Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Bandcamp Is the People’s Online Music Store

This link is kind of an extension to my response yesterday to a particularly poorly-considered post from Bob Lefsetz. One thing I didn’t expand upon then was this part of Lefsetz’s article:

Apple Music is a me-too product that works badly that’s locked behind a paywall and the music industry wants it to be the dominant platform so the fan is squeezed and indie acts are pushed down to the bottom where they belong.

I don’t dispute that Apple Music is, functionally, a “me-too product”, but that’s okay. Every streaming service is ten dollars per month for a broadly-identical library of tracks, and that’s fine. Where these services come into their own is with the unique focus of each: Tidal offers a pricier lossless tier, for CD-quality streaming; Spotify prioritizes shared discovery and radio; and Apple Music attempts to bring a human touch to today’s largely-automated world of music discovery. Tidal and Apple Music also, of course, divvy up exclusive releases.

But the idea that indie acts will be “pushed to the bottom” because Apple dares to charge a subscription fee is as ludicrous as anything in Lefsetz’s article. There are plenty of opportunities for indie bands to succeed within Apple Music — many of the tracks played during the first hour of Beats 1’s first broadcast, including the very first song, were by indie artists — and there are even more opportunities beyond the platform.

Ben Ratliff, New York Times:

Bandcamp, which started in 2008 and is run out of a number of small offices in San Francisco, Brooklyn and elsewhere, became profitable in 2012 and sells a record every five seconds. It grew 35 percent last year and has paid $169 million to artists, according to its website. Its chief executive, Ethan Diamond, mentioned in an interview that “plenty of artists” have made more than $100,000 each through it, and all of them get the same deal: The site keeps 15 percent of each sale. (By comparison, iTunes takes about 30 percent, and going that route also requires being on a label or working with an independent distributor, which takes another cut.)

I remember ripping copies of friends’ records that they bought at shows because I forgot to bring merch table money. Now, unsigned indie bands can distribute their music all over the world without going through a distributor. I’ve bought a bunch of albums through Bandcamp, and I anticipate buying many more in the months and years to come. Between it and Soundcloud, there are plenty of opportunities for independent and major musicians alike to get their music into the ears of fans everywhere.