Discovering New Music Via Bandcamp

By Tyler Hayes, who runBandcamp-logos 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.


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  1. I recently started something called Bandcamp Radio as a way to help with discovering great music on Bandcamp (as long as you have similar taste as me). Basically, it uses a service called exfm to keep track of the music I like on Bandcamp – which creates a player with ‘buy’ links to the original source (which is Bandcamp).
    There are also a lot of great blogs that do the discovering for you, Bandcamp Hunter being the best for 100% Bandcamp discovery: http://bandcamphunter.tumblr.com/
    But I agree that Bandcamp could become even more amazing if they’d put out a better way to explore their great collection of artists and music.

  2. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I actually love the Discovernator. With a combination of it and the site’s classic genre pages, I’ve found a great many artists that we’ve featured over at Bandcamp’s Best (http://bandcampsbest.com).
    Bandcamp offers the most plain vanilla flavored art of music discovery, which I’ve always found to be extremely appealing. It makes you get intimate with each and every artist you’re looking for, because you have to actively search for them yourself.
    The Discovernator might help the process a bit, and so do tags, but I’ve always just loved its roots as a regular old archive of amazing indie music. That and I believe that it respects the hard working artist more than any other music site out there (beyond Soundcloud, which is second best).
    The hard-to-navigate aspect of the site is actually a benefit of Bandcamp’s Best (if you like classic reviews that are laid out by genre and hate humanity-less number scores pasted on the fronts of albums that are there to please our robotic overlord aggregators). We also make note of whether the album is set to free/pay what you want for those just looking for free, legal music.
    I love what BC is doing and think it represents what all other music services should strive for in terms of both respecting the artist and the listener at the same time.

  3. Have you tryed the rabbit hole button on Reverbnation? Find an artist you like, play the song and click on rabbit hole on the player. Next song you get is from a band that played a gig with them. Goes on for a long while and crosses lots of genres, but its like a map of bands that have played together.
    Found some great bands I never heard of through that. I like discover function on BC too, but Reverb just has so many more bands, so you can listen for a while and get a bigger variety. Its a bit more random then BC’s tool, but my taste is all over the map, so it works for me.

  4. Am I the only one that thinks that the best discovery platform out there is LastFM?
    I don’t know many people who would want to discover new acts any other way.

  5. @Matt – I really enjoy Last.fm for discovery and finding out more about artists, but it’s hard to hear a whole catalog like it is on Spotify or Bandcamp. You can’t exactly click “next song on album” like you can on other services. Still, my band uses it, and loves it.

  6. Bandcamp keeps me updated with what’s new in the music scene. I visit the site regularly for news and features. Plus, I like the fact that users are able to interact with fellow music fans.

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