Bandcamp Opens Up Artist Patronage (You Can Call Them Subscriptions) to Everyone

Bandcamp, probably the best-known post-Myspace sales and profile platform for nascent bands and labels (though it attracts big names, too) today made its subscription service available to anyone interested. The option was first revealed last November, before launching as an undercover beta this year.

With the service, artists can charge their fans an annual or monthly fee of any price, giving those fans access to all future music they upload. As well, artists can choose whether to offer certain portions of their back catalogs to subscribers, and offer subscriber-only access to both recordings and merchandise (exclusive releases and/or discounts). The company also offers a subscriber-only social page, similar to a blog, designed to keep fans connected to the process and progress of a creator (similar in spirit to the follow-up emails you receive after a Kickstarter campaign is successful). The customization is robust throughout.

The pitch is similar to Patreon, a site which gives artists similar options in order to support their careers. The difference lies in Bandcamp's established storefronts which, the company says, have generated $122 million since the company's launch.

The thinking behind the subscription play was, as Bandcamp writes, intuitive. "Our own experience contributing to crowdfunded projects was that we were motivated by a desire to help an artist we loved, not by a wish for a t-shirt, signed plastic disc, or potpourri sachet. Our hunch is that your biggest fans are less interested in funding studio time or mastering for just one album than they are in supporting you in a sustainable way."

For its troubles, Bandcamp takes 17.9 percent of an artist's subscription fee -- that includes a 2.9 percent payment processing fee, with an additional $0.30 charge. If an artist has moved $5,000 or more, the company's cut drops to 10 percent, plus processing fees. (Another notable difference between Bandcamp and Patreon, for creators, is the 5 percent, plus processing fees, that Patreon charges. It might be that, with mobile streaming baked-in and with more robust options, is worth the extra 10 percent to creators.)

The combination of a traditional store front, with its well-known "pay what you like" approach, and a patronage model could prove to be a very powerful one, and may result in significant revenue generation for the musicians that most need it. (As one person sharply pointed out today, the service is ideal for those who create serialized works as well, like podcasts. Or novels, read aloud?) When coupled with the analytics currently underway at the similarly named Bandpage, which focus on optimizinghow and when fans are pitched a sale, the future could be looking relatively rosy for aspiring artists -- at least when compared to the immediate past.