Full Tracklist Players, Facebook Love

By extremely popular demand, you can now go to any album page, click Share, and choose from a few different types of full tracklist embedded players. Like all our players, they’re clean, free of any Bandcamp branding, and streamlined for music listening and purchasing. Here, for example, is grande-with-tracklist (cover art is optional):

And here’s tall-with-tracklist:

We also recently introduced the ability to embed players into Facebook.* You can do so via the Share menu on Bandcamp, or just paste a track or album URL directly onto anyone’s wall or in your status on Facebook:

Shortly after Facebook embedding launched, one customer wrote on his blog: “I had such a good experience today purchasing some music that I thought I should share the user journey.” The full post, modestly titled “Saving an industry with better user experience,” nicely expresses the appreciation a fan feels when presented with a no-nonsense system for music discovery, listening and purchase. Glad to hear it Ben!

*You probably won’t be shocked to learn that 18 months ago, the number of fans sharing from Bandcamp to Facebook was dead-even with MySpace, whereas today, fan sharing to Facebook outnumbers MySpace 10 to 1.

Free Downloads & Power-Ups

Update September 15th, 2010: Please read this.

When we first started working on Bandcamp, we wondered whether it might be possible to always provide an unlimited number of “free” downloads* to artists for, well, free. Our hope was that free downloading might be highest amongst the artists who were also selling the most – for example, a band giving away a track or two in promotion of a paid album. That way, the revenue share on the artist’s sales would naturally cover the costs associated with the streaming, support and storage of their freebies.

What we’ve learned, however, is that most of the music being given away through the site is from a relative minority of bands who have decided not to sell anything at all. It’s obviously unfair to burden every Bandcamp artist with the costs of a few outliers giving away hundreds of thousands of free downloads, so we’re making some changes to button that up.

Starting today, new accounts come with 200 free downloads, and all existing accounts are granted 500. Your free download credits also refresh every month (meaning that if you have less than 200 downloads remaining, we’ll just bump you up to 200 again). Each time a fan downloads a track or album for free, it counts as 1 against your balance (an album, regardless of how many tracks it contains, still only counts as 1 download, and streaming is still unlimited). You can buy more downloads for a small fee from your Tools page. The pricing is the same as for download codes:

300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)

But here’s the cool part: for every $500 USD you have in sales, we’ll give you another 1,000 free downloads (kind of like a power-up, but based on sales rather than say, eating a Super Mushroom**). The idea is that if you’re selling through Bandcamp, you’ll probably never run out of free promo downloads, and if you’re using the site to distribute your music for free, there’s still a cheap and easy way to keep doing that. (Actually, the cheapest way would be to head over to ZRapidShare, but if you’re reading this, you probably care about your fans too much for that.)

You can check your free download balance over on your Tools page, but you don’t need to check it obsessively. If you get low, we’ll notify you via email, as well as display a reminder up at the top of your account. And if your balance drops to zero, free tracks and albums won’t go away, they’ll just automatically switch to paid (at whatever price you last set, or the default if you never set the price). We won’t start decrementing your free download balance for another week (on September 16th), so anyone planning a big free promo has time to make sure their download needs are covered. Again, the above applies to free downloads only – there remain no download limits whatsoever on tracks or albums that you’re selling.

*By “free” downloads we just mean downloads of tracks or albums that you’ve set to free, free but email-required, or let-fan-name-price with no minimum and the fan enters zero. Download code redemptions don’t count, and neither does streaming.

**We’re extending this power-up idea to other parts of the site as well, with sales raising your upload limit and granting you more download codes, for starters. We’ve got plenty more power-ups in store too, all of them useful, fun, and in the spirit of helping to kick-start your success.

“What is a Sufjan?”

On the off-chance that you’ve been without tubes for the past 96 hours, on Friday Sufjan Stevens released his epic new EP, All Delighted People. It sold more than 10,000 copies in a single weekend, and that was exclusively through Bandcamp (it didn’t arrive in other stores until yesterday). We spoke with John Beeler of Sufjan’s label, Asthmatic Kitty, to talk about the release, Bandcamp, and the future of mankind.

Update Thursday, August 26th: The EP debuted at #9 on the Billboard Independent chart and #48 on the Billboard 200 this morning. That’s from three days of sales on Bandcamp alone (it was released last Friday, wasn’t available on iTunes or anywhere else until Monday, and the charts are based on sales for the week ending Monday, so yep — three days on Bandcamp and it blew right past Taylor Swift). Congratulations to Sufjan and John, who accomplished this feat with none of the typical six-weeks-of-preorders-counting-as-a-single-week-of-sales chart manipulation nonsense. Just an email and social network blast, and then strong word of mouth about a great record from a talented artist. OK, on to the interview!

How has the release gone so far?
It’s been excellent. Honestly, I expected some hitches – but nope, things have gone so smoothly it’s surprising. And it’s been very rewarding to see the feedback on Twitter, Facebook and the blogs. It seems like people are really enjoying the EP. Which is kind of the whole point.

You released the album on Bandcamp first. Why?
We really have nothing against iTunes (it’s probably the most trusted online music brand, and they have a sharp awareness of indie music), but we did go with Bandcamp first on this one. That’s because we believe each release and artist deserves a custom strategy. What has worked for All Delighted People may not have worked for another release. And for this EP we wanted to get the music to the fans as quickly as possible. We wanted them to be able to hear it in one place and then support it right away without having to work to buy the album, which is often the case with promotional streams. That one-stop-shop experience that Bandcamp offers is hard to find elsewhere on the internet.

How did you promote the release? What was most successful?
We sent it out first to our mailing list; they tend to be our most informed and dedicated fans. Shortly after sending the email we posted it as a news item to our site, then tweeted it, then ran it on Facebook. Our stats from the email were very encouraging but we honestly expected that. Hey, it’s Sufjan!

What we didn’t expect was the response on Twitter. “Sufjan Stevens” became a trending topic, not at all unlike Arcade Fire a few weeks ago. It was really fascinating and entertaining to watch the progression of that phrase as it spread throughout Twitter. I think it was at that point that people started asking, “What is a Sufjan?” – which, despite the wording, is a very valuable point to reach. Finding new fans is hard to do these days. And it helped that people were including “sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com” in nearly every tweet.

And frankly, I don’t think that kind of hubbub would have happened without Bandcamp. Being able to essentially share the entire album via Twitter is a powerful tool. You tweet, your friend clicks, and boom they’re listening to the record. If they like what they hear, they can buy it right away. That’s pretty cool.

Facebook is harder to track as we can’t see the context of the link but we did see a whole slew of web referrals. I appreciated that Bandcamp just works within Facebook. You don’t even have to leave Facebook to stream the whole album. Or click buy. Very nice.

All of the tracks from this EP can be streamed in their entirety on Bandcamp – no 30 second snippets. Do you think you lost sales because of that?
No way. I think it really helped that people could stream the whole album. My personal theory is that people can stream anything in its entirety anyway; YouTube is essentially a giant on-demand playback setup ala Spotify these days. Type in a song and artist and bam – you’re streaming right away. The question for record labels and musicians is how far the buy button is from that stream.

What’s next for Sufjan? Asthmatic Kitty? The music industry?
Sufjan is touring in the Fall. He personally selected many of the venues, so I imagine he has quite a vision for this tour. It’ll be a great show. Tickets are selling very quickly, so we’re urging fans to get them now.

Asthmatic Kitty’s Library Catalog series is a real undiscovered gem. It’s mostly instrumental so it’s hard for some to just pick up and listen but the music is top-notch (all eight releases are on Bandcamp). Fol Chen is getting a lot of buzz right now so it will be fun to watch that pan out. And we have some really big releases in the works from our roster-at-large.

I think the music industry has been in a state of constant mope since Napster showed up and this year is no different. But I think I can speak for everyone at Asthmatic Kitty when I say that yes, it’s a dangerous time to be a label, but it’s also very, very exciting. The ways in which we find and discover and support good music are changing so quickly it’s hard to predict what’s next. There will always be a “Napster” – whether it’s torrents or RapidShare or psychic hologram transmission (the next big wave!) – but we believe that fans of our music are good people at heart and will always find a way to support us and the artists. Bandcamp makes it very easy for them to do that, so we’re thankful that Sufjan’s EP was a part of what Bandcamp is doing.

Bay Area Bandcamp Gathering This Sunday

Please join us for the first ever Bandcamp gathering in our hometown of San Francisco. Hang out, meet Bandcamp staff, get to know other Bay Area Bandcamp artists, share ideas, whatnot.

When: This Sunday, August 1st. 5:30pm-7:30pm.

Where: Make-out Room, 3225 22nd Street, San Francisco.

Password!: Say the magic word “Bandcamp” and you’ll be granted free entry.

How to spot us: We’ll be the ones not cool enough for the venue. And we’ll be wearing Bandcamp stickers.

RSVP to meetup@bandcamp.com.

Fan Feeding Frenzy: AFP’s New EP FTW

From our view here at Bandcamp HQ, yesterday’s launch of Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele less resembled a record release than a coordinated strike of ravenous piranha. In one three minute period, her fanbase snapped up $15,000 in music and merch. It didn’t let up much from there: 4,000 digital EPs were sold, the vinyl sold out, most of the high end packages disappeared in minutes, and at the time of this writing, it looks like every other package will be gone in a matter of days. Late last night I caught up with Amanda’s Man-Who-Make-Internet-Go, Sean Francis, just before he passed out (he’d slept five hours in the last 48).

Congratulations on the release! Is it true that you guys did it entirely independently?
Thanks, and that’s correct – no label, and no manager for the most part. This project has been handled by four people: Amanda, myself, Beth [Hommel], and Hayley [Rosenblum] – interfacing with various artists and professionals (like the producer) when and where necessary.

Tell me a little bit more about your approach. What were some of the key things you did that led to the success you’re now seeing?
Each one of us – no matter what our individual role – cares a lot about what and how the fans consume…what they like, what they don’t buy, what they want to purchase, and how they want to purchase it. From [Amanda’s former band] The Dresden Dolls’ first record right up to this one, we’ve been fine tuning the process. That’s one of the reasons, for example, that we skipped CDs for this release. Time and time again, we heard fans say “I don’t even use CDs, but I bought this to support you.” So we listened to that, and started talking with the fans about it not being a dirty thing to pay for digital music. There’s no shame in putting money into an artist’s pocket and not getting some sort of physical good for it.

That said, you also put together a number of unique physical packages for this release, including a limited edition cherry red LP. Were you getting lots of requests for vinyl?
For years, people asked for The Dresden Dolls’ albums on vinyl. When Amanda announced her solo record, the first question we saw was would it be available on vinyl. Evelyn Evelyn was the first release wherein we actually had some form of control, and by going with our gut and making something that we felt WE would want as fans, it became clear that other fans wanted it that way as well.

The packages here cover a pretty broad price spectrum. This multi-tier approach has gotten a lot of buzz lately — do you think it’s the model for artists going forward?
We tried to avoid being too presumptuous going into today – but from what fans had been suggesting they wanted and what we saw with Evelyn Evelyn, we felt that this was going to be the most sensible business model for this release. We’re all happy that this seems to be becoming a more accepted form of distribution, but we want to keep evolving (and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing we do isn’t AS multi-tiered).

Are you happy with the way the release has gone thus far?
We couldn’t be happier. We hoped for far less than what’s happened, braced for the worst, and were floored by how wonderful it’s turned out. We’ve said that this is an experiment from day one, but to see such positive response from the fans, and to have so many people tell us that we’re doing things right? It’s hard for gross earnings to trump knowing we made the fans happy, but being able to see both of those elements walking happily hand-in-hand is GREAT.

You chose to include a download of the record with every one of your packages. Why?
We wish we could have been doing that all along. It’s such an obvious necessity. We WANT people to have the music, why would we deny the fan – or (arguably equally important) potential fan – the ability to listen as soon as possible? It’s just…obvious. We started a thread on our message board chronicling pictures of fans listening to the record, and saw a lot of people tweeting photos and stories of their first “experience”…had we made everyone wait, I know that excitement and buzz would’ve been different.

Is the record available on iTunes yet?
Absolutely not. We have nothing against iTunes, it’ll end up there eventually I’m sure, but it was important for us to do this in as close to a DIY manner as possible. If we were just using iTunes, we couldn’t be doing tie-ins with physical product, monitoring our stats (live), and helping people in real-time when they have a question regarding the service. Being able to do all of those things and having such a transparent format in which to do it has been a dream come true. We all buy stuff on the iTunes store – or AmazonMP3 or whatever – but it’s not THE way artists should be connecting to fans, and it’s certainly not the way someone is going to capture the most revenue on a new release.

So you think you’ll do better by selling this release directly to your fans first, as opposed to selling through iTunes or Amazon from the very start?
It’s nice to see a check roll in from those places, but in-between shuffling off a (large) percentage of revenue just for being on there, and the fact it would’ve been weeks (if not months) ’til we would’ve seen a dime…I don’t think we’ll make more money this way, I know we will, and I know we did. In six hours.

Even with our recently announced revenue share plan?
The revenue share is both something we’ve been aware of and looking forward to. Seeing it materialize was exciting for us not only because it was something which will hopefully sustain the site for some time to come, but also because it was good — best deal on the block, we think. Why the hell wouldn’t we want to support something which has so directly allowed us to find fuel to grow?

People are going to think we’re dating. Could you please tone it down?

Every track on the EP is available for streaming. Do you think that hurt your sales? Do you think you’d make more money if the tracks were only 30-second snippets? Or if all but one or two were hidden?
We’re not pretending that people can’t get the record “illegally” (see our blog post announcing the release) – but I’ve yet to hear anyone say that because they can stream the record (or because they were able to hear it in advance), that they didn’t get it. To break it down in a more literal sense: we enabled a stream (and lossless-quality-sale) of the record more than a day in advance of the physical product being launched. If in some way that hurt our sales, I’m not aware…we sold out of numerous packages in under a few minutes. What I did see when we launched that stream, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and fans were saying in droves that they couldn’t wait to buy it.

You decided to let your fans name their price on the digital EP, with the minimum set to 84 cents (representing the amount owed to Radiohead for playing their music, plus payment processing fees). How’d that work out? Are fans paying more than the minimum?
Part of the reasoning behind doing the release that way was that we wanted to lend some transparency to the system by which an artist (in this case Radiohead) receives a royalty check. We were urged by numerous parties to set our minimum donation to a higher price point – and I don’t think anyone would’ve been turned off had we set it to $3 or $5 – but we saw that people were more than happy to not only pay for the music, but pay extra for it: downloads are averaging around $5, and one generous comedian even paid $100.84.

Nice. What would you most like to see Bandcamp do next?
Optimize the stores for mobile devices and add a shopping cart.

Amen to that. What’s next for Amanda?
What’s literally next for Amanda is preparation for Cabaret – she won’t be doing any real touring on this EP, but will be performing with some longtime collaborators (virtuoso pianist Lance Horne, her high school drama teacher Steven Bogart, and Danger Ensemble impresario Steven Mitchell Wright) at the A.R.T. through September and October in Cambridge, Mass. After that? Well, we’ve told the fans to keep Halloween clear. Amanda may or may not have some obligations somewhere on the east coast to conjure up some friendly ghosts from the past and do a really special show. Maybe.

Awesome. Thanks so much for your time Sean. Pleasant dreams!
Ha. Thank you!

It’s a Business Model!

In the past six months, you guys have used Bandcamp to sell over $1 million USD in music and merch directly to your fans. The pace of those sales is increasing rapidly, and last week we even saw an artist make it to the Billboard charts on the strength of her Bandcamp sales alone. It’s been awesome to witness, and we’re amped to carry right on, full steam ahead, building out new features, honing existing ones, strengthening our infrastructure, and generally making things better and better. Perhaps most importantly though, we want to do so in a way that’s sustainable long-term, and ensures that we’re here supporting musicians far into the future.

So, as long promised over in our FAQ, we’ll soon begin doing a revenue share on Bandcamp sales. Here’s how it will work:

Bandcamp’s share will be 15% of each transaction, dropping to 10% as soon as your all-time sales exceed $5,000 USD.

The revenue share won’t go into effect until early August. Until then, Bandcamp’s share remains zero. We’ve based the percentages on what works for the business and what many of you have already told us feels fair, but there’s still plenty of time for more feedback, so bring it (preferably in the comments below).

The revenue share rate for existing accounts will be based on all your sales to date. That is, we’ll look at your all-time sales and base your rate on that total. This means many of you will start at the 10% rate from day one. Note that we’ve just launched all-time stats, so you can easily see where you stand.

Your rate will be based on sales to your PayPal email address, not your Bandcamp account. In other words, if you’re a label and have five artists all using the same PayPal account, your rate will be calculated by looking at the combined sales of all five of those artists.

The basic service will remain free. Bandcamp only makes money when you make money. We considered building the business around advertising, but…well, OK, we never really considered that. We did consider building it around subscriptions, but under the subscription model, given the option of either developing a feature to increase your sales by 20%, or dinking around with service tiers to try to boost our subscriptions by 20%, we’d have to choose the latter. By building the business on a revenue share, our interests are perfectly aligned with yours: we only succeed when you succeed.

Questions, Answers

How will the revenue share work? We’re still hashing out the exact mechanism, but the money will continue to flow directly from your fans to you. Loads of you have told us how much you like that aspect of the service, so we’re planning to leave it that way. We’ll of course provide an interface for easily viewing all your transactions and the associated share split, and we’ll provide details of how the share will work by the time it goes into effect.

Do these rates include PayPal transaction fees? No, processing fees are separate. Those rates are here, including details of what you can do to minimize them.

How do your rates compare to the alternatives? We aim to give you a clear financial incentive to direct your fans to your Bandcamp-powered site first, so we’ve made our rates far lower than iTunes’, and very competitive with other music distribution sites. We won’t subject you to one of those competitive matrices that’s out of date the moment it’s published, but we certainly encourage you to do some research and compare (but pack your magnifying glass, fine print abounds in the music biz).

I am angry. What should I do? Leave a comment, we’d be happy to consider your feedback. If you are angrier than that, head over to your profile page and click the link that says “permanently delete this account.”

I am happy. What should I do? We’d love to hear from you as well, so please leave your thoughts below.

I desire an inspirational conclusion. What should I do? Read on, because we want to thank you all again for using Bandcamp. We’re honored to have been entrusted with such an important aspect of your career, and we couldn’t be more excited to keep cranking away on Bandcamp for a long time to come!

Update July 21st, 2010

Lots of great feedback in the comments, thanks everybody! A few thoughts, tweaks and clarifications in response:

Several of you suggested that new accounts should get their first $x in sales rev-share-free. We’re looking at the business impact of doing so, but also mulling over the fact that the cost of trying out the system is already $0 (no setup or listing fees, no charges for streaming or storage, every account comes with free download codes, etc.).

Some felt that the lower rev-share for high volume sellers was unfair to the little guy. We see your point, and may offer a Pro service option to high volume sellers instead. If you think you might fall into that category, please get in touch — we’d love your help defining what that option could look like.

For physical items, the revenue share will apply to the base price of the item only. It will not apply to shipping or tax.

While we’re still in the rev share’s early days, the rate on physical items will be discounted to 10%. It will eventually be the same 15% share as digital, but we want to get a few more of our e-commerce features done first. A few people wondered why there would be a revenue share on physical at all. The short answer is that Bandcamp is a music retailer. We believe that listening to music is critical to selling music, and the infrastructure to support that (web servers, bandwidth, actual customer care, etc.) is factored into our costs. Furthermore, we’ve already invested in a boatload of features to help you sell your music, features like download formats, sharing tools, stats, chart reporting, mobile goodness, download and discount codes, pricing flexibility, merch management…the list goes on. We of course plan to keep on developing the product in response to your feedback, and the cost of all that development doesn’t vary between physical and digital. If you don’t care about any of those features, if all you’re looking for is a place to host an image and a link to PayPal, there are definitely other services out there that would be a better fit. For the rest of you, keep telling us how you’d like to see the service improve, and we’ll keep improving it.

One or two people wondered whether they’d still be able to use the site to give away music for free. Yep, absolutely. Preliminary details on that are here.

There were also some questions about replacing PayPal. We intend to expand our payment options in the future, but we’re still a small (now seven person) company and that feature is getting prioritized along with every other mega-important to-do. In the meantime, our payment success rate (the percentage of people who enter the payment flow and then complete their purchase) already hovers near 70% (and hit 75% yesterday), which is excellent for any e-commerce site.

We’ll undoubtedly be fine-tuning the business model more as we go, so please take it all in the iterative spirit in which it’s presented. Thanks again!

Now Streaming on the iPad, iPhone…

…and any other place that doesn’t have Flash, but does support HTML5:

(Streaming has actually long worked on the iPad and iPhone, but clicking play launched QuickTime, which always felt clunky. iOS4 lets us do it right inline, like the good lord intended.)

Bandcamp’s embedded players (the ones you generate from the Share menu) remain Flash-based because MySpace, WordPress.com, and most other online services don’t let you embed arbitrary client-side code, which is what an HTML5-based embed would be. For those of you running your own sites with total control over the code, we’ll soon provide an HTML5 embed option in the Share menu in the form of a tidy script tag.

Nerdholes nota bene: Firefox’s HTML5 audio support uses Ogg, not mp3, so you won’t see the non-Flash streaming goodness there. We love Ogg as much as the next guy, so we may add it as a streaming option in the future.

Package Options, Multiple Packages Per Album

You can now present fans with a menu of options, such as t-shirt size or vinyl color, for any given physical package. So, rather than asking a buyer to email you their choice after their purchase, or click “leave note for seller” over on PayPal (both pretty clunky workarounds), the fan’s selection appears in your notification email from Bandcamp, on your merch orders page, and in your all-time sales csv file. We even handle the inventory control, and allow you to override the quantity remaining at any given time (great for if you’re selling at shows in addition to online). Here’s what the options UI looks like to your fans:

To set up an option menu like this, click Edit on any album page, then add a new physical package or click Edit on an existing one, and fill in the details shown here:

We’re also pumped and/or stoked to officially announce support for multiple packages per album. If your release includes a CD bundle, vinyl bundle, and deluxe kitchen sink bundle with t-shirt, you can now list all of those packages on a single album page (and present them in whatever order you like). Setting up multiple packages for an album is easy: you just click Edit on any album page, then click the “add new” link here:

To reorder packages, you drag and drop them, also from the album edit page:

Finally, a few examples of sites already listing multiple packages: