NPR: The 2010s: The Rise Of Bandcamp

When you buy music from Bandcamp, the money goes straight to the artist or record label. That shouldn’t feel radical, but as consumption explodes with more and more corporate avenues to watch TV and movies, listen to podcasts, read books and magazines, independent creators have to scream into the content abyss to be heard and get paid for their work.

Subscription-based streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have proven to be decent discovery tools for listeners over the last decade — and a boon to advertisers — but, as Paula Mejía reported for NPR Music in July, “royalty payouts [tilt] the entire system towards those who, in some ways, need it least.” How can an artist succeed in a market share-based system against the most popular songs at any given time? An artist could net millions of streams, but in the pro rata model, you essentially make far less than minimum wage from the earnings.

In this episode of All Songs Considered, CEO and co-founder Ethan Diamond says that when an artist succeeds on Bandcamp, Bandcamp succeeds. That philosophy has driven the company since 2008, with over $425 million paid directly to musicians and record labels. Sadie Dupuis says that Bandcamp was instrumental in booking the first tour for her band Speedy Ortiz and that its name-your-price model has not only allowed her some steady income but also an avenue to raise money for causes she cares about.

Beyond its pay equity, Bandcamp’s minimalist design is built t0 go down rabbit holes. That’s where niche music communities — everything from synthwave and video game soundtracks to metal and beat tapes — have not only found a home, but have thrived through fan recommendations. And in some cases, as Toronto-based music journalist and Bandcamp Daily contributor Chaka V. Grier says in this episode, “Bandcamp helped me discover music in my own backyard.”

Follow Lars Gotrich’s collection on Bandcamp.

Click link to listen to The 2010s: The Rise Of Bandcamp.