Looks like another installment in the continuing story of “No Free Lunch” on the Internet. I don’t think it affects listeners, but Bandcamp is trying to get musicians who give away all their music for free to start selling. Evidently, the site wasn’t getting enough money from its cut of purchased music to pay for the streaming and upkeep of the site, since most of the downloads turned out to be from artists who were giving everything away. Nothing to take a cut from. Now musicians have a limited amount of songs they can give away. After that they have to pay.
300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)
If they sell $500 worth of songs, they get 1,000 added to their free download allotment.
As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t change anything. I still like Bandcamp because it’s easy to embed in places like this blog, which in turn gives a lot of value to the musician because it’s easier to get spread around and potentially go viral. I can see where it might cause problems for a struggling musician though. How do you sell music when no one knows who you are yet?
I’ve heard from a couple of indie artists about it and one, The Venopian Solitude, whose music I reviewed in March, is unhappy (Here’s her take on it). She wants to give her songs away and not have to bother about money. Although in my opinion, her songs are already beyond the point where she ought to be selling them. She just keeps getting better and better. She’s looking for a free place to host her songs though, other than Reverbnation, which her school blocks, so if anyone’s got ideas, send ‘em her way.
Aviv Cohn aka The Widest Smiling Faces basically took it in stride. He gets good value out of Bandcamp and said, “Yeah, it sucks, but it seems fair.” Obviously the service has to be paid somehow.
That’s the reality of the Internet that we keep having to face. Startup services might do cool things that attract a lot of users, but don’t actually pay for themselves. Maybe they have to do so to satisfy investors, or they at least have to break even. They might make drastic changes and basically sell out, the way TheSixtyOne did in my opinion. Or they can do like Pandora and basically pull a bait & switch on us, pretend to be free till they get us hooked, and then spring a surprise cost on us. I don’t think Bandcamp has done either of those things yet. Hopefully they won’t have to.
It’s a huge dilemma for us users and for the startups. There’s a ton of free content on the Internet, some of it amazing and very useful. But when the bills come due, they tend to go away. Either they make changes like I mentioned, or they just get exhausted and let their sites go dead. On the other hand, when they try to start charging for things, some other site is liable to spring up and start giving the same stuff away again.
It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out. Despite the piss poor economy, people still want to make and listen to music. The demand is there. If only we could figure out how all our broke asses can still eat and pay the rent. No answers here, unfortunately. Only questions.
P.S. I recently did an exensive interview with the Widest Smiling Faces which I will put on this blog as soon as I get a chance to edit. Stay tuned…
Note: Jennifer from Bandcamp just replied to this post, saying, “Just wanted to be sure you saw the update on our site – we took the suggestion from several artists to refresh free download credits every month, which seems to work for most bands who give their music for free on Bandcamp.” She also left a link explaining the policy in detail. (see below in comments)