Of course there is no strict definition of music streaming I’m working with for this newsletter, but Bandcamp isn’t often mentioned in discussions of music streaming. The reason being that because it’s a platform that encourages individual downloads and sales that’s very much an iTunes, not Spotify approach to music consumption. That niche realistically means Bandcamp isn’t fighting for the same slice of the musical pie as an Apple Music, Spotify, or YouTube.
Started in 2007 Bandcamp over the 2010s morphed into the default go to platform for truly independent music. Not only does one not need to go through a DSP, the way one engages with an artist music is far more direct. There is no passive Bandcamp listening for consumers, the company launched an editorial side, which is great and full disclosure I’ve written for, but beyond that it’s hard to just stumble upon music on the site or mobile app. They’re constantly working on improving recommendations, but the current design of the platform pushes for an engaged listener. Not only in terms of one who is ready to spend money on music, but is also ready dig to find new music.
What’s started to be come interest to me is that because of years of usage I’ve grown to expect certain artists to have Bandcamp pages. If someone is making bedroom pop or scrappy electronic music, then my first thought is Bandcamp, not Apple Music or Spotify. Last year when an act who built their fan base on Bandcamp graduated to a larger label and didn’t release an album on Bandcamp I was slightly annoyed. Not cause my access to the music was any more obscured, but the association between platform and music was that strong.
Now in a way that was the promise of Apple Music with its exclusives, if you wanted to hear Drake you needed Apple Music. Not only is musical content limited to a platform, but that people like me would start to associate an artist with a platform and come to expect the two to go together.
That’s why recently I keep finding myself using Bandcamp and Soundcloud in similar ways. Both platforms essentially fill the gaps that are created by Apple Music and Spotify. Most music listeners might not feel a need to fill those gaps, but I’m a listener who does want to find music that falls into niches that might not make it onto bigger streaming platforms.
That’s why both apps on my phone the more I open them the essential they feel to me. Bandcamp and Soundcloud both hold so much music exclusive music I can’t access elsewhere that I couldn’t imagine getting rid of either app at this point. Last year I kept harping on the fact that these services needed to be different and with the recent launch of YouTube Music that all but feels reaffirmed. Simply offering access to same material everyone else offers isn’t enough and Bandcamp, and a lesser extended Soundcloud, offer unique libraries that as a listener I can’t ignore and find elsewhere.