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.

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