Today I’m going to do something a little different. Rather than featuring a bunch of recommended albums I have dug up on Bandcamp I am going feature a piece of writing by a good friend of mine and fellow Bandcamp guru Marc-Eric Gagnon. Some of you may know Marc as vinyl collector extraordinaire, others may use his kick ass custom fuzz pedals known as Stonefly Effects, that he crafts by hand from his home in Montreal Quebec, Canada. Marc is a good dude and passionate enough to share with us his piece on Bandcamp:
The Definitive Guide for Bands and Labels
You may be wondering why write a guide for Bandcamp?
Well, many people do not understand the full range of features Bandcamp has to offer them. I am a Bandcamper and I want to convert you. Although I do not write music reviews, I am someone who is very active on social networks within the Stoner/Doom scene, don’t get me wrong, my guide does not only address the followers of these genres; it also concerns all other emerging genres or "underground" genres too. I like to discover new music and share it. Being an avid vinyl collector and a boutique guitar pedal maker (known as StoneFly Effects), I often find myself in contact with musicians and record label guys. I know the vast majority of the active people who work in this scene to which I identify. With all of the reasons mentioned above, I think I am well placed to teach you the inner mechanics of Bandcamp. Maybe you know them already or maybe you think you know them… Well, if you're a seasoned Bandcamper, it’ll be a good read anyway and that should makes you happy to see me preach the Bandcamp gospel to the unconverted.
Unfortunately, I see bands or labels too frequently wanting to make a name for themselves and missing golden opportunities; either by not using Bandcamp at all or not using it to its full potential. As an example, it’s as if these people were playing a first person shooter for years but without ever realizing that on their gun, there is also a laser beam, a grenade launcher and even some a headhunter missiles available... So, the purpose of this guide, is to explain how Bandcamp can serve your purpose as a band or a record label and also the various strategies to adopt in order to put the odds on your side.
Often, people ask me, how I discovered all of these incredible bands that I listen to. To this question, I answer mainly via Bandcamp, via friend’s recommendations, via blogs, music review pages or through the various Facebook groups of which I am a member.
The really important thing you need to understand as a band or label is that Bandcamp is the main tool used by the majority of "socially active" people in the community.
BANDCAMP IS THE SOCIAL MEDIA OF MUSIC PLATFORMS
This is exactly what you need to understand; Bandcamp acts as a form of social media. Maybe you thought that Bandcamp’s only purpose was to download or stream music? If so, you’ve got it all wrong my friend! But, be aware of something, those who promote the music (reviewers and such) have fully understood the power of Bandcamp. Not being on Bandcamp or using it poorly simply means one thing; you’re missing the boat!!!
So, here's how it works (at least for me).
My Bandcamp profile does not only allow me to follow the bands and labels I like; it also allows me to follow other fans like me, who share similar tastes as I do. These other Bandcamper fans can be either my friends or pure strangers. At the risk of repeating myself, most music critics are also Bandcampers with often incredible digital collections. Can you see where I am going with this?
It works pretty much like the famous WALL on Facebook.
On the feed, you not only see the newest albums released by the bands or the labels that you follow but also, and more IMPORTANTLY, the albums purchased by the other Bandcampers you follow. Let me tell you something, when I see an album appearing repeatedly in my feed, it then becomes mandatory for me to listen to it as this album must have a little something awesome if everyone is buying it. Maybe in the end I will not buy it but, at least, I will have listened to it once and I will know what this band is up to. In short, the feed is the equivalent of word of mouth; the best form of promotion in existence!!!
So, as a band or a label, to get exposure, you have to organize yourself so that your music will appear in people feeds. I'll give you later some tips on how to achieve that but first, let me tell you about some other Bandcamp features.
The strength of Bandcamp is that it’s not only a digital selling platform but also a merchandise selling platform. Whether you listen to your music only on digital medium, on CD, on cassette or on vinyl, the digital format stays the common denominator and allows it to bring together the various types of physical medium consumer. Personally, my favorite medium is vinyl; I buy here and there some albums in digital format only but mainly on vinyl. I haven’t bought CDs for several years.
What I like about buying vinyl on Bandcamp is that it automatically comes with a digital version. I think we all agree that a turntable on the passenger seat is not very convenient in your car to listen music! Owning the digital version in my collection means I can download the album in my phone whenever I want without caring for storage. The streaming is very useful while at home but once out of my free Wi-Fi network, it consumes my monthly data...
Moreover, having an album in my collection helps to share it!
So, when an album is available on Bandcamp, I do not understand why bands and labels do not automatically provide a download code to anyone who buys the album via another purchasing platform.
I'm going to give you an example of a label that makes the most of Bandcamp in my opinion, this is Ripple Music. Ripple are a very vigorous label in the Stoner Doom scene, they release an average of 3-4 albums per month. They offer a Bandcamp channel subscription; for $5 a month their subscribers automatically receive their albums into their collections the moment they are released. This means with every new release, all their subscriber’s feed are filled up with the new releases, almost making the news of these releases unavoidable. Ripple Music doesn’t stop there; they do also offer a 15% discount code to their Bandcamp subscribers to use to buy physical merchandise on their other sales platform. This makes the subscription to their Bandcamp channel a must for all of their fans. By doing this, they assure themselves great exposure but also builds up a loyal fan base and gather recurrent monthly incomes.
So, dear labels, help us help you out!!!
Keep in mind, I’ve already paid once for the album on vinyl format; I won’t pay again to add it to my Bandcamp collection... I want to support the bands and labels I like but there is a limit to my financial means. Very often, I already have the digital version anyway… I personally mainly add it to my Bandcamp collection to promote the album. And no, as I have already paid for the physical version of the album, I do not feel guilty at all to have a digital pirated version.
Another great Bandcamp feature is the analytic interaction you have with your fans. These can indicate which song is their favorite and even leave a short review or some comment on the album. These mini-reviews are helpful guides for new visitors. The strength of Bandcamp lies in its dynamism versus the static state offered by the other music platforms.
You don’t have money yet? There is only a few songs available for now but you don’t want to miss the full release of the album? A friend tips you off about an album or someone shared something making you curious on Facebook; but that moment isn’t good for you to listen to the album in question. Click on that little ‘’Heart’’ logo and your good to go! The album goes straight into your Wishlist which will allow you to easily find the album later.
You have access in this section to the collections of other fans following you; they are the ones which you have somewhat of an influence through the feed. You can follow them if you wish; these people surely have similar tastes to yours. I bet you can find some gems in these collections!
A section that is subdivided into 4 categories.
1. Artists and labels you follow.
2. The other fans you follow (and who influence you).
3. The musical genres to which you can subscribe if you wish. Personally, I do not use this feature since these categories appears too wide to me; I prefer to search by keywords when I want to explore.
4. Fans to follow that are simply suggestions of others Bandcampers who have purchased the same albums as you.
Okay, I’m sure you want some tips now on how to reach the Feed.
You must realize that we are currently living a Golden Age.
Bandcamp allowed the liberalization of music; the yoke of old record labels that systematically dictated what music was going to be heard is over. Of course, there will be always a category of people who will never listen to anything but what traditional radios broadcast but, anyway, these people are not your target audience... Nowadays, whoever wants it, can have access to a myriad of bands through the internet.
But the fight is fierce; album releases jostle on all fronts. The underground scene is not just a local battleground anymore but one that is global. Bandcamp is your sword but do you know how to wield it?
You must realize something important. Even though you think your music is great, you are not the judge. It's the public who will judge you! But, before you get there, they must listen to you. You are a gladiator and you must win the crowd!!!
Here are some strategies that will allow you to hear from your target audiences.
1. If you are serious in your approach, hire a professional graphics artist, someone recognized in the scene in which you’re involved. If there are 3 to 5 people in a band, it doesn’t work out that expensive. Whether your music is good or not, an interesting EP/Album artwork will attract some traffic. Visuals are significantly important when promoting your work on social media. How else are you going to grab the listener's attention without them having previously heard your music or having the music recommended to them elsewhere? Ex: Many new people have checked out Iron Maiden simply because their album covers look very unique and have a distinct style. Dopethrone is another example. Great looking front covers. Electric Wizard has a very distinct style as well.
2. You are at a stage where you have no monetary considerations in mind, you just want some exposure. Do not make the mistake of putting your album in ''Free Download'' which is an option offered by Bandcamp. When you choose this option, you deprive yourself of the best weapon Bandcamp offers you; accessing people’s feeds which acts as "word of mouth". When people download your album for free, this one will never appear in their collection and therefore will not appear in the feed of their followers. The ''Free Download'' also has another disadvantage; albums cannot be ''bookmarked'' since there is no little heart that can be clicked with this option.
Instead, opt for the ''Name Your Price'' option; people will pay you a few cents and your album will end up in their collection.
3. Do not ask too much for your digital album; be realistic and consider the importance of the offer. I strongly suggest staying in a price range between $1 and $5. If your asking price is too expensive, despite the quality of your album, people will pass or wait for a physical media version. Always keep in mind that you are a gladiator who wants to win the crowd, earn the feed.
4. Bandcamp allows you to search by ''keywords''. Take the time to list the genres that your music fits into; this will allow you to appear in the search engine. Bandcamp offers 2 ranking when doing a keyword search: ''Bestseller'' and ''Novelty''; with this type of research, it is easy to be aware of every musical release in any given style. Put yourself in the shoes of the listener on bandcamp seeking out new music to listen to.
5. Most people don’t buy (or very rarely) isolated tracks; I suggest you to wait until you have at least 3-4 songs and go with the EP format instead. Otherwise, you giving sword thrusts in the water and won’t reach the peoples feed. If you absolutely want to publish isolated tracks until you have enough, use the option ''Free download'' and once you have enough, release them again but this time in EP format and ask the price you want. By doing so, no one will be frustrated when the tracks they bought disappear since they were free anyways.
Here's some other reason to join Bandcamp. Their payout model is probably the best around. No middleman, Bandcamp collects 15% of digital sales and only 10% on other merchandise. And yes, you understood it; if you want to get rid of other selling platforms you can if such is your desire. Compared to many of the other more popular platforms such as Spotify and iTunes, Bandcamp is a much more profitable option for artists who want to sell directly to fans, but I recommend you put your music on them all. Just don’t neglect Bandcamp. Bandcamp allows you to build a fan database email so you can reach your fans with a newsletter if you want. With Bandcamp, you stay in control of your own music.
Although I have put a lot of emphasis on the importance of Bandcamp, an indie artist seeking to break through in 2018 should be on as many streaming/ digital music outlets as possible. You want to have your music available everywhere possible. Even the platforms who go for volume such as Walmart. You do not want to limit yourself. Ex: Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, iHeart Radio, Shazam, etc...
Why do I compare these other platforms to Wal-Mart?
If I am a fishing lover, I will go shopping for my fishing rod in a specialized hunting and fishing shop; not in a Walmart ... It's the same for the music I love. I'm your target audience and I'm fishing for my music on Bandcamp. Therefore, never exclude your Bandcamp link on your promotion page. Have links to all the platforms. I do not know your band; I’m not interested for now in your Facebook page or web page; I want a direct access to your music and the opportunity to buy if I like what I hear. How many times do people invite me to like their Facebook page and have to fight across the web to find their music.; plain ridiculous!!!
I would like to finish this little paper with some comments I collected from Lars-Erik Skogly, bassist for The W Likes a killer hard rock band from Norwaywho is also owner of Rahma Records. I remember that myself and Bucky Brown(Ripple Music / Doom Charts) had encouraged The W Likes to put their album on Bandcamp in which they promptly did. So that's why I immediately thought of Lars-Erik to express his views on Bandcamp and why it is has helped him and his band.
Lars- Erik ( The W Likes and Rahma Records) says:
“Bandcamp is not so widespread here in Norway. But it has a good effect on our sales. We have sold more on Bandcamp than any other platforms. It gives us a greater look into streaming statistics than any other streaming sites and gets closer to the fans. Hopefully it will blow up even more.”
The Bandcamp codes are also a great, easy way to spread our music even further. I always try to have some with me.
Oh yeah, you read well my friends, they have something incoming and my little finger tells me it’s gonna be on Ripple Music.
So, StAy TuNeD and get the hell on Bandcamp !!!
We hope you enjoyed what Marc had to say and we endorse his take whole heartedly here at The Ripple Effect. I personally would like to give kudos to Marc for all he is doing to help promote the heavy underground music scene and to give a shout out the fact that this guy arguably has the great modern heavy rock and metal vinyl collection on the planet going right now. Follow Marc to see just how impressive his collection is. In a way, he makes me feel good that my addiction isn’t so bad. Haha. Thanks Marc!!!!
Find Marc at these locations