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Bandcamp formally reveals its direct-to-fan subscription platform

By | Published on Wednesday 12 November 2014


Enough of Spotify and all that streaming malarkey, the real future of the music business is in direct-to-fan, we all know that right? Because if Taylor Swift is worried that real fans are being ripped off if they buy her album when everyone can access it for free on Spotify et al, well, one solution is to pull out of Spotify, the other might be to add extra benefits for those who buy the record, such as – perhaps – access to members-only content pumped out via Swift’s own digital channels.

Which brings us back to the idea of artists having their own subscription services, an extension of the old-fashioned fan club, and an idea that’s been mooted for ages now but has been slow to gain momentum. Though perhaps direct-to-fan platforms like Bandcamp – which enable artists to sell downloads and such like themselves – can help with this subscriptions thing too.

Because at the SF MusicTech Summit conference yesterday, Bandcamp confirmed its previously reported move into helping artists offer direct-to-fan subscription services. Last month indie pop duo Candy Says became the first act to utilise this new Bandcamp functionality, with them saying in a blog post: “We would subscribe to our favourite bands if we could. We would happily send them a bit of money once a year, knowing that they would make music we love and send it to us. So that’s what we’re doing with Bandcamp”.

Speaking to The Guardian about the artist subscription platform ahead of his spot at SF MusicTech, Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond said: “We’re giving every artist the ability to create a subscription service of their own on the site”. Participating artists will pick their own subscription rates and then make all of their music available to subscribers as and when it is released, either as a download or streaming over the Bandcamp mobile app. “Another element of this is that any artist can choose any number of items from their back catalogue to give to subscribers as a bonus when they subscribe”.

Bandcamp isn’t the first to provide a platform for direct-to-fan subscription services – most prominent is that has been particularly used by indie labels looking to offer subscription packages – though the D2F platform has a particularly big user-base of grass roots artists who may now consider the option.

And Bandcamp is looking to be as flexible as possible in how artists use the new service. Diamond continued: “We heard from another label who represents an artist who is really prolific, and for whom they don’t even know what to do with the quantity of music the person is giving them. They were talking about $200 a year. We’re excited to open it to everybody and see what happens: I suspect it’ll be all over the map”.

Of course direct-to-fan subscription and streaming set-ups won’t really compete with the Spotifys of this world – serving, as they do, core rather than casual, let alone mainstream fanbases. But this set-up could possibly help overcome the issue of how to generate extra revenue from committed fans while making your music available for free elsewhere.

And, indeed, it could be that some kind of integration of generic and artist-specific subscription services (so, perhaps, artist-specific subscribers can even access their premium content via the Spotify platform) are where we are ultimately heading. Which again explains why the debate shouldn’t be ‘to stream or not to stream?’, but rather ‘what should the streaming future look like?”.