A confession: I’m still very much a 20th century man when it comes to collecting music. I prefer my tunes on CD or LP above all else. Still, technology has managed to drag me — kicking and screaming — into the digital age. I own an iPod, which is actually considered quaint these days. And while I refuse to embrace digital vehicles like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora(*), I have fallen madly in love with one musical app, called Bandcamp.
Bandcamp is a music app built for musicians, which is more than I can say for the other platforms. There are hundreds of thousands of musicians struggling to be heard around the world. The dearth of major music labels and the rigid nature of American radio formats makes this all but impossible. With Bandcamp, artists finally have a chance to be heard and rewarded for their efforts.
The app is painfully easy to use. Create an account for yourself, and start browsing. Pick a musical genre and dive in. Or you can stream one of the app’s playlists. You can focus on a particular style, an instrument, or a region of the world. Every genre has multiple sub-genres. The exploration is open-ended and seemingly endless.
The site allows you to stream an album four or five times, then asks you to buy it. And that’s only fair. The artists deserve to be paid for their efforts, and Bandcamp gives them 70 percent of the sale proceeds. If you want to think about making a purchase, you can put the album on your wishlist. The good people at Bandcamp will probably regret giving me that option. As of this writing, I have about 600 albums sitting there!
I haven’t heard all these records yet. I’ve read about them in assorted magazines, and they caught my interest. When time allows, I listen to each one. This can be time-consuming, but it is very worth it. (Some bands only allow a couple of tracks to be previewed from each album, particularly if said album has not been officially released yet.) Still, it got to the point where I listened to so many albums, I lost track of what I was hearing! In time, I realized I needed a system to help me keep things organized.
My method was simple: on a legal pad, I wrote down the name of the artist, the name of the album, and assigned it a rating of 1 to 5. A 1 meant I’d heard the album, and didn’t care for it. 2 means I’ve heard it, and I’ll give thought to hearing it again. 3 means I like the album, and will strongly consider purchasing a download. 4 means I will definitely download it, and will consider buying a CD. 5 means I am moving mountains to make the band’s CD part of my collection.
Purchasing a CD automatically entitles you to a download, which is a very nice feature. those downloads are placed in a collection within the app. You can make your collection public, and follow the collections of others using the app. Yes, you can follow my collection, which is cleverly listed under my name, Cedric Hendrix.
There will be more than a few Bandcamp discoveries discussed on this page. I look forward to sharing them with you. I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about the lack of quality music these days. I just wasn’t looking in the right place.
(*) I was a huge fan of Pandora until I learned that they, like the other streaming services, pay the artists fractions of pennies on the dollar per stream. It is all but impossible for an artist to make a living this way. Until that changes, I will avoid those sites like the plague.