These days we have a plethora of choices for digital music proliferation. Many of the biggest being large corporations such as Amazon, Google Play, Apple Music, and Spotify. Whilst I donâ€™t really have an issue with these in general (this is a much wider conversation Iâ€™d rather not get into here) and manage distribution to them when a new album comes out â€“ I donâ€™t promote my own music there. 95% of my solo music sales come from Bandcamp, as well as 95% of what I spend a year on other artistâ€™s work. Bandcamp is not covered under my paid digital distro service, and I must spend time uploading and filling in information for each track I want to release. So then, why Bandcamp?
As you may or may not know, I was an early adopter of digital music. In fact, I one of the first artists on the web making money out of digital media. Back in the day, we had mp3.com and a few of us even had sponsorship deals with companies through that platform. It was actually fairly lucrative back then, with VC funding fueling a newly existent digital economy to the tune of millions. It wasnâ€™t long lasting though â€“ and soon we started to see platforms rise and fall fairly quickly and mp3.com went down just as MySpace was getting started. The issue that existed with mp3.com is that I had no way of contacting or keeping my audience there when it went down. Social media wasnâ€™t really a thing yet, and we were beholden to the whims of people who might not have fully understood what we were trying to achieve.
- Bandcamp gives a shit about artists.
This platform was built on the advice and consultancy of many artists. It keeps getting better and better. Bandcamp responds to the needs of musicians. Users spent $4.3 million in a direct-to-artist sale on a single day in March when Bandcamp waived all artist fees, and theyâ€™re doing it again on May 1st.
- They take less of your revenue as you make more.
The normal Bandcamp fee on digital is 15% – make $5000 a year and from then on, youâ€™ll only pay 10%.
- You have total control over your content.
Want to change out a track that youâ€™ve remixed? No problem! Want to offer a discount to users on National Turnip Day 2020? Easy! Want to send free copies of your album out for promo? Simple!
- You can sell physical merch and digital merch side by side.
I often sell virtual tickets through Bandcamp, CDs, memory sticks and anything else related to your music that you can think of. Even bundle your entire digital catalogue easily or use your Bandcamp codes to create cool postcards to sell a digital album at gigs.
- The â€˜pay moreâ€™ economy works.
You might set your digital album at Â£5 (I recommend no more than this for digital) I often get generous fans paying a lot more than that. You donâ€™t need 10,000 people buying your music to make it work for you. The statistics are that around 50% of buyers pay more. Set your prices accordingly.
- Bandcamp is a community platform.
You can easily interact with other artists; leave reviews of albums youâ€™ve purchased and recommend them on your own artist page.
- You have direct access to your audience. The Bandcamp mailing list is a big deal for me. For example â€“ are you able to email the people who have purchased music from you on Amazon or iTunes? What happens to those fans who listen to your regularly on Spotify if it ceases to exist? Iâ€™ve been through this before and Iâ€™m not interested in building a community on a platform where I have no overall contact with my audience.
- The Bandcamp subscription service.
Are you a prolific music maker? Creating a subscription allows users to contribute to you as an artist and they get loads of content curated by you and only available through subscription. A real direct-to-fan economy that works.
- Bandcamp is audiophile heaven. Not only do they offer downloads in lossy formats such as MP3s, but all tracks can be downloaded in lossless formats as well such as WAV, AIFF and FLAC.
- Much more. Iâ€™m sticking to 10 here, but thereâ€™s also allowing your audience to purchase in their own currency, Bandcamp charging VAT so you donâ€™t have to, real-time statistics and best of all â€“ THEY PAY THEIR TAX (unlike some other corporations we might have already mentioned here)
So, if you havenâ€™t guessed by now, Iâ€™m totally on the Bandcamp bandwagon. I hope youâ€™ll give â€˜em a try if you havenâ€™t already. Support platforms that support you!
First things first, why should you care what I have to say on the subject? Itâ€™s a fair question, one Iâ€™m asking myself right nowâ€¦
Some backstory: In 2014, before I began my current project Granfalloon, I challenged myself to write a song-a-week every week of that year. It was exciting and it was maddening, it was frustrating and also deeply gratifying. I learned a lot about myself and my creative process. And, on New Yearâ€™s Eve 2014 I finished my 52nd song and I was definitely a better writer at the end of it than I was at the start.
This version of the challenge, The Positive Songs Project, arose from a conversation between myself and PSPâ€™s co-founder Lobelia Lawson, when we were speculating the amount of anxious or sad songs about isolation we might end up writing during the Coronavirus Lockdown this year (2020 for anyone reading in the futureâ€¦ how are ya? Are you enjoying earning money and being able to hug another human being? You lucky thing you!) and in response we suggested attempting a song-a-week challenge with a spin: To write a positive song every week.
So as weâ€™re starting this wonderful and insane journey once again I thought I might jot down some thoughts about what I remember from 2014, and some lessons I learned the hard way, to share with anyone embarking on this Odyssey for the first time.
- The page doesnâ€™t need to be empty when you start – Iâ€™m no purist about writing a new song every week. For me, the page doesnâ€™t need to begin blank. If you have a chord progression that youâ€™ve enjoyed playing for 4 years, or a single lyric that you love but just cannot find a song to put it in, this project is PERFECT for it. If you have a subject matter youâ€™ve been telling yourself youâ€™d write about for ages, thatâ€™s a great starting point for a â€˜freshâ€™ piece of work.
- The creative muscle is just that, a muscle, and youâ€™re exercising it to strengthen it, not to create something perfect straight away. So pencils down when the bell rings! The deadline nature of the project is to strip away the unenjoyable aspects of the creative process (the overthinking, the perfectionism). Imperfection is the best we can aim for in a week. No over-mixing, no worrying if that line is good enoughâ€¦ when the week is done step away from the song. And that Submission Box offers you a wonderful closure so that you can begin the next song. But thatâ€™s not to say you can NEVER return to it. Just before Lockdown I was, in fact, engaged in recording my favourite songs from 2014â€™s set of 52. This of course entailed rewrites, arrangements, orchestration, rehearsals with other musicians, all after 5 years away from those songs. But the reason I was able to build that body of work to pick from, is because when the time was up, I moved on straight away. Youâ€™re working on the big picture and coming back for the details later.
- The only failure is not sitting down to try. I did attempt another song-a-week challenge in 2017. This time I asked a bunch of artists from different mediums to join me (I remember two other musicians, and a stand-up comedianâ€¦ I might have forgotten someone). From the beginning as each deadline rolled around, excuses would appear rather than music (or jokes…) â€œI didnâ€™t have time to do itâ€… â€œWhat I came up with wasn’t good enoughâ€¦â€ â€œI didnâ€™t finish itâ€¦â€ Suffice to say this version of the challenge only lasted a few weeks before petering out. I became disheartened with the othersâ€™ approach and in the end gave up myself.
But it taught me two things.
Firstly that I shouldnâ€™t have worried what the others were doing, and secondly (and itâ€™s probably my inability to have properly communicated this to them that was the root cause of my frustration), that this isnâ€™t something that you have to come up with excuses for. This challenge is the tool that youâ€™re using to give yourself time and permission to sit down and work your creative muscles. If you sat down and tried to write for 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes that week, you have succeeded! And whatever happened in that time is something you can submit that week!
- Anything can constitute a piece of music, anything can be a song. Over 2014, I submitted 52 pieces of music. Some of those were conventional songs, some were grand studio productions, some were co-writes with others, one was a joke song written on my birthday about my housemate nearly cutting her finger off, one was a 29 second instrumental, one was a techno remix of the previous weekâ€™s song, one was a prospective soundtrack piece to an unwritten film, one was a scary story delivered as a monologue by an actor. The scope of this can be a wonderfully freeing thing. I got to try out a lot of different styles and techniques as a result.
- Rules are only there to give you permission to get over yourself. I love working to a brief. When you can create ANYTHING, you can become frozen by choice paralysis and end up creating nothing. I became fascinated with the Oulipo during 2014. They were a group of French poets who used constrained writing techniques. For example, Perecâ€™s La disparition is a 300-page book which totally avoids using the letter â€˜Eâ€™ even once! What I enjoy about these rules is the freedom they give me from my own judgement. For example, if I pick up a guitar to write a song and the chord I play is a G major, my kneejerk response is usually one of disgust or self doubt, â€œA G, Richard? Really? How original…â€ However, if the rule has been imposed externally, all of sudden I have freedom from that judgement of myself. I can enjoy that G major and blissfully move on to the next chord, thus removing a roadblock to creativity.
- And finally, the disclaimerâ€¦ the negation of all which came beforeâ€¦ Creativity is and should be, the rule to overrule all other rules! – I think creativity is the Prime Directive of a song-a-week challenge. I undertake this challenge in order to create. The rules of it are self-imposed and only to offer structure when I feel like Iâ€™m falling. So whatever rules you are working within for this, disregard them (and this) the minute they get in your way.
Hopefully you found something helpful in these scribblings. Best of luck to you with your song this week!
So it goesâ€¦
Be positive, Richard Lomax (AKA Granfalloon)
Join us in an endeavour to try and write a new song each week with a positive twist until the end of May. More info at:
Come and watch us on Twitch.TV as we play our little hearts out for you on Friday 3rd April from 7-9PM. Live from Birmingham and Manchester!
Thanks to those of you who have bought a ticket in advance and didn’t want a refund due to lockdown.
7PM – https://www.twitch.tv/loliveuk
8PM – https://www.twitch.tv/granfalloonmusic