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Why Free Isn’t Free, Nor Is It Forever: Reactions To Bandcamp Charging For Free Downloads

Great services such as Bandcamp can’t stay free forever.

image from cashtactics.netIn an attempt to diversify their revenue streams and create a more sustainable future for their service, the company switched from a free to a paid model. So too, in hoping to unburden their system of the users that were using the site as a means to give away free downloads, instead of the ecommerce platform that its intended to be; they’ve also decided to start charging for free downloads.

This move opened up an interesting conversation within the Hypebot community and many interesting points were made by readers of the site.

Bob Cramer, Chairman and CEO of Nimbit, asserted, “offering everything free, forever isn't the real world.”  He went onto say that “the realities of business are pretty simple—the only way to continue to build great products for customers is to stay in business; and the only way to stay in business is to find a way to make ‘enough money’ to survive and thrive.”

Curator of Fingertips Music Jeremy Schlosberg agreed with Cramer wholeheartedly. He says he looks “forward to when the web community matures past the type of 'magical thinking' that would deny this. A company offering a valued service deserves financial support, not groans of dismay.”

Perhaps due to the affinity that artists on Bandcamp have for the service, not too many complaints were to be found. One commenter chimed in to say that SoundCloud is looking better and better each day, while another said that they weren’t sure if Bandcamp is “worth it” anymore for emerging artists.

Constantine Roussos of .MUSIC reasoned that, “If a band is not willing to invest 2 Starbucks coffees a month in their band then there is an inherent problem. It is probably a lack of confidence in themselves and their music.” To which Roussos concluded, “If people think that Bandcamp is not worth more than free then they should not pay. If they believe that they are getting value and the site is worth something perhaps they should speak to Bandcamp and explain what is preventing them from paying and why they believe they should pay nothing to Bandcamp for the service they are getting and is helping them.”

Still, other members of the Hypebot community remained positive. Jared said that, “Bandcamp is an awesome service and is probably worth what they are asking…” But, he says, this is “a site that sold itself (and allowed others to sell it as) being a costless platform without advertising etc.” Though, Ictus75 summed this situation up best, “Nothing free lasts forever. While I'd love for all Bandcamp services to remain free, I'm realistic that somewhere they need to make money so they can keep offering their services."

Free isn’t free, nor is it forever. As a business, Bandcamp needs to remain profitable, to ensure their future and continued use of their product. If that means charging for free downloads, then so be it. Schlosberg, however, does raise an interesting question: Do we exist in a web community, founded on a type of  "magical thinking," that would deny Bandcamp this attempt to generate more revenue and stay afloat?

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