When Bandcamp launched in 2008, it didn't take long for the free service to take off. That's partially because of the fact it offers bands a chance to have a free, minimalist website and store with nearly no setup options, and also because it offers an easy to share audio player that's embeddable anywhere. At least that's what the bands we've spoken with have said attracted them to the site.
Since Bandcamp is all about taking care of artists, the site offers a very comprehensive and detailed breakdown of sales, downloads and plays. This helps bands see what their most listened-to songs are, what's being played the most and what's selling. Of course, Bandcamp isn't just about sales; many artists will give away albums online entirely, or for a limited time, sometimes utilizing the pay-what-you-want model.
There are hundreds of local bands using Bandcamp, but we talked to fifteen different artists on all ends of the sales charts to get an idea of how the site's working for people. We assumed we'd see more streaming than sales, but we didn't know exactly how big the gap would be.
Turns out, on average -- it's huge. Most bands selling an album at a static price are seeing a stream rate averaging eighteen times higher than its sales rate. That means for every eighteen times a record is played in-browser, one sells. Curiously, that number is not too far off for free downloads, either; most free albums averaged streaming ten times more often than the downloads.
For those using the pay-what-you-want model, the average donation was under $5, so for anyone looking to put a record up at a static price that might be something to consider. We've seen Amazon's $3.99, one-day-only price skyrocket albums onto the Billboard charts before, so perhaps the under $5 mark is the sweet spot for sales.
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Although it's clear most bands are still seeing more streams of their albums than sales, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It does mean people are listening to the records; they're just not storing them very often -- or paying for them. Sales aren't bad; for many, we'd guess they're better than what they'd have otherwise. Quite a few mentioned they use Bandcamp more as a place to get music out for free, and to do so, they'll give out download vouchers at shows, or include them with physical media.