How To Find Music On Bandcamp

It’s Bandcamp Friday – the day each month when Bandcamp gives their share of the profits to the artists. This started as a response to the pandemic and continued in recognition of the ongoing impact on the music economy of that global shutdown and the escalating cost of living crisis. Regardless of everything else that’s happened at Bandcamp since, it’s been an absolutely transformative response to the financial hardship of independent musicians, funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of musicians.
photo of Steve Lawson holding a headless 6 string bass guitar, sat on the curb with a wall behind him.
So, following this week’s viral discussion about how tough it is to maintain a living as an independent musician in a streaming-dominated economy, the invitation is there to go and investigate Bandcamp. A lot of artists do discount codes for Bandcamp Friday. Those are worth looking for so we can all meet in the middle. Other music is already way cheaper than you might imagine while still being an essential part of the economic viability of the band or artist you’re helping to support. It’ll take some time, but bridging the disconnect between ‘there’s no good music any more’ and the realisation that you don’t forage for music the way you used to is a helpful place to start.
A few ways to find music on Bandcamp, from someone who spent their teens and 20s basically living in record shops:
1. Search: if you like any music that’s associated with indie labels already, you might be surprised at what’s already on there. from Tom Waits to Peter Gabriel, Al Green to Charlotte Church, PJ Harvey to The Smile, there’s a bunch of big names on there. If you’re into metal or hip hop, it’s a veritable box of delights.
2. Tags: within the search side of Bandcamp is not just looking for artist names but a tagging system. Genres, instruments, places, associated artists, emotions, all kinds of stuff gets tagged and you can narrow down your search for new music that way.
3. Listener collections : you can start with mine, linked below, but any of the little squares below an album indicating who has bought it links to someone’s Bandcamp fan page – there you’ll get to browse the virtual record collection of anyone on the site. See what people who like what you like also like. Forage for things with interesting artwork. Click follow and you’ll start getting emails with what they’ve bought in them.
4: Artist recommendations: Every artist page, if the artist has bothered to fill in the bit on their profile, has recommended albums. Find out what the people you listen to listen to. I am regularly found by that mechanism, and am HUGELY grateful to everyone who recommends an album of mine on there.
5. Subscriptions (of course I was going to say this) – Subscribing to an artist or label can get you a whole ton of diverse music for way less money per album. Economically it’s a really good mid point between single album sales and the financial wasteland of Spotify. The value proposition varies, depending on whether the artist or label in question sees it as a thing to extract maximum value from super-fans or build a broader community (I’m definitely in the latter group), but subscribing to a handful or artists or labels on Bandcamp is a lovely way to invest in music sustainably and get a ton of music to browse through in your own time (remember that with a Bandcamp subscription, you still keep the music if you unsubscribe, so you don’t need to rush through it all like it’s going to vanish at some indeterminate point – you can listen either on the website, in the app, or download it as lossless files in any format you desire).
6. The bandcamp website front page. Bandcamp is a discovery ecosystem. There’s a firehose of what’s being bought now that acts as a great lucky-dip. There’s Bandcamp Daily, New And Notable and a whole bunch of other ways to find music.
See it as an adventure where you get some new music, and the warm delicious feeling of the few quid you spend on music ending up in the pockets of artists who have bills to pay. In my case, it’ll go towards paying for the tooth extraction I had this morning. You buy music, I lose chemo-degraded teeth in an economically sustainable manner. 🙂

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