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Bandcamp: 9 Reasons every self-releasing artist should have one.

I first started selling music online, independently, around 2005. At that time there were almost none of the tools and resources available today. Facebook was barely formed and Twitter, Instagram and the likes didn’t exist yet.

Myspace was at its peak so finding an audience wasn’t hard but the only way to sell music was painfully manual and laborious. Once I had found a customer, I would then send them a PayPal invoice and once they had paid I would then email them the mp3 files of their purchase.

As you can imagine this was far from ideal and often meant me constantly refreshing my inbox waiting for payments so that I could provide a relatively swift service.

Eventually, I found E-Junkie, a website designed for selling digital files online. This automated the transaction, as soon as the customer paid they were sent a download link for the content. However, it wasn’t really suited for selling music. I still needed to host the preview files somewhere so they could hear the songs first. it was far from ideal but served me well for a year or so.

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Then I discovered Bandcamp, and in one fell swoop pretty much all of the issues I had selling music online were gone.  I was able to sell my music digitally, manage physical stock and connect with my audience.

In the 10 years, or so, that Bandcamp has existed, over $312million has been paid to artists via Bandcamp.  Oddly though, about half the artists I speak to don’t have a Bandcamp. So, it seems you may need some convincing.

Here are 9 reasons why every self-releasing artist should have one.

1. Instant, direct payment

When you sell music on iTunes, Spotify etc.. there is an inevitable delay in receiving the money and the stats. Depending on what distributor/aggregator you used there may be a further delay in withdrawing those funds and/or a minimum threshold before they release the payment.

With Bandcamp, you receive the money within seconds of the music being purchased. I often hear the notification of receiving an email from Bandcamp followed seconds later by the Paypal notification, and these days PayPal withdrawals can reach your bank in a matter of minutes. Having this immediate source of constant revenue has obvious advantages.

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2. Contact details of buyers

In addition to receiving the money almost instantly, you also get the buyers name and contact details. Something you will never ever be able to obtain from iTunes when someone buys your music there.
These emails are priceless, as they are not just random addresses for you to spam in the hope that a small fraction might click on a link. They are proven fans who obviously like music or they wouldn’t buy it. In fact, it’s worth emailing these people personally after they purchase to say a thank you, you may be surprised what a profound effect making that little bit of effort can have.
The emails can also be exported for use with email marketing platforms like MailChimp.

3. Facility to sell merchandise and manage stock

As well as being able to sell your music you can also sell merchandise on Bandcamp. This can be physical copies of the music such as vinyl and CDs or it can be t-shirts and hats etc.
You can even manage your inventory from your dashboard, set how many copies you have and it will prevent people from purchasing once the stock is depleted.

4. Customisable page

Your Bandcamp is customisable, you can change the colours and fonts, as well as add banners and images. This means that with very little tweaking you can use your Bandcamp page as the shop/merch page of your website, if you have one, instead of having to find and manage a third-party eCommerce system.

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5. Statistics

From your dashboard, you can see which of your songs have been streamed and/or purchased along with where the listeners are. It will even show you how long they listened to each track before skipping which can give you an idea of what your most, and of course least, compelling songs are. This data is display in easy to read graphs and some information, such as sales reports, can be exported.

6. Set your own price (and currency), accept overpayments (tips)

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You can set your own price with a lot of online distributors but with Bandcamp, you can set your price at zero and give away the music, in return for their email address, or you can let the buyer set their own price as Bandcamp also allows overpayments. Around 50% of sales on Bandcamp are higher than the minimum set by the seller.

7. Subscription option

As well as selling your music as singles and downloads etc, you can also set up a subscription service. Where the listener pays a recurring fee for access to specific content, usually exclusives to encourage them to sign up. This can provide you with a regular income from your music as long as you have enough content to keep them paying.

8. Exposure to Bandcamp community

Over the last 10 years, Bandcamp has built up a solid community of music lovers who are more than happy to pay for music, they use the website and the app to discover and listen to music so being available on this platform gives you another community of potential fans.

9. It’s non-exclusive and can be used alongside your other distribution platforms

As you don’t assign any specific rights to Bandcamp, beyond the minimum required to run the service such as the right to host the content, you can upload your music to Bandcamp as well as using your usual online distributor. (However, Bandcamp requires you have full rights over both the composition and the sound recording of your songs, or to have written permission to use them commercially, which means cover versions are out unless you have already obtained a license.)

There are countless other great features and benefits of joining Bandcamp, and they can tell you much better themselves, but for me, the above reasons make Bandcamp a really important part of my arsenal as a self-releasing artist.

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You are not just a self-releasing artist, you are an independent record company… here's why that matters.

One of the mandatory questions on the PPL rightsholder registration form is “label name”. Quite often people would get stuck on this question and call in…
“…I’m not with a record label, I’m just an independent artist…”
…was a common statement regarding that question.
My response was always the same if you own and/or release sound recordings you ARE, by definition, a record company.
It’s really important to know that and to keep it in mind. We are in an era where it is possible to create and release high-quality recordings without an established record company involved. That doesn’t mean that the roles and functions of a record company can be neglected. In order to have a successful release, and to reap the rewards of that success, you need to think and act like a record company.
First of all, what is a Record Company?
Simply put a record company is a company that markets sound recordings. They will either own the sound recordings outright or they have licensed them from the owners.
The sound recording has its own copyright separate from the composition of the song, the owner of the sound recording has the right to copy and distribute them. They will also receive “neighbouring rights” revenue, as long as the recordings have been correctly registered with the relevant society.
Quite often a record company will release using a variety of different “label” names, especially if they release a variety of genres that may not have the same audience, they are basically trading names for the record company.
Record label
The benefits of being your own record label
As a self-releasing artist, there are a few key benefits to creating a record label.
1. Accounting
When you are releasing your own music you are both the label and the artist. Usually, independent record deals are “50/50 net profit” between the artist and the label. Meaning that once all the costs have been recouped the profits are shared equally between the two parties. Any featured artists, producers and session players involved in the recording are paid from the artist’s share. Any percentages agreed are from the artist’s share, so if a featured performer has agreed to 10% of the royalties this is actually 5% of the overall profit.
A mistake often made by self-releasing artists is that in the absence of a record label the label share and the artist’s share become one and collaborators are paid a percentage of the overall profit which will be double what they would normally get.
Adopting the independent label model is a really good idea, split the profits 50/50 and put half aside for the record company (open a separate bank account if possible and keep separate accounts for your record company). This money will fund your label, paying for future releases and providing tour support. The other half of the profits, the artists’ share, should then be divided between the collaborators as per your agreements with them.
2.Optics
It’s a good look. Being a “signed artist” is, for most people, a badge of honour. Having the backing of a record label will, in many instances, encourage people to take you more seriously. Owning and running your own business can also be really impressive, just don’t oversell it. Don’t be one of those people that puts “CEO” after your name on emails and business cards when you are the sole employee of the label.
3. Branding
By creating a record label you will also create a brand, connected to, but separate from, your artist brand. Having a strong label brand increases your potential merchandising revenue as now you can sell label merch (t-shirts, hats etc) as well as your artist merch. You will also increase your ability to sign other artists and launch them to your label’s audience.
4. Limited Liability
Another benefit of starting a label, if you register the business as a limited company, is reduced liability. By creating a separate legal entity you will no longer be personally responsible for any financial losses your company makes (providing no fraud has taken place). The band Radiohead set up a separate limited company for each album they release meaning that the losses from one album cannot affect subsequent releases.  In fact, Radiohead has around 20 companies between the members to handle the various revenue streams the band generates.
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Limited companies will generally pay less in tax than a sole trader, and registering the label name with Companies House prevents other businesses from registering companies with the same or similar names.
“If you label it this, then it can’t be that”
Ultimately, the main benefits of setting up a record company are financial, and it can also add to your overall image.
By choosing to put out your music independently, you have become a record label, whether you like it or not. Learning, and performing, the functions and duties of a record label is key to your success. Many people proudly state “I made this record without a record label” when actually they should be proud to announce, “I made this record with my own record label”
Record labels are often maligned and have been accused of everything from generally exploiting artists to “modern-day slavery”, usually by people who have made millions of dollars from them, and maybe for some labels, there is some truth to that.
Despite what you may have read, been told or believe, record companies are not inherently evil. How you choose to run your label is up to you.