Bandcamp Opens Up Artist Patronage (You Can Call Them Subscriptions) to Everyone

September 29

  Bandcamp, probably the best-known independent music streaming website, has made its artist subscription service available to all its users.

In November 2014 the concept was first revealed, and the function was launched as a beta in early 2015. With the service, artists can charge their fans an annual or monthly fee of any price, giving those fans access to all future music they upload. They can also restrict special features to subscribers, including a subscriber-only blog, demos or exclusive access to merchandise. Subscribed users can be given also incentives, including access to a band's back catalogue and all future releases. Another interesting feature is that the artists will have complete control over the number of times something can be streamed from the fans before they are prompted to buy it. “We’re going to give artists complete control”, Bandcamp chief executive Ethan Diamond said.

Bandcamp will take 17.9% of an artist's subscription fee, including a 2.9% payment processing fee and a $0.30 charge. If an artist's subscriptions exceeds $5,000 or more, Bandcamp will take just 10% of the fee, alongside processing fees.

The thinking behind the subscription play was, as Bandcamp writes, intuitive. “Our own experience contributing to crowdfunded projects was that we were motivated by a desire to help an artist we loved, not by a wish for a t-shirt, signed plastic disc, or potpourri sachet. Our hunch is that your biggest fans are less interested in funding studio time or mastering for just one album than they are in supporting you in a sustainable way.”

Bandcamp’s new feature is the latest attempt to offer musicians a way to earn a regular income from their fans. One alternative is crowdfunding service Patreon, where fans sign up to pay small amounts whenever a creator – musicians, but also YouTubers, filmmakers and journalists – releases a new piece of content. The difference lies in Bandcamp's established storefronts which, the company says, have generated $122 million since the company's launch.

Diamond hopes that subscriptions will show that streaming music – as used in the company’s mobile apps – can help rather than harm artists’ careers, in the wake of the row over Taylor Swift pulling her albums from Spotify, and wider discussion about that service’s impact on musicians.

“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”, Diamond said.

In short, Bandcamp’s new artist subscriptions are great news for artists using its service, but also a hint how the streaming world can develop in the future.