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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Tweet-Rant #2 : 23 Tweets About Bandcamp

August 1st, 2011 | 4 Comments | Categories: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies |

I had another tweet rant the other night, this time about Bandcamp, and some of the issues surrounding it. Here it is again, annotated with additional info about each tweet:

A couple of @bandcamp stats for you. The average price of a paid download of mine on bandcamp is £6.49 – for something available ‘free’.
10:02pm Jul 28th 2011

[that one's self-explanatory - a quick conversion online shows me that £6.49 is currently $10.63]

AND that stat INCLUDES single track downloads. So the album stat is even higher. That’s WAY more than I make on iTunes or Amazon.
10:02pm Jul 28th 2011

[if I sell music on iTunes, they take a cut, and CDBaby who I use to get my music onto iTunes take a cut. A quick look at my latest statement from CDBaby shows that I made $7.49 from a download of '11 Reasons...' on US iTunes]

It’s also more than I’d make selling a CD at a gig for £10, if the venue took their 15-25% and I had paid for pressing.
10:03pm Jul 28th 2011

[as it is, I rarely do gigs where the venue takes a cut - house concerts tend to be less cut-throat than that! Then, if I sell 'em for a tenner, I get the tenner. the amount that most people calculate in pressing cost is usually slightly out as they don't factor in the number they give away for promo or to friends... it's pretty rare, in my experience, for someone pressing a 1000 CDs to sell more than 800 of them. In some cases, artists actually get paid for less than half of them. Online sales need to be posted, which means stamps and envelopes as well, which you can recoup if you charge postage on top...]

the average amount I make per download, INCLUDING FREE DOWNLOADS, on bandcamp, is £2.21 – that’s more than I’d make on a CD sale in HMV.
10:04pm Jul 28th 2011

[...actually, if you gave me 1p for a CD or download, you'd be giving me more than I made on my sales through HMV. Largely because I got them in there through a friend of a friend who then left, and I was never able to find out who knew about the CDs. They must've sold though, cos they aren't on the shelves any more... BUT, if they'd got there the usual route, through a distributor, they'd be paying me a wholesale price for them - roughly half of retail - and I'd have to ship them to them, and pay for pressing, and make sure that they were shrink-wrapped and had barcodes etc... Given that I was advised to price my CDs at £8 by the distributor I talked to, that's not much at all...]

…And that again includes single track downloads. That’s people paying what they think it’s worth. What THEY think it’s WORTH. To THEM.
10:05pm Jul 28th 2011

[contrary to supposed web-trends, I have VERY few one track downloads. Why would you? you can have the whole album for the same amount. I get a few, and people far more often pay for single track downloads than for albums... But they naturally don't pay large amounts for them - but it still stands that anything people pay for them is voluntary. It's perfectly legal for them to download everything of mine for free...]

I often see people who’ve downloaded one album for free come back and pay for others. Try before you buy, then pay based on perceived value.
10:06pm Jul 28th 2011

[I see this because I see everyone's email address who buys stuff. This isn't going to some faceless record label dude. I upload the tunes, it's my paypal account the money goes in, my rent that gets paid with it. That's why I'm so grateful :) ]

It doesn’t happen by accident. I treat my listeners as adults, I know they care about art, about music, I give them the chance to be awesome
10:07pm Jul 28th 2011

[I'm sure people have far more impressive self-generated opportunities to be awesome in their lives - helping old ladies across the street, prosecuting media magnates for defiling our national press etc. But the fact remains that when people choose to support the art they care about, when they voluntarily join me in this negotiation about the value of the music I make to them, and their part in making it possible for me to spend time doing it without panicking about rent, they are doing something very awesome. Perhaps even revolutionary. Certainly something that flies in the face of the doomsday bullshit coming from the big record labels]

how many people have ever been to music.stevelawson.net and downloaded everything for free? about 5. Yeah, they’re killing me…
10:08pm Jul 28th 2011

[...actually I think it's 6 now, cos someone else just did it. Perhaps in response to this tweet. Whatever, they are clearly not people who if they'd had to would be buying CDs in large quantities. One of the people who did it now has the music available on his shitty little website in Germany, where you have to fill in crappy surveys to get access to his stash of MP3s. He's clearly a scumbag (any claims that he's doing it 'for the music' are dead the moment he a) puts a paywall in place for people to get the music, and b) doesn't just point to the artist's site where you can get this stuff. But he's clearly a buffoon and not worth worrying about.]

How many people go from here to music.stevelawson.net, listen & find it’s not their thing? loads. I’m OK with that. ;)
10:10pm Jul 28th 2011

[I'm actually more than OK with it, I'm glad it happens. Statistically, there are VERY few people who spend time listening to instrumental music. Even fewer who go around consciously looking for the kind of thing I do. What the hell is the kind of thing I do? Who knows. What happens is, people find me interesting then go and check out the music. The ones looking for solo bass loopy goodness will find it anyway, and everyone else will have a chance to experience and then download stuff they would never have thought to listen to. It stands to reason that a large number of them are going to say 'it's not my thing'. But many others have found it, and now listen to me a lot. For a fair number of them (I'm told, by them) I'm pretty much the only instrumental music they listen to, and certainly the only solo bassist. Massive mounds of WIN, then]

For the last 70 years, popular music has been utterly dominated by singing and drumming. I’m a solo bassist, making a living. #thefuture
10:11pm Jul 28th 2011

[Same again - I make VERY niche music, and sneak it into people's lives. And - shock! horror! - a fair few of them dig it and pay for it. All good, nothing bad]

I don’t make enough from digital sales to live off them. That would be amazing, also would put me in the top 0.000001 of musicians ever.
10:11pm Jul 28th 2011

…it’s not even close to that. But I’ve found a way to make the music I love in a cottage industry way, & share it with likeminded friends
10:12pm Jul 28th 2011

[I'm stunned at how few people have any idea just how tiny the number of musicians is who make enough from selling their own music to live on. It has always been thus. Only now, we don't have to pile up debt to get there. We can maintain fascinating portfolio careers and make the music we love, without needing to 'Dance For Chicken' in order to make ends meet. Bands have always made money from gigs, sales, merch, licensing. It's easier now to do it on your own than it has ever been, and FAR cheaper than ever to produce and market recorded music. Hurrah!]

Add up digi-sales, CD sales, USB stick sales, gigs, teaching and the geek stuff that has happened because of my music stuff, I pay the bills
10:13pm Jul 28th 2011

[I have, as I mentioned, a portfolio career. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I LOVE all the things that being a musician has led me to. I love teaching, I love the social media tomfoolery that I get to do to help other people understand the democratising nature of the web that we musicians have been messing with for longer than most, I love writing... it's all fab, and it's all what it is because of music. #grateful]

..or rather, WE pay the bills – you and I. You, the people willing to express your sense of worth & gratitude for the music by paying for it

10:14pm Jul 28th 2011

[yeah, you play a big part in it, whenever you pay for music or come to a show. It really doesn't mean shit without you]

If you haven’t heard what I (we – @lobelia and I) do, please feel free to visit http://music.stevelawson.net & http://lobelia.bandcamp.com
10:16pm Jul 28th 2011

[the inclusion of Lo here is kinda key. We are a team. Our solo records are team efforts, our careers are intertwined. I can only do what I do because of our shared parenting of Baby Flapjack. Also, her new record is effing awesome. I love it SO much. You quite possibly will too.]

At gigs, I often suggest that friends buy different albums, so they can swap and each get a copy of them both. Share it around! It helps :)
10:20pm Jul 28th 2011

[this is what people have been doing for decades. Give them permission to do it, they think you're awesome. Tell them off for it, they think you're a dick. Don't ever get into a position where your audience thinks you're a dick. That's rule number 1]

however, more often that not, people share links to my stuff on bandcamp cos it’s easier than dropboxing whole albums. #gamechanger
10:21pm Jul 28th 2011

[The genius of Bandcamp is that it gives an infinitely superior experience to torrenting music. It's actually easier, it's more transparent, the economics of it adapt to whatever country you're selling to, it's not DRM, it's great quality, it's personalised. Everything about it is better than iTunes, Amazon, Spotify or PirateBay. That's the key. Beat them by making it better.]

over the last week or two, I’ve been watching a band I gave some advice to about music online start to act on it. It’s fabulous to see…
10:36pm Jul 28th 2011

[I do a fair bit of this. I love it. If you want some help, drop me a line]

One thing I suggested to them was to look at all the possible numbers relating to what they did, and then consider what they all mean.
10:36pm Jul 28th 2011

[numbers like - number of listeners, number of historic sales, number of radio stations reaching how many people, converting to how many concert goers/fans/music buyers, how many people know the name, how many t-shirt sales, how much made per audience member per gig, how many great people you get to meet at small gigs vs big gigs, how much help you get from people who see you as indie, vs those who see you as megastars, marketing spend on a tour, marketing spend on a record, how many free records you could give away before it equalled the market spend in 'lost' revenue, how many people that would reach... there are hundreds of them, all worth considering, and all influencing each other]

It’s a huge task to go from the old record company model, to one where things you do have meaning. That approach was such a clusterfuck.
10:37pm Jul 28th 2011

…record companies spending the artist’s money to a level that was almost never recoupable. Insanely wasteful. Chasing what? Fame? ha!
10:38pm Jul 28th 2011

[the record company model never made sense. At all. There was so little understanding of normal business practicing, normal marketing principles at work, in most labels, that it's terrifying. Add to that the even worse situation for the artists that they end up paying for everything twice (how on earth do you think that a business in which 9/10 albums never recouped the advance kept going? by paying itself out of those advances, then recouping it again). Like I said, clusterfuck. Not something we want to hang on to. At all. Ever.]

.@dubber once said ‘you don’t have the right to make money off your music, you have the opportunity’ <–best advice ever. srsly.
10:41pm Jul 28th 2011

[I have a massive bug-bear about entitlement. I don't deserve an audience. I'm grateful when people take time to listen to what I do, whether or not they end up liking it. The web gives me the opportunity to tell the story about the music and its part in my life, and invite people to be part of the ongoing sustainability of that. Not a right, a privilege. Dubber's phrase is pure distilled genius]

my best advice? ‘trends’ in digi music don’t mean shit. There’s you the listener, & there’s the artist. What you going to do? What matters?
10:42pm Jul 28th 2011

[I see it all the time, people telling me that no-one values digital music any more, that Spotify will kill it, that we're all doomed, that iTunes is the only model that works, that blahdiblahdifuckingblah. Droning on and on about what the 'trends' suggest. You know what? When I'm listening to music, I'm not thinking about trends. If I am, the music isn't doing its job. I'm grateful for it, and if I can be a part of more of it coming into my life, I'm lucky to be able to be a part of that. That's not about trends, it's about me loving the music I love, and by extension wanting to grovel at the feet of the people who gave birth to it in gratitude. So yeah, I'm going to pay for it. I don't want or need CDs. They were never where the value was for me. I fell in love with music. Yeah, I love LP covers, and reading sleeve notes, but that's not what I paid for. That came with the music. What are YOU going to do to show you're grateful for the music you love? How are your actions going to encourage the people who are capable of making the art you love to make more of it? It's not hard. Anyone who spends their life working out what they can get away with is a selfish fuck and needs to grow up. If that's the case, file-sharing is the least of our worries. But we're not like that. We are stardust, we are golden. And music makes us more fully human. Amaze people with your humanity.]

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Gary Snead

    Steve,

    In the course of the last year of following you on Twitter, there have been many posts and blogs from you that have in combination, given me an education in the new music business, that I could never have gotten from schools like Berklee or Full Sail, that offer degrees and certificates for the same. I’ve said it before, but with your indulgence allow me once again to say, thank you, sir!!

  • Jennifer

    Yes… wonderful how the musical world is configured now!

    Don’t know if you saw (I did email you but I know you don’t necessarily read your emails :-) ), I’ve finally taken the first outwardly-detectable steps into the new/current world, couple of months ago now. (In my own thinking, I’ve been in it for some years already, but mostly inside my own mind and house :-) )

    I.e. new web site is up, with a couple of tracks available as “pay what you feel is the right amount for you” via Bandcamp.

    And I have since had two landmarks which felt very momentous – (a) the first person to choose to pay for the music when they could have had it for free, and (b) the first person to pay an amount that was clearly “over the odds”. Ooooo so exciting!

    I was never really 100% “in” the “old model” inasmuch as I’ve never had “a record deal”. But I have sold a fair bit of my music as fixed price CDs (and still may do another 3d CD at some point, not sure yet). So in some ways the old world was kind of working for me. But I’m still very thrilled at the possibilities of the new model.

    Thanks for your pioneering activities in both living it & describing it. Redescribing the world is central to paradigm shifting you know :-)

  • Paul D

    Brilliant. As a composer of instrumental music which is diverse enough to sometimes be hard to communicate without simply listening to it, this post is truthful and inspirational in massive proportion.

  • Brenda K

    Pure awesome as always – thanks Steve! Will share this for sure!