Everything is Terrific: The Bandcamp 2016 Year in Review

Bandcamp 2016 Year In Review

Bandcamp 2016 Year In Review

And now some genuinely great news in an otherwise unremarkable week: every aspect of Bandcamp’s business was up in 2016. Digital album sales grew 20%, tracks 23%, and merch 34%. Growth in physical sales was led by vinyl, which was up 48%, and further boosted by CDs (up 14%) and cassettes (up 58%). Every single one of these numbers represents an acceleration over last year’s growth. Hundreds of thousands of artists joined Bandcamp in 2016, more than 2,000 independent labels came on board (like Dischord, Merge, and Dualtone), and the rate of fan signups tripled. Fans have now paid artists nearly $200 million using Bandcamp, and they buy a record every three seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The record business overall did not fare as well. According to Nielsen, it grew 3% in the U.S. in 2016, while sales of digital albums fell 20%, tracks were down 25%, and physical albums dropped 14%. These declines are not at all surprising given the industry-wide push toward subscription music rental offerings, and indeed as the year came to a close, those services reached a combined 100 million paying subscribers. This milestone is being celebrated by some, but it is not good news for the vast majority of artists, and poses some serious problems for fans, labels, and music as an art form.

As more people subscribe to music rental services, the already paltry rates paid to artists are going down (and no, artists don’t necessarily make it up in volume). But it’s not only artists who are struggling. The companies built solely around subscription music rental continue to struggle as well. Some say the model is simply broken. The success of Netflix is often used as a counterargument, but the music business is not the movie business.

Longer term, if subscription music rental can’t work as a standalone business, then it will only exist as a service offered by corporate behemoths to draw customers into the parts of their businesses where they do make money, like selling phones, service plans, or merchandise. And when the distribution of an entire art form is controlled by just two or three nation-state-sized companies, artists and labels will have even less leverage than they do now to set fair rates, the music promoted to fans will be controlled by a small handful of gatekeepers, and more and more artists will be hit with the one-two punch of lower rates and less exposure. The net effect for music as a whole is worrisome.

Bandcamp provides an alternative to all of this because we feel strongly that an alternative needs to exist. The fact that we continue to grow, and that that growth is accelerating, tells us that many of you agree. We’ll therefore continue to build on a model that compensates artists fairly and puts them in control of their data, gives fans all the convenience of streaming plus the benefits of ownership and still allows them to directly support the artists they love, and works as a standalone business that’s 100% focused on music (we just had our 17th straight profitable quarter, while also increasing our staff by 43% last year). Impending thermonuclear apocalypse notwithstanding, we are incredibly enthusiastic about 2017. At least two of the half dozen things we’ll launch this year will astound you, and one may even cause you to make an unexpected vacation detour. We can’t wait. Thank you for being a part of it!

-Ethan Diamond

P.S. Don’t miss Bandcamp Daily’s Best of 2016.

174 thoughts on “Everything is Terrific: The Bandcamp 2016 Year in Review

  1. One of my favorite things about Bandcamp is that It’s like going to a digital record store, where I can get lost in a record labels’ discography – dope aspect of Bandcamp, or discover new, and or more underground artists — that I wouldn’t get exposed to otherwise (the suggested bands are always pretty spot on – freakishly sometimes!).

    The quality of musicians using the site is incredible. I’m working on my first set of house tracks to put up, and Bandcamp constantly inspires me to work harder and create the best music I can. I’ve got a lot of work to do 🙂 Thanks for all that you do.

  2. I ONLY buy music on Bandcamp, anymore and I’ve made some really good discoveries, of bands I’d never known about, solely because of this site. I’m glad to hear this awesome news.

  3. The fact the Bandcamp is showing signs of growth in not only sales but attracting more artists/labels is very heartening for me a life long buyer of vinyl records. Thanks to Bandcamp and the discoveries l have made within, my record collection has more depth, for this and more l thank you.

  4. I concur with the multitude of positivity here. Wonderful. Revolutionary. I benefit from Bandcamp and I love your ethos.
    However, I’m quite old and remember when Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook et al were the revolutionaries. ‘Big bucks’ are the two words that threaten any revolutionary’s resolve. I have no grounds to doubt your fantastic company, I just hope your ideology is tough as hell.
    All the best for 2017.

  5. Rock on Bandcamp! So grateful to be able to share and find great music here. Not even sure that nuclear threat can put a damper on wicked tunes.

  6. It’s a shame that it’s become more difficult to earn money as an artist these days, but the growth this site is experiencing makes me think that the future will not be dark.

  7. Bandcamp has completely changed how I absorb my music.

    The subscription model is flawed and unfair, the torrent model has been corrupted and is dying, and resources like iTunes and Amazon offer only an impersonal, sterile and corporatized opportunity to directly support artists.

    Other than buying merch at shows, I only use Bandcamp. Nothing comes close.

    Thanks guys!

    PLEASE don’t sell out. No matter how tempting the offer may be. I don’t think we’ll really know how important Bandcamp is to music until we see the behemoths crash from the velocity of their own greed. Stay honest.

    bandcamp.com/holycalamity

  8. Loving what you’re doing here !!! Very glad to hear that it’s working more and more ! Already talking much about you around me to the artists and labels ! BUT WHEN WILL THERE BE A PSYTRANCE TAG ? 🙂

  9. Bandcamp you are truly beautiful. If we were not so cooly respectful there would be a thousand times more fan letters here. We love you.

  10. Thank you Bandcamp for a great year! I have loved sharing my music here and being introduced to new albums by my friends.

  11. Keep on rocking, keep up the good work!
    Will it be possible one day to organize the own collection by playlists?
    It would be especially useful for users with different music styles…

  12. Thanks for putting artists and their fans first, Bandcamp. I can’t say enough good things about your service. As a different kind of artist (3D/visual) it makes me feel good to support other artists who are passionate about their craft, and it makes me feel even better that there is a company/service that feels the same. Can’t wait to see what BC brings to the table to up the ante in 2017. Excelsior!

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