Bandcamp’s Pandemic-Era Evolution
Damon Krukowski has experienced the ups-and-downs of being a touring musician as the drummer in both Galaxy 500 and Damon & Naomi. In the past few years, he has also written several articles and wo books, The New Analog (The New Press, 2017) and Ways of Hearing (MIT Press, 2019), about the transition from an analog to digital music culture.
In a recent Krukowski article about Bandcamp, CEO and co-founder Ethan Diamond stated that he was thinking about blogging services–allowing writers to connect with an audience quickly–when Bandcamp started. Thirteen years later, he sees Bandcamp as being most closely aligned to Etsy because both are digital marketplaces that directly connect buyers and sellers.
Bandcamp has already received praise from independent musicians and labels for having modest fees of 10% for merchandise and 15% for digital music links, with that 15% falling to 10% after $5k in sales in a given year. But that was before the pandemic. Diamond introduced Bandcamp Fridays, in which the platform waives its fees so that beleaguered artists and labels can attempt to recoup a bit of the income they’ve lost.
The first of those events happened on 20 March 2020, and in 24 hours, fans purchased 800,000 records bringing in $4.3m in revenues from music and merchandise — this was 15 times the average sales of a typical Friday. So, Bandcamp did it again, on the first Friday of May, June, and July, and brought the sales totals up to $20 million in direct sales to artists and small labels in just four days. Bandcamp Fridays are so successful they’ve been extended to the first Friday of each month through the end of 2020.
According to Diamond, the site has generated more than $75 million in sales since March and brought total sales since Bandcamp’s launch in 2008 up to half a billion dollars. Diamond attributes the company’s success to creating a sense of ownership among music fans; buying directly from artists they admire, they feel like they are a part of the music’s creation.
Bandcamp is more than just a commodity, he points out, because music is essential and therefore paying attention to the artists’ welfare is necessary.