A little while ago on HI54LOFI RECORDS, I wrote a post entitled "Why u no Bandcamp?", where I posed the question “Why u no Bandcamp?”. I had become curious as to why so many bands —of the mid to high level of ‘made it or making it’ range — were not using Bandcamp. It was something I especially noticed when putting together a blog post about my favourite non-HI54LOFI RECORDS releases of 2011 (which also brought out some other observations), but it was also something I’ve been noticing since I first discovered the awesomeness that is Bandcamp. I thought I would revisit the question, as I recently ran into another reason. And running into that reason got me thinking about the topic again, which made me think of another reason I had overlooked.
But before I jump into those reasons, let me just re-state a statement that I have stated many times: I really love what Bandcamp does and I think the people behind it are some of the good guys. I think all bands should use Bandcamp and I really hope that one day soon, not only will more bands be using Bandcamp, but listeners and music lovers will start using it more (and become as comfortable with purchasing on Bandcamp as they are with letting Apple hold onto their credit cards).
Now, two more reasons why some bands are probably not using Bandcamp:
#1 - It is possible to steal from Bandcamp, and you don’t even need to be a tech savvy ninja (because tech savvy ninjas have built something for all those opposite of tech savvy ninjas of the world). Being familiar with the idea that the internet is a new version of the wild west, I had never doubted that this was possible. I just never put much thought into how that reality applies to music on my / our / your Bandcamp page. It wasn’t something I stressed about. But I was going through Bandcamps FAQ page in search of an answer to an unrelated query and I came across this section:
One of my fans showed me a totally easy way that someone could STEAL my music off of Bandcamp using RealPlayer 14.1 beta 3, or RipTheWeb.com, or by going into Temporary Internet Files and renaming blah blah blah. What are you doing about this grave problem?
Nothing. Since streams on Bandcamp are full-length, rather than 30-second snippets, it’s correct that someone could use one of the above methods to access the underlying 128k mp3. And sure, we could throw some technical hurdles in their way, but if they hit one of those hurdles, it’s not like they’d slap their forehead and open their wallet. Instead, they’d just move on to some other site where those restrictions aren’t in place, and you’ll have squandered the chance to make your own site the premier destination for those seemingly cheap, but enthusiastic, word-spreading, and potentially later money-spending fans. In other words, the few people employing the above methods are better thought of as an opportunity, not a lost sale. If you’re still skeptical, Andrew Dubber’s post on the topic of music piracy is a must-read.
So I was intrigued to see how easy it would be to steal music off of Bandcamp. And it was pretty easy. Googling the topic led me to a Youtube page (although that process seemed a bit too involved) and one of the comments on that Youtube page led me to a site that allows you to just paste in the url of a Bandcamp page and download that track. I thought about not sharing the links, but really, it is the internet, and if you really want to steal music you’ll always find a way (it just took me one google search). It should be noted that this site (or any site or technique like it) does not just apply to stealing music from a Bandcamp page. They can be used on Soundcloud, or Youtube, or Myspace or etc. You can even find videos on how to take music off of Spotify. Basically, if you put something of yours on the internet, someone can probably get it if they want to.
Does any of this deter me from using Bandcamp? Of course not. I’ve basically just experienced something I already knew was possible. And like a lot of small labels and DIY artists (i.e. the major percentage of people who love and use Bandcamp) the idea of someone stealing our music doesn’t scare us as much as it does the bands of the mid to high level of ‘made it or making it range’ (and more importantly, the people who represent them). What scares us is the old way of doing things. The thoguht of a middle man making a dime for doing nothing but holding a key to a door that shouldn’t even be there is a lot more scary to us then the idea of someone liking your music enough to want to steal it. True, some people steal music because they’re stealers and that’s what they do. They steal things and maybe even use that stolen item for more than their own personal use. But some people ‘steal music’ because they are a little too skint (which is something I think a lot of us smaller guys can relate to quite well). Or maybe they are not quite sold on being a true fan of yours, and them stealing your music is the first step in their conversion. Whatever the case may be, don’t develop a pirate hernia.
If you haven’t already checked out that Andrew Dubber post, perhaps now would be a good time to do so. It really hits a lot of nails on the head and says things better than me going on more about it. But in a nutshell, someone stealing music your music is rarely the same as you losing a sale.
I do not run a major label. My brain hasn’t been wired to worry endlessly about a possible lost dollar, but I know some people do. So I can definitely see this as a major reason why there is a lack of major names using Bandcamp.
#2 - A lot of big names are using Topspin. And as the Bob Lefsetz post ‘Bandcamp vs Topspin' from last year makes obvious in post title alone, if you're using one service you're probably not using the other. Now, I have never used Topspin, but it was something that I definitely checked out. I don't doubt for a second that what they do, they do good. They even offer more / different services than Bandcamp. But everything about them — and not just the cost of using their services — screams “little guys need not apply”. As the unamed emailer in the Lefsetz post explained, “Bandcamp is great technology. Topspin is great marketing. So Topspin is winning.” (to be fair, there is great technology behind Topspin as well). I don't have any strong negative opinions about Topspin, as my investigation in using them for HI54LOFI RECORDS stopped at the pricing page, but I will say that the image in my head of who the people behind Bandcamp are is not the same image I have when picturing the people behind Topspin (i.e. in my head, Bandcamp = created on a laptop, Topspin = created in a boardroom). Perhaps I listened to Bill Hicks too much and my brain has been warped in a way that is not financially viable, but it just feels that Topspin is run by and made for ‘the bigger boys’. They seem more ‘industry insider’ than Bandcamp. And probably because of that, Topspin seems to have bedded more of the bigger names.
So, there you have it. Two more reasons on why big name bands might not be using Bandcamp. When added to the previous three, that makes five (although one reason is just an all of the above). Hopefully nobody has confused these “Why u no Bandcamp?” posts as me listing points as to why people shouldn’t be using Bandcamp, because that is not what is happening here. I’ve just been wrapping my brain, trying to figure out why there are any bands out there not using Bandcamp, because that made no sense to me. So I just tried to walk in the shoes of those people not using Bandcamp, and now that I have, I am going to put my slippers back on cause my feet hurt.