(Disclosure: I don’t work for/promote bandcamp for any reason other than my personal opinion of how it can benefit bands to distribute their music to international audiences)
My full-time job is a writer who analyzes the technology industry, mainly for the United States. I originally focused on mobile, meaning Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms. I used to only use iOS with an iPod Touch and iPad, but moved to Android and various tablets supporting the operating system.
I’ve looked at iTunes and Google Play Music, and have seen slow growth of Korean musicians uploading their music to these services to sell albums and singles. What I’ve found though is that both these services are locked in a battle that doesn’t help bands communicate directly with fans.
When I found bandcamp, I was skeptical of the service. A web-based music store that offered downloads to albums or single songs, much like iTunes or Google Play Music. After some time, I’ve found that bandcamp is one of the best avenues for bands to release their music and allow fans to purchase their music.
It caters to a different audience of listeners through the multiple bitrate versions of downloads. From MP3 to FLAC, an audiophile can purchase and download their music in the format they want.
What does this mean for bands, specifically Korean indie bands?
An easier way to promote and distribute their music. Obviously bands have to own the rights to their music or have it stated in their contracts with labels on how they control the selling of their music.
If you’re in South Korea, there are a lot more options to purchase music like Melon or one of the many downloadable sites. But these require knowledge of the Korean language and possibly a Korean ID which international fans don’t have.
bandcamp doesn’t require any of this, it doesn’t even require an account to buy music though they have started accounts to show off your collection of purchased music.
Selling music through iTunes or Google Play Music locks music into those services and while it is easier to download directly to a device, sometimes I want to have the digital track for offline playback or moving files from device to device. bandcamp’s downloads are done in the browser without DRM so you can put them on different devices with no problem.
I’ve found a lot of bands or have been able to purchase hard to find music through bandcamp.
Some labels have also joined bandcamp to release their music.
Even more well-known bands have put their music on bandcamp.
bandcamp gives bands another way to distribute their music outside of South Korea. While you can purchase the physical CD through online stores, the cost of the CDs are increased for profit to those vendors for international sales. Obviously bandcamp takes a cut of the sales (15% of digital sales) and PayPal (how you pay) takes a percentage as well, but the options given to musicians are much larger.
You can sell a physical copy of the music along with the digital, like we hate jh did with demotiviation, and set their own minimum prices. This means that you can support the band more if you choose.
Essentially, it’s the band or label talking directly to the fan.
There are some problems though. bandcamp doesn’t have a standardized tagging system, which allows bands to tag however they wish. Normally this isn’t a problem, but there are four separate tags that I’ve found musicians using to tag for Korean music.
Another problem is that there are a lot of non-related musicians who also use these tags meaning it’s a lot of trial and error to find music.
My one wish is that musicians and labels could standardize their tagging so that it’s easier to find music and not see repetitive tags for people to browse.
bandcamp has become my standard when looking for digital downloads. Other than stocking up on CDs when I visit Seoul, this is the way I purchase my music.
It would be great to see bandcamp reach out to Korean musicians to make it easier for them to understand the method of uploading music because it’s a much easier service to use than iTunes or Google Play Music.
bandcamp is a great place outside of Facebook or YouTube to preview their music. Even offering demos is an excellent way to showcase a band’s style. Labels who are interested in releasing music outside of South Korea should look at bandcamp as an alternative because of iTunes regional distribution and Google Play Music’s lack of organization.
I think that people are going to start moving away from the official music stores to find their music when they learn of alternatives and bandcamp is one of them.
Now all I need to do is wait for Yellow Monsters to release their music on bandcamp.