Bandcamp’s Attempt to Take on Spotify, by the Numbers
Unlike the streaming behemoth, the artist-focused platform lets fans support their favorite musicians directly
5 million: That’s how many digital albums were sold on the music platform Bandcamp in the last year, per the Los Angeles Times.
With its artist-first business model, Bandcamp, founded in 2008, has become the favored platform for many independent musicians who are frustrated with the minuscule royalties paid out by dominant streaming platforms like Spotify. In March, when live performances dried up due to the pandemic, Bandcamp announced that on the first Friday of every month, it would waive the 15% cut it takes on digital sales (and 10% on physical sales), allowing artists to receive contributions from fans in their entirety. Bandcamp also lets fans support their favorite artists by paying above the listed price for music and merchandise, and says that more than 40% of buyers have opted to do so since the pandemic began. The company boasts on its website that fans have paid artists a total of $587 million through its platform.
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Bandcamp has been profitable since 2012, and according to the company, sales over the last month have grown 122% year-over-year. The company has grown while eschewing promotional tools that drive listeners to top artists like bestseller charts and tastemaker playlists, hoping that listeners will explore and discover artists they like on the platform by themselves.
Its focus on discovery and artists is in stark contrast to Spotify, which uses powerful algorithms to determine exactly what you want to listen to, pays artists fractions of a penny per stream, and has been criticized for allowing spammers to game its platform with fake collaborations, fake movie soundtracks, and SEO-spam. But being beloved by indie artists and their fans isn’t enough to dominate digital streaming in general. Bandcamp’s 5 million digital album downloads are a very long way from posing anything like a threat to Spotify, which has 130 million paying subscribers.
Much like owning albums on vinyl, overpaying for them is cool now.