Bandcamp to launch subscription-based music service

12 Nov 2014

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Online music store Bandcamp is to launch a new subscription-based service that allows artists to set their own prices.

Rather than following the model of other streaming music apps, such as Spotify and Rdio, which allow access to every song in their catalogues, Bandcamp will instead let users subscribe to specific artists. As reported by The Guardian, musicians will also be given the option to release music to subscribers only – either temporarily or permanently – and can offer discounts on merchandise.

Launched in 2008, Bandcamp has specialised in helping independent artists sell their music. Its current model allows users to listen to tracks on the site for free or download the music for a set cost. According to company chief executive Ethan Diamond, this latest move has been made to encourage fans to support their favourite musicians. 

“The whole motivation here is that when you get to a point that you love an artist – when you go from liking them to being a real true fan of theirs – at some point you just want everything they make. You just want to support everything that they do,” Diamond told The Guardian.

Though artists can set their own prices for subscriptions, Bandcamp will take the same 15pc revenue share as it does for digital sales, dropping to 10pc once an artist hits the US$5,000 mark.

The streaming debate

Bandcamp’s announcement comes on the back of recent debate on commercial music-streaming services, after pop star Taylor Swift’s decision to remove her entire discography from Spotify. Company CEO Daniel Ek yesterday defended the service, claiming Spotify has paid US$2bn to music rights holders since its inception, US$6m of which has gone to Swift. According to Diamond, Bandcamp subscriptions have been devised to help make streaming music a viable method of paying musicians for their work.

“The subscription streaming services are presenting a false dichotomy between downloads and streaming, as they’re conflating the idea that downloads versus streaming is the exact same as saying downloads versus subscription-based streaming,” said Diamond. 

“What they’re actually saying is ‘our particular model of streaming – subscription-based – is the future, and anybody that doesn’t agree with that is living in the past’. The reality is that streaming is of course the future: people are going to download less and less. But that particular model of subscription-based streaming isn’t the only model. There is this other model where you support the artist.”

Bandcamp’s current model has led to payments to artists in excess of US$87m.

Bandcamp image via Shutterstock

Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com