Equal Treatment

The nogutsnoglory studios is otherwise known as the ‘command center.’ During the winter, it can get very cold in the uninsulated command center. My creative world’s infrastructure is in the command center! Creativity is not befriended by the chill. Darnit. Guitars don’t stay in tune; the laptop demands a restart; the visions slow down to a crawl. Luckily, I’m able to slice off enough of a chunk into a moveable feast and park-and-play this stuff in Matt’s room. Then the Commander comes home on leave! Darnit. So, off to the living room and into the territory of the, now, six month-old kitty cats.

(Recall Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Bird Maniax.) No, cats aren’t birds. Glori jumped up on the Fender, traversed it like a bridge, stopped for a photo, and, jumped down. Luckily it wasn’t plugged in because much of time it’s configured to sound frightening.

Speaking of frightening sounds, I’ve plugged Kamelmauz into Bandcamp. Compared to Myspace:music, all I can utter is: how cool is bandcamp? Way cool. Think about the DIY channels on the web in relationship to the revolution that has thrashed both the old hard goods model of the music business, and, the various corporate attempts to cage the freeforme monster and build a highway. Major FAIL on both counts. Meanwhile, Myspace:music and Last.fm, and numerous others, made their own weird roadways. I guess by weird I mean idiosyncratic, and so, weird in the sense of awful, one size for everybody, interfaces.

Bandcamp comes along in September, 2008, with a brilliant concept: keep it simple.
Bandcamp announces itself, September 18, 2008:

Earlier this year, one of my favorite bands left their label, recorded a new album, and released it as a digital download from their own website. The hour it was due out, I headed to their site, and after several minutes of watching the page struggle to load, concluded that they were just slammed and made a note to check back the next day. But when I did, the site was, once again, excruciatingly slow. This time I was a bit more patient, made it to the checkout page, entered my billing info, and…the download didn’t start. I checked my credit card statement, saw that I’d indeed been charged, and emailed the band. A few days later, the lead singer sent me an apology, along with a direct link to the album’s zip file. I did not then forward that link on to my 200 closest friends, but I wondered how many did, and couldn’t decide whether it was a good or bad thing that most fans had probably given up before getting this far.

Well the new record turned out to be even better than I’d hoped, but now, months later, I’m still running into other fans who don’t have it. This just kills me, because here’s a relatively unknown band that deserves all the success in the world, made the admirable decision to do an entirely independent release, yet was tripped up by the sorts of aggravating technical issues familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to build out their own website. What choice did they have though? They could have put their music up on MySpace or any of its dozens of imitators, but all of those services offer bands what is essentially a sharecropping arrangement. They host your tunes, and in exchange it’s their logo, their ads, their URL, their traffic, their identity. What if you want to build out a site that’s very clearly yours? The only choice seems to be to do what the band did: hire a designer and engineer, buy or rent some servers, spend a lot of time and money, and risk ending up with something that either works poorly or not at all. Does it not seem crazy that if you’re a blogger, you can create a rock-solid site that’s your own in a matter of minutes (and for free), but if you happen to create music instead of text, your options just suck?

Seemed nuts to us, so we created Bandcamp, the best home on the web for your music. We’re not yet another site wanting to host your tracks alongside the trailer for High School Musical 4: I’m Pregnant. Instead, we power a site that’s truly yours, and hang out in the background handling all the technical issues you dread (and several you’ve probably never even considered). We keep your music streaming and downloading quickly and reliably, whether it’s 3am on a Sunday, or the hour your new record drops and Pitchfork gives it a scathingly positive review. We make your tracks available in every format under the sun, so the audiophilic nerderati can have their FLAC and eat mp3 v2. We adorn your songs with all the right metadata, so they sail into iTunes with artwork, album, band and track names intact. We mutter the various incantations necessary to keep your site top-ranked in Google, so when your fans search for your hits, they find your music long before they find bonkersforlyrics.com or iMyFace. We give your fans easy ways to share your music with their friends, and we give you gorgeous tools that reveal exactly how your music is spreading, so you can fan the fire.

So what’s Bandcamp then? We’re a publishing platform for bands, or, anthropomorphically/arthropodically-speaking, your fifth, fully geeked-out Beatle — the one who keeps your very own website humming and lets you get back to making great music and building your fan base.

One size fits all, yet with the virtue of being really straightforward, shorn of bells and whistles, and, centered on commerce. There’s no easier way to make a storefront for music. The commerce model is really simple: sell ten of a title, and Bandcamp pockets the entire tenth sale’s proceeds. Their factor is Paypal. One prospect that this approach brings forward is a deep A&R resource. When I think of how this could have been the major’s approach, I sit back and chuckle. Bandcamp converts straight digital (i.e. lossless,) files into a number of formats, provides 128kbs streams for every single track in their entirety, and, allows one to give away freebees. Every track is treated equally too. Any track can be embedded in 128 off the site. That feature speaks volumes about Bandcamp’s visionary assumptions.

For example:

There are only three shortcomings, the streams should be at least 224 kbs, and, the artist’s site would benefit from enhanced options for hooking into various social channels. I suppose over time Bandcamp will accrue a lot of dead sites, so it will be increasingly of value to create a genre index using the extant tags and then indicate which artists remain active, and have provided new content in the past six months. The directory of artists (and growing) doesn’t provide any help, however it is great for deploying the random click.

Sufjan Stevens offered a pre-release of his All Delighted People ep and sold 10,000+ copies over a weekend, and prior to the formal release on iTunes. The stir this caused continues to ripple. (See also: Sufjan Stevens and Asthmatic Kitty Take on Amazon, Bootleggers, And You, Maybe _ Village Voice)

It’s open to all, and since this includes me, quality obviously will vary a lot. Still, as an experimental music maker with zero commercial ambitions, I’m not going to think twice about throwing up the latest noise popping out of the command center’s maw.

Here’s In Khorasan–the full thing embedded via Bandcamp. Elegant, if you ask me; even if the stream here is higher quality.

May not show up in Chrome, so a bad bug.

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