[LAU] OT: online music promition/what do you think of bandcamp?

Ken Restivo ken at restivo.org
Tue Nov 17 14:17:20 EST 2009

On Sun, Nov 15, 2009 at 02:48:18PM +0100, Atte Andr? Jensen wrote:
> Hi
> I'm about to release my second (physical) made-with-linux CD, and am 
> starting to think about ways to promote the music online. I'm not gonna 
> get rich of this, I know, but I spend time and money creating the music, 
> and I really think the product is worth actual money.

I agree; your material very much has the production and fit and finish of a product that is sellable.

> Anyways, I created a bandcamp site, since that seems to open 
> possibilities for "fans" to pay for the download and I seems to be able 
> to control this in a quite a lot of detail.

There are a bunch of those kinds of sites. I wrote a lenghthy review of them for bandmates in a previous band last year; everybody'e eyes glazed over and we defaulted to doing nothing. Some of the sites I looked into included: Bandcamp, Sonicbids, Reverb Nation, last.fm, CDBaby, Nimbit, Jamendo, iMeem, VIRB, DarkJam, FanBridge, MusicNomad,BroadJam, GarageBand, and Music Supervisor. The bands in the orbits we hung out in were using ReverbNation with some success-- but as a fan communication tool and mailing list manager more than as a way of selling tracks.

My teacher is a producer and solo artist who has his music for sale on dozens of sites, with no overlap with the above sites I looked into. He, like many others who have navigated the maze enough to figure out how to make a little royalty money, worked brutal hours to do that, considers that information a trade secret, and ain't gonna post it on the internets for everyone to see. Sorry. He wouldn't even tell me; I figured out a few by Googling (information wants to be free, you see :-).

> My questions are: Any experiences with bandcamp would be greatly
> appreciated! Do you allow free downloads, and if so are you making any 
> money? How about as a "customer", do you like bandcamp, how many are

I didn't use Bandcamp enough to have much experience, not enough to comment anyway.

> doing the i-leave-when-i-see-a-flash-player-dance? Did you ever buy

I am one of those obnoxious Linux purists who says "piss off" when I see Flash, makes an obscene gesture at the monitor, and leaves the site. But I am NOT in any way representative of your potential customers! So my opinion as a customer does not matter.

> anything there? Did you ever pay *more* than the minimum, also if the 
> minimum was $0?

As a former product marketing manager, I can pass this along: consider your target market, learn who they are, how they behave, where they hang out, and go with that. Most of your questions can be answered by having a clear demograaphic an sociographic profile of the people to whom you are trying to sell. Some of these sites tend to attract fans of certain styles of music more than others. Then of course there are netlabels, popular in the electronic music world, and perhaps getting "signed" to one of those might help you and your target audience find each other more quickly.

If you can think of bands that sound similar to you, Google their name and the word "buy", and see where they are selling their stuff, then follow them around doing what they're doing. It's the American capitalist way: "copytition".

(Regarding "copytition": A friend from Africa was asking me about the strange tendency of American musicians to copy each other shamelessly and elbow each other around, hustling for the same business, and to create Gold-Rush-like swarms of people all copying each other whilst trying to compete for the same business. As opposed to, say, being original and sincere, and striking out in a novel direction. I said, Go into an American supermarket and look at the soap aisle. Really, how many different kinds of soap does a person need? And how different are all of these? They're different mostly in branding and packaging, that's it. Someone-- probably Ivory 100 years ago-- made money doing it, and since then a bunch of other people have been chasing each other around, trying to cash in on what the other is doing. As soon as anyone does anything different, they all copy each other, eliminating or narrowing the differences asymptotically. They're all trying to out-do each other selling basically the same thing. That's just how it works here.)

With all that said-- and keeping in mind that I have a deeply cynical and bitter view of business and capitalism in general--, I'd predict at this point that your main sources of actual royalties will be: 1) iTunes, and 2) iTunes.

Look, Apple is the market-maker in online music; everyone else is just the tail. Apple has-- perhaps unsurprisingly given their history-- figured out that the way to get people to pay for stuff that is free, is to engineer the user-friendliness topography such that paying is faster, easier, and that it presents fewer hurdles than not-paying. Very clever, actually; good work Steve Jobs.

So, if you want a simple answer to your question: put it up on iTunes, and see what happens.


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