If streaming is taking over the music industry, where do indies fit in? Welcome to the alterna-streaming revolution at Bandcamp.
Last year, Bandcamp announced that they’ve paid out $150 million to indie artists in the past 8 years. This year, Bandcamp followed up with even better news for indie artists.
According to a post on the company’s blog, Bandcamp digital albums sales grew 20%, tracks 23%, and merchandise 34%. This marks a striking contrast between the indie scene and the rest of the music industry. In line with 2016 total sales industry-wide, vinyl led the way with a 48% growth over 2015 numbers. CDs also grew 14% as well as cassettes at 58%.
According to a Nielsen report, digital album sales fell 20%, tracks 25%, and physical albums 14% in the mainstream market. In addition, in regards to physical media, Midia warned,
“At some stage, perhaps in 2017, we will see streaming in many markets hit the glass ceiling of demand that exists for the 9.99 price point. Additionally the streaming-driven download collapse and the impending CD collapses in Germany and Japan all mean that it would be unwise to expect recorded music revenues to register uninterrupted growth over the next 3 to 5 years.”
The collapse in physical and digital music formats come from an industry-wide push towards subscription music rental offerings. While the music industry celebrates over 100 million paid music subscriptions, the news poses a serious problem for fans, labels, and indie artists. Bandcamp explained why,
“As more people subscribe to music rental services, the already paltry rates paid to artists are going down (and no, artists don’t necessarily make it up in volume). But it’s not only artists who are struggling. The companies built solely around subscription music rental continue to struggle as well. Some say the model is simply broken. The success of Netflix is often used as a counterargument, but the music business is not the movie business.”
However, the company cited the push towards a subscription model as harmful for music as an art form.
“Longer term, if subscription music rental can’t work as a standalone business, then it will only exist as a service offered by corporate behemoths to draw customers into the parts of their businesses where they do make money, like selling phones, service plans, or merchandise. And when the distribution of an entire art form is controlled by just two or three nation-state-sized companies, artists and labels will have even less leverage than they do now to set fair rates, the music promoted to fans will be controlled by a small handful of gatekeepers, and more and more artists will be hit with the one-two punch of lower rates and less exposure. The net effect for music as a whole is worrisome.”
Yet, Bandcamp keeps growing steadily with its business model. Over 2,000 independent labels came on board, with hundreds of thousands of artists joining the company just last year. 2017 looks solid for the privately held company as well as independent artists who have teamed with them. The company finished the blog post offering artists an alternative to mainstream labels.