# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - Indieconomy: The Rise of the Bandcamp Bands

  by Mark Rowland

published: 16 / 4 / 2012

Miscellaneous - Indieconomy: The Rise of the Bandcamp Bands


Mark Rowland in 'Rock 101' looks at how, through internet sites and market stalls such as Bandcamp, groups are increasingly avoiding record labels all together to put their albums and singles out

Some of the biggest cultural shifts in pop music in recent years have been through production and consumption, rather than sonic creativity. The last decade was the MP3 era, where people were opened up to a wide span of music both young and old, swapped Discmans for iPods and embraced digital, much to the chagrin of the music industry’s old guard. This decade? Well, it’s early days, but I shall stick my neck out and make a prediction; this will be the decade that bands take control of their own destinies. Bands now make more money playing live than from records. They’ve always been the last people to earn from an album, despite the fact that without them, the album wouldn’t exist. Now the music industry is suffering, and they’re earning even less. At the same time, the ubiquity of the internet has opened up a wider potential audience for bands across the world. That’s not to say that they necessarily will find that audience, but they could, if they’re in the right place at the right time with the right sound. It’s also helping bands to make money from their music. Websites such as bandcamp.com and rcrdlbl.com give bands the opportunity to sell music and merchandise directly to fans, giving them a bigger bite of the cherry. Rather than taking an 8% royalty from every recording sold, bands can make closer to 85%. They may not be making millions, but they are taking a decent amount of money from each album they sell. Others are offering albums for free as a way to build an audience. Rap and r&b artists have been particularly successful with this. The 2011 best of lists featured several free albums, and hip-hop lists were made up almost entirely of free albums and mixtapes. Artists such as the Weeknd created a huge buzz with his free EPs. Frank Ocean topped best of lists with an album he gave away for free after conflicts with his label. That’s one end of the spectrum, but the web is full of more obscure bands that have set up little online market stalls to sell their wares. As a music fan, it’s a great way to discover new music, get lots of cheap albums (which you can try before you buy) and feel like you’re helping the artist follow their dreams. This sounds great, but of course, this independent online market also has its bad points. It is now easier than ever for people to record music, make films and publish stories. More is now possible for less, and the internet provides a platform and a potential audience of millions. But without the filter system that record labels provide, the market is saturated to the point that great albums can be lost in an ocean of new music. Yes, there are some artists that have done well from self-publishing. It’s certainly possible to build a fan base without label connections. But the odds are stacked against you. The vast majority of these internet artists also almost always end up signing with labels. Because despite their Luddite tendencies, labels (when doing their jobs properly) can free up artists to concentrate solely on what they do best – making music. That’s not to say that bands shouldn’t take an interest in the business end of things, but labels have contacts. They can open doors. They can promote an album on a larger scale. They can take serious financial risks – or at least, they used to. The indieconomy may not take over the world, but hopefully they’ll give the record industry the final kick up its arse it needs to adapt itself to suit the market. If they don’t, bands will get savvier at promoting themselves with the meagre tools at their disposal. Eventually, we may even wonder why we had record labels in the first place.

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