The Bandcamp 2017 Year in Review

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2017 was another stellar year for Bandcamp, with double digit growth in every aspect of the business. Digital album sales were up 16%, tracks 33%, and merch 36%. Growth in physical sales was led by vinyl (up 54%), CDs (up 18%), and cassettes (up 41%). Revenue from the 3,500 independent labels on Bandcamp grew 73%, and more than 600,000 artists have now sold something through the site. Our publication, Bandcamp Daily, grew its audience by 84%, and all-time payments to artists through Bandcamp reached $270 million. We launched a new app for artists and labels, added gift cards, improved fan collections, held successful fundraisers for the ACLU and TLC, and we’ll soon mark six straight years as a profitable company that only makes money when artists make a lot more money.

Meanwhile, standalone music streaming companies continued to lose money in 2017, and industry-wide record sales continued to decline: in the U.S., digital album sales dropped 20%, tracks were down 23%, and physical sales fell 20%. The seemingly inevitable upshot of these two trends is that the majority of music consumption will eventually take place within the subscription rental services of two or three enormous corporations, who can afford to lose money on music because it attracts customers to the parts of their businesses that are profitable.

As we said last year, allowing the distribution of an entire art form to be controlled by so few has troubling implications, and those continued to play out in 2017. The streaming giants exert tremendous influence over what music gets heard, and must primarily serve their most important supplier, the major labels. The result is that independent labels, and especially independent artists, are far less likely to be discovered on those platforms. 99% of all streaming is of the top 10% most-streamed tracks, and given the majors’ control over the music that is promoted on streaming services (documented in the must-read piece “The Secret Lives of Playlists”), listening hours are likely to become even more concentrated at the top.

Per stream rates also continued their decline in 2017, dropping another 9%, which is the opposite of the this-will-all-work-out-when-we’re-big-enough dream once sold by music rental companies. This trend feels unstoppable given the effect of decreased competition on artists’ ability to set fair rates, but a ray of hope seemed to emerge two weeks ago when the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board ruled to increase songwriter streaming rates by 48% over the next five years. However, that’s an impediment to profitability that can easily be resolved by eliminating musicians altogether.*

In the midst of all this, NPR Music’s Andrew Flanagan wrote:

“Bandcamp serves as an honest-to-goodness, proof-in-the-pudding bulwark against the creep of artistic monoculture fueled by the consolidation of digital life into the hands of a few companies. Maybe the future isn’t a dumpster fire after all.”

This made us laugh of course, but it also accurately captured what drives us to keep building and growing Bandcamp after all these years (we’ll celebrate our 10th anniversary this September, more on that to come). We want a music platform to exist where the playing field is level, where artists are compensated fairly and transparently, and where fans can both stream and own their music collections. The fact that this simple concept continues to resonate with so many talented artists and hard core fans inspires us every single day, and in 2018 we’ll be working hard to bring it to an even bigger audience. Thank you for another great year!

-Ethan Diamond

*Or hey, maybe there’s nothing to worry about after all.

175 thoughts on “The Bandcamp 2017 Year in Review

  1. You guys at Bandcamp are doing a fantastic job.
    These days, as I grow older, grumpier and more disheartened with the way music retail is heading, and with the vanilla drivel that is marketed by the big company platforms, I have become increasingly more reliant on Bandcamp for sourcing music.
    I have discovered some great new artists on your site.
    The ability to download FLAC file format is also another attribute which sets you guys apart from many other digital music sources.
    Thanks !

  2. Bandcamp is a beautiful island of sincerity in the ocean of exploitation that is the music industry.

    Don’t you dare sell out. I’ll be real mad.

  3. Way to go Bandcamp! Absolutely love your site and it’s such a good way to discover new music and people with similar taste. And knowing so much of the purchase going to the artists is a great feeling and real motivation to continue to buy music on this site before anywhere else. Here’s to a successful 2018!

  4. Long may the creative flame that encourages new music…and for me the physical media such as CD, live. Bandcamp you deserve to grow even faster – may 2018 be an even stronger year for you and all your artists!

  5. I think Bandcamp is the perfect balance for the listener and the artist to get music over to the listener as well as being able to listen to new choons and genres of music without being force fed all the commercial stuff. Keep up the great work both Bandcamp and the musicians that we get the chance to listen to and purchase at “our” convenience. Best wishes to all for the future.

  6. I was a punk in the early 80s and artists being independent was everything. I love music now more than ever and Bandcamp is a daily ‘thing’ for me now. I check my emails; I get a few from labels & artists on BC – letting me know about new stuff or rereleases I might not have heard, and I can usually give them a listen and make a decision to buy it or ‘wishlist’ it for further deliberation. And on the occasion that there aren’t any BC emails, I can just go for a wander through the myriad artists, labels & genres and just see what I can find. And BC doesn’t tell me what to listen to!

    I could just listen on BC and never buy anything, but I have so much respect for the artists I like that are on BC, that to not buy their music would be so unbelievably disrespectful that I just couldn’t do it. More power to you, BC and to the artists & labels that make BC there home!

  7. Bandcamp has been fundamental in helping our band take off, sign with a label and fund future recordings. Many thanks and here’s to an even better 2018!

  8. We have been self releasing since the mid 1980s. Joining Bandcamp was a game changer allowing us to invest more in the creation of artisan CD Packs to support our label artists. In terms of plays, downloads and purchases, each year since we joined has been better than the year before. Thanks for your vision and congratulations. Cheers.

  9. Your work does a lot for for artists and smaller labels. Also as a listener, BC’s the best place to find unusual music and sounds and gives a chance to pay tribute to the artists. Keep it up!

  10. I had been in a music drought for years, after realizing that just downloading music en masse from torrents was not very responsible, sustainable or kind to the artists. The sources to learn what was out there were unsatisfying and stale, and maybe music as an art actually did have a bit of a ‘crash’ around the same time the market did. I had inklings, as algorithms like pandora started to pop up, that while it was amazing technology, it could lead to a feedback loop where people never get exposed to sounds outside of what they already like, and innovative artists never have a breakthrough moment and wallow away in obscurity. Bandcamp has been my salvation – it allows me to find hidden talent in my own search, assisted by people who actually care about good music instead just $$$, or instead of robots who just know what you already listen to and “like” 👍 . Good to hear that the plan is working. The internet, in so many ways, can be the revolutionary freeing of choice and creativity, but we have to support the people that get that. My money isn’t going anywhere near a streaming service.

  11. I only discovered Bandcamp last year (I know – unforgivable ;o), but it has been a veritable journey of discovery. So many excellent bands and artists I would never have gotten to know if it weren’t for Bandcamp. Bandcamp daily and weekly, album of the day, etc… I read it all. Congrats to all who help maintain the site.

  12. Thank you Bandcamp! Thanks to you guys I’ve improved my monthly salary by about 500 dollars! It goes towards paying the bills and feeding my two children.

  13. Thank you to Bandcamp for making us discover a great variety of music by daring to clear styles and groups that we have practically no longer the possibility of finding in large broadcasters who now practice only mono-culture, poor and tasteless .
    I buy a lot on your site and very happy to contribute to support groups.
    Special mention for the quality of your site really very well done and complete, on which I like to spend time to better discover some small musical mushrooms.
    Long live Bandcamp

  14. Thanks for providing such a great catalog of music and a well-performing platform. This is my first stop for every new music discovery I make. Keep up the good work! Best

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