The Beatles broke up by 1970, but since then, they've still managed to release a few new songs, like Free As A Bird and Real Love.. and even the new music video for Words Of Love (released this year). Maybe it's a bit creepy to hear new songs coming from a band that hasn't existed in decades, but at least these guys were real people (and not some computer-generated pop stars). Imagine how much more music with the Beatles would be available if mashups of their songs weren't considered copyright infringement? Beyond the infamous Grey Album, check out some of these creative Beatles mashups.
A common complaint from the legacy movie and music industries is that when people Google things like "watch movies online," unauthorized sources rank higher than legitimate ones (for some crazy reason, it seems like people prefer comprehensive libraries of unrestricted links over stale selections of geoblocked videos). Moreover, they complain about autocomplete terms like "torrent," completely missing the fact that those are caused by people searching that exact thing, not the other way around.
So it's great to see the people at Bandcamp doing the exact opposite and celebrating the prevalence of those dirty pirate keywords. They looked at their own analytics and noticed a lot of sales being generated by search terms that would send your average RIAA lobbyist running to Congress:
For example, just this morning someone paid $10 for an album after Googling "lelia broussard torrent." A bit later, a fan plunked down $17 after searching for "murder by death, skeletons in the closet, mediafire." Then a $15 sale came in from the search "maimouna youssef the blooming hulkshare." Then a fan made a $12 purchase after clicking a link on music torrent tracker What.CD. Then someone spent $10 after following a link on The Pirate Bay, next to the plea "They sell their album as a download on their website. You can even choose your format (mp3, ogg, flac, etc). Cmon, support this awesome band!"
That last part is another example of how Mike described Louis CK's recent experiment: be polite, be awesome and be human. CK's video was also available on the Pirate Bay, and as someone here pointed out, it spurred several users to comment with links and encourage people to buy, while others offered explanations for their decision to use the torrent. Though there can be no doubt that in both cases some "hardcore" pirates just didn't give a damn, there are far more people who just want to be polite, awesome and human and support the artists who do the same.
Bandcamp recognizes that people who search for torrents and file locker links are, at the core, just fans looking to get some new music. By focusing on serving those fans, they don't need to worry about illegitimate sources -- after all, in most cases they already provide a superior option:
We see these sales as proof that Bandcamp can effectively compete with filesharing and other free distribution platforms by a) giving fans a clear, easy way to directly support the artist, and b) offering them a better user experience. Our favorite recent example of this was an $8 sale that started with the search “milosh flac -torrent.” So here was a fan looking for a Milosh record, wanted a high quality flac, but didn’t want to have to sift through a bunch of torrent sites. And that led them right to Bandcamp, and right to putting money in the artist’s pocket. Beautiful.
Beautiful indeed. When you tear down walls instead of constantly building new ones you can actually turn search terms like "torrent" to your advantage, rather than resorting to SEO-by-lawsuit. Bandcamp is yet more proof that you can "compete with free," if you give people an attractive alternative.
My friend Tom alerts us to a blog post by the indie European band Uniform Motion (which he found via a blog post by Jason Weinberger), in which the band lays out clearly the cuts they get from selling their music on various services. It's pretty detailed, and since the world is often starved for this kind of data, we're going to share it, though, we also suggest that you check out the band's own Bandcamp page, and will embed the streaming player from there right here, before the content, so you can hit play and listen to the (excellent) music while you read the rest of the post.
Unfortunately, you will not find our record in any record stores. The reason for this is because we do not have a record label, which means we have no access to distribution. Without a distributor, you cannot sell your CD’s in record stores. If you work for a distributor and you’re interested in carrying our CD or Vinyl, or both, feel free to contact us!
If you choose to purchase our music or use one of the ‘legal’ streaming services, here’s an overview of where the pennies go.
If you listen to the album all the way through, we’ll get 0.029 EUR.
If you listen to the album 10 times on Spotify, we’ll get 0.29 EUR
If you listen to it a hundred times, we’ll get 2.94 EUR
If you listen to the album 1,000 times (once a day for 3 years!) we’ll get 29.47 EUR!
If you use the free version of Spotify, it won’t cost you anything. Spotify will make money from ads. If you use any of the paid versions, we have no idea how they carve up the money. They only disclose this information to the Major record labels...
We’ve been getting 0.006 EUR/play from them. That’s 0.052 EUR/album play. If you listen to the album 10 times on Deezer, we’ll get 0.52 EUR. If you listen to it a hundred times, we’ll get 5.2 EUR. If you listen to the album 1,000 times (once a day for 3 years!) we’ll get a whopping 52 EUR!
If you use the free version of Deezer, it won’t cost you anything and Deezer will make money from the ads. If you use any of the paid versions, we have no idea how they carve up the money either.
The album will cost you 8.91 EUR to buy from Apple.
There’s a 70-30% split there too, so we will keep 6.28 EUR/album.
That being said, it costs us 35 EUR/year to keep an album on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon (105 EUR per year for all 3 of our albums!) so we don’t make any money until 24 people have bought a digital copy of the album on iTunes, or 150 single songs, or if we get tens of thousands of listens on Spotify! In most cases, it’s actually more economically viable not to sell the music at all.
But what about if you buy the Digital version directly from us?
We allow people to pay what they want for the digital version. If you choose to pay 5 EUR, Paypal takes 0.37 EUR, Bandcamp takes 0.75 EUR. Uniform Motion keeps 3.88 EUR. it doesn’t cost us anything to have a page on bandcamp
If you decide to pay nothing, well, we get nothing, but at least you didn’t give money indirectly to major record labels, which seems to be the case with Spotify!!
If you buy a CD, directly from us for 10 EUR, Paypal takes 0.515 EUR, Bandcamp takes 1.5 EUR. So there’s slightly less than 8 EUR left for us. But hold on a second, it costs a fair bit to make the CD.
The CD itself costs 1.2 EUR, the booklet costs about 50 cents, the CD packaging is 1.8 EUR and the sticker on the front costs 35 cents.
That’s a total of 3.65 EUR
So in reality, there’s 4.34 EUR left for us.
If you buy a 12” Vinyl from us at 15 EUR, Bandcamp takes 2.25 EUR, Paypal takes 0.646 EUR so there’s 12.10 left. The cost of the Vinyl itself is 3.06 EUR
The labels cost 1.3 EUR. For a total of 4.36 EUR
So there’s 7.75 EUR left for us.
However, we had to press 250 of these (because that’s the minimum order), so it’s very unlikely we’ll make any money on them.
We need to sell 72 copies before we break even on the vinyl edition. We’ve sold about 30 so far.
If we break even, we’ll lower the price a little bit. :)
Always nice to see this kind of detailed info shared so people can get a better sense of the wider economics. What really comes through from all of this is that, as has pretty much always been the case with all but a handful of top acts, musicians don't make much money from selling music. At least, as an indie band, Uniform Motion actually does make some money from all of these methods. If it was a signed band, they'd almost certainly be making zilch on each play or sale, because the label would keep it until they "recouped," which for nearly every signed act is approximately never.
However, it does drive home the need for ancillary revenue streams -- such as performances. Performance revenue has issues too, but to make a living making music, it seems pretty clear that most acts need multiple revenue streams.
Also, shame on Spotify for keeping the details of what happens to subscription revenue secret from all but the big labels.
The common wisdom you hear these days is that the concept of the "album" is dying thanks mainly to the ability to obtain single songs (whether through legal means or not). However, some are beginning to challenge that thinking. Bandcamp, a fantastic service for musicians we've discussed before notes that their sales data bucks the trend: full albums outsell single song downloads on the site. There are a few reasons why:
Most Bandcamp artists are indie and attract fans more interested in complete works than the average Hannah Montana/Lady Gaga flavor of the moment consumer
You can listen before you buy via Bandcamp. Not just 30 second samples, but rather the whole album.
iTunes and others price most CD's at $10. Bandcamp artists have found that name your own price with a $5 minimum is a real sweet spot.
iTunes and others encourage single track purchases with page layouts, buy buttons and featured tracks
This is definitely interesting. I know that I'm in the camp of folks who never buy single tracks, but always look to buy the full albums of bands I like, so that makes sense. But the really interesting point is the third bullet: if albums were priced closer to $5, people would likely be a lot more interested in buying. Again, this shouldn't be a surprise. When the old Allofmp3.com let people buy albums for sums between $2 and $5, it seemed to be quite popular -- even compared to the ability to just download albums. It certainly adds a lot of credence to the idea that one of the big problems the recording industry faced was really the super high prices of CDs.
It's definitely been cool to see various musicians embracing aspects of the business models that we discuss around here concerning using free music to improve your business model -- but what would be even more exciting is seeing an ecosystem of companies start to spring up in order to support and enable this type of activity (and, no, we're not talking about MySpace Music). For a while we've seen platforms like Sellaband, ArtistShare and BandStocks, that help in some ways, and now we're seeing a new generation of platform providers. Earlier this year, we mentioned TopSpin's platform, which appears targeted at bigger bands, providing them with a platform for embracing these new models. And now, Mathew Ingram points us to the launch of Bandcamp, which makes it easy for a band to set up their own website.
It was created by the guys who did Oddpost, which became Yahoo Mail. Basically, it's a system to make it incredibly easy for bands to set up their own website, streaming all their tracks (none of this 30-second-soundbite stuff), and then offer a variety of ways for people to download the music -- either for free, for a set price or at pay-what-you-want. The site takes care of all of the encoding (you just upload lossless files and it creates a bunch of different options). Basically, it's designed to give the bands a lot more options than just having a MySpace page. Also, the concept of sharing the music is a big part of it, as the songs come with embeddable players that can easily be placed on websites with a few clicks. And, for the band, it provides detailed stats, including how many people are downloading each track (including whether they completed the download) and where the songs are being embedded.
As a critique, right now, all of the band sites I'm seeing on Bandcamp look generically similar, which may be a limitation. Also, you would think some community tools would be useful, as well as enabling other aspects of new business models beyond just selling music (such as buying tickets to concerts, or tiered support offerings). However, obviously the site just launched, so hopefully these types of improvements are in the plans. As an example, you can check out the Bandcamp page for the band Monolith, or see the embedded player here:
Either way, what's exciting is to see this infrastructure being built up to support bands embracing these types of models. For too long, people have complained that what we talk about is too difficult because bands just want to make music, rather than focus on building websites. Well, now they don't have to worry so much about that part.
The really sad part, though, is that the things that TopSpin and Bandcamp are doing are exactly what the big record labels should have been doing five or even ten years ago to help bands embrace the opportunity of the internet. Instead, they continued to claim the internet was a threat, and have suffered because of it. Luckily, these days, if an old obsolete business insists on ignoring opportunities, others can step in and provide those services instead.