I realize the Bandcamp App came out all the way back in October (remember 2013?) but, up until a couple of weeks ago, I was just another unlucky victim of planned obsolescence.
My previous phone —the Samsung Galaxy Ace (aka the poor man's iPhone)— was stuck with an Android operating system that could no longer be upgraded to the version needed to use most modern apps. So I had a phone that "worked" but didn't really work.
So I was Bandcamp App-less all the way until Jesus's birthday, when a hand me down iPhone 3GS was bestowed upon me. I suppose that iPhone 3GS could also be considered a poor man's iPhone, as it probably only has about a year left before it too is no longer smart enough for the latest apps. To quote a tweet from Gorgeous Bully on this topic: “the futures bright, the futures broken”.
Since I could not use the app myself, but was hella curious, I ended up on iTunes & Google Play reading what other people were saying… which caught me a bit by surprise. I mean, the overall rating on Google Play is a solid 4 stars (and on Apple it has a 4+ rating), but there were quite a few very low ratings and some pretty shitty reviews. I wasn’t expecting that.
Now, as someone who has used the internet before, and more specifically, has seen many online opinions that totally conflict with my own, I didn't give too much weight to any of the above naysayers. But it's impossible to unread the things you've read, so when I first started using the app, a lot of these comments were stuck in the back of my head as I experienced things for myself.
Well, I've used it now, and if you ask me, the only way the Bandcamp App can “suck” is if you don't buy music (or at least don’t buy music on Bandcamp). At the time of writing this, I have 133 musical gems in my Bandcamp Collection. After downloading the free Bandcamp App, I now have access to all 133 of those musical gems on my phone, all the time. How could that be anything but sweet?
Granted, there are things that I would like to see added to the app and improvements that could be made (and I'm sure those are coming), but I'll have to save those thoughts for another post as this one's already gotten long in the tooth and I haven't even bit into my main point yet…
What's Really Great About The Bandcamp App…
The digital age has made music extremely disposable. As someone who runs a music blog and follows other music blogs, this fact is extremely magnified for myself.
What's new right now is old before the end of the day. We don't live with albums like we used to. For the large part, we just skim them, quickly decide if each track is a 'yay' or a 'nay' and then jump right back into the water trying to catch back up with that impossible flow of content.
We make playlists. We put things on shuffle. We've got multiple tabs open all the time (Soundcloud, Youtube, Bandcamp, iTunes, Music Blog #274, Spotify, Twitter etc) and we jump from one to the other before even the shortest of punk song could finish playing. It’s not the right way to experience music, but it's a hard habit to break. The internet is just so damn shiny.
The Bandcamp App seems to have been designed with distracted listening in mind.
Sure, it gives me access to all the music I've said “this is so good I want to buy it”, and it gives me that access on a device that I always have on me during the times when blocking out everything else and just listening to music is at its most doable (i.e. on the bus, in a coffee shop, walking around… basically anywhere but on my rabbit-hole infested computer). All those digital LPs and EPs that have long been buried and lost in my iTunes, gradually being bumped from the queue that gets synced to my phone's limited storage space when I remember—those records are now always sitting in my pocket. Every single one of them. That feat alone is a great thing.
But here is the kicker: I can only listen to these albums one at a time. There is no shuffle button or playlists that can be made. You pick one record from your collection and press play. Something about this “restriction” feels strangely familiar and pleasantly nostalgic.
Bandcamp has basically made an app that forces you to listen to your digital collection the way people used to listen to music (you know, like “back in the day” when people put a vinyl on the turntable and listened from the start to the finish). In a way, it is kinda like having a bunch of tiny vinyl and a miniature record player in your pocket.
I realize listening to digital releases "front to back, one album at a time" has always been possible (and it's something I try to do), but my hand has never been forced like this before. And because I can only listen to my collection one album at a time… I've spent the last couple weeks *really listening* to my collection. Like, "Track 1 to Track-end-of-the-tape" listening. And it's been a very ear-opening experience.
So to all those people dissing this app: you're doing things wrong.
The app (or at least the current version of it) is meant less for "music discovery" and more for "music appreciation". Take it from me —a guy who has spent more than a normal amount of time continually trying to discover fresh tunes— finding new music becomes completely pointless if you don't actually stop and listen to what you've found.