Bandcamp Chases Music Discovery With Charts & Andrew Dubber’s Weekly Review
(UPDATE) Popular artist toolkit Bandcamp wants music fans to visit their site too. "Fans: discover new music & directly support the artists who make it," reads the headline on a revamped Bandcamp front page. To encourage discovery, there's a sales chart, a continuously updated list of music "selling right now" and an album of the week review of "things that are awesome” by industry analyst and Bandcamp advisory board member Andrew Dubber.
More & An Interview With Dubber
Making use of the immense library of music on Bandcamp to extend their brand to fans and help their artists sell more music is a logical move for Bandcamp. But appealing to both artists who see Bandcamp as their own community and fans who want great music could prove to be a tricky balancing act. And Andrew Dubber, who has traditionally written about the music industry rather than the music itself, is an unusual choice to be Bandcamp's sole reviewer.
To learn more, we emailed him a few questions:.
HYPEBOT: How will bands be chosen?
Essentially this is just me indulging my enthusiasms. As you might be able to tell from everything I have ever said on the internet – I'm a huge fan of music. Lots of music. All sorts of different music. Music's brilliant.
It won't just be 'bands' of course, it'll be artists of all types – but I'll typically pick stuff where I think the music is great, first and foremost – and then I'll lean toward artists who use Bandcamp well. A nice bit of design on the page, lyrics uploaded for the songs where appropriate, a little bit of backstory… that sort of thing.
Some will have been recommended to me personally by people whose opinions I have come to trust, some will have been sent to me by the artist themselves or friends of theirs, some I will have stumbled upon myself through a process of tireless exploration through the tags, links, artist recommendations and the live sales feed on the front page. There are all sorts of ways in which I find out about the music within Bandcamp – and trust me when I tell you that there is no shortage of amazing stuff.
What doesn't happen, however, is that PR companies and big record labels bribe me with cash and gifts. It's sad, but true. I'll let you know if that changes.
HYEPBOT: Are you concerned that a reviewer with the brief to “only write about things that are awesome” will have credibility with fans?
DUBBER: Not especially. I don't think that's the credibility issue. I'll have a credibility issue when I start to write 'THIS IS AWESOME!' about a whole bunch of stuff that's mediocre but which also mysteriously seems to also be getting lots of radio airplay, television and press coverage. In all honesty, I don't think that's likely to happen.
I think the real credibility shortfall is in publications that only tend to write three star reviews, or ones that only review stuff that's got a massive marketing budget behind it, and there's a full page paid advertisement right next to the five star review.
I'm also a little cautious about reviews that assert that one album is precisely and objectively one and a half stars better than another. Don't get me wrong – there are some great music reviewers in the world – and to be honest with you, I don't think I'd be particularly good at their rather difficult job. But what I'm doing is not 'reviewing' in that sense – it's more 'writing a feature about'. I pick one album of the week that I like, and then I say what I like about it.
There are some brilliant bloggers out there already doing this sort of thing. And I like their philosophy, which seems to be "Why would I waste your time getting you to read about stuff I thought was only okay? Here – have some awesome." What I'm doing is more like that than it is like record reviewing.
As for credibility… well, if people don't believe me when I say I love a record, I suppose there's nothing I can do about it. They might not necessarily agree with my assessment of a particular album, but I don't think that has anything to do with whether my enthusiasms are 'credible' or not. I fully expect some people to come to the conclusion that I have poor taste. I don't imagine anyone will think I am lying to them about whether I'm excited about a record or not.
But I'm not aiming to play it safe. I'm keen to also feature stuff that might not ordinarily get much of a look in in most other contexts. I don't just like agreeable pop music. I also like some angry, difficult, thoughtful, complex and surprising music. In fact, if you don't disagree with me some of the time, I'm probably doing it wrong.
HYPEBOT: Is this part of a broader effort at Bandcamp to help the artists that use the service to gain more fans?
DUBBER: I can't really speak for Bandcamp 'efforts' or policies – but I think the guys at Bandcamp are keen to use whatever opportunities exist to help more artists in whatever ways they can. I met the whole team earlier in the year for the first time (they're mostly in the US and I'm mostly not) – and it's a really small team of really amazingly talented and passionate people who are really, really smart; really, really lovely; and really, really into music.
I don't want to speak for anyone else, but I don't think any of them would disagree with me when I say that finding ways to help independent musicians have sustainable careers is something we're pretty strongly in favour of and keen to participate in.
Details on getting reviewed on Bandcamp can be found here.