29 Nov A Guide to Releasing Music with Bandcamp
By Natalie Cressman, of Trey Anastasio Band
Hi there, my name is Natalie Cressman, and I’m a NYC based trombonist, vocalist, composer. I’ve put out 5 different releases on Bandcamp, all self-releases under my family’s label Cressman Music, and I’ve found Bandcamp to be hands-down the most artist-friendly platform for sharing my music. Over the years, Bandcamp has helped me reach thousands of new fans, not to mention earning me thousands in additional revenue through digital sales and physical merch, band t-shirts, posters and vinyl. When we were hit with COVID-19 and musicians were scrambling to figure out how they would be able to pay their bills, Bandcamp waived their revenue share percentage for a day, giving all revenue straight to the artists, and they’ve begun doing this on a monthly basis. This initiative helped me get over $500 in sales since the pandemic began, and I’m eternal grateful to them for having their heart in the right place.
Bandcamp is also a great platform for discovering new artists: a short list of the artists I’ve supported and discovered via their BC pages are producer/singer-songwriter Gwen Bunn, Adrienne Lenker (of Big Thief), Alita Moses, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Emily King.
HOW DO I GET MY MUSIC ON BANDCAMP?:
First step is setting up your artist page. It’s very easy to register, and then you start out by listing your genre, genre tags, and location – I love that the prompt includes this: “Your genre selection determines where your music appears in Bandcamp Discover. It’s OK if you don’t fit perfectly within one of these – just use the genre tag field, below, to provide more granularity.”
That’s me in a nutshell!
Then, it’s as simple as adding your release, be it a single, track, or a full album. You can set your price, and they have a great option that you should definitely leave checked, to let fans pay more if they want. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by fans who will give you much more than the listed price, but keeping the pricing low helps your music remain accessible to folks with a tight budget as well. Upload your music and album art, add credits and liner notes, link your PayPal account, and that pretty much does it! You can set any item as private if you don’t want it visible just yet and don’t have a release date set. You can add physical CD’s and merch as well, but you will have to handle fulfilling and shipping the orders yourself. There are some other cool features, such as including bonus items, and making some items only available to your subscribers. The subscription service is a feature I haven’t played around with yet, but it’s modeled after sites like Patreon that for a monthly or annual fee give supporters access to exclusive content and more ways to interact directly with the artist. They even have a vinyl pressing service in development now, so soon you’ll be able to offer vinyl versions of your releases, with your fans’ orders financing the pressing and Bandcamp handling fulfilling and shipping out the orders.
SHOULD I PUT MY MUSIC ON BANDCAMP?
Yes! Even if I haven’t already sold you on how Bandcamp is the best platform out there for artists, there is zero downside to making a Bandcamp page and selling your music there. There is nothing exclusive about it, so you can still have your music up on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, etc., you’re just adding yet another possible stream of revenue and a way to easily sell physical copies of your music and merch as well.
DOES BANDCAMP COPYRIGHT YOUR MUSIC?
No, you are still responsible for copyrighting your own work, Bandcamp just hosts your artist page and shop.
IS BANDCAMP FREE FOR ARTISTS?
Yes, Bandcamp is 100% free to use as an artist, though they do offer a Bandcamp Pro account subscription ($5/month for the first year, then $10/month). I am more than happy with the options available for the free account, but the Bandcamp Pro has its benefits, including being able to upload your album in batches, saving you some time, and the option to communicate directly with your individual fans or send targeted messages by location or amount of money spent. They also offer private streaming (making your music available to press or whoever before your release date), ad-free video hosting, deeper statistics about your sales and followers, google analytics, and optional streaming (controlling which songs on your release are available to stream, while still having the full track list show up, and all tracks included once the music is purchased).
HOW MUCH OF A CUT DOES BANDCAMP TAKE?
Bandcamp’s cut is 10%-15% of digital sales, and there are also Paypal processing fees for each transaction to keep in mind when setting your price. Bandcamp’s cut is 15% until you earn $5000 in revenue, at which point they take only 10% of sales. To me it seems pretty reasonable, especially because their Discover function allows listeners to easily browse and discover your music, so they are exposing potential fans to your music on a daily basis. They only take 10% of merchandise sales. It’s also worth noting that right now, they are giving 100% of the revenue to the artists one day a month to assist artists dealing with the struggles of Covid-related cancellations.
CAN YOU SEE WHO LISTENS TO YOUR MUSIC ON BANDCAMP?
Yes, but the stats are different for plays vs. purchases. For the free account, you can see your plays graphically over time (viewing options for stats are daily, weekly, 30 day, 60 days, and all-time), as well as the specific number of streams for each track (including a breakdown of full streams, partial streams, or if the song is skipped and whether it was streamed on bandcamp or from an embedded player). For plays, that’s about it. But you get more stats from folks who actually buy your music, including an accounting of every single purchase. You also get a list of your buyers by city, but the map feature is exclusively available with the pro account. With a pro account, you’d get more detailed info on each individual buyer, but there’s still a lot of great data available to you with the free account.
IS BANDCAMP BETTER FOR ARTISTS THAN OTHER PLATFORMS?
Yes! Apart from taking the smallest percentage of revenue, Bandcamp gives you way more control over the pricing, look, and timing of your releases, and reinforces the idea that consumer should support the artists they listen to by actually buying their music. Bandcamp also provides an easier way to directly engage with your followers and fans than other platforms. And the third advantage is the superior audio quality, as Bandcamp is the only place that offers high-quality downloads like .aiff, .wav, or .flac.
Natalie Cressman, originally from San Francisco CA but currently residing in NY, is a professional trombonist and vocalist. Cressman is a member of Trey Anastasio Band, and also writes music for her own projects.