Ready to start selling CDs and merch online? Bandcamp offers a customizable solution with the independent musician in mind.
CD sales were up industry-wide in 2021. That’s amazing news, particularly for indie artists, as physical media sales can make a big difference in how much money you earn as a musician.
You already know that CDs sound better than streams and downloads, offer a tactile experience for your fans, and, as we outlined in “There’s a CD revival in the making,” it looks like CDs are enjoying a renewed relevance and demand in the marketplace, following in the footsteps of vinyl records.
For indie musicians, at least anecdotally, most CD and vinyl sales come from hand-to-hand interactions at your live performances. But there are other ways to sell your physical products, and online retail can be a critical component of your CD sales.
Distributing through companies like CD Baby is one great way to get your CDs available for sale on Amazon (not to mention all the digital distribution opportunities it offers), and having your own online store on your artist website is a great way to maximize profits by minimizing your overhead and distribution costs, and applications like Merchbar, Shopify, and Magento have tools to help you build a CD, vinyl, and merch store yourself.
Bandcamp lets you sell CDs, vinyl, merch, and downloads
In addition to any of these — or indeed as your main music store — Bandcamp offers a platform that caters to music artists, making it simple to create a customized profile replete with your band’s imagery, music, merch, and more.
One advantage of Bandcamp is the built-in community of music artists and fans that already traffic the platform and purchase music and merch. According to its website, “In the past year, fans have bought 15 million digital albums, 7.1 million tracks, 2 million vinyl records, 900,000 CDs, 500,000 cassettes, 350,000 t-shirts, and tens of thousands of posters, buttons, zines, and other physical items.”
The company’s lifetime payouts are approaching one billion dollars (also listed on its website) and during the pandemic, when most artists lost their touring revenue because of the global shutdown, Bandcamp became even more of an indie darling with its “Bandcamp Fridays,” where one Friday a month, it paid out 100 percent of sales revenues to its artists without taking a commission.
Build your platform
As Bandcamp itself touts, “Set up shop and we connect you to a massive community of vinyl collectors, tapeheads, digital audiophiles, and people who just want to support their favorite artists and who appreciate that buying directly from [the artist] is one of the best ways to do that.”
Part of the appeal of Bandcamp is how easy it is to design your pages to look like your own website or an extension of your album art, and surely, the more customized and professional your profile, the more likely you’ll be to draw potential listeners in to hear what your music is all about.
Another feature that’s easy to like is the thorough and easy-to-follow help sections. The Bandcamp design tutorial includes details on the basics, like sizing your album art, setting your color palette, and getting your background image and header in place.
It also offers more details on how to further customize your pages — which include a music, merch, and community page — all of which entice viewers to listen, engage, purchase, and follow you. You can also post videos, and Bandcamp allows purchasers to share their email addresses so you can build a direct email list for future promotions.
Bandcamp allows you, the artist, to stream your music via the site and price your downloads, CDs, vinyl, and merch at whatever price point you want, though they do offer pricing advice if you’re looking for it. The site is free to use, and Bandcamp earns its revenue by taking a percentage of sales.
For digital items (e.g., downloads), Bandcamp takes 15 percent of the sale at the time of the transaction, and another four-to-six percent goes to transaction processor fees. The remainder goes to your PayPal account (which is mandatory to sell anything through the site). Once you eclipse $5,000 in sales, that rate drops to 10 percent.
For CDs, vinyl, merch, and other physical product, Bandcamp facilitates the transaction, but fulfillment is up to you. You can work with a third-party vendor or ship the orders yourself, but Bandcamp does not warehouse or ship product on your behalf. Transactions for physical product happen directly with your PayPal account, so Bandcamp basically tracks the orders and deducts its 10 percent share of physical sales from future digital transactions.
Promoting your music
As we’ve detailed in numerous posts on this blog, creating campaigns around your releases and staging them over time — a new single every four to six weeks leading up to an album release, for instance — is a great way to build momentum, have reason to promote something new, and grow your email list and community leading up to a full album release and promotion.
Bandcamp can facilitate this, allowing you to release singles one at a time and then combine them into one album, set release dates for singles and albums, feature different singles from an album, and allow some tracks to be be featured for streaming and download and have others only available for purchase via CD, vinyl, or cassette.
You can also set tracks up for private screening as part of a special promo or “members only” release, and you can create track or album codes to give fans free downloads as part of a promotion.
Bandcamp and Epic Games
If you haven’t heard the big news, Bandcamp recently sold to Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, and as Tony van Veen describes in the video below, “in a shock to the system, Bandcamp is no longer independent. So, why did Bandcamp sell? And what will happen next to the platform?”
Tony gives an insightful and rational take on the possible reasons for the sale, what it might mean for independent artists, and whether this should change the calculus for you considering selling your music — including CDs and vinyl — through Bandcamp.
(Spoiler, Tony’s advice is to “keep selling on your Bandcamp page and keep an eye on what they’re doing.”)
Watch more great videos on the Disc Makers YouTube channel.
Andre Calilhanna is a decent writer, drummer, and vocalist, as well as a terrible pianist and guitarist. He’s also a book editor and blog manager of the Disc Makers and BookBaby blog. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.