Marketing

Free Downloads Are No Longer “Free” In Bandcamp

Bandcamp logo Almost two months ago, Bandcamp switched from a free to paid service. Some of their users were less happy than others, but, from my understanding, a number of them loved the company so much that they didn’t mind helping them diversify their revenue streams and stay afloat. This new announcement could prove to be slightly more dicey:

Users of the service will now have to pay for free downloads. 

Starting out, all new accounts will come with 200 free downloads, and all existing accounts will be granted 500. Beyond that, the pricing structure is: 300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each); 1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each); and 5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each). Now, before you pull out your pitchforks and light your torches, know that this announcement comes with a twist. In a Super Mario Bros. like fashion, for every $500 USD that users have in sales, Bandcamp will grant them with another 1,000 free downloads.

CEO Ethan Diamond reasoned that, “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.” Mainly, the motivation behind the switch is that the company realized a small portion of their user base was giving everything away—charging nothing at all. Thus, Bandcamp thought that it was unfair to burden every artist on the site with “the costs of a few outliers giving away hundreds of thousands of free downloads,” so, they decided to charge for all those free downloads.

image from bandcampblog.files.wordpress.com

Also, in related Bandcamp news, users and fans alike can now “go to any album page, click Share, and choose from a few different types of full tracklist embedded players.” These new embeddable players can posted directly onto Facebook and the walls of fans, making for an easy and efficient way for fans to share music with each other in the environments that they frequent.

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26 Comments

  1. Bandcamp is a very good product, but offering everything free, forever isn’t the real world.
    Unfortunately, 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.
    At Nimbit, we offer “free” versions of our direct-to-fan products, but also offer premium plans. We found many self-managed artists, managers, and emerging labels more than willing to pay a very reasonable fee for substantial incremental value. It allows us to continue to bring the best products to our customers.
    And in the end, that’s what’s best for everyone involved, especially the customers that dependent on products that they love.
    Bob Cramer
    Chairman & CEO, Nimbit

  2. I really like SoundCloud as well
    But it only works going forward, as long as they find a revenue model that will support the free model.
    We offer a great free product at Nimbit. The only way we can do this is by having another product that people are more than willing to pay for.

  3. If you used the old MP3 site, you know how quickly a site can disappear. It’s hard for anyone to make money in this business and companies that aren’t profitable may end up shutting down, often with little advance warning.

  4. I’m on board with @Bob Cramer: “offering everything free forever isn’t the real world.” And I look 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.

  5. Not shure bandCamp is worth it anymore for emerging artits. It used to be (by now) an interesting service for a “pay way you want” method (starting at 0 for EPs, for example), and allowed new comers to spread thanks to it, while being able to sell a few downloads.
    How long will it take them to be profitable ? more than 500 “free” downloads, probably…
    I think bandCamp tries to get rid off all the artists that don’t sell a lot… focusing on bands who already make money. Guess they’re going to lose all emerging artists on their platform.
    For what ? a widget that allows to play and download songs and connect to paypal accounts for sales… Guess somebody involved in Flash might design a stand alone player like theirs… for free or a few bucks… Curiously most companies don’t embed pay-what-you-want option on their apps… For how long ?
    Not shure it’s a good move.

  6. I still love BandCamp. As long as I can still stream my music from there for free, I’m golden.
    They just need to get rid of the PayPal garbage.

  7. @Burzinski, if you can’t think of another solution, it might be worth considering that they provide something of value and that people should expect to pay for something of value. The service they provide costs them money, and any “free” replacement is going to have its own strings attached (ads, fake “unlimited” bandwidth, crappy service/support, shitdontwork, lousy terms of service, hidden gotchas, ect).

  8. We haven’t really bragged about it that much, but CD Baby still has free free downloads — you can charge either 0.00 or a minimum of .29 for a song. If you charge 0.00 it doesn’t cost you or the customer anything!

  9. when you say “downloads” do you mean songs or download actions? in order words, can 500 users download our album for free before we have to pay or does each song in the album count as part of that 500 download threshold?
    there is a big differences between the two scenarios.
    thanks for the article. as emerging artists, we love bandcamp so far. the pay what you want feature has created some modest revenue and we now have a mailing list from the free downloads.
    rawk,
    http://NazcarNation.com/

  10. I really believe that value and willingness to pay are greatly connected. 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.
    My question to the bands is how much 1 hour of their time is worth every month. I know as a musician too that my time is valuable and probably worth more than $10 an hour. However the band chooses to go free but waste 5 times the time to accomplish something they could have with the premium service and make more money as a result. Free is inherently problematic because we are wired to get the best deal. Free though rarely is the best deal. Your time is valuable right? The investments per month are pretty much negligible for bands in my opinion eg $10 fee per month. And please do not tell me a band of 5 people will starve if they lose $2 each a month 🙂
    I think Ian Rogers understood the concept of helping the artists that truly have their stuff together and reject the ones who do not. He simply is great at saying no. I think more artist websites that believe add value should say no and not cling on to the concept of free. If you think your site delivers great value then price that value so that the artists pays what they think it is worth.
    We are taking the same approach with .MUSIC. You will have to obviously pay for your domain name. It is not free because there is a cost attached to it.
    So what is better: anothercompany.com/yourname (FREE) or yourname.com ? Would you like to co-brand yourself with another company or just brand yourself? FREE vs Premium. You pick and choose what represents you. The best bands will always choose the best product that would maximize their profits and minimize their time. I am not referring to profit percentage but profits in total. 50% of $10,000 is better than 100% of $2000. Psychologically the 100% split sounds better. But it is not.
    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. This will be useful information for Bandcamp and other companies to receive as well. Let us start talking about how to create additional value so artists would be willing to pay as opposed to be stuck in the whole “free” concept.
    Constantine Roussos
    .music
    http://music.us

  11. I really believe that value and willingness to pay are greatly connected. If a band is not willing to invest 2 Starbucks coffees a month in their band then there is an inherent problem.
    My question to the bands is how much 1 hour of their time is worth every month. I know as a musician too that my time is valuable and probably worth more than $10 an hour. However the band chooses to go free but spend more time and effort for the same job because of the psychological “feel-good” factor of getting a free deal. Problem is we are wired to try to get the best deal possible and free always seems to be the best deal. But is free truly the best? There is certainly a cost associated to free: your time and better services that can earn you more money. What is better making more money or having a better percentage of earnings? 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
    Your time is valuable right? The investments per month are pretty much negligible for bands in my opinion eg $10 fee per month. And please do not tell me a band of 5 people will starve if they lose $2 each a month 🙂
    I think Ian Rogers understood the concept of helping the artists that truly have their stuff together and reject the ones who do not. He simply is great at saying no. I think more artist websites that believe add value should say no and not cling on to the concept of free. If you think your site delivers great value then price that value so that the artists pays what they think it is worth.
    We are taking the same approach with .MUSIC. You will have to obviously pay for your domain name. It is not free because there is a cost attached to it.
    So what is better: anothercompany.com/yourname (FREE) or yourname.com ? Would you like to co-brand yourself with another company or just brand yourself? FREE vs Premium. You pick and choose what represents you.
    The most successful bands will always choose the best product that would maximize their profits and minimize their time. I am not referring to profit percentage but profits in total. 50% of $10,000 is better than 100% of $2000. Psychologically the 100% split sounds better. But it is not.
    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. This will be useful information for Bandcamp and other companies to receive as well. Let us start talking about how to create additional value so artists would be willing to pay as opposed to be stuck in the whole “free” concept.
    Constantine Roussos
    .music
    http://music.us

  12. Bandcamp is an awesome service and is probably worth what they are asking, but this is a site that sold itself (and allowed others to sell it as) being a costless platform without advertising etc.
    This will sound selfish. But atleast for those already signed up, can’t some loaded philanthropist just donate it the money it needs to keep running and let it be what it is, a platform for indy artists that isn’t just a “get rich” startup.

  13. 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. Face it, they said this would come sometime in the future and now it has. If you’re not happy about the changes, you are free to leave and go elsewhere. For now, I’m staying because the price for what they offer is still cheap and a great value—also, the website is easy to work with.

  14. uh, yeah, if anyone finds a site that is easy to use and offers free bandwidth forever, please tell the rest of us!
    seriously though, i think this is fair enough. BC were always open about the fact that they would start charging one day; and i don’t think these charges are too ridiculous. although they are slightly higher than soundcloud…

  15. I’m going to have to mull this one over. The key for me is getting the email address in exchange for a free download. I can still do that through Bandzoogle or Reverbnation, but Bandcamp has been very smooth and elegant.

  16. I’m not sure how this is a losing scenario for artists or bands if you can’t even pony up a few bucks to use the platform to sell your music and promote it.
    The promotion power of Bandcamp alone is worth the paltry sum you pay to give away free downloads and purchase download codes.
    The user interface is great, the stats are incredible, and they REWARD you for using their system for sales by giving you more downloads you can use for FREE.
    And it’s no wonder why so many great music start-ups fail when their users expect to get everything for free.
    Well Bandcamp, here’s to you. Your interface is elegant, the information you provide on downloads is great, your ability to collect fan e-mails is incredible, and your prices are about as great as you can get for next-to-free.
    Those of you that can’t afford a small investment in your artistry, it might be time to consider a different career.
    Support music companies like this! They do us good and allow us to do what we do and succeed with it.
    ‘Jus sayin.

  17. I was very disappointed when Bandcamp first announced this. To me it just shows that they have an insufficient business model. And I don’t trust startups that haven’t found a way to be profitable. Those don’t usually last every long. Bandcamp charging artists for offering free downloads would be the same as youtube charging people for storing videos, or flickr charging free users for photo storage. Ridiculous.
    Other companies such as Flickr, Vimeo, and SoundCloud are perfect examples of how to effectively implement the freemium model. The paying users subsidize the free users. Let’s not forget about Google or Yahoo, of which the latter offers unlimited storage for its free email accounts. This leaves me wondering why Bandcamp would try and make money off of what, according to their own words, are just “a few outliers.” Is there really that much money being ‘lost’ or is their magical revenue sharing model not working so well for them?
    This is not about the cost. I pay for a SoundCloud Solo account, Flickr Pro account, web hosting, multiple domain names, and a CDN even though there are plenty of free services available online. I use these paid services despite offering all of my music and videos for free in exchange for just an email address. I support the companies that I believe provide value, but if I’m going to have to pay just to offer free album/song downloads, then how’s Bandcamp different from, say, Rapidshare? The only real benefit they provide is the simple, ads-free interface with which fans can download your music and leave an email address if you require one. But seeing as I was only using Bandcamp for its ability to collect emails, I decided it to build my own email-for-download system on my website instead.
    By the way, if SoundCloud ever implements a feature for full “set” downloads, it’s over for Bandcamp.

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