But now it’s rolling out a new feature that will enable those artists to run their own subscription services, alongside selling music, merch and tickets on their Bandcamp stores.
CEO Ethan Diamond had an eye for a soundbite when unveiling the new feature last night: “It’s kinda like what U2 and Apple did, except that it’s music that you actually want!”
By that, he was referring to another aspect of Bandcamp’s evolution: the ability of fans to use its mobile app as a way to stream all the music they’ve bought in one place.
Now, fans who subscribe to an artist will get all their new music pushed to their news feed in the app – hence the U2 comparison – with artists also able to give them as much of their back catalogue as they (the artists) want, when the fan signs up. Artists will also set the price of their subscriptions: early beta tester Candy Says is charging £20 a year, but other, more prolific artists may try as much as $200 a year according to Diamond.
“The whole motivation here is that when you get to a point that you love an artist – when you go from liking them to being a real true fan of theirs – at some point you just want everything they make. You just want to support everything that they do,” said Diamond.
The new feature isn’t alone in the market: crowdfunding service Patreon, which focuses on regular small donations rather than one-off Kickstarter-style pledges, is the obvious comparison. Drip.fm, which focuses on label subscriptions but has a few artists using it too, is another.
Another important message from Bandcamp’s subscriptions: streaming has many forms and business models. “The subscription streaming services are presenting a false dichotomy between downloads and streaming, as they’re conflating the idea that downloads versus streaming is the exact same as saying downloads versus subscription-based streaming,” said Diamond.
“That particular model of subscription-based streaming isn’t the only model. There is this other model where you support the artist… We want Bandcamp to be an important part of how any artist develops a sustainable career, and subscriptions can be a big part of that.”
What doesn’t seem to be on the agenda, for now, is closer integration between what Bandcamp is doing and the big subscription services like Spotify.
It feels like an opportunity waiting to be grasped: that there would be no conflict in a Spotify pointing fans – and it can tell when someone crosses from casual listener to fan through its data – towards an artist’s Bandcamp subscription, PledgeMusic campaign or Patreon profile, then bringing the music they receive back over.
Or perhaps artist subscriptions will ultimately be built in to streaming services, capitalising on their billing relationships with subscribers – “Pay £2 a month to get everything Taylor Swift does, some exclusives and early access, merch discounts and first dibs on tickets…”
In short, Bandcamp’s new artist subscriptions are great news for artists using its service, but also a pointer to a possible future for the big guns of the streaming world.