Discovering New Music Via Bandcamp
By Tyler Hayes, who runs the music discovery site Nxt Big Thing.
Bandcamp is the darling of music services. Providing bands a simple and seamless way to host and sell their music, the site is often seen as a refuge from iTunes or Amazon. In 2012 Bandcamp attempted to branch out and released a pseudo web page/app called Discoverinator, then changed the name to Bandcamp Discover. The effort fell short of anything useful and points to the fact that the company is really only focused on being a storefront for artists. With a little work though, the site can't still be used as a decent music discovery platform.
The best thing that Bandcamp has going for it is its tags. Like Tumblr the tags are everything, and the key to finding stuff you didn't know you were searching for. The tags are not automatic, they are created by the artist which can lead to more than a few bands having a toe in every genre, though in my experience the tags are fairly accurate. But because the tags are user created, you often find more obscure genre styles like "shoe gaze." Everyone's a sucker for charts, and Bandcamp has those as well. Each genre category has unnumbered charts of the most popular items, but for the more daring there is also a 'newness' tab that provides a further deep dive in to raw music discovery.
The streaming of complete songs as many times as you'd like, in combination with prominent album art and artist implemented tags makes for a compelling discovery platform. The problem with Bandcamp is not the niceties it has in place, but its unwillingness to tweak small items in order to fully promote discovery throughout the site. There is a rigidness to the site's design that could easily be made over with better flow on the band pages. Easier to find and recognize external artist links, better placement of album info, and a better way of displaying physical and digital album sales together are some starting points.
Bandcamp already has an abundance of talent, so it wouldn't take much to transform the site into a premiere discovery service. The flip side of not making any changes would be Bandcamp ending up like Rhapsody, MOG (sold to Beats), or other music services rapidly loosing mindshare and any competitive edge. And it's too valuable of a service for that to happen. Open the tags page, click on a style of music that interests you, and find something new.