What alternatives are there to Soundcloud? (Part 4: Bandcamp)

There were various articles last summer predicting doom and gloom for Soundcloud before they were rescued. With that in mind, I did a little research into what alternatives independent musicians have to Soundcloud.

This is part 4 of the series aimed at independent artists. Comments relate to the free version of Bandcamp: there is a Pro subscription available allowing more advanced features like uploading videos and customising your bandcamp domain name, but it costs $10 per month, beyond the budget for many small artists.

Bandcamp's welcome page

Bandcamp’s front page

Bandcamp

Bandcamp is a well-established site for indie artists, geared up around selling downloads. Musicians can also allow listeners to stream their material, so they can decide if they will like it before they buy. Posting music here is a way of releasing material, but Bandcamp do not offer distribution services beyond their site, so this doesn’t get you onto Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify and so on: you will need to release your work through an additional distribution service if you want to get into those outlets.

Bandcamp is not a particularly suitable place for sharing rough mixes or material you’re not sure about to get feedback – listeners can’t leave comments and it may cause confusion if you post unfinished material in your store. That said, you can post tracks for free, allowing people to download for ‘£0 or more’, so that does give an option to differentiate between work in progress and finished items that you charge for. Anyone doing that would need to make sure it was well communicated, however, and there are possible reputation issues if you post work before it is really listenable.

There are some social aspects to Bandcamp, but it’s somewhat limited:  You can ‘like’ tracks via Facebook or tweet them directly from inside the site; music fans have their own pages and can follow each other as well as their favourite artists. Bandcamp encourage you to follow other fans with similar taste and check out their ‘collection’, to aid music discovery.  There’s also a music discovery page with features and which shows which albums or tracks are being bought right now, with the option to click through and listen. When you follow an artist, they can email to let you know when they have a new track available.

Pros:
Great for showing off albums.
Try-before-you-buy feature
You can limit the number of free streams of each track you allow listeners if you wish
You control the download price (unlike some online stores), and can offer free downloads on tracks you wish to share but not sell.
Fans can add a tip for the music they like best, when downloading.
Fans can follow artists they like, and artists can subsequently email them.
You can link your gig information to Bandcamp via the Songkick app.

Cons:
This site is not really suitable for getting feedback for work in progress.
The social dimension of the site is quite limited.
Music discovery is also fairly limited: users have to be actively seeking out new music.
Downloading is already on the wane – streaming is growing fast, but is not the focus of this site. This could affect the site’s relevance within just a few years, if the site does not adapt accordingly.

Verdict:
Where Bandcamp works best is as a well known online store, especially if you don’t provide music downloads direct from your own website. Because this site is very well known, it’s still a standard place for indie artists to be – at least for now.  You can use Bandcamp alongside your distribution deal (e.g. through CDBaby) providing that the distribution contract is non-exclusive, so that you get the benefit of being on both platforms.

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