28 votes

A tale of two ecosystems: On Bandcamp, Spotify and the wide-open future

15 comments

  1. Halfloaf
    Link
    I've been trying to use bandcamp as much as possible for music, now that Google Play Music is sunsetting. I love the idea of transparency in how funding is distributed. I feel transparency is...

    I've been trying to use bandcamp as much as possible for music, now that Google Play Music is sunsetting. I love the idea of transparency in how funding is distributed.

    I feel transparency is increasingly important as systems grow in complexity, so that users can be more certain that they're supporting sustainable practices.

    20 votes
  2. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    This was a great read. The juxtaposition between Spotify and Bandcamp's business philosophies reminded me of another recent article about the fashion industry, where a business owner talks about...

    This was a great read. The juxtaposition between Spotify and Bandcamp's business philosophies reminded me of another recent article about the fashion industry, where a business owner talks about pressure from investors and the pursuit of growth over smaller but more sustainable returns:

    Investors that do pump money into D.T.C. brands are after swift returns, pushing companies to grow big and fast in a way that’s unsustainable. One such casualty was Outdoor Voices, the athletic-apparel company that reportedly took in $60 million of venture-capital money and faltered in February, with its C.E.O. ousted and its valuation plummeting. After what happened to Band, the last thing Sternberg wants is to grow too fast for his own good. “Investors are only interested in, like: ‘Billion-dollar company! Unicorns!’” Sternberg said. Sternberg doesn’t want to be a unicorn. He just wants to be profitable by next year. “The second Band tried to grow, that’s when we stopped being profitable,” he said.

    If the wholesale model could no longer be relied on to fund young designers, and private equity and venture capitalists pushed them to expand so quickly that they inevitably imploded, was there any hope for brands to grow slowly and thoughtfully over time? If not, fashion might go the way of other industries, like film, in which there are the blockbusters and the tiny indies and nothing in between. “Band didn’t need to be a $100 million brand,” Sternberg said. “But is there a place for a $30 million brand that can self-sustain and be around year after year? Certainly not with big backers, because that’s not interesting to them. Wholesale used to be able to support that, but it also ultimately killed it.”

    I dabbled in Bandcamp here and there over the years and liked it for what it was, but I'm putting more of my eggs in that basket now that Google Play Music is shutting down. GPM was actually one of my last Google holdouts, as I've stepped away from most of their other services, and in all areas of life I'm trying to be more conscious about how I'm spending my money and what I'm supporting. As such, I've started buying albums on Bandcamp and my music listening has shifted from drinking from the firehose of massive streaming libraries to happening on a more album-by-album basis, like it used to when I used to buy CDs.

    Interestingly enough, I'm liking it more. The scarcity of content makes me value the content I have access to more, and given that I have to buy in, I'm more predisposed to "get my money's worth" for any individual purchase. This might just be psychological smoke and mirrors, and I might be in the honeymoon phase of my transition, but right now music is fulfilling for me in a way it hasn't been in years. Unlimited streaming access diluted my appreciation for music, and a significantly more restricted library is refocusing it.

    17 votes
    1. soctar
      Link Parent
      Firm same! I feel like I've been so much more conscious of what I'm consuming and that's brought me a lot more joy with how I interact with music.

      Firm same! I feel like I've been so much more conscious of what I'm consuming and that's brought me a lot more joy with how I interact with music.

      5 votes
  3. [10]
    xnaas
    Link
    Preface: I've spent plenty of money at Bandcamp over the years, including the purchasing of physical merch. I like Bandcamp. Guess I'm a bad person for being young and not wanting to go to 12...

    Preface: I've spent plenty of money at Bandcamp over the years, including the purchasing of physical merch. I like Bandcamp.


    When I talk about Bandcamp to music fans, especially younger ones, they often say, "but it doesn't stream." You can stream from it, I always point out – just album by album rather than playlist. But I can see their attention has already wandered.

    Guess I'm a bad person for being young and not wanting to go to 12 different places to listen to my music.

    Bandcamp seems more like it's a way to supplement piracy (or vise versa) rather than be a total replacement for music streaming services like Spotify, which is fine, I guess, but not what I want. I don't want to individually pay artists on Bandcamp and give Spotify $16/mo and then have to guess which app I'm loading up today to listen to my music...or worse, switch back and forth between both depending on what I want to listen to.

    Bite me for wanting some convenience.


    Spotify and other music streaming services "solved" music piracy. Convenience trumps all. Something I wish the TV/movie industry would figure out if they want me to stop pirating. I recently did some math and to get a really good coverage of movie and TV shows (and still not solve everything!) I'd have to spend more than $80/mo (not the issue) and be subscribed to nearly a dozen different services. I'm not going to pay $80+ every month just to play "let's guess which service X is on!" every day.

    11 votes
    1. [8]
      bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      I feel like the vast majority of people I know don't care to listen to albums any more. They would rather have a playlist of varied music on like a radio station. I can't blame them, 9/10 times...

      You can stream from it, I always point out – just album by album rather than playlist. But I can see their attention has already wandered.

      I feel like the vast majority of people I know don't care to listen to albums any more. They would rather have a playlist of varied music on like a radio station. I can't blame them, 9/10 times the Spotify album creates a really good mixture of stuff, and especially when you're opting for music to be background noise, it's a great "fire and forget" solution.
      Albums are, to my mind, becoming more of an enthusiast/audiophile medium. I love to stick an album on over my good speakers, with a glass of whiskey or maybe a spliff and just listen. You get the deep cuts that don't normally make it onto Spotify's mixes, and you get to hear the flow of the album as the artist intended. It's an active listen, rather than passive, which is something that I think (and - as a musician - worry) people are opting less and less for these days.

      13 votes
      1. [7]
        tildez
        Link Parent
        As a reluctant audiophile, this rings true to me. Being an album listener feels like swimming upstream on Spotify. Especially on their mobile app where the default "play" button for an album is...

        Albums are, to my mind, becoming more of an enthusiast/audiophile medium.

        As a reluctant audiophile, this rings true to me. Being an album listener feels like swimming upstream on Spotify. Especially on their mobile app where the default "play" button for an album is "shuffle play".

        9 votes
        1. helloworld
          Link Parent
          Agreed. I am 28, and have never ever not even once listened to a single album start to end. I have always cherry picked songs as I came across them, and added them to my library. Albums to me feel...

          Agreed. I am 28, and have never ever not even once listened to a single album start to end. I have always cherry picked songs as I came across them, and added them to my library. Albums to me feel like unnatural bundling the way cable channels are bundled with one good(IMO) and 5+ not so good items, but charged fully for 5.

          3 votes
        2. [5]
          Crespyl
          Link Parent
          You can't be serious? With Google Play Music being shut off, I've been exploring alternatives and loosely considering a Spotify subscription, since I've always liked GPMs radio features and...

          the default "play" button for an album is "shuffle play"

          You can't be serious?

          With Google Play Music being shut off, I've been exploring alternatives and loosely considering a Spotify subscription, since I've always liked GPMs radio features and Spotify seems to have pretty good discovery. But, the bulk of my listening has always been album oriented, and the idea of defaulting an album to shuffle play is just baffling, even in a world where people mostly pick out individual tracks.

          2 votes
          1. [4]
            tildez
            Link Parent
            It's so bad. And it can't be changed. In order to listen to an album in order you have to know to click the first song in it, otherwise you get shuffle. People have complained on the support...

            It's so bad. And it can't be changed. In order to listen to an album in order you have to know to click the first song in it, otherwise you get shuffle. People have complained on the support forums for years.

            1 vote
            1. [3]
              kfwyre
              Link Parent
              I used to use Spotify a long time ago, and I remember having the feeling that their shuffle wasn't a true "shuffle" but was instead some sort of optimized algorithm that masqueraded as random. At...

              I used to use Spotify a long time ago, and I remember having the feeling that their shuffle wasn't a true "shuffle" but was instead some sort of optimized algorithm that masqueraded as random. At the time my library was split between tracks on their service and tracks on my computer, and shuffle seemed to prioritize their tracks over mine. There were a couple of other things I noticed too that I've forgotten since I used it, but I was left with the impression that Spotify was putting their finger on the scales a bit. At the time, it was hard to know if that was genuine or if I was just being needlessly paranoid and finding patterns where none existed.

              Now that we have more insight into how valuable user data is, how diligent tech companies are about generating it from their userbases, and how zealously they're pursuing massive monetary returns on their services, I have little doubt that their decision to prioritize shuffle is based in business interests. From the data side, normalizing shuffle probably allows them to do all sorts of behind the scenes A/B testing, experiments, and optimizations. From the behavioral side, it also habituates users to the idea that they should be listening to music non-linearly in the first place.

              If Spotify's goal is to maximize time users spend listening (and according to the article, it is), it makes sense that Spotify doesn't want music to come in defined chunks with designated starts and finishes (i.e. albums), because there's a defined stopping point. Instead, it's better for them for music to have more of that "infinite scrolling" quality present in so many content feeds now, where you can just keep going without ever stopping and there's always something new to engage you. Breaking up the concept of an album as a defined song sequence into just a smattering of tracks helps push users towards engaging with the medium in that way.

              6 votes
              1. tildez
                Link Parent
                Yeah absolutely agree. Same reason there is no sleep timer on the mobile app, and that the default is to play random music indefinitely once you reach the end of your current playlist/album.

                Yeah absolutely agree.

                Same reason there is no sleep timer on the mobile app, and that the default is to play random music indefinitely once you reach the end of your current playlist/album.

                3 votes
              2. Flashynuff
                Link Parent
                You're close -- I believe they take a chunk of about 100 songs from your playlist / library and shuffle that. If you added a bunch of songs right around the same time you'll likely see them...

                I remember having the feeling that their shuffle wasn't a true "shuffle" but was instead some sort of optimized algorithm that masqueraded as random

                You're close -- I believe they take a chunk of about 100 songs from your playlist / library and shuffle that. If you added a bunch of songs right around the same time you'll likely see them grouped together. It's so frustrating.

                2 votes
    2. ohyran
      Link Parent
      "Convenience trumps all" is both a very truthful and very scary thing in its truthfulness. You can get away with murder if its convenient for everyone else. Want to add that no one is attacking...

      "Convenience trumps all" is both a very truthful and very scary thing in its truthfulness. You can get away with murder if its convenient for everyone else.
      Want to add that no one is attacking your needs or thinks you're "evil". BUT also that your post and the "convenience trumps all" bit got me in to this whole train of thought this morning and I wanted to do a tip of the hat for that. Ty <3

      5 votes
  4. mxuribe
    Link
    That was a pleasurable read! I only really started using bandcamp minimally in the last year or two, but really like it. Maybe it is my age or something but i'm rooting more and more for the...

    That was a pleasurable read! I only really started using bandcamp minimally in the last year or two, but really like it. Maybe it is my age or something but i'm rooting more and more for the "little guy", and certainly hope bandcamp continues to create such a neat community for artists and fans alike. The comments about bandcamp being more like a record store really resonate with me; bringing back that positive energy i would often feel when i was younger and stumbling upon neat finds! I haven't purchased anything yet from bandcamp but that's only because i have not purchased anything from artists at all in recent years. The other day i bought a tee shirt from a podcast that i love. Now learning more about bandcamp and how artists get a more fair cut from ales...I'm going to - job/revenue permitting - start buying a bunch more through avenues like bandcamp. I wish to support artists and their craft as directly as possible!

    3 votes
  5. Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    So hopefully referencing another of my posts isn't too frowned-upon. I feel like this piece and then this article I just posted of an interview with Jaron Lanier make great companion articles....

    So hopefully referencing another of my posts isn't too frowned-upon. I feel like this piece and then this article I just posted of an interview with Jaron Lanier make great companion articles. They both discuss the two very different views tech can have and the Bandcamp/Jaron Lanier view is one I've been ascribing to more and more in recent times. Both look at how the increasing algorithization and monetization of tech has been (in some people's opinions) detrimental.

    2 votes