Cheaper than Free

A few months ago, we began tracking the starting point of every sale that happens on Bandcamp. In the course of looking at the data (which we’re using to help us plan out what to do next), we’ve noticed something awesome: every day, fans are buying music that they specifically set out to get for free.

For example, just this morning someone paid $10 for an album after Googling “lelia broussard torrent.” A bit later, a fan plunked down $17 after searching for “murder by death, skeletons in the closet, mediafire.” Then a $15 sale came in from the search “maimouna youssef the blooming hulkshare.” Then a fan made a $12 purchase after clicking a link on music torrent tracker What.CD. Then someone spent $10 after following a link on The Pirate Bay, next to the plea “They sell their album as a download on their website. You can even choose your format (mp3, ogg, flac, etc). Cmon, support this awesome band!”

We see these sales as proof that Bandcamp can effectively compete with filesharing and other free distribution platforms by a) giving fans a clear, easy way to directly support the artist, and b) offering them a better user experience. Our favorite recent example of this was an $8 sale that started with the search “milosh flac -torrent.” So here was a fan looking for a Milosh record, wanted a high quality flac, but didn’t want to have to sift through a bunch of torrent sites. And that led them right to Bandcamp, and right to putting money in the artist’s pocket. Beautiful.

A little more uplifting info to ring in the new year:

  • In the month of December alone, Bandcamp artists raked in more than one million dollars in music and merch sales (bringing the total to-date to $12.6MM).
  • 22% of those sales happened because of Bandcamp, driven by things like tags, the home page, recommendations, and search.
  • 40% of the time, fans pay more than the asking price for name-your-price albums.
  • 53% of all purchases are made by fans located outside the U.S. (Check out the countries in this recent snapshot of the live sales feed.)

When we first launched Bandcamp, the conventional wisdom was that music retail was moribund, and that artists’ futures were all about those terrifically lucrative tours you guys go on, supplemented perhaps by trickle-down advertising revenue generated by millions of listeners enjoying your tunes while doing their best to ignore ads for toothpaste. Fortunately, it appears there’s still a thriving community of fans who understand that the best way to support the artists they love is by handing them money. We aspire to present this truth as clearly as possible, and provide a service that respects both the integrity of the artist, and the intelligence of any serious music fan. Thank you for being a part of it!

51 thoughts on “Cheaper than Free

  1. People keep proving again and again that Bandcamp is by far the best site for the musician. Its so reliable and trustworthy, sometimes I think they might be up to something. In all seriousness though, amazing work Bandcamp, as usual.

  2. That’s pretty awesome news! What sort of percentage of sales are coming from these kinds of search terms?

  3. Here’s to another year (and endless more) of being as awesome as you are and as opposite of the music industry juggernaut as possible woohoo!

  4. That’s remarkable. The entire site is bucking every so-called ‘trend’ sold to us by the lobbyists for ever more control of the web.

    Bandcamp has become SUCH a remarkable positive disruptive force in music online. Incredible. x

  5. The news from Bandcamp just continues to improve! You guys totally rock and it all starts with Bandcamp providing the type of ‘WOW’ that the music creator and music buyer need. Congrats!

  6. This post just goes to show you, with a better business model, measures like SOPA (here in the US) are the problem and services like Bandcamp are the solution.


  7. Never change the concept.

    1.You are the dudes.

    2.You are the future of paid music on the internet

    3. General internet peoples like your mum have to catch up with the philosophy. More music fans need to know. Everybody should be backlinking, promoting and advertising you as well as themselves because then it helps everyone. WAKE UP EGO ROLLERS! (i know you can’t say that it sounds sucky so i did so i just double sucked big dead cats in washing machines)

    4. You are the dudes

    5. Dude!

  8. If I can’t find a lossless version of an album or a track somewhere official… I find it very hard not to resort to file-sharing websites.

    I’d rather not pay the same money (and sometimes more) for a below par, lossy version of an album when I know I could get it in the highest quality, but via devious means on a torrent site.

    I love you BandCamp for letting me buy the music I love in the highest quality around. Keep pushing the boundaries of convention… and poke SOPA’s eyes out.

  9. thanks to bandcamp we’re all playing the greatest show in music history. thanks for making us happier musicians.

  10. Bandcamp really seems to be a perfect example of how to provide a better service than piracy, and delivering a better service is probably the best way to combat piracy.

    Maybe the music industry ought to take notes!

  11. When I was in college I shared lots of music, most of which had restrictive copyright. There was one performer who was an exception, this performer basically had a copyright that said if you couldn’t afford to buy the music than you were free to share it, and when you could afford it she’d appreciate it. Within a month of getting my first professional job I bought one of each CD published by that performer and I know many of my friends did the same. So I’m not surprised at your findings. There’s a higher level of respect for artists that are empathic and willing to share.

  12. One thing bandcamp has that no one else does is that I can listen to an ENTIRE ALBUM before I buy it, as many times as I want, even on my iPhone. Not only that, I can buy it from my iPhone and it knows I can’t download the songs yet so I get an email with a link. There’s more… this all worked when I lost signal for about 10 minutes in the middle of buying something. Why would I even look anywhere else? It’s easy for me and keeps the artists I like in business.

  13. Ahhaha I love the line about people start to google for mediafire-like websites and finally end on bandcamp 🙂

    Heart to bandcamp and its service and all my followers of 2011!

  14. Great post!

    this just proves that people want to support the artists they like when:

    a) the price is right
    b) they know the artist gets their money – not Sony…

  15. This is absolutely true. All these tiny details are made with lots of background information and inspiration, both of which we all need, thanks for writing this blog.

  16. i’d be really interested in finding out how much of sales are happening in which countries over a period of time. i suspect there’re still many countries who aren’t that comfortable paying online and i think mine is one of those :/

  17. Make it easier and faster to get what you want in the format you want legally. That’s what Bandcamp does well and I love you for that.

  18. If only those SOPA-supporters would finally understand that file sharing is not a problem but their old business model is. You deserve this, Bandcamp, you are awesome.

  19. Hi, sorry for posting this right here, but I don’t know of a better place.

    I’d really like to buy music on Bandcamp, but the problem is that a 16 year old does not have any credit cards or PayPal or stuff like that. (Sidenote: The only useful alternative I’ve found so far is PaySafeCard, however, I can’t pay with PSC at Bandcamp.)
    This is a serious problem with online shopping and download websites that a lot of teenagers can tell you a thing or two about, more or less forcing us to pirate music and other content.
    TL;DR version: I want to pay for it, but they don’t let me!! 🙁

    Greetings from Germany.

  20. This is happening to us right now! Some Torrent site in Bulgaria is sending us tons of traffic and sales. Go figure.

    I also just love the conversation with fans when I direct them to our OWN web page to buy things. “Want me to go to iTunes? Nope, just go right to our site, that way we keep all the proceeds.”

    Thanks again.

  21. bandcamp is a great platform for selling & for free distribution. i always feel it would be improved though if as a user i could follow/subscribe to artists and get updates of new music posted. also features on the home page could improve browsing artists etc. especially as more and more people are discovering how good bandcamp is.

    with regards to money, i think people are willing to pay for music, i just think usually it gets overpriced alot.

  22. Feyri: In regards to this:

    i always feel it would be improved though if as a user i could follow/subscribe to artists and get updates of new music posted.

    You can! Just follow the RSS feed on the bottom of each album page! That way, you can subscribe to albums and artists!

  23. Just read this and it reminded me to go and buy the album I’ve been listening to every day on Spotify. Keep up the good work guys.

  24. Us at FOR GREATER GOOD Ambient Music never had a better platform to promote our music than Bandcamp, and we wish to thank you again and again for this opportunity.

    You guys are the best. Thumbs up!


  25. It’s easy to understand why. People who search for “band name torrent” aren’t really looking to get the music *free*; they are looking to get it *conveniently*, and they think piracy is the way to achieve that because most music-sales systems suck so badly. Provide a service that’s as convenient as piracy, and people will be happy to pay for it.

  26. Very interesting. Music is so cheap these days, same with iOS applications; Software has never been so cheap and to pirate it means you really are a thief.

  27. BC is our favorite site for selling our music digitally (and giving it out for free!). So many other sites have devious hidden terms in their lengthy, legalese ridden end user agreements and contracts (like assigning new ISRC codes to each song and selling their now non rescindable freely licensed in perpetuity compressed version of the songs that can cut the artist out of the equation etc) that BC is a breath of fresh air in a corrupt industry. BC is straight forward, easy to use, is fair, and has great tools for artists. We look forward to getting our upcoming album on the site! Thank you!

  28. As a fan do you know the best thing about Bandcamp? It’s the fact that if I hear something I like (and we’re talking listening to the WHOLE album, not some 30 – 90 second snippet) I can click on the link and buy it. Simple as that.

    Doesn’t matter where I am, where the artist is… No stupid geographical licensing issues… No only available as an import at $$$$.

    It’s the fucking stupid restrictions that drive us to torrents and dodgy downloads in the first place. Make it easy as easy as this and you wouldn’t have to worry about piracy!

  29. Ah wow, me too

    I usually torrent stuff because it’s easier than buying stuff and I found this site when looking for a torrent. I think if all music was distributed like on this site, there would be much less pirating and the artists would make a much larger proportion of the money customers spend on their music.

  30. Very interesting. Music is so cheap these days, same with iOS applications; Software has never been so cheap and to pirate it means you really are a thief.

  31. Ummm, just wondering…how does Bandcamp know what their customers are Googling before they come to Bandcamp and make a purchase?

    1. Generally any given web page knows which page you came from, which, in Google’s case, includes the search terms you just entered (and only the ones you just entered).

  32. Love bandcamp! All u guys need to do is make downloads available straight to the iPhone and u will be the number music site! I don’t have a comp so this is my only way to access music

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