By Cathal Donovan O’Neill, Music Editor
Back in March 2020, online music retail platform Bandcamp announced that on the first Friday of every month they would cut their cut on items sold from about 30% to nothing, leaving all funds to the artist. It was a great move on a marketing and moral basis, but a year on, how’re artists finding it? I sat down with Colm Cahallane, self-described ‘PR rat’ at Cork indie label HAUSU Records.
For Colm, Bandcamp Friday hasn’t really moved the needle for HAUSU’s back catalogue, although a charity compilation released early during the pandemic successfully raised €550 for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland. In an environment where everyone is releasing music on the same day, getting your name in front of people can be tough.
The platform’s advantage, however, is that it’s given the label an opportunity to release more obtuse projects. If an artist’s Spotify page is a professional-looking profile, Bandcamp provides a space to be more playful and experimental.
“Spotify is like the shelves [in] Golden Discs or whatever and Bandcamp is the couple of cassette tapes that are for sale at Plugd, you know, it’s a different vibe entirely,” says Colm. “Bandcamp, to us, feels a little closer to a local community.
“Like, the people who are buying our music on Bandcamp are the people who show up to our gigs, which is very different to Spotify where you get like a playlist placement and your music is suddenly big in Latvia, but these people will never actually stick around once that playlist spot is removed.”
What could Bandcamp do to pull ahead of Spotify? Real playlisting would be good, says Colm, allowing more curation of your music library and less being tied down to specific albums. The platform won’t be resting on their laurels – they can’t hang onto the record-shop recreation nostalgia that they currently have if they want to sink hooks into the current generation. There are steps in the right direction: Colm’s happy to see their recent vinyl pressing system which works like a Kickstarter, and hopes their journalism in written and podcast form can get more of a push. A Spotify for Artists system for submitting to Discovery curators would be useful. Most exciting, Colm says, is the potential for the app to disrupt the realm of live gigs:
“Ticketing would be amazing. If you could use Bandcamp for ticketing, it would honestly change the way the music industry works. Like, I like Eventbrite – I really do – but I think that something that allows you to – like, once you have your ticket app, look at the profiles of the artist you saw, look at their discography, dive in from there, I think that would be a very transformative way of doing the loop, instead of like just having to say like ‘Heyyy, check us out on Bandcamp!’ from the stage, being part of buying tickets in the first place.”
Stay tuned for the next issue, where we’ll be talking to Dan Walsh, the multi instrumentalist bandleader of class jazz act Fixity, about his experiences with Bandcamp and Patreon.