How We Work, Selling Right Now

The Bandcamp team is spread out all over the world, which means we don’t have lunch together, we don’t bump into each other in the hall, and we don’t have impromptu across-the-table conversations. In short, we don’t do many of the things that are often considered crucial to any startup’s success. To make up for this, we’ve developed a fairly disciplined system of communication that includes a daily company-wide video call, a comprehensive wiki where all of our projects are documented, lots of one-on-one Skyping, and a few in-person meetups each year.

Our most important mode of communication, however, is our group chat system (we use IRC). We all have it open all day long, running side-by-side with whatever else we’re doing, and we use it to ask each other questions, share links, coordinate feature rollouts… all of the stuff that elsewhere might happen in a hallway or over a desk. But what this system lacks in eye contact, it more than makes up for by being fully participatory (nobody is ever left out of a conversation), persistent (conversations happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), and most critically, archived and searchable (so regardless of when you’re offline or for how long, it’s easy to read the transcript and get caught back up).

The coolest part of our chat setup, though, is that it also doubles as the heartbeat of the business. In addition to the room/channel where the team communicates, we have another channel where a script announces every signup and every music sale, in real time. It looks like this:

We originally implemented this site activity ticker for the simple reason that we wanted to celebrate every signup and sale. It’s fun, helps focus everyone’s energies on our core metric (artist sales), and acts as one of our warning systems when things go wrong (the few times the feed has stopped, we could practically hear the flatline tone from the heart monitor). But it also has had an amazing, unintended side-effect, and that’s that it’s a brilliant tool for music discovery.

For years now, we’ve all glanced over at the feed a few times a day, been intrigued by an artist or album name, clicked it, and discovered new music that we loved. At some point someone suggested that we should add album art to the feed, at which point someone else said yeah-we-should-but-this-is-ridiculous-we-should-share-this-with-everybody.

So now we do. Take a look at “Selling right now” over on the new home page. It’s a bit of a firehose at times (particularly Tuesdays around noon PST), but it turns out that “someone just paid money for this” plus “this cover looks cool” is a great filter. It’s kind of like lurking at the checkout counter at Tower on a Saturday in 1997, and the line has three switchbacks and the clerks are ringing people up as quickly as they can, but in this case the Tower is at least three times bigger, you can listen to everything that’s being bought, and the customers are from every corner of the globe. Yes, you may end up questioning some of their taste, but just as often you’ll go “Whoah, what is this!? This is awesome!”

14 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Great system, listening to an audio book i found through the system, really awesome. Everytime you add something, you remind me of why i fell in love with Bandcamp in the first place.

  2. Posted November 1, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Okay this is really awesome. What would make it even awesomer is if it included play widgets for the items, but as it is it’s pretty great too!

  3. Posted November 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    You guys are phenomenal. You find a system that works for you, and then you share it with all of us. Virtual high-fives to you all.

  4. Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Yeah this is cool. This best idea for finding ‘new music’ I’ve seen in music sales sites (where its usually easiest to find the top sellers and near impossible to discover new stuff). Great work x

  5. Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    yeah, really great. the 1st time I got this “Cha-ching”-mail, I really thought somebody wants to make me angry, but … true record sales! and within a minute, the confirmation via PayPal. great, just great, thanks. NAVEL

  6. Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering what you guys use for IRC? I’m looking to do that for our organization as well (we’re all over the place too).

    Bandcamp rules

  7. Posted November 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Pete, we use freenode. We’ve contemplated setting up our own server, but freenode’s worked great for going on three years now.

  8. Posted November 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Great, thanks for the tip!

  9. ST
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Great addition but at the same time you redesigned the navigation bar at the top of profiles…broken Firefox scripts for dragging links to new tabs etc. now…booo! I usually like you Bandcamp!

  10. Posted November 16, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    > broken Firefox scripts for dragging links to new tabs

    That’s fixed now ST, thanks for the report.

    > booo! I usually like you Bandcamp!

    The fragility of our relationship only makes me treasure it more.

  11. Ben
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Bandcamp is so amazing. I have found so much great stuff! However, I wish that you would include the music genre tags in the “Selling Now” live feed. Maybe not every tag that the music fits under, but at least tell us if it is Hip-Hop or Country (or Country/Hip-Hop). Thanks. I love this site and I tell everyone I know to check it out and support the artists

  12. ST
    Posted November 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Yaaay! Thanks, that makes a huge difference for me…Another example of why Bandcamp is so utterly brilliant. I treasure it too!

  13. Posted November 25, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Love that you guys are collaborating virtually, but don’t the perpetual sales notifications bury your own discussions?! Great concept, though!

  14. Posted November 25, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Nah, the notifications are in their own channel. Wasn’t always that way though, and it was a nice little milestone when we had to separate them out.

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