Thursday, October 26, 2023

arrrgh me hearties

I swear to god, Bandcamp getting sold to Songtradr has made people lose their fucking minds. 

We don't know what will happen to Bandcamp, because it's too early to make an assesment. 

Yes, things look bad. I mean, just look at what that stupid company (put that E back in your name and grow up ffs) does to anything it comes into contact with. It's not good. Tangent, but they weirdly now own one of my old favourite online music stores, and whilst it sits almost abandoned (the landing page hasn't been updated since 2019), it is still operational somehow.

I, like many DIY artists, need Bandcamp. We need it to be operational, we need it to keep doing what it's been doing for the past decade+. We need the community, the freedom, the tools... hell, we need the money. 

But we're not stupid - we know that slashing 50% of your workforce never leads to good things (even though that was actually the brainchild of previous owners Epic Games), and a lot of us have been around the block a fair few times now - we know we're not allowed nice things because of myriad factors (rich people being twats being the main), and so I know we're all keeping an eye out on potential successors to Bandcamp's throne.

It's dominated the DIY space for years now, and in that time, perhaps we've been a bit too optimistic that it would never go away - after all, it was profitable and sustainable before Epic bought it, so why would anyone ever want to fuck that up? Yeah, rich people.

Whilst it's true that you can frankenstein all the best bits of Bandcamp into one whole, that would take an ungodly amount of time, money and effort - all three things that are in short supply for us having to make ends meet elsewhere. For example, you could sell a CD/ vinyl/ shirt whatever on something like Bigcartel, then have a mailing list on Mailchimp, digital items via distrokid/ your own hosting, gig listings on Songkick, etc. etc. but to do all that misses the point of what Bandcamp was - it let you do all that for free all at the same time, so when someone bought a shirt, they were added to the mailing list, which in turn let you market at them with a spam resistant email for future stuff, and you could also let them have a download with the purchase. To do that without Bandcamp, I'd need the customer to buy from Bigcartel, get them to allow me to add them to my mailing list (which is now £32.75 a month with no guarantee it won't get caught in a spam filter), and then also somehow email a download of whatever it is they've just bought the physical item of, using my own hosting. Each way round someone interacts with this mad network of misery, it gets infinitely worse - someone buys my album via itunes, but I can't get any of that information for myself for future marketing, and also they don't know I have t-shirts with that album cover on there that they might like, or that I have a remix of it for free somewhere. It's a fucking nightmare.

You can write an entire essay about the community aspect of Bandcamp - the feeds, the solidarity, the feeling that you were finally doing something good for artists and labels, all of that. It's much more than just a storefront (although it's great at that too), and it remains to be seen if this new lot of vulture capital stock guzzlers understand that enough. I'm betting they won't, but (and here's the kicker) until something else comes along that can replace whatever it becomes, WE ARE STUCK.

You can leave twitter and go join bluesky or threads or insta or whatever, and you can leave spotify and go to tidal, apple music, deezer or whereever too. But Bandcamp... man, it's one in a million and an absolute lifeline to a lot of us, so please - please, for the love of god, don't lose your fucking mind and start advocating for piracy, streaming, or any other shit we battled so hard to try and swerve people away from. 

We spent the best part of 10 years trying to get smug little shithead pirates to buy something off us, however small, under the not-so-hard-to-understand principle of 'it cost us money to make this thing, so if you could pay just a little bit for it, that'd be cool. we are not metallica. we are not rich lol'. To advocate to going back to those dark days is ill-advised at best and actual, cultural vandalism at worst. 

Streaming pays nothing, and now it pays less than nothing, and we'd only just started making in-roads to getting people to understand that - buying something off me on Bandcamp is 99.9999999% better than streaming anything, and getting that swedish berk to pay me less than a fraction of a penny for the privilege.

Look, it's a shit sandwich, there's no denying that. But for now at least, we're just gonna have to dance with this devil, because your DIY favourites are still DIY. Sure, shoot them a few quid on ko-fi or whatever - make an extra effort to go see them live, or pick up a shirt, but just know that, for now at least, Bandcamp is still the main source of income for a lot of us. 

Don't lose your head and start preaching for some mad techno-dysopia, because it's a road that leads nowhere. If someone comes out with Bandcamp 2 tomorrow, fucking great -sign me up, but that's not here just yet. These things invariably take time to grow too, which is something not a lot of us have either, so it's this or bust. The system's fucked, but we're still here.

Monday, October 16, 2023


I put on some shows over the last few days, and to say I've been a bit more worried about them than usual is an understatement. I've made peace with the fact that satan being satan, it's basically the norm rather than the exception to book gigs myself these days. And by 'book gigs' it's not the find-a-promoter type that replaces the work a booking agent does, but put the whole thing on myself: being a promoter and agent rolled into one. To indulge a little tangent here, but as shit as it is to have to do this, it does give you a well rounded view of the music industry as a whole: you see first-hand the numbers on your ticket list become faces that show up to the room you've had to hire. If you put the effort it, in *can* be a decent exersise in DIY scene-building, and I think more bands should give it a try.

Anyway, I digress. 

Promoting stuff in the UK has taken quite the pounding from various factors: austerity, cost of living, post-pandemic caution, a stuttering ever changing music industry, etc. I could sit and list a vague tapestry of misery all day, but safe to say, it's changed a lot since the first days of the band, where you'd not really think twice about playing different venues every weekend. In fact, here's what my spring 2007 schedule looked like (thanks to capturing the old satan myspace page)

I'd be lucky to do that many gigs in an entire calendar year now, and it's no surprise that quite a few of those venues have long since disappeared and not replaced. The Mixing Tin (as regular viewers of my Instagram page will know) is literally just a wall these days:

Anyway, this is perhaps a long winded way of saying 'promoting things is hard now I'm old and the country/ music biz has changed over the last 15ish years'. But yes, it has, and the one thing that made life a lot easier was social media. Not to sound too 'old man yells at cloud', but I do remember a time before Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Insta, etc. and it was tough. Building a community and fanbase online was a good thing. A very good thing. Because it meant people knew what you were up to, and got excited for new things. 

Over the years, I've seen so many come and go - I remember when Soundcloud was a proper thing, and not just a place to host demos and the occasional DJ mix. It was fun! The last few years have seen a dramatic drop off in all that though. What was once a fairly interesting, fun way to communicate with people who spent their time and money on your silly little songs, became a slog, became impossible, and is now becoming redundant.

Twitter was great. Shouldn't need saying in this day and age, but when rich people get involved in anything, it usually means your time is going to stop being fun and start being shit. Just look at Facebook. I gave up posting to the satan account a few years ago, and then got rid of my personal account, and it was fine. The walls failed to fall in, and weirdly enough - I still have friends. It became a slog - having to do battle with an algorithm that meant no-one saw anything you posted, unless you paid big bucks for no real reason, and even then it wasn't perfect. Sort of defeated the idea of trying to get people to follow your page, as the more fans you had, the more money you had to pay. Fuck that, that's insane. 

So I left it to the bots. 

Twitter, though, was great. A free, handy tool to shoot off random thoughts, news, new tracks, videos, memes, conversations, etc. Man. Looking back at it before that dickhead bought it... fuck.

Anyway, much like I gave up on Facebook, I've long since given up on Twitter/ X/ whatever. Aside from the moral and ethical implications of lining acutal, literal n*zis' pockets by being on there, it was actually a useless piece of shit when it came to trying to reach people with news of tours, new music, etc. too.

So these two shows over the past few days have been the first of the post-X world for me. I was scared, for sure. Imagine not being able to use one of the biggest tools at your disposal. At numerous times I thought I was making a huge mistake, and toyed with the idea of tweeing about the gigs in the vain hope of attracting some more bodies to the gig. I'm glad I didn't though, because it made fuck all difference.

I pressed up posters like I usually do, and got them in windows like I've always done, I added the shows to aggregators like Songkick, I got posts up on Instagram, on the other socials I have, on my website, I used my Bandcamp mailing list, and so on. The only difference was this time I wouldn't be using twitter. It helps that the venues I used (and the support I drafted in - the excellent Field Lines Cartographer) were active on socials too, and helped push the shows. These are considerations I always tend to think about these days too - The Triangle and Nan Moor's both did an excellent job of keeping up with posts I was making, and helped re-blog posts. Sounds silly, but I'll always remember that venue in Bristol that didn't even add me to their website, let alone refuse to do even the slightest bit of social stuff around it. Needless to say, that gig there was a fucking nightmare - and that was in the days of using twitter too.

So yes, let this be a tiny bit of anecdotal evidence, but not using twitter was fine. The shows did as well as all my other ones, and despite a bit of slow going sales wise intially, they both got there in the end. You're kidding yourself if you think that arsehole cares about you, your band, or your tour. It's useless, so get off it and start building elsewhere. I'm on Threads and Bluesky, and although neither are perfect, they do provide some of the good stuff, so get on with building elsewhere, because that fucking X place isn't going to last much longer anyway, and you're wasting time trying to prop it up. Get on with it!