Nine Years Of My Bandcamp Subscription

Today is the NINTH anniversary of the launch of my Bandcamp Subscription. It has become a lifeline, the mechanism by which I not only fund and release music, but the context in which I get to make the specific kind of music I make, and where I get to talk about it and hear what it means to the subscriber community.

Facebook post announcing the launch of my bandcamp subscription nine years ago todayBandcamp’s subscription offering launched to the public about 8 years ago, but four artists got to trial it for a year before it went public to iron out kinks and see which features worked best. I’d already been talking to Ethan about it for a couple of years at that point – we would meet up every January while I was at NAMM and he’d ask me what worked best for me with Bandcamp and what I’d like to see – prior to the subscription offering, I imagine that most of the things that I wanted that ended up as features were things where my desire just confirmed what they were already working on, but I got to have input into the subscription idea at the ground level, and as such, as this point it’s about 80% of my perfect platform. That’s a pretty amazing percentage for a non-bespoke platform, especially one that has to meet the diverse needs of artists and labels from all over the planet.

So what’s the value of the subscription, for me and the listener? I’m acutely aware that thanks to this model, collectively the subscribers know more about what I’m up to than I do – the sheer volume of music there means that I can’t keep in mind what it all is and what I’ve done before. I’m often too busy just being me and doing me-stuff to step back from it and see what it might mean. I also have a singular take on the impact of things like adding in percussion samples and field recordings to the aesthetic, or a set of assumptions around how much music would be too much music. But across the community there are people who have specific connections with loads of the albums, who came into my orbit at a particular time and the first album they found means something special to them. They are music makers who have a particular take on the significance (or annoyance!) of aspects of what I do, and a significant number of them have been around for two decades and have a deep and enduring sense of how this life in music has evolved. There are people who devour every album and listen to it multiple times, who are deeply grateful that they aren’t expected to pay £8 for every album, even though a handful of them probably would. And there are people who love the music of a particular era in my music-life and listen mostly to that but subscribe to support me because it’s less than £3 a month and they just want to help me carry on doing what I do…

It is still, by far, the best way to access my music, to become a part of its meaning and purpose. Every album is more like an episode in a story or podcast than it is a ‘product’ to be marketed and promoted. The way its released means that the invitation is there to comment, review, discuss, question and delve into the meaning of the music and even to dig into why I made certain decisions that meant particular albums don’t work for you. Those conversations are often the most mindblowing – imagine getting to talk about the confusion that a particular album conjures with someone who has already happily paid for it to exist long before it was conceived. The difference between that and the ‘apologetics’ that one indulges in when releasing a public album that deviates from the expectations of a fanbase is night and day.

I’m grateful to every single person who has been part of that community, whether they subscribed for a year and then (quite understandably!) thought ‘that’s quite enough Steve Lawson music for one lifetime‘, or have been there since day one (shout out to JP Rangaswami, Phil Thomas and Mike K Smith for being the longest standing subscribers, still there from day one. ♥️)

If you want to join us, that would be amazing. If you want to rejoin, that would also be a truly beautiful thing. The link to subscribe will be in the comments. And I’ll do a Bandcamp Listening Party for the latest subscriber album on Friday. More news on that ASAP. 🙂

Later on, I’ll do a bit of a dive into the economics, but suffice to say, the subscription was what sustained me through Cancer, it regularly pays the rent, it has rescued me from tax bills I’d foolishly not accounted for, and it turns every break-even gig into a recording session of deep and enduring value.

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