Thank you Bandcamp. And damn you.
I don't throw around the "game changer" expression much. In fact, I don't think I've ever thrown it around. But if I were to use it for the first time, I would feel pretty comfortable using it in a post about the Fan Accounts that Bandcamp just launched.
As all things Bandcamp, it is extremely well executed, straight out of the box. And like all things Bandcamp, they've posted on their blog everything you really need to know about the nuts and bolts of how it works—so I won't delve into any of that. I'll just try and elaborate on why I say "thank you" and "damn you" in the title of this post.
“Bandcamp for fans is a social music discovery system based on the high-friction concept of ownership. If someone simply listens to a song, I frankly don’t care at all. And if someone listens to a song and then burns .01 calories tapping a Like button… well that’s slightly more interesting, but I still don’t care much.
However, if someone is passionate enough about a record to spend money on it – to actually support the artist who made it, and perhaps even write a bit about why they love it – that makes me much more likely to listen to that record, and perhaps add it to my collection as well.” - Ethan Diamond (Bandcamp Co-Founder)
First of all, thank you Bandcamp.
What you've already done for artists could have been plenty, so the fact that you keep upping the ante is awesome and very much appreciated. And these fan accounts really are the latest delicious layer of icing on the cake (a cake, I know, that you are not done icing).
These fan accounts are going to have such a positive and powerful effect on music purchasing, it boggles my mind. The incentive for someone to actually make a purchase now—whether that's putting a dollar amount in place of where they normally would have put a 0, or whether that's making people actually look for the "Buy" button— is shockingly massive.
I say 'shockingly' because I can't believe I just bought some albums that I already own (whether that be because I bought them somewhere else, or was sent them as a promo, or downloaded for $0). There was this overwhelming urge that I needed to have that album in my fan collection, as just having it in my iTunes now felt pointless (“where's the proof?” I said aloud to no one). I've had to show some serious strength not to buy more and more today (and I already know that strength will wear off by tomorrow, if not later tonight). There has been so much music that I felt I've "supported" over the years—whether that be in a blog post, or by putting a song in a mix, or other music blogging et cetera—but now, not seeing those same records in my fan collection is giving me an ulcer.
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, did I really ever buy that album? The psychology behind what is in play runs very deep.
A music service has never so brilliantly propositioned us to put our money where our mouths are. You can "like" something all you want (or scrobble, heart, whatever), but if you want an album to show up in your collection, you'll need to actually get out your wallet and support the people who made it. With money. And that's a great thing for artists.
And it's a great thing for fans too, as it puts your human fingerprint onto your music purchases in a meaningful way. I know from my own experiences, it was a lot easier to put in $0 for a 'Name Your Price' download back when the process felt more like ones and zeros.
But now it feels like purchasing an album means more. And that feeling is, of course, completely selfish. Because it always meant something to the artist making the music. But something was missing on the customer side. I don't think I was even totally aware of what was missing until I set up my fan account on Bandcamp.
What Bandcamp has done is make buying music mean more for the people buying the music. That is what the game changer is.
You almost feel fraudulent for every album that you love that is not in your collection. I know that is not a natural feeling, especially for music I have actually acquired elsewhere—but there it is, burning a hole in my stomach. I want to get in a time machine and rethink every purchase I made away from Bandcamp and every $0 'Name Your Price' download I have ever done. I want to buy every great album a musician has ever been kind enough to send me via dodgy zip file. Even records that I helped release. I want all that shit in my collection.
And therein lies the 'Damn You' from the post title. The one thing these fan accounts are bad for is my personal paypal account. I am going to be spending a lot more money now.
But I don't mean "damn you" like "damn you, I'm mad at you". I just mean "damn you" like "damn you, you brilliant, beautiful bastards".
If you'd like to follow my descent in to a beautifully soundtracked poverty, my fan account is here.
(PS - if you're an artist releasing music on Bandcamp, you might also want to check out this post: Why 'Name Your Price, No Minimum' Is Better Than A 'Free Download')