might not have heard of. 

If you’re tired of the algorithmic recommendations of your streaming service, you’re guaranteed to have your musical world expanded at Bandcamp Daily.

Fixing It

How can we help assure the future of recording artists? One possibility is regulation. 

"Intervention from governments could enforce higher mandatory minimum rates for streams per track," says Clark. "For example, the US government sets rates on mechanical royalties for CDs and digital downloads. However, it's much trickier in the case of streams. The streaming services are either ad-supported or have cheap subscription rates."

More marketplaces like Bandcamp would also help, but it’s hard to compete with streaming, which is so cheap and convenient. And unlike the Napster generation, who actually ended up buying a lot more music than non-P2P users, today’s Spotify users don’t even know they’re stiffing the very artists they love.

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