Update September 15th, 2010: Please read this.
When we first started working on Bandcamp, we wondered whether it might be possible to always provide an unlimited number of “free” downloads* to artists for, well, free. Our hope was that free downloading might be highest amongst the artists who were also selling the most – for example, a band giving away a track or two in promotion of a paid album. That way, the revenue share on the artist’s sales would naturally cover the costs associated with the streaming, support and storage of their freebies.
What we’ve learned, however, is that most of the music being given away through the site is from a relative minority of bands who have decided not to sell anything at all. It’s obviously unfair to burden every Bandcamp artist with the costs of a few outliers giving away hundreds of thousands of free downloads, so we’re making some changes to button that up.
Starting today, new accounts come with 200 free downloads, and all existing accounts are granted 500. Your free download credits also refresh every month (meaning that if you have less than 200 downloads remaining, we’ll just bump you up to 200 again). Each time a fan downloads a track or album for free, it counts as 1 against your balance (an album, regardless of how many tracks it contains, still only counts as 1 download, and streaming is still unlimited). You can buy more downloads for a small fee from your Tools page. The pricing is the same as for download codes:
300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)
But here’s the cool part: for every $500 USD you have in sales, we’ll give you another 1,000 free downloads (kind of like a power-up, but based on sales rather than say, eating a Super Mushroom**). The idea is that if you’re selling through Bandcamp, you’ll probably never run out of free promo downloads, and if you’re using the site to distribute your music for free, there’s still a cheap and easy way to keep doing that. (Actually, the cheapest way would be to head over to ZRapidShare, but if you’re reading this, you probably care about your fans too much for that.)
You can check your free download balance over on your Tools page, but you don’t need to check it obsessively. If you get low, we’ll notify you via email, as well as display a reminder up at the top of your account. And if your balance drops to zero, free tracks and albums won’t go away, they’ll just automatically switch to paid (at whatever price you last set, or the default if you never set the price). We won’t start decrementing your free download balance for another week (on September 16th), so anyone planning a big free promo has time to make sure their download needs are covered. Again, the above applies to free downloads only – there remain no download limits whatsoever on tracks or albums that you’re selling.
*By “free” downloads we just mean downloads of tracks or albums that you’ve set to free, free but email-required, or let-fan-name-price with no minimum and the fan enters zero. Download code redemptions don’t count, and neither does streaming.
**We’re extending this power-up idea to other parts of the site as well, with sales raising your upload limit and granting you more download codes, for starters. We’ve got plenty more power-ups in store too, all of them useful, fun, and in the spirit of helping to kick-start your success.