Monday, September 13, 2010

Bandcamp: The Future of the Music Business?

I was browsing the other day when I stumbled upon a news post by Tony Pascarella detailing changes made to the music download service Bandcamp when I noticed something that stuck out to me. Popular indie artist Sufjan Stevens released his new EP "All Delighted People" through the site on the day it was released and Pascarella reported that the service helped Stevens sell over 10,000 copies in three days. This was enough to land Stevens at #48 on the Billboard 200 chart, which is quite a feat for an indie artist.

This made me wonder about one question that I have been thinking about lately, "Is Bandcamp the future of the music business?" While many music consumers look at iTunes as a company that dominates the music landscape in terms of digital sales, I think that Bandcamp is making strides to eventually surpass the iTunes model. Bandcamp's site provides many interesting facts that make me believe that they will soon become the standard for digital music services, such as the fact that albums outsell individual track sales 4-to-1 and the ration for other services is 16-to-1.

Also, Bandcamp allows artists to control the sale price of their albums, including the option of giving it away for free, which most larger services do not allow. According to Bandcamp's FAQ, they also provide SEO services to ensure the artist's Bandcamp page is ahead of other retail service. This allows the artist to interact directly with the fans and most likely earn more money since they are selling directly to the fans rather than through a distributor. I think the flexibility of the service and the control it offers artists looking to sell their music is what will eventually put Bandcamp ahead of iTunes.

As a music journalist, I also find it interesting that journalism and record companies are both having trouble adapting to change. Media companies are slowly moving to the Internet to promote their content and are taking advantage of all the innovations available but not before they had to deal with crippling financial losses. Record companies are also moving at the same glacial pace as the media companies. They may have finally caught on to iTunes and figured how to make that a viable option for consumers, but the artists are still not seeing the sort of money they should due to an outdated business model.  The industry will be forced to either change their entire business structure or risk losing great new artists who simply decide to strike out on their own, a process that will be made easier with Bandcamp.

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