Who Are You Getting Embed With? SoundCloud vs. Bandcamp

In the golden years of MySpace, if you didn’t have a MySpace page, you
simply didn’t exist as an artist.

Things have changed, but not the final
goal: you still need to effectively position your music so that listeners
can find you easily, listen further, and hopefully buy your stuff.

>> This guest post is by Veronica Picciafuoco < Product

All three services allow you to register for free and host your music. A
song, or even an entire album can be streamed for free on any webpage via
an embeddable player. And here’s the first level of competition: how cool
the player looks.

SoundCloud’s ‘soundwave’ has been extremely successful, partly because
any listener with a SoundCloud account can comment on specific passages
within the track.  Bandcamp and Official.fm have more minimal players,
focused on basics like downloading and sharing the track.

> Pricing

So far, so good. But how much is this? Both SoundCloud and Official.fm run
a freemium business model: they offer the core feature (streaming and
sharing) for free, and then try to convert users into paid customers with
premium features (usually customization, hosting space and analytics.)

Bandcamp, instead, has a pure revenue-sharing model: they take a 15 percent
cut of revenues, or 10 percent on revenue above $5,000 (don’t forget to add
Paypal’s fee to that, though.)  For this reason, Bandcamp makes it
extremely easy to set up paid downloads (supporting discount codes, pay
what you want, etc.)  You can sell physical copies, and create something
close to a private record shop. That’s why Bandcamp allows you to upload as
many songs as you want, while the other two offer limited space, unless of
course, you pay.

And in pay-land, Official.fm is much cheaper than SoundCloud for a very
similar offering. Of course, SoundCloud enjoys a more established presence,
a richer community, and an infinite number of external apps that you can
integrate with the service. But how many of these features do you really
need?

> Features

The market of embedded players is twisted: although the final product is
very similar, there are a lot of differences, not only in user interface
and experience, but also in branding and positioning. A close-up on each
company is revelatory, particularly if we focus on weaknesses first.

> Official.fm

Cons

Official.fm is supposed to be a tool for professionals. When setting up
your profile, you have to specify if you’re an artist, media
professional, label or producer. This strategy might help to target a
userbase that is more likely to convert to premium, at the expense of
building a bigger and engaged community. Official.fm is also behind in
website usability and user adoption.

Pros

The Swiss company is getting some love from musicians since it does not
transcode the audio files like SoundCloud, thus preserving their original
quality. And, the premium features are cheaper and easier to understand.
Official is clearly a work in progress, though it already does an amazing
job of integrating tour dates, searching for music via tags and location,
and making the upload process smooth and easy (there’s even upload
software). It mirrors common SoundCloud features like playlist building,
following people, ‘hearting’ songs, and the dropbox feature.

> SoundCloud

Cons

Right now, SoundCloud’s biggest hurdle is monetization. Streaming is king
on SoundCloud, and the buy button is nothing but an external link. If you
have a Pro account, SoundCloud gives you information on who is listening to
your music and where, but tells you little about who bought your stuff.  An
insanely complicated pricing plan doesn’t help.

Pros

We’re not yet at the point where everyone is on SoundCloud, but these guys
claim three million registered users. Rather quickly, the website has
turned into a MySpace for an older and more sophisticated crowd, and its
product-focused, API-geared approach has paid off. As a result, SoundCloud
is the technology leader for music streaming and its rich market of apps is
another step toward this ambitious goal.

And there’s a killer app.  The dropbox, a virtual mailbox for tracks, has
turned out to be an amazing feature for media channels. Labels now have a
SoundCloud account to showcase their latest releases.

> BandCamp

Cons

Bandcamp is behind where SoundCloud is ahead, namely in audience
engagement.  One example: you can neither comment on nor ‘like’ music.  But
SoundCloud also excels in helping people discover the music they will
eventually buy. On Bandcamp, promotion and marketing is completely left to
the user (and you know that’s a lot of work.)

Pros

Bandcamp is the best at empowering users with sophisticated and insightful
data, higher customization opportunities (url, format, pricing) and a clear
focus on downloads. Your Bandcamp page wants to become your shop and
website, and gives you tools that span SEO, SoundScan submission and a
working shopping cart. It’s a different product and a different philosophy:
their goal is to make it easier for people to buy music, and, by taking a
percentage on the revenues, they perfectly align their interest with the
artists’.

> Conclusion

Which makes choosing between SoundCloud or BandCamp like choosing between
people knowing you, and people giving you money. In the end, you probably
need both, but are you willing to pay both subscription and fees on sales?
And what player will you embed? And how would you reconcile the double
analytics? Buyers, beware of the headaches. Official.fm might have a lot of
work to do, but it’s in a good position to grab the best of the other two
competitors if it plays its cards well.