How to set up a Bandcamp Listening Party and why you (still) should
Despite its recent sale and staff cutbacks, Bandcamp, for now at least, still has an audience and toolkit worth paying attention to. Brian Hazard explains from firsthand experience how beneficial and special Bandcamp listening parties for new releases can be.
by Brian Hazard of Passive Promotion
Three months of no posts! I’m sorry. But I’ve got a good excuse…
Earlier this month, I released my 13th studio album, Underneath These Dying Stars.
I’ve got a lot to share with you, but I thought I’d start with something relatively painless and uncontroversial.
When’s the last time you sat down and actively listened to an album along with dozens of other fans?
For someone like me who doesn’t perform and doesn’t go to shows to protect my hearing, that basically never happens.
But when it does, it can be magical. Listening attentively with others facilitates a deeper connection to the music and turns the release into an event.
In the case of a Bandcamp listening party, there’s no reason not to do it! It’s totally free.
My biggest fear was that nobody would show up. Or worse, only one or two people. Now thatcould get awkward!
Bandcamp does everything possible to reduce the sting of that unlikely event. There’s no listener count visible to attendees and no way for anyone but you to view the chat afterwards.
When it’s over, it’s over. Nothing is left behind, unlike with a YouTube Premiere.
Convinced? Allow me to walk you through the rather straightforward process of hosting your own Bandcamp listening party.
Bandcamp Listening Party Setup
When you create or edit any release on Bandcamp, you’ll see this option:
And I mean any release. I could host a listening party tomorrow for a 10-year-old single, or a second one for the new album. Bandcamp is always down to party.
The only condition is that the release needs to be public. In order to accomplish that, I put the album up for preorder.
The hardest question: when?
My inclination was to schedule the party for release day, which was Bandcamp Friday. That way I’d get 100% of the revenue.
But then it would already be out, and anyone could listen to it whenever they wanted. The listening party wouldn’t function as a sneak preview and people would be less likely to attend.
Ultimately I deferred to Bandcamp’s suggestion and opted for the day before.
10AM my time (PST) was not only convenient for me, but it allowed overseas fans to come. I had multiple attendees from Germany, Finland, the UK, and Russia.
A couple of people complained about it being in the middle of the workday, but that was inevitable. And hey, they still managed to show up!
You could and should invite a moderator. I asked mine to take some screenshots, but apparently his interface wasn’t substantially different than mine. There was a hamburger menu where he could delete chat entries and mute users, neither of which were necessary.
I didn’t see a way to do either of those things myself, which could’ve been an issue if I had more haters. Alas, I’m just not there yet.
Once you click “Announce” the edit page looks like so:
You can click the preview link to get a feel for what you’ve gotten yourself into:
Under “chat settings” you can restrict the chat to supporters only, adjust the speed, and invite moderators:
You’ll also receive an email confirmation with helpful tips:
Your Bandcamp followers will receive an invitation by email:
And a confirmation once they RSVP:
Your release page on Bandcamp will highlight the event:
And you’ll have a new “Live” tab in your header where people can RSVP, and where you and only you can see how many people actually did:
Bandcamp Listening Party Countdown
If it wasn’t obvious by now, Bandcamp is determined to make sure you don’t f*ck this up.
I mean, imagine if you didn’t show up. You’d have a bunch of angry fans who might take it out on the platform rather than the artist.
And so, they hold your hand every step of the way. Here’s two days out:
At this point, I prepared 1-2 sentence notes/factoids/questions about each song that I could copy/paste to keep the discussion moving.
The day before (it looks like this one goes out to everyone who RSVP’d):
And finally, one hour before:
Bandcamp Listening Party Time
I was an obedient boy.
I followed all of Bandcamp’s suggestions every step of the way, which meant showing up a half hour early:
I created a welcome message encouraging fans to say hi and tell us where they hail from, or to feel free to lurk if that’s their modus operandi.
See the little album cover? It floats around the screen. When you click on it, another album cover pops up. Soon you’ll have a dozen covers bouncing about. It’s a pleasant enough way to pass the time.
The music starts playing at the appointed time whether you like it or not. I copy/pasted my prepared remarks during each song, but honestly I could’ve gotten away without them. The chat was pretty lively without my nudging.
I’d already completed an extensive preorder campaign on my own site (more on that in a future post), so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of sales, but I did get some!
Bandcamp highlights them in the chat:
All good things must come to an end. People seemed to have enjoyed it:
Bandcamp Listening Party Postgame Recap
After the event, Bandcamp emails you a quick recap:
As you can see, the listening party encouraged some generous support. I’d already archived the email receipts from digital sales, so the ones you see here are physical orders awaiting shipping.
Fans also receive a follow up email encouraging them to buy the release. Here’s one I received after attending Boy Harsher’s listening party:
Bandcamp Listening Party Conclusion
In summary, like I said at the beginning, do it!
At least for an EP or album. Maybe not for every single release.
Overall it’s a polished product, though I do think the chat function could be improved.
First off, there’s no easy way to reply to individual comments that I’m aware of. It would be handy to click on a comment, have a reply box appear underneath, and for the reply to automatically tag the original commenter.
As far as I can tell there’s no such option, nor is there an option to tag at all. That meant I had to reply to specific comments by writing out the @username before it scrolled offscreen.
That wasn’t so bad since there were less than 40 people in the chat at any given time. But for others it could prove unmanageable, unless there were an option to pin comments to the top of the chat.
Better yet, it would be cool if moderators could pin comments that the host could respond to at their leisure.
I had a hard time connecting peoples’ Bandcamp usernames to their real names. Some I recognized immediately. Others mentioned who they were, which I promptly forgot.
Perhaps there could be an option to display real names, at least to the host and moderators.
Quibbles aside, it was genuinely a lot of fun, and made me feel really good about the album!
I do have one regret. I’m kicking myself for not creating a Facebook event! I bet I could’ve doubled attendance. Next time!
Have you hosted a Bandcamp Listening Party? Share your experience and tips in the chat!
Brian Hazard is a recording artist with over twenty years of experience promoting a dozen Color Theory albums, and head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion.
Catch more of his promotional escapades in his How I’m Promoting My Music This Monthemail newsletter.