I was putting together a sales summary for A Singer Of Songs latest release 'There Is A Home For You' and the numbers reminded me of an often completely ignored side to the whole “Streaming Is Bad / Nobody Buys Music Anymore / Spotify Is A Dead Man's Fart ” debate that always pops up every month (plus, I had also recently been passed on this pretty accurate / kind of depressing Digital Music News article). And that side of the debate is Bandcamp.
Now I haven't read every single think piece on 'Streaming & The Death of the Music Industry', but I've read a lot of them, and the overall moral of the story is that artists get paid in penny dust for each spin and everything sucks. And it is kinda true (especially if you overlook the fact that it used to suck too). I can vouch with personal experience that —if you round the number up— we average a whopping $0.004 per spin with streaming services. But this post isn't another post about how little streaming pays and whether or not Spotify and the like are evil / killing independent music. This post is about how all of those other posts almost never mention Bandcamp. They are always just different variations of “streaming is not the golden answer” and/or ”the internet was supposed to make things better and it didn't”. And after awhile, you'll find yourself looking for the nearest Noose Making 101 night class.
But here's a little personal stat:
95% of ‘There Is A Home For You' earnings come from Bandcamp / 5% comes from all the other online stores combined (i.e. streaming services, iTunes, Amazon, etc. - basically all the stores that you need to go through a digital distributor to get your music on… which for us, is over 750 stores)
This stat is mostly interesting because Bandcamp pays $0.000 for a stream (i.e. they don't pay anything for streams, no matter how many streams you get). Say what you will about $0.004 being low, $0.000 is lower. But Bandcamp offers the ability to directly convert your streams into an easy way to either sell the music digitally, or, even better, sell a physical product (and don't get me started on the community vibe that exists with Bandcamp purchases). And this, to me, is the major flaw with all those streaming services. They don't want you to buy music (or at least, they don't really care if you also buy music on top of their subscription fee). So, when there is no link to a physical product, there is no easy way for a fan to go from sampling an artists album to buying the album. So that $0.004 per spin really stands out at as being quite shite. And it then becomes easy to jump all over the idea that streaming music is bad for independent artists. But it's not entirely true…
People don't have to pay anything to stream our release on Bandcamp and we make no money from people streaming it… yet Bandcamp is the place where the album makes almost all of its money (important note: I haven't included in person sales at shows, as that is a bit different + that money has mostly been covering the costs of going on small European tours). And I doubt our album is a rare case. More than a fair bit of music is sold on Bandcamp. Like $49 million dollars and counting (important other note: our sales make up a very small portion of that $49 million, so please go buy some of these ;).
I guess what I am getting at here is this: whenever you come across someone complaining about the current state of being a musician, whether that be another talking head on Digital Music News / Music Think Tank or a high profile artist like Thom Yorke, take a close look at whether they mention what is happening on Bandcamp. Because if they don't —and especially if they go on about the evils of the Spotify's of the world, yet don't have any of their albums available on Bandcamp— then they're not really participating in the working solution they complain doesn't exist.
Maybe they should all take a break Negative Nelly-ing about Spotify and start Positive Pete-ing about what is happening over on Bandcamp. Because I'm pretty sure the only reason we even get any sales on iTunes is because Bandcamp hasn't become as embedded in the music buyers mind as it should be. Which would happen if more people were talking about them.
So, I guess what I am really getting at here is this: I'm tired of all these Spotify / Pandora / iTunes / Death Of The Music Industry / Et Cetera articles. I know Bandcamp might be a bit boring to talk about, as it's pretty much all positive (i.e. there's no shadowy back room dealings, or countless middlemen to go through, or artists getting screwed over, or etc. — it is just a no cost to entry, direct artist to fan connection via Bandcamp's friendly to use for both sides, transparent and pretty awesome service), but maybe that's a good thing, no?
PS - After I wrote this post, the very next day David Byrne wrote an op-ed about Spotify on the Guardian... I wrote a follow up post about why it blew my mind.
PPS - The title of this post comes from 2 old posts which asked a similar question… ‘Why U No Bandcamp?’ + ‘Why U No Bandcamp? (cont.)’ (which are basically some wondering out loud posts about why a lot of bigger name bands don't seem to be using Bandcamp), which you can feel free to also read, if you haven't already surpassed your internet reading word count for the day.