So I wrote this letter to Bandcamp

  • Hey buttonbros and buttonsisses.

    I posted this on the facebooks but I don't know how many of you are facebookers so here it is again!


    Hey, guys,

    First of all, thanks for a great site. I've been using bandcamp now for around 3 years and have done a few releases using your service for download. I'm part of a relatively unsuccessful but generally happy with life electronic act in South Wales (the old one, not the fancy-pants Australian one). We're called Kinetic Monkey.

    Anyway, the first reason for my email was just to say thank you. Thank you for providing a website that does what I need when I need it, and nothing more (unlike myspazz). Thank you for creating a space that I can quickly and easily make beautiful (unlike soundcloud). Thanks for taking fees only when I sell stuff and doing it in a way I can understand and that makes sense to me (unlike iTunes). And most of all thanks for doing all of this without filling my page with adverts. You guys can't be breaking even yet - so my full respect to YOUR respect for undiluted artist's space.

    Secondly, and this is why I'm at my laptop tonight, I wanted to tell you about a new development (for me anyway) in giving my music away. It might be really useful to other artists, but I know around two dozen artists, and you know a lot more, so I'm leaving the knowledge in your hands. The skinny is that is that I've started GIVING AWAY PHYSICAL CDs. And it's working.

    For a while Bex and I have done some free downloads, and some pay for downloads. We play in caf

  • Opinions, yelps pleading for mercy and other such tomfoolery welcome!

  • thanks for this! I lament that the cd is still involved, but i love the idea of a physical piece of art that you can give out/away. Giving people something real to take with them besides memories. Ive been considering printing up cardstock flyers with download info on the back, do you feel there is still value in the cd itself, or in the physical packaging?

  • Great article kineticmonkey. I have heard much larger artists like Radiohead doing this, but on a local more independent scene its nice to hear success stories. Its something I struggle with at times, how to get my music out there so thank you for your comments and suggestions.

  • lokey - I totally understand your point - people don't listen to CDs often anymore, so why bother with them, but truth is in south Wales at least people will be much more likely to listen to your music if you give it to them rather than enabling them to download it. I did a between-albums-single with a little launch gig and printed 50 free download slips and gave them all out. I had 4 downloads. It REALLY didn't work for me. Got a lot more downloads a few weeks later when I just uploaded it to my normal bandcamp and tweeted the link. So download cards didn't work.

    protocol - YES! It's about finding new ways to get music out there. So often the "free music" or new music distribution talks end up being based on morality and doing the right thing and being true to yourself as an artist and sticking it to the man, etc, etc... It's not about that. It's about people, and connecting with those people through music. The rest is pure pragmatism.

  • Yeah, I don't see myself ever dealing with someone's download card. But that's me, and it might easily be a regional attitude.

    My gut feeling is that if you upload the album to band camp, print cards linking there, bring printed CDs, and make it clear that these are two methods of delivering the same material, the people who choose a card over a CD will be more likely to follow through.

    But it still has to be a short URL, with no password involved and no crazy spelling if you want folks to type it by hand.

  • Nice one, Drift.

  • thanks km! very insightful.

  • @GreaterThanZero - yeah the cards that I did had a link and a QR code - still a very low success rate.

  • This is going to be a very strange suggestion, but pick up a copy of "the Game" by Neil Strauss. Ignoring the subject matter, it's a great read, documenting a movement wherein a group of hackers took a systematic approach to figuring out how to consistently achieve a certain goal in social situations. In their case, the goal was "making women want to have sex with them". In yours, it might be "making an audience follow you from one show to the next". I think a similar movement could achieve great results with the same approach: try things, document what works and what doesn't; try to distill what exactly was good or bad in each iteration, share and repeat.

    (It's also sort of a cautionary tale, though I'm not sure where that part applies in your situation)


    This is a very primitive example, but one thing you could try:

    * put your download URL on a card. put a different URL on printed CDs. does one of those get more hits than the other?

  • the game for musicians? guh, that makes me kind of sad to be honest.

  • It's only as crass as you let it be.

  • Sounds like some band needs to do that - It really shouldn't be me. I love connecting with fans because I love the relationships and friendships. I try to put in as much as I'm getting. I don't want to socially engineer anyone.

    That said, the experiment would be useful to a lot of bands.

    At the moment I'm trying to spend more time being creative and being part of the artistic community in South Wales, and less time doing band management, etc. We're kind of unofficially looking for a manager so we can be more genuine and true to ourselves as people and someone else can do the business bits.

  • Well, yeah. That's a critical component. You're not conning people into a thing they don't want, or out of something they do. You're just identifying and removing the stumbling blocks between you and the great time you could be having together.

    I mean, sure. You could probably social-engineer some short-term gains (again and again), but that's no foundation. Long term, the only thing you can build on is a genuine connection, which you have to consistently deliver on or you'll lose all that good will.

    I'm not in any way suggesting that there's a substitute for that. What I am suggesting is that there might be easier ways to be given a shot at it.

    Anyway, it was just a thought. =)

  • It's only 20 bit audio, but that's pretty good for a shirt.

    Interesting review:
    They suggest emulating the remote with your arduino as an alternative to something like the mp3 shield in your projects that aren't clothing.

    (Not the search result I was after, exactly. I just thought this was an obvious project for eTextile based circuit bending, figured there'd be videos to watch.)

  • She can fuck off. My music isn't "content", data, or some kind of digital bits/spam that people have to deal with. It's music.

    It's all pie in the "Fucking" sky when you're a millionaire.

    ...more like "alt-rock Moron".

  • Yeah, I think most artists hate the term "content". It's a marketing term, and most artists hate marketing.

    I've no particular affinity or animosity towards Amanda Palmer and her kickstarter windfall, that said her story has more of an impact when you hear the philosophies behind it. And ideas about artist's shame and lack of self-confidence with their art? Well they're always good to hear.

    In the end, I agree with her in that it's about connecting with people - which is, after all, something that a lot of art deals with. Extending that connection to the financial? Well, that's a logical step.

  • I also had a very knee-jerk and visceral reaction to that Ted video. I really don't know anything about her but she comes off as a theater kid; a performer. Her art is not the music, per se, but rather the performance and the interaction. She also comes off as very crass and 'pay attention to me' with her painted on eyebrows and obscene sobriquet - even going to the length of stripping naked for her audience to have them do what, exactly? Paint her identity for her just like her eyebrows? If she wishes to have others project all their existenzangst onto her that's fine but she can't expect other artists to have the same goals, and want to accomplish them in the same way. I did find it useful to listen to what she had to say but I feel her overall message is misleading, with only a few resonant ideas drowned in a sea of histrionics and self-congratulation

    more to the topic, I think giving people physical objects is a great way to build a personal connection; it's quite literally a record, a document. If I get a CD from someone I will listen to it. If it's good I'll check the website. If it's really good that's when I start telling other people about it - and I think that's what we really want, and what makes an audience grow. The chance of that process happening through a link to soundcloud, bandcamp, beatport, whatever, just isn't going to happen. It might happen for a music video link though (Die Antwoord comes to mind here).

  • If I haven't said so in this thread, what works for one artist may not work for another. Giving away your work might lead to more money. Or financial ruin. As inspiring as the success stories are, they must not be used to condemn those who, rightly or not, feel it's the wrong path for them.

    I do feel defensive when I hear a story like this. I think "great. this is the justification for stealing we'll hear tomorrow." I absolutely understand a knee-jerk reaction on that front.

    I shared it anyway, because I think it communicates why this path works for some and not for others. And that's a critical piece of the puzzle.

  • im happy to hear that people still connect with physical media, but it certainly conflicts with my own experience. give me a cd and it sits on the shelf. mail me a song and ill listen to it immediately. i like the aesthetic of a physical token to accompany the purchase of information, but a nice print would be better than a cd, to me, any day.

  • Indeed I'm sure my comment came off as somewhat knee-jerk.. and I was aware of that when I typed it. That was probably also because of Palmer's knee-jerk approach to the whole thing as well. Let's say she elicits that. It's certainly far from a bash to anyone on this board for posting content, or not posting content.

    The description of this girl coming off as a "theatre kid" is a pretty good summation I'd say. She's selling herself completely, tits and all. Which is fine, if you're Sasha Grey, but she isn't. There's a definite difference between sensationalized marketing and just doing your thing and getting people behind you. That's also the line where, in the past, major labels with beaucoup cash could take over that aspect of the whole thing for you. Now artists are expected to be total sideshows to be able to make their rent? And why? Because some millionaire theatre kid said so? Now we all have to traipse along toward further ridiculousness? It's also interesting that she seems to think that, before she showed up, artists weren't connecting with anyone. Because yeah, for thousands of years now, no one could figure out how to connect with anyone via music. THANKS Amanda Palmer... I'm glad you cracked this case for all of us.

    The spam reference was largely due to the fact that we are now as inundated with music (due to its digitization), as we are with viagra e-mails. Your underlying brain functions are just as likely to write-off 'some mp3 file' as that data can be seen as just bits.. like all other bits... taking up space, taking up your life and your time. This is people's time, money and lives, and often years of their lives. At least with an album, you're going to stare at it for a moment before you decide whether or not you want it. Of course we're not going to like, buy, or care about every album in the world, but there certainly was a quality over quantity factor with the old paradigm that has pretty much now flown the coop. Even the best olympic swimmer can't make it across the Atlantic without drowning. Even the best artists can't get noticed due to the current sea of digital bullshit we've decided to dig for ourselves. We won't even get into how that much sensory overload dulls us to even being able to be moved by most music anymore..

    (Most of this gets into areas which would very literally take a book's worth of reading to examine. And we didn't even get into the whole "recorded at Abbey Road/listened to on shitty laptop" side road discussion.)

    I like lokey's point about the art print. However, an album jacket is also a print. Or can be one, if you frame it.

    GTZ's comment about the justification for stealing pretty much nailed it. The thing is, human beings, since time immemorial, have had a knack for stepping on whatever they needed to step on to get anywhere. This is branded as survival instinct. And we tend to now live in a world where much of that could easily be made obsolete.. especially if we ever hope to get to the next level as a species. People seem to still be too scared to let go of that. I guess media fear-mongering and orange alert levels over loudspeakers everywhere do a good job of stifling any hopes of that ever happening.

    If we're in the business of stepping, the only thing we *can* really step on is that which is under our feet. And what's generally perceived as the lowest common denominator? The less aggressive, the less annoying, and the less ego-driven. This is very often artists, animals, homeless people, (and often women - I'm a guy BTW). There are always exceptions, yes, but this is largely the way of this Earthly existence.

    The early-bird catching the worm is engrained in our consciousness, and it translates to everything. So while the average person doesn't have the balls to stand up to any institutions which are actually causing them harm (governments, shitty multi-nationals, etc etc) they still want to step on something, either for the rush of it or out of frustration with everything. So they justify their situation by stepping on the closest and most vulnerable things; artists and those less-fortunate.

    This is human nature and the roots of this problem. These are instinctual habits that have to be comprehended, worked on, and unlearned. This isn't a free ride for any of us. Most countries' governments don't put money into arts funding, so the onus is directly on the people.. the same people who claim "man, my life is music", or "I'd die without music" or "there's nothing better than music". You see these claims being made all over the Internet, all of the time. Are these people buying records? Because if you don't buy records.. well, you might get music... but it's going to be pretty phoned-in.. your "favorite" band that you "support" by posting their entire album to YouTube isn't going to tour to your city because they can't even afford a van. Oh but that's Ok, right? Because this whole time it was really all about how YOU were "the guy" who ripped their record FIRST(!) and handed it out to everyone, your YouTube channel was the FIRST one to have someone's life's work given out so that your shitty ego could jerk off just a little more on the Internet.

    Hey, I heard that your father is a grocer and you guys own a store that's been in your family for generations. I just thought I'd stand on the corner here and hand out apples to everyone who walked by today. Oh wait.. you're calling the cops? What??

  • again, there is a distinction between sharing information and stealing matter. They arent the same, despite the fact that there are business models which try to treat them as such. Artists simply need to consider alternative sources of funding to produce their work beyond selling bits. Make physical products, make engaging live experiences, teach your skills, invite micro-patronage. There are plenty of people who are doing this today, i simply dont think its an appropriate response to try and shame people into continuing a flawed business model simply because thats how a vanishingly small fraction of artists were able to succeed in the past.

  • It has nothing to do with trying to shame anyone. It's a call to dig deeper into the fundamentals of this entire problem. You'll see it as shaming if you aren't interested in delving deeper into it. That's your decision. The solutions you've listed are what artists have been doing since medieval times and what most artists will continue to do. The point isn't that people aren't paying for mp3s, it's that they aren't buying records!

    Listening to an album in mp3 is also a huge slap in the face to artists who spent tons of cash recording it with high fidelity on really good equipment. That's a whole other, very valid and very real chapter of all of this. But once again, fast-food consumption of everything wins out. Whatever. I can't change anyone's views on this unless they are interested in examining the problem...

    "Shame" is also an interesting thing. Most would do well to look deeply into that concept as well.

  • i just dont see what your solution is, or indeed really follow what your criticism is. If you object to people listening to your work on mp3, surely its up to you to provide it in a format you approve of?

  • and to say i havent 'looked deeply into the concept' simply because i have come to a different conclusion than you is a little disingenuous.

  • Daojiao,

    Scroll up to the top of this thread. Do you feel that kineticmonkey was being a sideshow in that first post? I think he just had a genuine connection with his fans that night. Didn't have to get naked and hand people markers for it to happen, either. But.. what worked for him there is the important part of what's described in that video. Or rather, the intersection of his post and that video seems to be where some of the answers lie.

    ...for some. Again, won't work for everyone. (Metallica will never have that relationship with their fans, and if their fans gave it much thought, I'm sure they prefer the separation.)

    All I'm saying is, if you are someone whose fans are going to walk past the merch booth while you're not in it and buy stuff when you are, wouldn't it be good to know that?

  • GreaterThanZero - When I get naked and try to hand people marker pens, they're usually running away from me, so it makes it kind of difficult to do an Amanda Palmer. It doesn't help that I look like a Sasquatch when naked.

    Daojiao - why so angry? Some people are finding ways to share their art, and some people are making cash from it. #shrug#