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The New Bandcamp Subscription Feature And Why It Won’t Work [Bobby Owsinski]

Bandcamp-logoBy Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0

Indie music aggregator Bandcamp recently launched a new feature that enables fans to subscribe to its artists for a fixed amount per year (like the $32 that the UK band Candy or artist Steve Lawson are charging). During that time, the fan gets access to all the material that artist or band creates. The fan also has the option of paying more than the subscription amount if they so desire. While this might sound like a great idea and a good way for fans to support an artist or band, it's probably a feature that will benefit Bandcamp much more than any artist on the service.

Here's why:

1. We're living in a different world than even 3 years ago. Fans are more interested in a song by an artist than the artist themselves in most cases. They can get the songs for free on YouTube or for a lot less money than subscribing if they already pay for a streaming service.

Bclogo2. Most artists over-promise when it comes to future releases, but it's really difficult to turn out a lot of quality product over the course of a year and on a regular schedule. If the releases don't come as promised or they aren't as good as expected, the subscriber doesn't remain engaged. If there are fewer subscribers than anticipated (which is always the case), regular creative output becomes even more difficult for the artist.

3. Most artists concentrate on their subscribers or the non-subscriber fans, but not both. This leads to fan attrition rather than increasing the fan base.

4. You're competing against yourself if you expect people to buy your product on Amazon, iTunes, or  purchase a CD or vinyl. If they sign up for decreased subscription rate, that's a lot less money that you can get from someone who's already a fan and might be more willing to purchase on a whim.

That's not to say that subscription can't work in some cases (a jam band like Phish that's been around for along time and has a big catalog of recorded concerts for instance), but it's not a model that most artists will find useful, especially if you don't already have a large and well-established fanbase. The bottom line, Bandcamp may be trying to sell you on this feature, but it's not all it's cracked up to be.


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  1. It seems like your reasoning comes down to some pretty cynical views. To translate:
    1. Fans don’t really care about artists
    2. Artists are lazy
    3. Artists are lazy
    4. Artists will set prices too low and give away too much for too little money.

  2. I didn’t get that impression. This article makes sense.
    It is difficult to offer timely, quality recorded music. Even if your band is kicking ass daily, releasing stuff takes lots of planning and finesse.
    In the meantime, fans are being tugged every which way by powerful outside forces offering engaging content. A subscription can’t fulfill it’s purpose if you can’t keep people at a constant level of engagement.

  3. The author should probably learn what BandCamp is, what artists are on there, visit the artist pages of Steve Lawson and Candy Says, or perhaps even interview the artists in question, BEFORE writing his article.
    Now please excuse me while I go download Steve Lawson’s latest “hit” from YouTube while grimacing over his lack of 2014 iTunes releases and berating him on Twitter as a “lazy slacker” who never releases anything to his dwindling fan base.

  4. I’m generally a fan, and maybe it’s just all the negativity regarding business models floating around, but it seems out of character for you to dismiss this before it gets started. Upon reading the headline, my first thought was “are you f’n kidding me?” quickly followed by “how do I sign up”.
    It is really hard to get anyone to part with a penny for music these days. I run a small label, and the truth is that my artists make more from Bandcamp than any other source. This excites me because it’s another revenue stream (trickle, I suppose). Every little bit helps.

  5. “Why would ANYONE pay to play tracks from just one act when they can pay (or torrent) all of them elsewhere? This is stupid.”
    Bandcamp is primarily for smaller artists who are not large enough for people to illegally torrent their music and may not even be available on other streaming services (Spotify etc.) Also, you get a free download of everything the artist releases, not just streaming. Depending on what the artist charges ($32 or even $25 is a little bit high IMO) it could easily be worth it; buying an individual digital album might be $5 or $10 but if the artist typically releases 2-3 releases in a year (VERY possible for many independent artists–look at Mega Ran or Perturbator) then you’re already saving money.
    Apparently though you just like the idea of free music, and the idea of paying an artist for their work is so foreign to you that you believe everything should be free. This is a terrible attitude to have and I hope you never do anything creatively and then ask money for it.

  6. You are all missing the point. I am an artist as well as run a small social media agency. This is a great move by Bandcamp. Helping artists like myself find one more revenue stream is always appreciated (THANK YOU BANDCAMP).
    The best part of this new subscription plan is the intimacy you get to have with your loyal fans. They are not paying for the music, as much as they are paying for the behind the scenes interaction with their favorite artists. As an artist you can offer exclusive streaming to one of your shows, behind the scenes footage, intimate lessons teaching chords to your songs, cover song videos, handwritten lyric sheets, interact with fans about set lists and what songs should be performed at the live show. You can pre-release your new music to these fans and let them see the new music videos before you release them on YouTube.
    We will be releasing 5 new acoustic songs and music videos associated to help launch our Crowdfunding campaign for our 2nd Full Length Album in the next few months and this new Bandcamp subscription feature could not have come out at a more ideal time for our band. I will be using this platform to give exclusive pre-released access to our music videos and asking our loyal fans to help spread the word about the videos leading up to the public release date. We will also be uploading cover song videos weekly, which will not only help our organic search results on Google, but will also make our fans feel a part of the album release process to see the videos before we release them on YouTube and get them excited to share our new music with their friends.
    As an artist I will be using this platform as our new exclusive members only fan club the CCC – Cali Conscious Crew for my Southern Califronia Barefoot Beach Reggae band Cali Conscious (Download 12 songs for free at
    This is the exact same model that Patreon is using. Patreon has been super successful helping artists share their work with exclusive fan memberships. I’m surprised Ari’s Take hasn’t done a review yet calling Bandcamp out on stealing their platform idea. He uses the platform regularly like 1000’s of other artists who have been making residual income from this method. Regardless of whose idea it is and whichever platform you use, it is another great revenue stream for independent musicians pursuing their dreams and making a living doing what they love!

  7. “Fans are more interested in a song by an artist than the artist themselves in most cases.”
    Would you really call those people, “fans,” though? They sound more like casual music listeners, maybe, but not what I would consider fans. Bandcamp’s Subscription service, Patreon, etc. are not directed at casual listeners, but at the minority of serious fans who care about the music and about the musicians that create the music (they do exist, and it’s the musician’s job to find them and create amazing music for them).
    This is not, of course, a complete strategy, but it’s one piece of the puzzle (and for people like Amanda Palmer, it’s a ~$37k/song piece of the puzzle…and it took less than 10k fans to generate that patronage).
    ~ Andrew ( )

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