Trent Reznor and Another Way of Thinking About Pay-What-You-Want

If there’s an equivalent in the music tech world to the Oprah Book Club Seal of Magnificence, it would have to be an endorsement from Trent Reznor. Woop:

Bandcamp: This looks excellent to me. I have not used it but it appears to be great. This would cover your digital distribution of files and the collecting / amassing of your database.” link

But a little later in the post, he says:

“Pay-what-you-want model: I hate this concept…Asking people what they think music is worth devalues music…This is your art! This is your life! It has a value and you the artist are not putting that power in the hands of the audience – doing so creates a dangerous perception issue…Don’t be misled by Radiohead’s In Rainbows stunt. That works one time for one band once – and you are not Radiohead.”

When Trent says “pay-what-you-want” here, I believe what he’s more specifically referring to is “pay-what-you-want where the minimum is zero.” Whether such a model devalues music is an interesting question, but the point we want to make is that there’s another form of pay-what-you-want, and it does more or less the exact opposite of devaluing music.

On Bandcamp, you can set up your tunes to be pay-what-you-want, but with a minimum price of your choosing. This model allows the artist to set the price they believe represents the fair value of their work, and it gives fans who feel the value is even higher the opportunity to say so. And it completely works. For one of the best-selling albums on Bandcamp, nearly half (47%) of fans have paid more than its minimum price, raising the average price paid to nearly 1.5 times the minimum. For one track by another artist, a fan paid six hundred dollars when the minimum price was just $1 (thanks mom!).

So why does this approach work so well? Our guess is that whereas a set price does nothing to engage a fan, pay-what-you-want-with-a-non-zero-minimum invites fans to ask themselves a question. And that question goes something like “OK, given what he put into it, Trent has decided that this is worth at least $8, but is it worth even more than that to me?” On paper, you might think this would turn some off, but for plenty of people, the answer to the question turns out to be a resounding “Yes.”

The actual point of this post is to say HOLY CRAP TRENT REZNOR THINKS BANDCAMP LOOKS EXCELLENT. Thank you.

RSS and the Greatly Exaggerated Rumors of the Album’s Death

The album is dying! And it’s not just the bottomless supply of industry clairvoyants saying so either. Nope, there’s cold, hard evidence, too. Nielsen SoundScan reported that in 2008, sales of individual digital tracks trounced sales of digital albums by a whopping 16 to 1 (1.07 billion to 65 million). That’s actually a slightly narrower difference than 2007 (when it was 17 to 1), but the point still stands: demand for tracks is crushing demand for albums. But wait, what’s this? A small beacon of hope to allay the worst fears of the over-30’s still gumming their (OK, our) food in time to every last track on Zen Arcade? Yes, here at Bandcamp we long suspected that our numbers were quite a bit different from SoundScan’s. But yesterday, we actually took a moment to analyze the data, and the difference is even larger than we thought.

On Bandcamp, albums outsell tracks 2 to 1. Put another way, 66% of paid downloads on Bandcamp are for albums, compared to only about 6% for the greater Nielsen-reporting world. So why the disparity between what we’re seeing, and what iTunes and Amazon are experiencing?

Maybe it’s because the independent artists that dominate Bandcamp have a different kind of fan than Hannah Montana (whose seminal work, Hannah Montana 3 (Music from the TV Show) [Deluxe Edition], is currently featured on iTunes’ front page). Maybe it’s because iTunes sells albums for the priced-to-not-move sum of $10 and up, whereas albums on Bandcamp sell for whatever you want them to (the default, name-your-price with a $5 minimum, being the sweet spot settled upon by statistics, not music attorneys). Maybe it’s because people are more likely to buy albums when they can actually listen to them beforehand. Maybe it’s because we’re offering albums in the formats people want to buy. Maybe it’s because the iTunes interface not-so-subtly pushes singles over albums, with any given album page sporting an attention-grabbing column of BUY SONG links against a high-contrast background while a lone “buy album” button lurks only in the page’s shadows:


Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Whatever the reason, our own experience is that fan demand for consuming, and artist interest in producing, albums is alive and well, and, we believe, not fairly represented by the numbers coming out of SoundScan.

That said, what exactly constitutes an album is rapidly evolving, spurred on by enabling technologies like Bandcamp. I wish we could say our involvement was intentional, but the truth is that we never anticipated the ways in which many of you would use the site. Rather than treating albums as immutable collections of tracks, lots of you treat albums as open containers. Containers for song-a-day/week projects, explorations of particular musical styles, or just general works-in-progress. We find all of this activity incredibly cool, and want to do everything we can to cultivate it.

So, yesterday we took the small, but we think significant, step of adding RSS feeds at both the artist and album level. Fans can now subscribe to everything you produce, or just tune in to one particular album, whatever that happens to represent. The links are down at the bottom of your page (but feeds can also be accessed via the browser’s own auto-discovery):


Thanks to everyone who patiently agitated for this feature, especially Mark Cuban.

Let Me Try Throwing an Exclamation Point on the End. Receipts!

When someone buys something from your Bandcamp site, we now email a receipt to both you and them. Sounds painfully obvious, we know, but it’s something we intentionally avoided up until today because both parties already get a receipt from PayPal, and adding any more mail into the mix struck us as unnecessary noise. A few hundred thousand downloads later, our thinking has changed a bit.

We now email a receipt to the fan because:

a) It’s an opportunity for you to thank them for their support. Sure, it’s an automated email, but in terms of nurturing your fanbase it’s a lot better than the norm nowadays, which is no message at all (and we’ll eventually allow you to customize the text to give it your own voice). The email, by the way, is sent from, so if the fan replies with any technical issues, we’ll handle it (and in the event that they reply with nekkid pix we’ll forward along any good ones).

b) It further reduces the likelihood that you’ll ever get a support email. Before, a fan trying to download a 262 meg FLAC file to their Blackberry from a cruising altitude of 34,000 feet who ran into an issue would have to find the Help link in your site’s footer to get support. If you happened to have your own contact info prominently displayed on your page, odds are they sent you an email instead of (or sometimes in addition to) us. You should always feel free to forward those messages our way, but our goal is to keep you from getting any in the first place. The receipt brings us one step closer to that objective, since it includes download tips and a link the fan can use to retry their download.

We also now email a receipt to the you, the artist, because:

a) It gives you a quick way to know that you sold something from Bandcamp specifically, as opposed to the seven other sites where you still sell your stuff.

b) It allows us to reliably provide you with purchase details in the format we, rather than the payment provider, consider best (which is directly informed by the details you guys have asked for). Our receipt has the name of the track or album that was purchased right in the subject, including the price and currency, with a link to the full transaction details in the message body. (The receipt goes to the PayPal email address specified on your Profile page, so if you’re currently filtering those messages to your Never Read folder, please watch out.)

Reporting to SoundScan (This Feature Dedicated to the Memory of Snuggles)

Sales on Bandcamp will soon be reported to Nielsen SoundScan, the company behind the Billboard charts. Before we can start submitting weekly stats, however, we need you to please add your UPC codes to your albums, and ISRC codes to your tracks. Just go to each album or track’s page, click Edit, and towards the bottom you’ll see new fields for this data. They look like this:



If you don’t know what UPC or ISRC codes are, but would like to learn, this is a good article on the topic. Please note that Bandcamp does not supply those codes, but plenty of others do, such as CDBaby. More info can be found here and here.

We’ll update this post as soon as we have enough data from all of you to begin weekly reporting. Here’s to you, Snuggles:

Update August 24th: We now submit US, Canadian and international sales reports to SoundScan each and every Monday morning. Thanks to everyone for getting your ISRC and UPC codes added!

Stickers, WANT

Please help us spread the Bandcamp word! Simply send your name, physical mailing address, and Bandcamp URL to, and we’ll immediately stop what we’re doing, hand copy your address onto an actual envelope, drop in an assortment of ultra-covetable vinyl Bandcamp stickers (with waterproof overlam!), slowwwwly lick both the envelope and the stamp(s) (non-U.S. artists receive bonus saliva), seal, affix, walk down to the postbox, bid the package farewell, return to our computer, delete the email containing your address, empty the trash, cancel the mail account, climb to the roof, soak the laptop in gasoline, light it on fire, kick it off the ledge, return to the ground floor, stomp on the smoldering pieces, eat them, and walk ourselves and whatever might remain of your personal data right into the ocean.

The stickers are 4″ x 1.25″. Dimensions are often hard to visualize, so here’s one with a moai:


a pterodactyl:


Mac Dre:

and a cave troll:


And from you, the bands, with bacon:


all over F‘s stuff:




from Spaces’ point of inspiration:


adorning the gear of Mojave:


on Nickname:Rebel‘s newfangled turntable:


on Gustavo‘s 1’s and 2’s:


and elsewhere:



Minimum Name-Your-Price Minimum Now Zero

When we implemented name-your-price downloads, we decided to limit the price bands could specify as the let-fan-name-price minimum to no lower than $0.50 USD. That approach made perfect sense to us at the time, since if you went much below fifty cents, all of a fan’s payment would be eaten up by transaction fees. Trouble is, that set up two flows: the free flow, and the name-your-price-with-a-non-zero-minimum flow, and since we didn’t let you choose Best quality for each, you were stuck offering non-paying fans a lower quality download. It is ridiculous, meaning completely awesome, how many bands wrote in to point out our folly.

Thanks to you, the minimum name-your-price minimum is now zero, and as an added bonus, you have the option of summoning the power of the Free Download Email Capture Thingy™ for fans who enter zero. It all looks like this:


It’s the Give-PayPal-Less-Money Button!

If you sell stuff on Bandcamp, and most of that stuff sells for $12 USD or less, then please do yourself and Lady Justice a favor by signing up for PayPal micropayments. Instead of their standard transaction fees, which work out to about 33 cents for a $1 payment and 45 cents for a $5 payment, you’ll part with only 10 cents on a $1 payment and 30 cents on a $5 payment.

After switching to micropayments, all items sold via that PayPal account (through Bandcamp or elsewhere) will use the new rate. That means that if, on some other site, you sell a lot of items priced higher than $12, a micropayments account may actually end up costing you more in transaction fees than a standard one. If that’s your situation, you might consider using two PayPal accounts, one with micropayments for Bandcamp sales and another with the standard rate for your non-Bandcamp, higher-priced transactions.

Switching to micropayments isn’t irreversible. You can pop back to the standard rate any time by contacting PayPal.

Update: PayPal’s micropayments page doesn’t work properly in Safari. You’ll need to use either Firefox or IE to sign up.

If We Had an Icelandic Króna for Every Juan, Diederik and Henri Requesting This Feature…

…then uh, we still couldn’t buy a kleina and a cup of coffee. Global financial crisis hilarity aside, you can now sell on Bandcamp in Pounds Sterling, Canadian Dollars, Euros, Australian Dollars, Israeli New Sheqels, or any of 13 other currencies. You set this up from your Profile page, like so:



To make migrating to a new currency as easy as possible, when you make a selection from the dropdown we show you all the unique prices you’re using across your site, and suggest an appropriate price in the new currency (since a pure conversion of say, $5 USD would lead to the somewhat user-unfriendly price of €3.778 EUR). You can then tweak the new price to whatever you like, click Save, and all your tracks and albums are bulk repriced. Viva las computadoras!


Fans see the new currency in all the places you’d expect, such as the Name Your Price dialog:


And while we were in a currency state of mind, we also added a handy conversion chart to all the places where prices appear. That way, when 小海 gets super into נדב אזולאי and decides to express his adoration monetarily, he can do so confident in the knowledge that he’ll be forking over no more than was his intent.