I’ve long been a fan, and user, of Bandcamp, the fantastic music hosting site, but Bandcamp is growing up, and as part of that, it looks like we’ll be growing apart as well. It’s still a great service, and I wish it well, but for free artists like myself, the honeymoon is (mostly) over.
The writing was on the wall earlier this year when Bandcamp started taking a 15% cut on sales in order to cover its costs. I think that’s perfectly reasonable, but the question remained: how would Bandcamp cover its costs on free downloads, where there’s no revenue to split? It answered that question today by announcing an end to unlimited free downloads.
In typical Bandcamp style, it’s a perfectly reasonable arrangement. New accounts get an allowance of 200 free downloads (existing accounts get 500), and more can be bought in blocks that work out to between 1.5 and 3 cents per download. If you’re also selling music, each $500 in sales gets you an extra 1000 free downloads, so commercial artists can still run free download promos at minimal (or zero) cost.
Some bands had used Bandcamp to provide hundreds of thousands of free downloads at zero cost, and this plan will put a stop to that. However, it’ll likely put a stop to my use of Bandcamp too, at least in the long term. My 500 free downloads will last me quite a while, and for a band with no tech skills, even 3c per download is a great deal for what you get, compared to trying to cobble something together yourself, but I already run my own hosted server, so it just makes sense for me to make this site the official home of my music.
Hopefully it’s clear that I’m not down on Bandcamp — it’s a fantastic service, and it’s helped an ever-growing list of artists to gain commercial success outside of the mainstream music industry. If I ever have a change of heart (or career) and decide to start selling music and flogging merch, Bandcamp is almost certainly where I’ll do it. It’s just no longer the ideal service for hosting free music that it once was.