Sell your music using Bandcamp

Right, time to make good on the promise to introduce our dear readers to some of the latest ground breaking web services out there to help you all discover new art and even better, be discovered yourself. In today’s installment we are going to take a look at Bandcamp a slick new way for musicians to get distributed and found on the web while retaining control of how much or how little you want to charge/give away. Oh yeah, it’s free.

There is probably little in the way I can do to improve BandCamp’s own video introduction explaining the basics, so here it is. Have a look and I’ll see you on the other side.

Neat.

And so to  summarise:

Bandcamp is flexible. Once you’ve uploaded your album you can decide what you want to charge for and what to give away free. The free option can be tied to the user supplying you with an email address, allowing you to add it to your mailing list so you can let them know when you’re touring, news on new releases etc.

Downloads can be offered in a range of formats including mp3, Ogg, Apple Lossless, FLAC amongst others. You can choose to offer lower quality formats for free while charging a small fee for high quality tracks, it’s up to you. What’s more Bandcamp will take care of the encoding for you, you only need to supply the raw files. In addition Bandcamp will make sure the files are all tagged with the correct metadata so when imported into a media player or onto a music device it will look all flash with album art and such.

bandcamp
Bandcamp offers a variety of tools for artists to analyse which tracks are being listened to, where people are coming from to check your band out and even where your band is being talked about on the web. They allow easy embedding into websites so you can continue to use your existing site/blog/myspace and you can  point your personal domain to your Bandcamp profile.

All this comes in a very slick and easy to use package.

Personally, my favourite feature is the one that allows you to generate download codes. These codes allow those that possess them to download specific tracks or albums for free. You could give them away with tickets and t-shirts, offer them to those on your mailing list or place them in balloons and release them onto the gentle breeze allowing them drift into the lives of potential new fans. A brilliant way to offer dedicated fans added value when they come and support you and great example of being able to be flexible when you own your own releases.

In all, Bandcamp is a flexible, professional and extremely user friendly way to distribute music at virtually no cost.

On the downside, you do have to have a PayPal account to purchase any music. Although this makes it easier for the artist to receive money without the considerable hassle of a full blown e-commerce system, it may restrict impulse buys from people who for whatever reason don’t have PayPal and will need to sign up. Once you have an account though it really is easy to get the music you want.

Also, the ability to search for artists through the site is restricted. They are either listed in alphabetical order or descending order, recently released at the top. I think that offering some sort of tagging system would be useful to at least get a gauge on the type of music to expect.  There are  few ‘big name’ artists registered but this is hardly surprising, this site is part of the new paradigm the big labels are yet to embrace. Del Tha Funky Homosapien of  Gorillaz is down though (and giving stuff away).

Be that as it may, I think Bandcamp is a revolutionary new way to release and distribute music. I’ve used variations on the phrase ‘you can’ all over this article for good reason. Bandcamp allows musicians to be in total control of their releases and if used in conjunction with other web tools such as a blog/twitter/facebook/myspace and of course Loud Thought, it greatly increases the chances of winning new fans and having your music heard. After all, that’s why you do what you do, right?

Tim Kaiser creates experimental instruments

You need to respect someone who goes beyond learning an instrument to the realm of inventing one. Tim kaiser uses his seemingly vast depth of knowledge of electronics to get past the fact that he “Said all that I thought I could say” with traditional instruments.

The results are unique sounds from very cool devices. Holy shit do they look cool.

New Music Strategies

New Music Strategies

New Music Strategies

In case you haven’t noticed, here at Loud Thought we’re pretty big on discussing the way the new media technologies are forcing artists to reconsider how they distribute their art.  Perhaps the most obviously affected are musicians. Their art form is particularly easy to duplicate and share quickly either across networks or on portable media. The question is, is this oft and loudly proclaimed problem not a problem at all but actually an incredible advantage?

The ability to share files across networks is causing grave concern for many who have traditionally made money from sales of their music. Despite many hundreds of thousands of dollars being poured into pursuing technological and legal avenues to stop it, file sharing seems here to stay -  legitimate or otherwise. In the past couple of months we’ve posted a few of our own thoughts on the matter and pointed you in the direction of other people who are thinking pretty hard about it.

It’s a complex topic with many threads but we have found one guy who seems to have got his head around this better than most. UK based Kiwi Andrew Dubber is an “Arts and Humanities Research Council Knowledge Transfer Fellow in Online Music and Radio Innovation and a Senior Lecturer in the Music Industries at Birmingham City University, UK. His analysis of the industry is clearly put and whether you agree with him or not his blog is an excellent primer for understanding the way the internet has changed music distribution. His blog, New Music Strategies, claims to be an attempt to:

…unpick and explain what’s going on in the online music environment – and from that, develop strategies to help independent musicians and music businesses cope and thrive in a changing media environment.

When visiting the site be sure to have a look through his archives and the often lively comments section. Here is an example of his thinking in his piece Should I be Worried About Piracy? I’ll quote at length just to give you a taste of his style:

1) Copying, as I’ve mentioned before, just happens online. You can’t legislate against it, prevent it by technical means nor force people to behave in ways that you would like them to. If you’re going to make recorded music, you have to be aware that you live in a world where this is what goes on. Refusing to accept that on principled grounds will only lead to stress and illness, and the unhelpful belief that every music consumer is a criminal.

2) The fluidity with which your music can pass from hand to hand is not an impediment to your success, but a technological advantage that you can leverage to your own ends. The overwhelming cry from the independent musician twenty years ago was ‘How can I just get my music out there?’ Problem solved. Now what are you going to do?

3) There are several phases to music that I characterise as Composition, Production, Distribution, Promotion and Consumption. All of those links in the chain are very important. I would suggest that if a technology is not cutting it for you in one part of the chain, it’s sensible to move it to another part of that same chain. That is to say, if you want mp3s to be the way that you profitably distribute music but the results are unsatisfying because of unauthorised copying, then redeploy mp3s to be the way that you profitably promote your music instead.

In addition to discussions on copyright and file sharing he also has some useful advice on how to make MySpace and other social networking applications work for you.

Are you or your band concerned about the illegitimate sharing of your music? Or do you encourage it? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

New Music Strategies

Featured artists – Rupert & Aaron from The Botanics

The Botanics are an incredibly exciting new 4 piece funky rock-n-roll act who recently played their first gig, opening to a boisterous audience for established Wellington outfit Ginger Brown at the San Francisco Bathhouse. What an experience for a newly unleashed band and The Botanics made the best of the situation by handing out a free demo ep to the audience.

Rupert Caves and Aaron Burch are both O.G. Loud Thought members and provide the concrete (or funkrete) rythmn section, playing bass and drums respectively.

Here are a couple of clips from that gig which The Botanics, in the name of publicity, have published to youtube, Loud Thought and also Myspace.

Abandoned House Smoke

The Box

The Botanics next gig is at Mighty Mighty in Wellington on February 7th.

Rupert has also posted Botanics tracks to his Loud thought profile- slapthatbass.loudthought.co.nz

You can also peak at their Myspace http://myspace.com/thebotans.

Just Give It All Away

One of the most interesting discussions currently occurring in the world of the creative arts is the role of copyright in the new media landscape. Those of you who release your work into the public are faced with choices as to how to license that work. If you are a musician your record label may have a large say in this, writers their publishers, and so on. Whatever the case, the type of licence your work is issued under has direct legal ramifications for your audience and those who have chosen to purchase your work (or not). This issue is, I believe, central to the way in which artists are to make a living in our changing world where information can be so easily duplicated and shared.

I hope to devote a more substantial article to copyright in the future as I’ve only just begun dipping my toes in an argument that delves deep into the abstract ideas of what culture and information is. So for now, I just want to point you all in the direction of someone who has been thinking fairly hard about this stuff for years. Cory Doctorow is a science fiction writer and copyright activist. He has issued every one of his books in the traditional format – pages between a cover – which he sells through traditional channels, and concurrently in a digital format which he releases on to the internet for free. He argues that this allows his work to be seen by people who would otherwise have no access to it. He routinely argues his position in writing and his pieces are well worth a little of your time.

In his article Why I Copyfight he writes:

Culture’s old. It’s older than copyright.

The existence of culture is why copyright is valuable. The fact that we have a bottomless appetite for songs to sing together, for stories to share, for art to see and add to our visual vocabulary is the reason that people will pay money for these things.

Let me say that again: the reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works. If there was no market for creative works, there’d be no reason to care about copyright…..

[snip]

When you hear a song you love, you play it for the people in your tribe. When you read a book you love, you shove it into the hands of your friends to encourage them to read it too. When you see a great show, you get your friends to watch it too — or you seek out the people who’ve already watched it and strike up a conversation with them.

So the natural inclination of anyone who is struck by a piece of creative work is to share it.

Okay so, as I read him (and I urge you to read his articles and see if I’m off track), his idea is that the content, that thing copyright protects, is actually, culture, and thus the construct that is the current way copyright is enforced, restricts our rights to spread this culture freely, which it is our natural inclination to do. Hmmm interesting, and any number of relevant points could be raised here and I hope they are, this is a discussion after all.

However, I imagine the first thing many of you out there are asking is ‘but how am I to be compensated for my time producing this culture that, apparently, everyone loves so much they want to share it with their friends’. A sound question and, I’m sorry to break it to you, I doubt there is any one answer to it, different mediums and different artists may have different ways of going about it. Doctorow discusses this in a different article in which he outlines the concept of ‘macropayments’. What? Don’t worry, he explains. He likens the giving away of digital copies of his work to that of a dandelion allowing it’s seed to be distributed to all corners by the wind.

In an ideal world, people without a lot of discretionary income are given the electronic edition (which costs [nearly] nothing to distribute) for free. They act like the breezes that loft the dandelion seeds — they go around, telling people about the book and its merits. In this regard, they’re better than random breezes, for they undertake a directed distribution of the book, seeking to bring it to the attention of people who are likely to have a positive response to it.


Once the book lands in the hands of someone who does have discretionary income, that person is given a multitude of opportunities to engage in a commercial transaction with the writer and her publisher. These range from buying the book (which has many positive externalities, such as improving the book’s sales record and hence increasing the writer’s next advance and other stores’ orders of her books) to buying limited editions, memorabilia, tickets to a lecture or reading, etc.

Those there are his ‘macropayments’.

To be perfectly honest I’m not exactly sure where I stand in this debate which is, at any rate, an evolving issue. One of things Loud thought is hoping to do is to provoke discussion amongst the community in order to bring a lot of these issues into the public consciousness. So please, if you have an opinion or question let it be known in the comments and lets see where we can go with this.

BTW, Doctorow issues his work under the Creative Commons licences, the topic of a future post.

Why I Copyfight

Macropayments

(both via Locus Mag)

David Byrne on Strategies for Artists in the New Music Industry

Here at Loudthought we recognise there is a fundamental shift taking place in the way art, and in particular music, is produced, distributed and consumed. It’s not surprising then that there are many wiser, and (so far) more successful heads who are looking at the old system with a critical eye and devising ways to work with the emergent technology and the industry as a whole in traditional and non-traditional ways.

David Byrne fronted the legendary Talking Heads in the 1970’s and 80’s and has had a lengthy solo career. In addition, Byrne owned his own record label which puts him in the ideal position to cast his critical and creative eye over the record industry as it stands now. In a Wired article from this time last year, he outlines what he sees as survival strategies for emerging artists – and megastars – trying to make it in a music industry in flux.


What is called the music business today, however, is not the business of producing music. At some point it became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over. But that’s not bad news for music, and it’s certainly not bad news for musicians. Indeed, with all the ways to reach an audience, there have never been more opportunities for artists.

And my favourite quote:


This was the system that evolved over the past century to market the product, which is to say the container — vinyl, tape, or disc — that carried the music. (Calling the product music is like selling a shopping cart and calling it groceries.)

Some of the strategies put forward may not apply to your band – yet – but it’s food for thought for those of you who want to make a living from your art.

What do you think? We’d love you to  leave a comment about the article or even better your own experiences in the industry and your plans for world domination.

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists – and Megastars (wired.com)

The music business is changing in your favour.

If you can’t be bothered reading the entire article you should at least read this free e-book.

Bring up the subject of recorded music with anyone who’s been in the game for a while and they will profess that the older style of recording music onto tape using a DAT machine will produce a higher quality and “warmer” sounding record compared with new digital recording technology. They’ll probably also make sure you’re aware that the older generations of studio staff and musicians were superior in every way to your generation.

And its quite hard to argue, given the smell of the shitheap of music shoved down our nostrels these days. The problem is that sometime during the last 100 years, music started making the wrong sorta people very rich. Businessmen became aware of the value people place on listening to music and the price they’re willing to pay to do it.

Not to sound too cynical, I love a lot of popular music. Though,  I would like to think most people agree with me, that the artists who deserve the most respect are the ones who have kept an independent edge (by maintaining control of their own music) They have become wealthy from hard work,  thousands of hours of practice and by befriending a good looking singer

It may be that we hear more crap now because back in the day, the options for artists to record were limited and costly. Less room for commercial error.  It barely costs a few grand now to put together a small home studio and record music that is listenable, if not ‘acceptable’, even to a trained ear. The ability to promote your music and engage with your fans is now quite literally at your fingertips.  The tools and resources needed to sell and make money from your music are becoming more and more accessible.

Some (probably a lot of people) would say that this evolution in our technology has also brought with it damaging and dire effects for musicians. Music theft is nearly as popular as breathing. Who’s pocket does that lost CD sale leave empty? The poor little bugger who wrote the song after a feast of 2 minute noodles? Of course. If you had bought that cd, then there would be a few extra cents rolling ’round the artists purse.

If your music is any good it will be stolen. No bullshit there.  There’s really no way to control it, short of creating shittier music (but even that didn’t seem to help Metallica).

Think about how many truly awesome bands you’ve heard that you wouldn’t have known about if the internet didn’t exist. As artists you can either winge about it, ignore it or embrace it. I suggest the latter and there is a growing number of people who feel the same.

A smart fella named Andrew Dubber who runs newmusicstrategies.com has written a free ebook to tell you how to make the most out of the changing music industry.

Download The 20 things You Must Know About Music Online. (pdf 1.03mb)

Loud Thought Verso