So the past day or two, my twitter and facebook feed —if you filter out all the FB pictures of the offspring from people I used to do keg stands with in high school— has been filled with thoughts and links about Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich’s decision to remove their music from Spotify. If you are unfamiliar and want the nutshell of it, basically, they have removed their music from Spotify to sort of take a stand against a business model that they think does no favours to new artists (and click here if you want ‘the bigger than a nutshell’ of it).
And it is not that they are totally wrong (or out of touch, as Bob ‘inconceivable’ Lefsetz argues), but… it is all a bit anti-climatic.
They didn’t say “we’re removing our music from Spotify and instead are putting it on [option A]”. Or even “we removed our music from Spotify because we’re working on a better option for new artists ourselves”. So it kind of feels a bit like nothing (there’s lots of music not on Spotify).
What would have been cool is if Thom & Nigel would have said “we are removing our music from Spotify because we don’t think their business model is good for new / independent artists AND we will be putting our music on Bandcamp instead… because on Bandcamp, fans can stream the music for free and in any country, but they also have the option of buying physical or digital copies of the music, and merch, at a price the artist choses themselves.”.
But instead, you’ll find no Thom Yorke or Nigel Godrich albums available on Bandcamp. So when Nigel says…
“The music industry is being taken over by the back door. And if we don’t try and make it fair for new music producers and artists, then the art will suffer. Make no mistake. These are all the same old industry bods trying to get a stranglehold on the delivery system.”
… I can’t help wonder why they both keep their music clear from a music service that is so clearly not run by the ‘same old industry bods’. It makes their plight with Spotify seem a little disingenuous. And I’m sure it is not. But a couple of really successful musicians removing their music from a streaming service and having a rant on Twitter doesn’t really do anything to help out any new artists.
So what could of been a great opportunity to help push a ‘great for new artists’ site like Bandcamp into the consciousness of the masses turned out to just be another debate about how Spotify isn’t perfect. Which is a shame, because Bandcamp is already firmly stuck in the minds of those new artists (and the people supporting new artists) that Thom & Nigel are saying their Spotify boycott is all about / for.
Personally, I still like Spotify. It’s an easy way to check out music from new artists, which can often lead to purchases (albums, tickets, merch). And it makes for a great all day radio alternative for when I’m at work. The main problem with Spotify is not so much the low royalties that keep being reported, but the fact that it’s a closed garden that doesn’t really want you to buy music (they’re a streaming company, so naturally, they only want you to stream music). If Spotify linked up to where you could buy digital + physical music and merchandise —directly from the artists— Spotify would be brilliant. But I think Spotify had to climb to far into bed with the big labels to ever be able to pull something like that off. So it will probably never be ‘perfect’.
Luckily, Bandcamp already exists. It just needs more support from artists of a Thom Yorke status to help it become as familiar to the masses as iTunes. But most of those ‘Thom Yorke status’ artists don’t put their music on Bandcamp. I’d be much more interested to hear Thom and Nigel talk about why they’ve decided to not make their music available on Bandcamp instead of hearing why they removed their music from Spoitfy (well, some of their music - Radiohead albums are still on Spotify).
Anyways… that’s the end of my rant / thoughts on the topic.
But before I go soak up this rare English heat wave… I’d like to use this last paragraph to mention another artist friendly site called GOGOYOKO, whose business model might be —minus the fact that artists can’t sell physical goods… yet (?)— one of the best current options of paid for streams + sales (i.e. Bandcamp, and Soundcloud for that matter, don’t pay artists when their music is streamed). Check out GOGOYOKO’s approach and tell me that doesn’t sound like a nice direction for artists and fans.
I’m not entirely sure exactly when this started working, as I never really heard or saw any ‘official’ announcement of it (as I seem to remember happening whenTumblr + Soundcloud and Tumblr + Spotify became available). Which is a bit surprising, at least for me, as I have been wanting to be able to use Bandcamp URLs for Tumblr audio posts ever since Tumblr first started their external URL feature as an alternative to uploading your own tracks.
I have been a bit preoccupied with ‘away from internet’ things these past couple months, so perhaps I just missed the announcement and everybody already knows that this is now possible. But if not, here it is in picture form…
But it was all new news to me when I stumbled across it being mentioned on Ben Walkers tumblr (and since he has insider Bandcamp info, I’m going to guess this integration started working around the time of that post), and when I tried googling to see if there was a more official announcement, I never found one. Although I have seen a few people already using it, so I guess the cat is definitely out of the bag already.
It doesn’t look like you can just ‘search’ for tracks that are available on Bandcamp (as you can with Soundcloud and Spotify), but I never use that feature anyways, so as far as my Tumblr + Bandcamp integration needs are concerned, I’m all good.
Anyways, I just thought I would also share this info in case there are any other Tumblr users out there who, like me, didn’t know how easily you can now spread tasty Bandcamp tracks on your blog.
A few days ago I wrote about some of the things I learnt after experiencing —what The New York Times didn’t call— ’the Bandcamp Bump’. If you’re curious as to what ‘the Bandcamp Bump’ was (and if you don’t feel like clicking on the link to the article that I so conveniently placed in the previous sentence) here is a picture that more or less explains everything:
As mentioned in the 'Things Learnt From The Bandcamp Bump (aka 'The Big Fucking Spike')' post, the downward trajectory had already begun. It was a fun ride, but like all fun rides, they are short and the queue to get back on is long. To say I was honoured to have Bandcamp not only read what I wrote, but also enjoy it enough to officially recommend it to their users, would be a bit of an understatement. So thank you Bandcamp, you’ve coloured me chuffed.
There are still a few stragglers coming over to HI54LOFI on the tail end of that initial email from Bandcamp + other people sharing the ‘Damn You Bandcamp' post, but the other day I started noticing a new path people were taking to the HI54LOFI door. They seemed to be coming from within their Bandcamp accounts 'edit album' page. This seemed odd, especially when I started to notice it happening more and more.
So I went to my ‘edit album’ page, but I couldn’t see anything. I considered writing it all of as another thing I didn’t understand, but then they kept coming in. Luckily, I moonlighted as a detective in one of my past lives (fun fact that I cannot actually confirm: the TV show ‘Moonlighting’ was kind of based on me). And like all good detectives, I started clicking on everything.
Which led to the discovery of ‘the little Bandcamp bump’:
It would seem that my post about why you should think twice about making your Bandcamp release a ‘free download’ is being referenced within everyone’s Bandcamp account as a way to make people think twice about making their Bandcamp release a ‘free download’. Again, as a long time fan of Bandcamp, this was a pretty cool discovery for me. One might even say that I’ve been having a pretty good week.
My only concern is that ‘BLKBOI BLACKMAGIC’ is going to see this and ascertain that I have been lying to him and really start to think that I have his money (ps - to understand this reference, you’ll have had to read that other post that I keep linking to).
A few days ago I had my first taste of Bandcamp’s new fan accounts. After spending a few hours playing around with it, and while still in the grips of what all the implications this new service would have on independent music (i.e. the buying of it) and my personal paypal account (i.e. the depletion of it), I wrote a blog post about how I was feeling. I didn’t really expect much to come of it, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw more than a few people feeling the same way.
It started off innocently. People other than myself started tweeting about my post (which rarely happens, and when it does it is rare that I don’t know the person). And then Bandcamp themselves retweeted it. At that moment in time, I thought that would be it and I was quite chuffed. But then Bandcamp included a link to my blog post in an email that they send out to everyone who uses Bandcamp. Which is a lot of people. And HI54LOFI.COM experienced what the experts probably call ‘a big fucking spike’.
The ‘big fucking spike’ is so big in its fuckness, that it actually makes it look like the website is used to having 0 people visit it daily (which is not too far from the truth, but when you consider that the 13th had over 500 unique visitors, you can see how things are a little bit skewed). What the graph does show clearly —unfortunately, but not surprisingly— is that the crazy times are coming to an end (although we’re still at over 700 unique visitors today, so the ‘Bandcamp bump’ hasn’t completely levelled out).
Here are some things I learnt from the experience:
There Is No Shortage Of Musicians Seekings Ears
When a link to your website is sent to almost every independent musician / band in the world (or at the very least, a very large proportion of them)… expect a lot of ‘check out my music’ emails. Like, a lot a lot. These past few days have really made me sympathize with all those music blogs of the world that probably experience the same thing, but on a daily basis, 365 days a year. I now better understand why so many emails I’ve sent out about HI54LOFI RECORDS releases never see the light of day. All the emails start looking the same, just with a different band name and a different link to click. And the task of actually giving them all a fair shake slowly becomes an unclimbable mountain.
I’m going to try my best to listen and respond to all the emails I’ve been sent, but I will admit that all I’ve been able to do so far is keep adding email after email to a special folder in my inbox. And I appreciate people wanting to send me their music, but…
People Forget That The Internet Is Still Mainly Used By Humans
A lot of bands are really bad at asking someone to listen to their music. If you can’t take the time to put together an email that contains more than a link to your music, you really shouldn’t expect anyone to take the time to go listen. That’s just lazy and selfish. I don’t think there is a golden rule to follow here (I know I haven’t perfected the art of the ‘press email’), but at the very least, try to remember that you are sending an email to a human. And try to remember that Reverbnation kind of sucks. It may be a bit unknown as to what will get your email into the ‘check out later’ pile, but it is a little less of a mystery as to what will get it put in the ‘only if I have absolutely nothing else I would rather be doing with my time’ pile.
Out of all the bands that have gotten in touch, I’ve actually only listened (so far) to those who didn’t even ask me to listen to their music (or who made that part of their email secondary to just trying to genuinely connect on a personal level). They interacted more like how a human person interacts with another human person in the real world. Crazy how that same behaviour translates well in the online world.
So if I were to give any bands advice on passing on your music to someone else —besides the obvious advice of making excellent and inspired music— it would be to approach things the same way you approach making a friend. Find some common ground before you ask them to help move your furniture.
A fine example of ‘human to human’ being done right —and the success of that kind of approach— can be found in the great collection of ‘Letters To Yvynyl’.
Lots Of Traffic Doesn’t Convert Like You Might Expect
Since posting the ‘damn you Bandcamp’ post on the 12th (and right up to the writing of this very sentence), HI54LOFI.COM has been visited by 15, 255 unique people. That is a lot of people. Surprisingly, of the over 15,000 unique visitors to the site, this has only resulted in about 60 new likes on the Facebook page and about 60 new followers on the Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to have that many new people interested in what HI54LOFI does, but if there ever was a better indicator on how tricky it can be to convert visitors into ‘fans’, the difference in those numbers are quite telling. Another good number to crunch is that almost 500 people have clicked the ‘like’ button on the article itself, but only 60 have ‘liked’ the Facebook page responsible for the post.
This ‘lack of conversion’ is something that I’ve noticed before whenever we were lucky enough to get a ‘big’ blog to write about one of our releases. It never converts like you’d hope. Up until it happens, you think “if only something like that would happen, then we’d be set”. And then it happens and you are reminded of the way the internet works: Seen That, Now Off To See Something Else.
In retrospect, I probably should have added links to our Facebook / Twitter at the end of that blog post (in a more ‘call to action’ type way) once I realized how many people were about to come knocking at the door. Perhaps it was a bit of a missed opportunity. Or maybe the numbers would have been about the same. I guess we’ll never know. If I get the first pictures of the Kimye baby, I will try it out on that post and let you know.
Expect A Few Nonsensical Interactions
Whenever a large horde of internet users comes your way, you’ll end up with a few puzzling interactions. The oddest, and therefore my favourite, came from someone called ‘BLKBOI BLACKMAGIC’ (not sure why he gets all precise with spelling and vowel use in the second part of his name). Here is his email, in full:
“NEED TO FIND OUT HOW MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT MY TRACK AN HOW CAN I GET MY MONEY THANK YOU”
Hopefully he believes my reply of “I don’t work for Bandcamp” and I don’t end up with someone banging on my door shouting “WHERE’S MY MONEY!”.
The Bandcamp Fan Accounts Work
And I don’t mean they ‘work’ as in I haven’t experienced any problems in using or setting mine up (which I haven’t, so I guess they do ‘work’ in that way too). I mean that I have already been notified of 17 purchases that people have made after discovering something on my fan collection. Granted, there was a link to my fan collection on that ‘damn you Bandcamp’ post (so it has received an unusually large amount of traffic), but that doesn’t mean you still can’t find some proof in that pudding.
So there you have it. Everything I’ve learnt from my brief moment of internet relevance. Maybe you can take away a few learnings as well.
And a big and genuine thank you to everyone who enjoyed / shared that blog post and to everyone who took a further look around the site. And an extra ‘cheers’ to anyone who enjoyed their further look around the site enough to want to internet hang with HI54LOFI ‘post-Bandcamp bump’. Maybe we can still be internet relevant for a few.