If you’re somehow not too familiar with Bandcamp, it’s probably best described as the biggest [virtual] record store in the world. Except with every band hanging out there and selling their own stuff direct to fans.
In fact, CEO Ethan Diamond recently noted that if they wanted to have one copy of every album on Bandcamp in a physical store, “the inventory would be twice as big as the Tower Records in Tokyo, which is a nine-story building!”
There’s been a bunch of articles recently comparing Bandcamp with streaming sites like Spotify, to show just how much more money niche artists – like jazz musicians – can earn from the former.
It’s not an entirely fair comparison, though, because in reality the two platforms are operating on different planets!
And, more to the point, they are not mutually exclusive.
Streaming is a brilliant offering for *fans* (unlimited music at your fingertips?!) and, as such, is likely to keep growing. For that reason, putting a simple plan in place to establish your presence on Spotify – if only as a safety net for the future – seems like a smart idea.
But that’s for another day.
In this article I wanted to talk about 8 reasons that Bandcamp could be an important way to help you earn more money from your music right now, in 2021.
1. Quick income and easy calculations
If you’re planning to record and promote new music, you probably need to think about budgets and finances.
Once you’ve established a fanbase and some sales history, it’s possible to start predicting your sales and, as a result, planning your expenses accordingly.
- Can you hire a music publicist or will it be a DIY campaign?
- Should you manufacture vinyl or just CDs?
- Do you have a budget for social media ads?
- Would advertising in a jazz magazine make sense?
Bandcamp’s stats page helps by giving you a clear overview of your key sales, fans & listening history.
Depending on the product and amount of sales you’re doing, Bandcamp take between 10-15% as a flat fee.
Assuming you got a good deal on your CD manufacture, you could calculate something like this:
Bandcamp profit = sale price – BC commission – manufacture price
In real terms, that could look something like this:
CD: $15 – $2.25 commission – $1.50 manufacture = $11.25 profit
So, for example, if you’re confident you have 150 fans willing to buy your music, that’s $1687.50 in your bank account.
None of that’s to say that selling even 100 CDs on launch day is easy or something to take for granted.
But, as I think you’ll agree, it seems like a feasible goal.
As does selling 250, 500 or even 1000 over time…
And, if you’ve got a back-catalogue of music to sell on Bandcamp, you should be able to get that number growing even faster…
2. Bandcamp is not a streaming service
It’s true that fans can stream your music on Bandcamp, but that’s generally not why they come and not what they use it for.
In fact, as founder Ethan Diamond said himself: “I don’t think of this as a streaming service. I consider us a record store and a music community.”
This isn’t to say that streaming is bad.
Personally, I think it will get more and more important for every type of musician (both financially and in terms of fan engagement) as the years pass.
But taking away the fan-generation side of things, streaming is a big numbers game: you need to scale your listeners and your catalogue to a high level to see any serious financial rewards – and, as such, it’s something for the long term.
If we’re looking at ‘wins’ in 2021, getting your real fans to digest your music in a non-streaming environment is important to help you make a living an Bandcamp provides that.
3. Tap into the Bandcamp community
Bandcamp is not just a place for you to sell music to your fans.
If it was, then you might consider just doing it via your own website and saving the commission.
No: there are a bunch of community features which actually help you grow your sales organically.
In fact, according to Bandcamp, “community drives 30% of overall sales“
Of course, that won’t be an exact figure for everyone, but if it holds true for you, consider that: you pay them 10-15% on all sales and sell 30% more music.
However, there’s an important caveat here: those organic sales are not just going to fall into your lap.
Nothing that brings in true fans and hard cash happens that easily.
The main way these organic sales happen is by Bandcamp notifying friends and followers of your customers or by displaying your album in their public collections.
So to get things moving you need to commit to it, follow people, drive traffic, push for sales. Which is probably what you should be doing anyway, right?
4. Connect directly with your fans & customers
Bandcamp makes it very easy for you to collect email addresses for every new fan who follows you or buys your music and even message them directly through the app.
This means that you have everything you need to build that connection over time and convert them into a real fan.
Again, this is not some quick, magic win: you need a plan for your newsletters and communications, as well as the consistency to follow through with it.
But the data is there and it’s yours.
It’s not like Facebook or Spotify who could disappear with your fans, MySpace style. You own that connection and can do what you want with it.
Another positive side-effect of having these messaging tools at your fingertips can be that you actually find yourself reaching out to fans more.
Until the day you literally don’t have enough hours to communicate 1-to-1 with your fans, why not make the most of it and see for yourself how enthusiastic a hardcore jazz fan will become about you and your music when they feel they actually know you?
5. Trusted Payment Platform
When you’re trying to sell something online in 2021, it’s not just about convincing people that they want what you’ve got. They also need to be comfortable with how they pay for it, and giving credit card details online is not something that a lot of people do lightly.
If you’re hosting your own store on your website, it’s an important consideration: does it look professional and is that backed that up with things like an SSL certificate and guarantee?
To be fair, getting things set up well on your own site is totally within the control of most people, but using a site like Bandcamp – where many jazz fans even have their credit card details stored – can add a little extra ease for the customer.
In fact, if you look around, you’ll notice that many of today’s jazz record labels use Bandcamp as their main online store.
6. Your Bandcamp profile is highly customisable
If you’re focused on building a long-term and profitable career as a music creator, building a strong and recognisable brand is important.
Platforms like Spotify and Facebook are of course customisable, but alway retain some of their own colouring and style.
As long as you’ve got some technical skills, Bandcamp is pretty much a blank canvas which means you can make the transition between your website homepage and your online store pretty much seamless.
It might seem like a cosmetic detail, but being quickly recognisable to music fans amongst all the other projects out there is important.
7. Bandcamp Pre-orders
I’ve already written in detail about why pre-orders are one of the 2 most important things you should do for your next album release.
In short, you spend so much time and money making your music, why not stretch out the attention as much as possible to get the most out of the campaign?
And, awareness aside, selling pre-orders allows you to start earning money from your release sooner.
It’s a bit like crowdfunding, except rather than telling people you need their help to make your music, you’re offering them the exciting option to become and early supporter.
Subtle but important difference, no?
As with many of these things, you can of course offer your upcoming release for pre-order via your own store on your website, but Bandcamp have put a lot of time into refining how this process works on their platform – complete with notifications on release day – and in my opinion it’s a worthy reason to use it.
If nothing else, every one of your followers are notified the minute you announce a pre-order which often results in a satisfying bump in income to get you going.
8. Sell merch to your fans
At various points over the years, musicians have made money from selling PVC vinyl, plastic tapes, polycarbonate/metallic CDs, cotton t-shirts and paper posters.
Who knows what the future will bring, but we have to assume that your biggest fans and supporters will always want to buy stuff from you.
Bandcamp makes it easy to add merchandise to your store and to notify your fans and followers immediately.
As always, you could do this yourself, but having that ‘merch’ button looking at you every time you log in, not to mention the growing number of people wanting to buy you, can be an important motivator to get it done.
Make music like a musician, but sell it like business: create value, build great relationships with your fans and then offer them things they want to pay for. Win/Win.
Round-up: Bandcamp for jazz musicians
This wasn’t meant to be a love-letter to Bandcamp and I’m not saying it’s the long-term saviour of the independent music industry. As you might expect from a free-to-join platform taking a relatively small commission, this is not a magic pill.
But right now, in 2021, it’s one of the best platforms out there to help you make money from your music right away.
They are providing a solid infrastructure – and some cool features – but you need to work with them cleverly and consistently to get something good out of it.
Putting your music on Bandcamp and hoping for the best will not work!
Think of it as an advantage though: it’s not feasible for everyone in the world to be making lots of money selling music.
But all it takes is some focused, creative effort on your part to make Bandcamp work for you.
International jazz booking agent, manager and host of Jazzfuel.
Join the mailing list for more free content, or become a member of Jazzfuel Manager (members.jazzfuel.com) for 1-to-1 support & feedback.