On the Expansion of Creativity in The Commons

From the Bandcamp mailbag:

Yo bandcamp dude and dudettes,
I freaking love the site from what I’ve seen so far. But…please find some cool way to support creative commons. I’d like to be able to offer my free mp3 downloads in a way that my audience knows they’re OK to share with their friends. From poking around in the options I couldn’t see anyway to do this. Maybe it could be as simple as a a tick box for the band to check when uploading a file. Dunno man, you will figure this all out I’m sure, you are smart. Just support Creative Commons please 🙂 Keep up the good work. Hugs and Kisses, JD

Hugs and kisses backatchu JD, and everyone else who requested Creative Commons support, then patiently worked around its absence by putting CC links in their tracks’ credits or about fields, slapping CC marks in their header graphics, and other reasonable zaniness. Situation rectified: starting today, you can select a CC license right from the Edit Track page.

So what’s Creative Commons you may ask? You’re no doubt already familiar with the all-rights-reserved, ask-permission-or-face-my-wrath, copyright ©. But what if you want to allow certain uses of your work, like remixing, sharing, and so on? Enter Creative Commons, a non-profit organization that has created a set of free, standardized copyright licenses which allow you to communicate which rights you reserve, and which you waive for the benefit of other creators. It’s basically an easy way to go from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” This moderately amusing video provides more detail:

In Bandcamp, you choose a license on the Edit Track page. It looka like dis:


Licenses proceed from most restrictive (“all rights reserved,” the default) down to most permissive (“attribution”). The license names may seem a bit esoteric at first, but easy-to-grasp descriptions of each can be viewed by clicking the “info” link. Once you choose a license, it’s added to the footer of your track (or album, if all the tracks it contains have the same license), like so:


Creative Commons’ mission is “to increase the amount of creativity… in ‘the commons’ — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.” A worthy goal, we think, so if © strikes you as too restrictive, we hope you’ll take a gander at the various licenses and find something that better captures the freedoms you want your work to carry.

Big Ups from BIGSTEREO

Major unsolicited approbation from preeminent music blog BIGSTEREO today:

“Bandcamp is the best site to come to the Internet in forever (think MySpace mixed with iTunes without the annoying features of both sites). Gotta say my one wish for this year is that more bands jump onto [it].”

Damn. Thanks Travis! And congrats to Triobelisk, whose track “Xrystal Eye” is the real topic of the BIGSTEREO post:

Go Paul & Storm, Go! You My Friend

With today’s installment, Paul and Storm’s epic Advent homage to everyone’s favorite songwriter, Randy Newman, draws to a bittersweet close. Dubbed The 25 Days of Newman, it is brilliant not only for its hilarious lyrics, but also for the total mastery of internet publicity that it demonstrates. With meme-savvy themes for The Big Lebowski, Cloverfield, A Brief History of Time, Serenity and more, the project racked up some 36,000 plays in less than a month. To quote Paul and Storm quoting their tour-mate Jonathan Coulton, “suck on that, old media!”

If you haven’t checked it out already, get on it. And should the muse strike, they’ve kindly included the raw piano track so you can create your own Newman-inspired movie theme (though you can’t really hope to do any better than [spoiler alert] The Crying Game). To Paul and Storm, thanks for the great shout-out, and for choosing Bandcamp to help bring this ingenious project to the world.

Free Download Email Capture Thingy™

By crushingly popular demand, you can now collect a fan’s email address when they download a free track or album. Simply tick the “require email address” checkbox on the Edit Track or Album page, and when a fan downloads your music, Bandcamp will ask them for their vitals and email them a link to the goods. You may then extract that solid gold nugget of data from our servers with a flick of your mouse: click Edit Profile, and under the section titled Mailing List, click Export. You’ll not only get the fan’s email address, but their country, zip/postal code, and even the date they signed up. Given the power to use that information for good, or for awesome, we trust you will choose the latter. Enjoy!

Design Customization

Log into your account, click “edit design” in the upper right corner, and have at it. If you come up with something interesting, please let us know about it in the comments. If you come up with something not interesting, remember we reserve the right to close your account without notice for any reason (j/k, animated gifs aren’t even supported). We look forward to your creative response to reasonable constraints! (Preemptive postscript: embedded player customization is indeed on the horizon.)

The “Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants” Release

Artist Index

You can now browse through all the artist sites powered by Bandcamp right here (we also link to that index from the home page). Before you start thinking we’re on our way to becoming yet-another-music-fan-portal, please let us ‘splain. As we’ve stated elsewhere, one of Bandcamp’s objectives is to optimize your site for search engine discovery. And simply creating your site isn’t enough to make Google discover it — someone, somewhere, has to link to it. For many, the logical place from which to do that is MySpace. However, MySpace mangles all of its outbound links, meaning from Google’s perspective, those links don’t exist (if you’ve ever clicked an outbound link on a MySpace page and seen Tom’s dire warning about how doing so may very well kill a puppy, you’ve witnessed the um…need for said mangling). At any rate, rather than push that problem onto you, we go ahead and link to your Bandcamp-powered site ourselves now, from a page we know Google will be frequently Google-izing. And while we could have accomplished that with a simple and boring list of links (a so-called “site map” to those who know about that sorta thing), we decided to gussy it up with cover art and some basic sorting. Not because we want to make it easy for fans to browse through all nerdcore acts in 94114 who happen to use Bandcamp, but because we want you to see that yes, there really are loads of artists out there who have entrusted us with their music, and we hope you will too.

Toughening Upload

We recognize that all our efforts are kinda for naught if you can’t get your tracks uploaded, so we gave that whole experience a bit of love over the past few weeks. In addition to knocking out a few upload-related bugs (a minority would fail with a “this isn’t audio” message, and .wav’s were missing their AAC and Apple Lossless encodings), we overhauled the basic flow to move the processing of each track into the background. This means you no longer have to wait for a track to be converted into the many formats we offer before you can save it, and it also means that a whole class of timeout errors are now fixed. We also now show processing progress, and, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, we do a better job at telling you what exactly, thereby accelerating our movement towards total upload awesomeness. And yes, a batch uploader is still in the works.


You can now edit your band name and optional non-Bandcamp web address from the Edit Profile page. This means you, Figth Like Apes! (Note that editing your band name does not also edit your domain. We’ll soon provide domain mapping to deal with that issue.)

Our code for sharing an embedded player on WordPress only worked for WordPress.com blogs. We hope all is forgiven now that there is a separate menu item for WordPress.org (meaning self-hosted, not-dot-com) blogs.

We fixed the bug where uploading or deleting a custom header from the stats pages would fail.

We fixed the bug where track or album titles containing a “/” and certain other punctuation would cause problems during download (nutty, a slash in a track name created unintended nested directories in album zip files).

You can now share a track or album to Twitter, because some of your crazy fans use it and copy/pasting the url out of the address bar is totally exhausting.

Feelin the Luv

Mercy! We launched Bandcamp just 30 days ago, and in that time 1,300 bands have signed on, uploading more than 4,300 tracks. Small potatoes perhaps compared to the behemoth whose shadow we toil under, but an excellent first step nevertheless. It’s particularly encouraging given that we have yet to spend a dime on advertising or PR. Instead, we owe the exposure to one great blog post and the strong word-of-mouth it sparked. The feedback has been so overwhelmingly positive, in fact, that we’re a little bit shocked. Where the haterz at, yo? (Haterz, that was a rhetorical question.) We’re thrilled you’re thrilled, and we wish to thank everyone who has taken the time to tweet, post, email or even just think Bandcamp-related huzzahs over the past month. Here are some of our favorites:

From the blogs:

“Bandcamp is, seemingly, just yet another website that allows you to sell your music yourself. But the solution Bandcamp offers is so elegant, so easy, and so compelling, that it basically leaps to the head of the pack…I now have Bandcamp as my default music page on my official site. It’s that good.”

“I do not endorse things easily, and you couldn’t even pay me to give a site/service this sort of recommendation, but here it is: as of right now, Bandcamp is officially the business. No competition, not even close. If you are a rapper, if you are in a group, if you are a producer, if you are managing one of the three, then do yourself a favor, take ten minutes, and set yourself up on Bandcamp.”

“A killer app for emerging bands. Really well done.”

“Great ideas are often based not on doing something new, but doing something the way most people didn’t even realize it should be done. Bandcamp, the newly launched digital music publishing platform, looks like it may just fall into this category. As a musician, as well as a developer, I’m terribly excited about its possibilities.”

“For too long, people have complained that what we talk about is too difficult because bands just want to make music, rather than focus on building websites. Well, now they don’t have to worry so much about that part.”

“I love Bandcamp…let’s you create a free, clean, very custom mini-site without all the ads and extra junk…It’s the perfect quick solution for promoting your music.”

“clean, free, pretty…I love it”

From Twitter:

“bandcamp is bloody brilliant”
“Wow. Bandcamp is pretty spectacular.”
“i cant describe how much of a badass idea this is…if ur in a band go to http://bandcamp.mu/ revolutionary”
“Bandcamp looks like a fantastic set-up and far better than myspace.”
MySpace music sucked, we’re moving the roster to Bandcamp.”
“musician comrads, Bandcamp looks amazing”
http://bandcamp.mu/faq is hilarious!  Thanks for the link :)”
Bandcamp.mu is pretty serious business.”
“completely blown away by http://bandcamp.mu/
“Incredible new site for artists… seems flawless on the surface, watch the screencast”
“I watched the webcast, http://bandcamp.mu/ is killer, congratulations!  I’ll be recommending it heartily”
“Okay, Bandcamp, you have my attention (and one hell of an FAQ page)
“Bandcamp sounds incredibly right”

And the email:

“OMFG band camp is BRILLIANT! WOW! From a musician’s standpoint this is picture perfect.  I’m seriously thinking about just redirecting to bandcamp when the album comes out.  It’s just superior in every way. Letting people name their own price is just…ugh, this is just awesome. This site is going to be huge.”

“I just want to say that I am beyond excited to have found you guys. Your site answers the needs for so many grassroots bands out there. This is the tool that I have been waiting for. Thank you for putting together such a wonderful site.  I am reworking my entire web presence based on your site now.  I will be taking my music off MySpace and replacing it with your player.”

“Loving your site. I plan to use it for Super Extra Bonus Party’s forthcoming remix album…SEBP won the prestigous Choice Music Prize – Irish album of the year in 2007 so there should be a bit of a buzz about it.”

“I’ve been seeking a home for my solo album for several weeks, and your fledgling site is suiting my needs awesomely – great work!”

“i think your service is an awesome idea! its just what i need my band is releasing an album, a track at a time on blogs”

“wonderfully fantastic in its excellence”

All right, well in addition to bowing, we’ve spent most of the first month working on basic reliability and scaling of the service. That will continue into month two, but once we iron out a few remaining kinks, you’ll start to see some very cool new features that we’re all excited about. Please follow our progress on Twitter or just stay tuned to the blog. Thanks again everybody. We’re honored to have been entrusted with the propagation of your art, and we’ll keep cranking every day to make Bandcamp an important factor in your success.

What’s Bandcamp?

Earlier this year, one of my favorite bands left their label, recorded a new album, and released it as a digital download from their own website. The hour it was due out, I headed to their site, and after several minutes of watching the page struggle to load, concluded that they were just slammed and made a note to check back the next day. But when I did, the site was, once again, excruciatingly slow. This time I was a bit more patient, made it to the checkout page, entered my billing info, and…the download didn’t start. I checked my credit card statement, saw that I’d indeed been charged, and emailed the band. A few days later, the lead singer sent me an apology, along with a direct link to the album’s zip file. I did not then forward that link on to my 200 closest friends, but I wondered how many did, and couldn’t decide whether it was a good or bad thing that most fans had probably given up before getting this far.

Well the new record turned out to be even better than I’d hoped, but now, months later, I’m still running into other fans who don’t have it. This just kills me, because here’s a relatively unknown band that deserves all the success in the world, made the admirable decision to do an entirely independent release, yet was tripped up by the sorts of aggravating technical issues familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to build out their own website. What choice did they have though? They could have put their music up on MySpace or any of its dozens of imitators, but all of those services offer bands what is essentially a sharecropping arrangement. They host your tunes, and in exchange it’s their logo, their ads, their URL, their traffic, their identity. What if you want to build out a site that’s very clearly yours? The only choice seems to be to do what the band did: hire a designer and engineer, buy or rent some servers, spend a lot of time and money, and risk ending up with something that either works poorly or not at all. Does it not seem crazy that if you’re a blogger, you can create a rock-solid site that’s your own in a matter of minutes (and for free), but if you happen to create music instead of text, your options just suck?

Seemed nuts to us, so we created Bandcamp, the best home on the web for your music. We’re not yet another site wanting to host your tracks alongside the trailer for High School Musical 4: I’m Pregnant. Instead, we power a site that’s truly yours, and hang out in the background handling all the technical issues you dread (and several you’ve probably never even considered). We keep your music streaming and downloading quickly and reliably, whether it’s 3am on a Sunday, or the hour your new record drops and Pitchfork gives it a scathingly positive review. We make your tracks available in every format under the sun, so the audiophilic nerderati can have their FLAC and eat mp3 v2. We adorn your songs with all the right metadata, so they sail into iTunes with artwork, album, band and track names intact. We mutter the various incantations necessary to keep your site top-ranked in Google, so when your fans search for your hits, they find your music long before they find bonkersforlyrics.com or iMyFace. We give your fans easy ways to share your music with their friends, and we give you gorgeous tools that reveal exactly how your music is spreading, so you can fan the fire.

So what’s Bandcamp then? We’re a publishing platform for bands, or, anthropomorphically/arthropodically-speaking, your fifth, fully geeked-out Beatle — the one who keeps your very own website humming and lets you get back to making great music and building your fan base. If this all sounds as highly satisfactory to you as we hope, we invite you to check out the screencast, read the FAQ, peruse a site already powered by Bandcamp, or cut straight to the chase and sign up for a free account. Welcome!