What do Nils Frahm, Anne Mueller, Jeannie Schulz, Mary Lattimore and Atli Örvarsson have in common? They are among three dozen artists whose albums I bought last year from Bandcamp, an Oakland, CA-based music service. It was my way of supporting these artists. As I wrote earlier, “we need to figure out how much we value the music and the musicians,” so that “we can use our dollars to encourage them to keep creating.”
And I am not alone. 800,000 customers spent $48.3 million on what Bandcamp calls Bandcamp Fridays — every first Friday of the month, Bandcamp forgoes the 15 percent cut of the digital sales (and 10 percent cut of the physical sales.) All money goes to the artists. Bandcamp Fridays started as a one-off feature on March 20, 2020, it has become a regular feature. In a year since the company has sent $148 million to the artists.
Their success is finally getting the attention it deserves. It has taken almost a year for the media to notice Bandcamp’s progress. There is a fantastic article in Billboard, and of course, much better is an NPR conversation with the co-founder and CEO of the company, my dear friend, Ethan Diamond. Shawn Grunberger is the co-founder and chief technology officer.
Bandcamp is the antithesis of streaming. The company’s value metric is based on helping smaller and independent artists create a way forward for themselves. In comparison, someone like Spotify’s north star metric is time spent on the platform. I am not saying Spotify (or any other streaming platform) isn’t essential — their clever use of machine learning and algorithmic discovery, access to music across devices, and all platforms make them worth using.
The reality is that we are all addicted to convenience — and streaming platforms make it damn convenient for us to not think about the artists and how they manage to survive. As streaming becomes more pervasive, the sad reality is that every track, every artist, every album is reduced to just data, served up by the algorithm. It only continues to devalue our emotional relationship with the creators.
For now, the least we can do is fight the good fight and support what you value — by buying music. It is way better than sending tips to artists via PayPal, as Spotify suggests as a way of support. That, to me, feels like digital panhandling, but that’s just me. Even if you listen to it on other platforms, buying music is a better way of expressing your fandom.
Did you know that Nils Frahm has a new album, Graz? It is worth buying.
Disclosure: * Bandcamp is backed by True Ventures, where I am a partner.