Features December 16, 2016

Q&A: Bandcamp’s Chief Curator on the future of the record business

Managing Editor

Bandcamp’s chief curator Andrew Jervis says the future of the record business involves a deeper connection between artist and fan.

“I’m an old record store person,” Jervis tells TMN. “I used to work in a few record stores, and I worked at a record label, so I still love me a good trip to a record store, but at the same time, when you walk away with that LP, that’s it. You get to enjoy the album. 

“Now, these days, there’s more opportunities for the fan to engage with the band that weren’t there before via various methods of buying music. I think that’s kind of exciting.”

Jervis believes the now ten-year-old Bandcamp solves this very real problem for both artists and labels, telling TMN, “I think that’s what keeps people engaged and excited”. 

Speaking at Melbourne’s Face the Music conference earlier this month, Jervis delivered a keynote and shared his insights on the Rise and Rise of Music Streaming panel.

Given that Bandcamp is one of few Silicon Valley-based music tech companies that are profitable, Jervis’ insights are worth listening to. TMN took the opportunity to chat with Jervis after his onstage commitments while visiting Australia for the first time. 

 

So what does “The Rise and Rise of Streaming” look like?

Well, I think it’s interesting, right. I mean I think there’s the one way a lot of people talk about streaming as the future. I think [Bandcamp] offer a pretty viable alternative to that, in that, yes, we embrace streaming. A large part of being on Bandcamp is streaming, but what we mean by that is as an artist or a label, you’re paid the amount that you want to be paid. 

You’re paid directly, and as a fan, what you’ve just bought is access to that music, whether the access to that music means you walked away with an LP, CD or cassette or, a high-quality download, or you can stream it anywhere you have Bandcamp, that’s up to you. 

To us, there’s a mid-ground that doesn’t involve paying a third party, and it includes a more direct relationship between fan and artist.

 

A lot of people see Bandcamp as a platform for artists, but there looks to be some great tools for labels as well?

I think Bandcamp’s the digital equivalent of walking into a record store and saying, “Hey, what’s new?” All of these people whose tastes that you’re interested turn around and say ’this is why I like it’.

A lot of friends ask me, ’Hey, how do you stay on top of music?’ and it’s just diving in and making a collection, following fans whose taste you think is going to be of interest to you. 

You don’t follow these fans because they had a cute picture or they’ve posted a fluffy cat and the way that social media works, you don’t end up just liking fluffy cat videos. It’s about following a fan because they got out their wallet and they decided they were going to lay down some money to support a band. There’s a real bit of friction there that we think is key. 

It’s not about algorithms; it’s about following fans. It’s about learning about music from those fans and also from what the artists recommend too.

 

Recently, Bandcamp announced that sales were being reported to ARIA. Have you seen an uptake in new members of the community now that that’s happened here in Australia?

Yeah, definitely and also we saw a lot of labels joining that maybe kind of held back as well. That’s been kind of interesting to see, and obviously, we welcome that and are happy to be of service. 

We want the artist to be able to make the most of their sales, whether that’s putting money in their wallets or being able to show off where they’re at on the charts so they can go out and get a booking agent, or play a bigger festival. It’s all key.

 

What are some of the other updates or things we’ll see from Bandcamp in months to come?

We’ve got a bunch of [new] tools for labels. One thing that I think is going to make a lot of difference is that we’re going to make it possible for you as a label or an artist to ship your merch from multiple places around the world. 

As a fan right now, you go to the site, you buy a record, and maybe you pay 20 bucks for that record, but you pay 25 bucks to ship it. That’s just more restrictive, and it cuts into peoples’ sales. We’re going to enable advanced shipping. I think it’s going to solve a big problem for a lot of people and make it possible for a lot of fans to kind of continue to support.

 

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