The digital music universe has come a long way since the Napster era, and these days, that means a good number of paid subscription services are angling to serve all the music you could imagine in a legally acceptable package. But getting music-subscription dollars into your favorite musicians’ hands remains a sticking point.
As far as musicians are concerned, Apple Music is still one of the better payout services, with the company officially estimating as much as one penny paid per streamed song, while Spotify maxes out at less than half a penny per stream—and those payouts can drop based on whatever wacky spreadsheet-calculus each service runs in the background. Either way, that math checks out; your $10 or $15 per month can only be divided so far between hundreds of song streams.
If you’re willing to open your wallet a little wider for downloaded music, today’s return of the Bandcamp Fridays promotion is a massive counterbalance to underpaying subscription services. And it’s a good excuse to point to Bandcamp as a feature-rich, mobile-friendly option for buying music online.
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Bandcamp Fridays launched in early 2020 as a way to drive more money into bands’ and artists’ pockets, especially after so many COVID-19 tour cancellations. Buy any digital-only content via Bandcamp on the first Friday of a month when the promotion is active, and the service waives its normal cut of artist revenue (which is 15 percent by default and 10 percent once a user exceeds $5,000 USD in revenue over the past 12 months). The promotion stuck to its every-first-Friday cadence for nearly a year before skipping some months in seemingly unpredictable fashion. This week, Bandcamp has confirmed that the Bandcamp Friday promotion will resume for the rest of 2021.
From a digital-rights perspective, it’s easy to recommend Bandcamp as a storefront, since any purchase includes unlimited downloads of DRM-free audio files—and you can choose between lossless FLAC, uncompressed WAV, and a variety of other lossy and lossless formats. If you’re not ready to buy, Bandcamp also makes it easy for artists to enable uninterrupted preview listens of their songs and albums, along with an optional “you’ve listened enough, maybe buy it” nag after a single machine uses the preview feature a few times. And once you buy anything via Bandcamp, you can use the service’s mobile app on Android and iOS to download offline copies, see news updates from artists you’ve bought from previously, and access Bandcamp-curated playlists. This app, in particular, has matured greatly over the past year on both feature and stability fronts.
Bandcamp’s normal 15 percent revenue cut is certainly competitive compared to other popular digital storefronts, including gaming services like Steam and Epic Games Store. That’s made me more likely to buy on days other than the first Friday of a month, though I’ll admit that Bandcamp Fridays drove me to the service as a way to pay my favorite artists when I can’t see them in concert. Since then, Bandcamp has won me over as a preferred music service and app for daily use. (And if you’re an international user, you can shop at Bandcamp using a wide range of compatible currencies, whether using its built-in payment processing or Paypal, which I appreciate.) You have until midnight Pacific Time today to take advantage of this month’s waived-fee promotion.