Written by Carcassbomb
Bandcamp is my favorite platform when researching for my articles and easily the best one for underground metal of all subgenres and locations. It has many tools for bands and consumers. It saddens me however to see many artists not getting the full potential out of what it has to offer and not gaining any supporters. So this article aims to help bands improve their Bandcamp game, which will in turn improve their publicity and fanbase. Bandcamp is literally a promo pack, music platform, merch store and network hub in one. It’s incredible. It even has built in advertising campaigns and algorithms.
Presentation Is Everything Online:
It really does help to have good album art done by a talented artist. That isn’t the only step however, I’ve seen plenty of good art pieces go to waste against the wrong background color or themes for the Bandcamp page. Make sure the banners, background and text colors compliment the artwork and band logo. The Motion Mosaic is an awesome example of turning their music page into something oozing with aesthetic and character. If all else fails, it’s pretty reliable to fall back on black and white. Or if you look at all of Transcending Obscurity releases, they’ve done black but altered the text for each album cover color scheme.
Ok Information Is Everything Too:
Color and art is basically the first step, everything else is easy right? It kinda really is, you know who did your album art. You know who is in your band. Add this information to the page. The more information the better, the less the worst. I’ve gone “Blah moving on” because a page just had four tracks and fuck else all going on, nothing for me to write about or explore. No additional context.
Once you’ve got the art and the colors down pat, then you put in your bio and credits – the promo thickens. You can do a cut and dry bio or you can get creative, even talking about the process of the album is a good one. Did you use any special programs or additional instruments? Include your guest musicians with brackets of their band like “Feat. Jason (Fit For An Aenima). These are things a journalist will write about and those tracks are often the ones listeners are most curious about. It makes your collaborators feel good too, especially if you include a link to their work. By the way, do collabs, they’re great.
A promoter or writer is more likely to cover you if they don’t have to go down twenty google holes or your whole Facebook feed to find certain bits of information (I HATE doing this to find who did the album art). It might seem like a drag to organise all that information or for some, maybe difficult, but you can literally just copy other bands organisation of their info and change the information and once it’s done it’s done and benefits you for the rest of time. It’s so worth it to have information.
It’s great to include your own promotional materials in the bio section too. Most major labels will do this with their releases, whenever you get a review, interview or generally favorable coverage add it to the page. It will make you look good and convince new visitors to the page that they should check you out. Reviewers also love it when their reviews are linked on your page. It essentially builds a network and markets your music at the same time.
Lyrics seem to be pretty much 50/50 in my experience and I always prefer it when they are there. I do read them as a part of my research, I do read them out of curiosity as I try out a track. It gives the listener something to explore and click around on instead of losing interest and tabbing out 3 seconds in. Put in the extra effort to have your lyrics there, it’s often a huge part of connecting to the listener and finding people who relate to your music.
Pricing Of Digital Content:
It can be perfectly reasonable to charge for a digital download of your album, heaps of places do that but this is the underground we’re talking about. Sure major label releases can charge 10 -20 bucks a download because they have a huge fanbase, but even then, many of the supporters you see on their page are there from merch purchases. High price for digital albums is not a good idea, it makes a barrier for potential new fans (More important than short term money).
It’s kind of complicated because it largely has to do with PR and size of fanbase. A rising star in the underground whose name is known from shows and blogs charging 7 bucks for a download and having a bunch of merch is fair game. If they know your name they will probably buy it to show support, but if there’s no merch and it’s just the digital copy for sale at CD price… I don’t see many supporters on those pages, if any.
If no one really knows who you are yet then you should be setting your release to Name Your Own Price, and even if you’re kinda known you probably should too. A huge part of the underground metal community is drawn to the music due to relating to issues of struggle in life. A lot of them can’t justify paying 5 or 10 dollars for your bands first EP. A digital file that is infinite technically has no value, but if you leave it up to the listener to attribute a value to it, then you will be more likely to get a sale. It might not be 5 bucks, it might be 3.50 or just a dollar so they could add you to their collection. Beats the shit out of zero dollars and a page with no supporters.
There’s so many benefits to Name Your Own Price. It allows for generosity. It causes curiosity because people think “Oh I could download this for free, I should check it out… oh this is dope, I’m going to put down a few bucks to have it in my collection, I’d feel like a dick just doing a dollar”. These are all experiences and thoughts I’ve personally had haha. This also leads to more promotion which is what a new or small band needs more than pocket money from a couple sales, to get your name out there. People will share it because it’s free, they’ll go “Oh this is pretty damn good for a free album”. Listeners feel like they’re getting a deal and they are, but so are you, new fans. Then the next album comes along and maybe because of the exposure you afford merch to put on the page or charge a small amount for the digital. People will know your sound is good for it.
Not only that but when people do only spend a dollar or two, it still puts you in their fan page collection for their followers to see. When people buy items from their friends collection pages Bandcamp emails you to let you know and congratulate you. So being in the collection feeds is great. Bandcamp also has a constant feed on the homepage of albums being purchased. If yours is just a dollar or so then it’ll more likely show up there and other places. Bandcamp will show your release in various ways if it gains some popularity.
Put the digital as Name Your Own Price to bring in the new fans and bandcamp enthusiasts, then have your full priced merch on the page. Once they get into your stuff they will want to buy the merch, and if they get into your stuff and don’t buy merch, they were never gonna buy the digital. They’re probably broke (A lot of us are), at least you’re in their collection and possibly a part of their word of mouth, if they tell friends or respond to recommendation threads with your bandcamp link on places like Reddit or Facebook groups. Some bands worry that they have to charge for digital because then people won’t buy their merch if they can get the music for free, but it’s not really the case. People buy merch because they want it, not because you offered it. Music enthusiasts download music, fans specifically of your band buy merch. Enthusiasts can very easily become fans.
Your first release or two should be all about trying to get as much exposure as possible so that you can make money off of your music a couple of releases down the line. Trying to force it from the start creates too many roadblocks, making money from music is an organic process. PR comes first (then hopefully a label).
Finishing The Promo:
You can put your social links under your profile picture. All the time I see only Facebook or even nothing at all. Put all of your online presence there. If you aren’t on all three platforms then I recommend doing so, that way people can follow you on their preferred platform through your bandcamp page which you are promoting. You are posting the link around right? So no matter how they find your album, they can follow through and add you somewhere. You can even put your spotify link in there! If you followed this article and have all your socials up then you now have a living promo pack that plays music, gets new followers to all your socials and even sells music.
If you are playing shows, Bandcamp lets you put upcoming events on your page under the social too. Use them. Keep your page updated and connected. In the underground metal scene the most common way a person will see your music is your bandcamp page or a Youtube video single (Which then turns them to find your page anyway).
Promote! Bandcamp Codes:
So your page is complete, time to promote! You now have one link to rule them all, the bandcamp link. Put it everywhere you can. BUT WAIT, there’s still yet another tool bandcamp offers to help you with this part of the process. Bandcamp codes. Even if you are name your own price you can still do this (a. on the bandcamp.com/yum page they don’t see the album price, b. It adds it to their collection without needing the one dollar minimum). There’s a lot you can do with bandcamp codes but there are a limited amount you are able to generate for free so here’s a couple of ideas.
The most common, the most truly basic is to just post a bunch of them to your socials. I don’t think this one is the best idea, those people are already fans of yours or at the very least, the most likely people to buy your album. You want the codes to go beyond your own fanbase. Reach out to popular promoters in your genre and ask them to post the codes instead. This brings new fans to your music and your page which we have turned into a promo pack.
The codes can be a great way to submit your music to a blog for review. Send a good email addressing the person and providing some basic information about the release, then offer a bandcamp code for their consideration. If you’re going to do your own PR this is a way that many publications appreciate, it allows them to download it directly and they get a new addition to their collection which we always enjoy, because we love music.
I don’t know anyone else who does this but I am always happy to run bandcamp code contests. Posting random codes to the socials creates a mad rush (hopefully!) and a lot of people miss out, some of these codes even go to opportunists who just want every free thing they can and won’t be a fan of yours. So if you give me like 10 codes, I’ll host a contest (5 on IG story and 5 on twitter) where the first 5 people to answer my question get a code. The question is genre related so I know the codes are going to people who already listen to the genre of the band I’m promoting. This is targeted code giving to create new fans. This way people feel like they’ve won something and are excited (and it is exciting!) plus you get a bunch of promo from myself sharing all their responses and them sharing their winning. More promoters should give this a try.
One of my favorite Aussie bands Crypt Crawler gave me this idea. They printed out a bunch of their codes and went to an Obituary gig and just handed them around to people. I don’t know how effective it was but it’s a proactive approach!
Dungeon Altar has an interesting approach where they put codes in their bio for new page visitors to instantly get a copy, with the codes updated regularly. Solid idea for hobby projects.
Anyway thanks for listening to my TED talk. I’m going to go back to reviewing albums and shit now. I am available for PR. I am available for collaborations. Leave a comment below if you have bandcamp code ideas or if I missed something.