So What’s Wrong with Bandcamp?

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It seems the best way to combat music piracy these days is to offer customers streaming music. With seemingly everyone in the world toting a smartphone with an internet connection, actually purchasing music online is becoming about as popular as buying a CD in a store.

So you would think that major labels, eternally fearful of the threat of online piracy, would jump at any music-selling platform that appeals to people more than downloading illegal torrents. I mean, the RIAA has gone as far as suing people for over a million dollars for illegally downloading music. You’d think if they’re willing to sue a person to the point where they have to sell their house and live under a patio umbrella for stealing music, they’d be all for something that would prevent it from happening in the first place.

So it only stands to reason that they should be all for Bandcamp. If you’re not familiar with it, Bandcamp is a website that artists can use to make their music available for both streaming and downloading (as well as physical products, for those who care). It has flexible pricing options for the artists, and even better, only takes a low-percentage cut of the artists’ profits from music and merchandise sales.

Okay, so maybe major labels wouldn’t really care all that much about that last perk, but it still doesn’t fully explain why they’ve stayed far away from Bandcamp, which could potentially be a major boon in these times of flagging music sales. Here are few possible explanations:

Labels Are Run By Old, Clueless People

It’s definitely possible that record company leadership – the ones whose job it is to make decisions about new and exciting distribution methods – aren’t even aware that Bandcamp exists. It might sound crazy for people who make their living in the music business to be so utterly clueless about a popular (and quickly growing) online community within the music business, but hey, these are the same people who responded to the rise of piracy by raising prices. Their heads could be in the sand for this one as well.

They Care Too Much About the Wrong Stats

Like many industries, the music business is stuck in ways of doing things that are done for no better reason than because it’s just always how things have been done. To that end, they still measure the success of a release by how well something does in the first week in an artist’s own country. Releasing something that is immediately available to everyone all over the world, as Bandcamp does, while awesome for music fans, kind of ruins the metric major labels rely on to tell if a band is doing well.

Meanwhile, this insistence on continuing the trend of staggered releases (releasing a record in some countries before others) is the exact kind of shenanigans that encourages desperate fans to illegally download music instead of waiting for it to become available in their country. This is yet another reason labels should embrace the universal release dates Bandcamp provides.

The Devil’s in the (Distribution) Details

It also might be possible that labels really would like to release music on Bandcamp, but have their hands tied by distribution deals. They might have exclusive contracts for digital music releases, and throwing something on Bandcamp might violate said contract and provoke the wrath of Amazon or iTunes’ army of lawyers. Still, labels should be trying to get out of these distribution deals, because Bandcamp offers a better one: iTunes takes 30% of the cut, while Bandcamp only take 10%.

They Think They’re Too Good for It

While it’s true that plenty of underground bands and other artists just getting their start are trying to find their way onto Bandcamp, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good platform for established groups as well. Still, some labels might perceive the website as something for people who haven’t gotten their start yet, instead of something that could potentially be even better for those who already have success.

Image credit: The Spinto Band via Flickr


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