Bandcamp, Downloads, Streaming, and the Inescapably Bright Future

In light of a recent report that Apple will soon abandon music downloads (later denied, but undoubtedly containing a certain amount of inevitability), we thought we’d take a moment to update you on the state of Bandcamp’s business and our plans for the future.

Bandcamp grew by 35% last year. Fans pay artists $4.3 million dollars every month using the site, and they buy about 25,000 records a day, which works out to about one every 4 seconds (you can see a real-time feed of those purchases on our desktop home page). Nearly 6 million fans have bought music through Bandcamp (half of whom are younger than 30), and hundreds of thousands of artists have sold music on Bandcamp. Digital album sales on Bandcamp grew 14% in 2015 while dropping 3% industry-wide, track sales grew 11% while dropping 13% industry-wide, vinyl was up 40%, cassettes 49%… even CD sales grew 10% (down 11% industry-wide). Most importantly of all, Bandcamp has been profitable (in the now-quaint revenues-exceed-expenses sense) since 2012.

Subscription-based music streaming,* on the other hand, has yet to prove itself to be a viable model, even after hundreds of millions of investment dollars raised and spent. For our part, we are committed to offering an alternative that we know works. As long as there are fans who care about the welfare of their favorite artists and want to help them keep making music, we will continue to provide that direct connection. And as long as there are fans who want to own, not rent, their music, that is a service we will continue to provide, and that is a model whose benefits we will continue to champion. We have been here since 2008 and we mean to be here in 2028. Thank you!

*Bandcamp is not a download store, and we very much embrace the convenience of streaming. When you buy music on Bandcamp, whether that’s in digital or physical form (30% of sales on Bandcamp are for vinyl and other merchandise), you not only get the pleasure of knowing you’re supporting the artist in a direct and transparent way, you also get instant, unlimited streaming of that music via our free apps for Android and iOS, as well as an optional, high-quality download. Your purchase is about direct support, ownership and access, whether that access takes the form of a stream, download, or both. So please consider joining us in never using “streaming” as shorthand for “subscription-based music.” The former is an inevitable technological shift, the latter is an unproven business model.

Exclusive Embeds

Attention music journalists, publicists, and artists who like the idea of a review or feature driving direct sales: you can now create exclusive embeds on Bandcamp! A site like Pitchfork, Fader or Stereogum can use an exclusive embed to offer its readers a first listen of an album or track, complete with a link back to Bandcamp to pre-order or purchase. Exclusive embeds can stream tracks that you aren’t streaming from your public album page, they can be restricted to one or more sites you specify, and, like other Bandcamp embedded players, they can be customized for a specific size/layout.

For example, in the above embed, all but one of the tracks can only be streamed here, on this blog — they’re not streaming on C Duncan’s public Bandcamp site. And like every other Bandcamp embed, there’s a direct link to purchase the album (in this case, a pre-order).

To create an exclusive embed, first navigate to the desired album, then click the Exclusive Embed link below the cover art (if you instead see Share / Embed / Exclusive, click that, then select Exclusive Embed). Note that the album must either be a pre-order, or if you are a Bandcamp Pro subscriber, an album for which you’ve disabled streaming on one or more of the tracks.

In the Exclusive Embed dialog, enter the URL of the site where the player can appear, check which tracks you want to stream, customize the layout and size if you wish, copy the code, and that’s it! A few more details can be found here.

Bands Called Atlas (and Other Year-End Stats)

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There are just over 1 million hours of audio on Bandcamp now (roughly 121 years’ worth), and 34 seconds of audio are uploaded every second. All of that audio is connected to an intricate web of information about artists and fans, making Bandcamp a treasure trove for data nerds. We took a dive into the database to unearth some numbers and lists that we find interesting, and hope you do too.

Global Release Day

In February 2015 the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry declared a Global Release Day, deciding that all music in the world would now be released at 00:01 on Fridays, starting in July 2015. In the past, each country had its own release day tradition: albums were released on Tuesdays in the U.S. and Canada, Mondays in the U.K., Fridays in Australia.

We compared the number of albums released on Fridays in August–October 2014 with the same period this year to see if Bandcamp artists follow the rules. The most reliable way we can divide the data geographically is by currency, so in this case “U.S. albums” means albums with a U.S. dollar price tag.

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There has indeed been a marked shift in release day patterns. The most popular day for U.K. album releases has moved from Mondays to Fridays. In the U.K, 26% of albums are now released on a Friday (up from 16% in 2014). The same effect can be seen in other E.U. countries, but to a lesser extent. In the U.S., 22% of albums are now released on a Friday (up from 15% in 2014, when 24% were released on a Tuesday). Friday was always Australia’s release day, so nothing much has changed there.

The shift in spending is even more dramatic: 35% of money spent on both U.K. and U.S. albums is now spent on those released on a Friday (up from 12% in the U.K. and 15% in the U.S. last year). This might be explained by the fact that bands and labels with higher sales numbers and more expensive albums are more likely to be tied into the parts of the music business that take Global Release Day seriously.

We also looked at how sales vary by time of day. In general, each country sells the most music around 8 p.m. in their own time zone and the least between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. But Europeans buy a lot of music by American bands, so sales in U.S. dollars actually peak around noon PST (8 p.m. in the U.K.) and stay high through the afternoon before dropping off later in the evening.

We can’t guarantee that releasing your album at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday will make you more money, or that a Sunday release won’t. We’re neither professional statisticians nor music industry marketing gurus.

Band names

The most popular band names on the site are:

  1. Atlas (69 bands)
  2. Apollo (48)
  3. Bloom (34)
  4. Nomad (33)
  5. Moon (31)
  6. Zero (31)
  7. Ghost (30)
  8. Haze (30)
  9. Paradox (30)
  10. X (30)

Since tweeting about the most popular band names, it seems that the number of bands called “Atlas” on the site has increased at an even higher rate than the historical Atlas Signup Rate (A.S.R.) would have predicted. We can only imagine that the popularity of the name “Atlas” has inspired other artists to adopt it, either as an ironic statement about internet culture or out of a sincere post-ironic respect for the existing Atlases, whose shared moniker reveals the essential sameness of all humans. It’s hard to tell.

Longest album name

With digital releases, artists aren’t subject to the arbitrary limits imposed by physical formats, shelf space, or common sense. They can express themselves freely. And nothing says freedom like an extraordinarily long album title. The longest title of an album that sold at least one copy in 2015 is:

je ramasse la jupe, je ramasse les perles étincelantes ////////////////////// en noir, cette chose qui a bougé une fois autour de chair, et j’appelle Dieu un menteur, je dis n’importe quoi qui a bougé comme cela ou savait mon nom ne pourrait jamais mourir dans la vérité commune de mourir

In case you’re wondering, it’s a French translation of the start of a Bukowski poem, for Jane: with all the love I had, which was not enough:. Honorable mentions in the longest title category must go to this meta-title, this stream of consciousness, and this literary masterpiece.

Bandcampers’ favorite albums

The Bandcamp staff have wildly varying music tastes, so it’s fun to find the connections by looking at the albums that appear in multiple Bandcampers’ collections.

The most staff-collected albums, while excellent, must be excluded from the list in the interest of fairness. Many of us have subscriptions to Candy Says and Germany Germany (both of whom have members who work at Bandcamp) and of course the Bandcamp City Guide (Oakland) is a popular purchase. Excluding those, the top nine most-collected albums by Bandcamp staff are:

  1. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes by Thom Yorke
  2. Into The Trees by Zoe Keating
  3. F NOTE by TOO MANY ZOOS
  4. Roll the Bones by Shakey Graves
  5. Transitions by EL TEN ELEVEN
  6. Now, More Than Ever (Remastered Edition) by Jim Guthrie
  7. Fugue State by Vulfpeck
  8. Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi
  9. My First Car by Vulfpeck

Quick-fire facts

FACT: The highest amount paid for a single album or merch item is US$1,000, and in 2015 there have been 31 thousand-dollar sales. Four of them were for albums raising money for charity, one was for a band raising money to fix their broken-down tour bus, and one was for a small, plastic rhinoceros with a $1,000 price tag and a note saying “Please do not attempt to purchase.”

FACT: The prize for biggest fan collection goes to Michael, who has (quite incredibly) amassed 3,870 items at the time of this writing.

FACT: Since the European Union changed their rules about Value Added Tax on digital purchases at the start of 2015, we’ve collected V.A.T. from music fans in each of the 28 E.U. countries, and had our fleet of long-distance cormorants deliver 28 variously sized novelty checks to the governments of Europe. The largest checks went to the U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Slovenian, Maltese, and Cypriot music fans were the least active on the site, so their governments got normal-sized checks.

FACT: 1,889 albums were released on April 20 this year. That’s a lot more than average and we can’t be sure why. It’s possible that they were all aiming for Record Store Day (April 18) and missed, or that musicians worldwide were celebrating the birthday of renowned 16th-century theologist Johannes Agricola. Or maybe 4/20 is just a good day to release an album.

Genre wars

We all know that classifying music by genre is outdated, futile, stifling, and impossible. It can also be useful and fun, and makes Discover a much more interesting tool for exploring music. Artists on Bandcamp decide for themselves which high-level genre they want to inhabit, so as you’re enjoying these next top-five lists, bear in mind that they could mean almost anything.

Here are the best-selling genres when you look at the total amount paid in 2015 for releases in a particular genre (e.g., more money was paid for electronic music than for any other genre):

  1. Electronic
  2. Rock
  3. Alternative
  4. Metal
  5. Hip-Hop

Here are the top five when you sort by the number of bands in a genre that sold something in 2015 (e.g., there are more actively selling rock bands than any other genre of artist):

  1. Rock
  2. Electronic
  3. Alternative
  4. Hip-Hop
  5. Metal

And here are the top five sorted by the average amount paid to each band in a genre (e.g., podcast artists* made more money, on average, in 2015 than any other genre):

  1. Podcasts
  2. Jazz
  3. Funk
  4. Soundtrack
  5. Electronic

*Yes, that’s a real thing.

The rise (and fall?) of THE HIPSTER TRI∆NGLE

RUFFI∆NKICK was the first band on the site to use the now-classic “all caps with a ∆ for the A” band name style. The craze took a while to get going, but when U.K. indie band alt-J won the Mercury Prize in 2012 and taught everyone how to type it, the hipster triangle started to appear everywhere. 142 B∆NDS signed up in 2013, the most triangular year to date.

Each year musicians have found ever more inventive and exciting ways to write letters using triangles, with the most daring using triangles as abstract shapes with no alphabetical meaning—pure triangle bands. In July 2012 we saw the first band called ; in 2014 we noticed ∆••∆••∆ and ∆∆∆. Earlier this year the first quadritriangular band arrived: ∆∆∆∆.

How does a fad like the hipster triangle band name end? Does it just fizzle out? Only last month we were treated to ∇∆∇∆∇∆∇∆∇∆∇∆∇∆, which suggested that band names might eventually degenerate into pretty patterns. But then we remembered the golden rule: no musical fad is truly over until a band called Atlas gets involved.

Oh, look: [∆TL∆S].

Bundle Up, Winter’s A Comin!

Buy full digital discography | Maylee Todd

You can now offer fans your entire digital discography for a special price, and fans can purchase or gift it in a single transaction. Check out a few examples here, here, and here.

The full discography purchase option is not enabled by default. To turn it on, first log in to your Bandcamp account. If you’re eligible to enable full discography purchase, you’ll see a notification linking to the section of your Profile where you set it up:

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You can choose to offer your full digital discography for no discount, or from 5 to 90% off. Once you enable full discography purchase and save your Profile, we notify all of your followers automatically.

We quietly launched full discography purchase last week, and based on the percentage of eligible artists who have enabled it, and their earnings so far, we know that if every eligible artist turns it on, we’ll see about $2.3 million in bundles sell over the next few weeks. So get on it!

A few caveats:
Artists must have at least three purchasable albums in order to offer a full discography bundle (two albums is just two albums — three on the other hand… that’s an oeuvre!).

Labels (meaning those with label, not artist, accounts) can offer full discography bundles for any of their artists, provided they meet the three album minimum, and payment for all their releases is directed to the same account.

Subscriber-Exclusive Video

If you have an artist subscription set up, you can now post video to just your paying subscribers! You upload video from desktop, like so:

post a video

And your subscribers can then view your video from their music feed on the web, or in the free Bandcamp app for Android and iOS:

subscriber feed with video

For those of you who had already jury-rigged subscriber-only video by posting links to open-but-not-publicized YouTube and Dropbox URLs, we admire your gumption but are relieved to put that dark chapter behind the both of us!

App update: browse by genre, location, and format

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You can now browse Bandcamp’s catalog of 1.8 million albums and 14 million tracks by any genre imaginable, and filter by format and artist location, right from the app. Portland chillwave on cassette? Pfft, you know it! Surf from Madrid on vinyl?! We’re as surprised as you!

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The appicon-format lets you filter by artist location…

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…and the appicon-format filters results by format.

In the likely event that you are now hyperventilating, please grab a paper bag and have a seat, because you can also follow any such browsing criteria, letting you channel all new beat tapes from Montreal (for example) straight into your music feed:

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Tap “follow” at the top of Discover results…

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…and whenever there are new suggestions matching your search, they’ll appear in your feed.

To demonstrate the stupefying power of these new crate digging capabilities, we dove into the latest hip hop, electronic, soul and indie coming out of Oakland, California, and compiled the result into our first ever Bandcamp City Guide. Pressed onto 12″ vinyl with a gorgeous gatefold jacket illustrated by Oliver Barrett, the comp features 11 previously unreleased/exclusive tracks from bands we love emanating from the other City by the Bay, plus tips from the artists themselves about their favorite dive bars, record stores, venues, and restaurants. Pick up your copy here, and listen to the whole thing below:

Dolla Dolla Bill, Y’All

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Fans have now given artists $100 million USD through Bandcamp.

Fans give artists $3.5 million every month on the site, and buy more than 16,000 records a day, which works out to about one every five seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (there goes one now). In terms of units sold, Bandcamp’s share of the record industry is roughly the same as BMW’s share of the auto market back when Steve Jobs said this. Furthermore, sales on Bandcamp are up 30% in the last 12 months, at a time when the rest of the industry is down 11%. We see this growth as proof that if you give fans easy ways to directly support the artists they love, they’ll take you up on it every time. So a big, big thanks to everyone supporting artists on Bandcamp, and to all the artists and labels posting great music too. We wouldn’t be here without you.

P.S. We worked out of the public library for the first four years of Bandcamp’s existence. In May 2009, fans gave artists $12,823.12. It was the first time we’d crossed the $10K-in-a-month mark. I vividly recall sitting across from Kevin and Shawn,* being quietly stoked.

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*Not pictured: me behind camera, Joe and Neal on irc.

EU digital VAT changes and Bandcamp

If you’ve seen the recent news of changes to EU tax law, you may be wondering how this affects you as an artist or label selling on Bandcamp. The good news is that for digital sales, there is no need for you to register for VAT, submit quarterly reports, and so on. We will take care of all of that for you.

If you happened to see our earlier help item about this, we planned to roll out a temporary solution where artists submitted the tax themselves. We’ve decided to accelerate the changes to our system such that the interim step is unnecessary.

Bandcamp for Labels

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Bandcamp for labels has arrived! Read all about it right here, and check out some of the great independent labels already using it, like Seattle-based powerhouse Sub Pop (Sleater-Kinney, The Shins, Shabazz Palaces, Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine), UK electronic trailblazers Ninja Tune (Bonobo, Cinematic Orchestra), the always soulful sounds of Daptone (Sharon Jones, Antibalas, The Budos Band) and Truth and Soul (Lee Fields, Lady), Montreal-based Grosse Boîte (Cœur de pirate), indie SF punk legends Fat Wreck Chords (NOFX, Lagwagon), metal-loving Relapse (Red Fang), ARIA-winning Future Classic (Chet Faker, Chrome Sparks, Seekae, flume), plus Innovative Leisure (BADBADNOTGOOD, Hanni El Khatib, Nick Waterhouse), Software (Oneohtrix Point Never), RVNG (Holly Herndon, Julia Holter), and Styles Upon Styles (Gabriel Garzón-Montano)!