Online Music Revisited: Bandcamp
Arguably the simplest platform out there, Bandcamp offers an easy and attractive way of listening to your music. Think of it as your finished gallery. Both your tracks and artwork are accessible from the main page and complemented by a range of design choices. While the built-in player is on the basic side (no fancy soundwaves a la SoundCloud) it’s a sturdy interface understandable to even the dimmest users.
Where Bandcamp really shines, however, is in its download features. It automatically converts your uncompressed tunes according to fans’ preferences – be it mp3, aac, flac or (wait for it) ogg vorbis. There’s scope for adding bonus material, selling your songs and embedding albums to a website. You can even use Bandcamp as the middle-man to sell physical goods such as vinyl records and novelty hats.
- Audio: uncompressed – WAV, AIFF or FLAC (see here for details).
- Album Art: 350 x 350 pixels minimum (max 4MB) JPG, PNG or GIF
- Site Header: 975 pixels wide, 40-180 pixels tall (max 2MB) JPG, PNG or GIF
- Facebook Header: 519 pixels wide, 40-180 pixels tall (max 2MB) JPG, PNG or GIF
- Mobile Header: 640 pixels wide, 40-124 pixels tall (max 1MB) JPG, PNG or GIF
- Background Image: 2MB max, JPG, PNG or GIF
- Design. Simple layout with little to no intrusion from ads or clutter. While the design choices are merely good, there is enough range to give your page that finished sheen. Part of Bandcamp’s success lies in its simplicity; there are no snares to distract fans from the music.
- Downloads. Bandcamp offers more flexibility than any of its competitors – to reward fans you can include bonus songs, artwork, videos and PDF liner notes. You can essentially package your product as it would appear on iTunes or Amazon. It also puts your song’s metadata into the file – a blessing for those of us that like our digital libraries prim and proper.
- Selling. You can emulate an online shop by charging people to download your music. With over $30,000,000 paid out to independent musicians, you can see why Bandcamp is considered a game-changer. While selling is your desirable goal, be sparing when you start out. At this stage it’s probably more important that you get noticed than paid. Blocking free distribution may deter that vital someone from sharing your songs. Once you’ve attracted enough of a following to merit selling, look here for how to set up shop. Taking only 15% of your digital sales, Bandcamp make an attractive offer to those with a strong fanbase. As of January, the new ‘Bandcamp for Fans‘ ought to further change the artist/listener dynamic. It puts the spotlight on fans, rewarding purchasers with a public profile and digital record collection. It’s a neat perk and a testament to Bandcamp’s collective spirit.
- Cross-Platform Integration. There’s limited social media presence (you’re allowed a tiny list of links on the right of the page) and no means for your wider audience to drop comments. Having just launched its ‘For Fans’ system, Bandcamp will accumulate an insular community akin to Soundcloud. Whether or not this will bring in outside sources is yet to be seen. In the meantime, you can highlight your other sites with a creative banner (see below). There are also a range of settings to embed your music to websites, blogs and your Facebook page.
[bandcamp track=1682451363 bgcol=f3f0ed linkcol=000000 size=grande]
- Anything else, really. When all is said and done, Bandcamp hosts, streams and sells. Other than a small window for gig information, there are no features you’d see on other platforms such as blog posts, status updates, calendars, videos or press coverage. Asides from video (which is crucial and I suspect will be supported in future updates) these are superfluous for a service that does such a good job at handling the music.
- Upload Bonus Material. Reward fans for downloading your albums with demos, videos, high-quality photographs and printable liner notes (up to 100MB). Bandcamp supports a vast range of files so take advantage of it. From experience I tend to invest more time in a band that go the extra mile for their listeners. More importantly this feature has all the potential for you to create a downloadable press kit. It goes back to the earlier sentiment about leaving no stone unturned.
- Gig Information. See the ‘upcoming shows’ feature hidden 3/4 down the ‘profile’ menu? It’s easy to overlook some of these options and, considering Bandcamp’s sparse features, it’s important not to. Boot up a regularly updated gigs widget with your Songkick ID (more on that later).
- Recommendations. Same as above. Hidden in the profile settings is the option to ‘recommend’ three fellow Bandcamp artists. While only hawk-eyed visitors will see your recommendations tucked under the biog, it’s important nonetheless to acknowledge your friends and peers. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and may well return the favour.
- Create an Image Map. With basic settings Bandcamp is no good at broadcasting your wider network. Circumvent the lack of social plugins by adding an image map to your header (edit profile > custom header). This acts as a visual pointer to your other sites.
Bandcamp is a solid addition to your portfolio. With a little care, one download can show off a professionally packaged EP complete with photographs, liner notes, demos and video performances. While it doesn’t benefit from the community of its competitors, Bandcamp’s stand-alone, finished appearance makes it perfect for those big releases. Once set up, your page won’t require nearly as much pruning as other websites. There’s no community to appease, photos to maintain or regular updates to make. For that reason many independent bands choose it as their official URL. There is an option (for which you have to pay) to mask your profile under a custom domain name. Having set up your network you may choose to do this and, having finished this blog, I may well help you.
For more help see Bandcamp’s own For Drummers guide, and check out the examples below: