Quick disclaimer here: I’ve been asked to join Bandcamp as a member of an advisory board. I’ve said yes.

Bandcamp is a platform for musicians to promote and sell their music online. They say their job is simply to power a site that’s yours. No banners, ads or Bandcamp logos everywhere. You get control over the design, your music, your name, etc. You retain all ownership rights, and they just hang out in the background handling the tech stuff. They don’t even take a cut of what you sell.

It’s all free and it’s very, very customisable. You can choose to give away your music, sell it for a set price, or let your fans name their price — it’s up to you. Here’s a screencast that explains everything.

Bandcamp Screencast from Ethan Diamond on Vimeo.

So… personally, I think this rocks. But then I’m pre-disposed to be biased here. According to the site’s founder, Ethan Diamond, the site was at least in part inspired by my 20 Things e-book.

But what I think of the site is irrelevant here. What you think of it is what’s important. That’s what this site is for nowadays: peer review.

Go have a look, see what you make of it, and report back here in the comments, if you’d be so kind.

What’s good about it? What could be improved? Is it something you think you would use? Do fries go with that shake?

Is the album dead?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say ‘no’ to this one, just as I said ‘no’ to the one about the CD being dead. That said, I think we’re going to have to redefine our notion of what constitutes an album.

There is no longer any medium-specific reason for popular songs to be a certain length (3 minutes, give or take for one side of a 78rpm shellac disc) nor for collections of songs to be able to fill two sides of a slab of vinyl (around 22 minutes per side), or for mixes to extend no further than about 80 minutes for a standard (red book) CD.

Digital means the death of scarcity in this regard, so you can have 3 hour songs if you wish, or albums with a million songs on them. I don’t think that necessarily means you should tend to those extremes – though I have to admit I’d get a perverse satisfaction if someone did (which is not a promise to actually listen to the whole thing).

But it does mean that you have the freedom to choose.


Are CDs dead?

CDsWhen things are new, and people are making a name for themselves by making bold assertions that sound futuristic, doom-laden or revolutionary, sometimes they fall into the trap of talking nonsense.

“CDs are dead!” is one example of this phenomenon.

Think about it. Does it really look like the CD is dead? Or even particularly struggling? Sales of mass-produced, commercially released popular music CDs are declining (though hardly dwindling to zero as some self-professed prophets of the digital age are trying to make us think), but the CD itself is alive and well. Thriving, actually.

I’ll explain.

When we talk about the CD, we’re usually talking about CDs for sale in high street shops. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘the mainstream media’, and when I say ‘the mainstream media’, I generally mean ‘articles that have largely been cut and paste from press releases issued by the major record labels’.

But a step back reveals a much richer and more diverse picture – in which the CD is not only alive and well, but is making a concerted attempt at taking over my house, and probably yours too.


Thanks for playing – here's your prize


Well, whatever you make of the Aqua vs Radiohead thing, it’s fair to say (as Maurice points out in the comments) it’s a dead end that, had it been a promotional exercise for Sebastiaan’s band, it would have been one that “would give Krusty the Clown an integrity attack”.

Maybe. Perhaps he owes me a beer – but for the most part, that’s not what this is about. This conversation was naturally occurring and involved no exchange of money. But thanks for the marketing pointers. Because actually, you’ve hit upon the hidden point of this whole discussion.

Even if anyone who’s ever touched upon critical theory would have bucketloads of fun ripping both my and Sebastiaan’s arguments to shreds – and it wouldn’t be too taxing to deconstruct and dismantle either position – the simple fact is that these are the sorts of conversations that people who really love music tend to find themselves in.


Subscriber music

I said I’d do some short blog posts, so here’s one.

I signed up to eMusic in January. Love it to bits. £8 a month, give or take, and I get around 3 or 4 albums (30 tracks). Used up my first 80 downloads (50 freebies to get me on board, plus the standard 30) in the space of a week. Spent the next two weeks aching to get back to the site and hoover up some more music.

Time passed. February arrived. Haven’t been back to the site. I’ve only just remembered, and I suspect it might get to the point where a month will pass and I’ll have missed my chance. Does anyone know if this is typical of something?

Also – other than the Francisco Aguabella record, which I’ve already chosen, can you recommend some interesting, unusual and genuinely delightful music that I should download from the site?

I’m doing a bit of a Latin, Cuban, Calypso, 50s Carribean thing at the moment. Pointers welcomed.

Aqua > Radiohead


In response to a comment that Sebastiaan from the band Ridinghood made elsewhere on this site today, that “the cultural significance of Aqua far outweighs that of Radiohead”…

It’s an assertion that warrants a lot more careful consideration than the typical and instinctive knee-jerk WTF response that most people will have when confronted with such a suggestion. Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen these acts to make this point if I was him. Perhaps I’d have gone with Rihanna and Melt Banana. Or Take That and Art Brut. Still…

I should say for the sake of openness here that I know Sebastiaan. That is to say, I met him once with his bandmate Rhiannon over coffee and sandwiches in Cardiff once, and I’ve had dealings with Rhiannon since. I have an enormous amount of respect for his level of craft when it comes to pop songwriting. He knows his stuff and is far and away one of the UK’s best hidden pop production talents.

But that doesn’t stop him being fundamentally and monumentally 32-flavours-of-wrong in this instance.