Hey everyone. Below is a piece I wrote for a marketing blog discussing musicians as direct marketers. I decided to reprint it here because it has hip hop relevance. I became aware of the Bandcamp service because a few artists I like (or wanted to hear) have used it to host their music. Specifically Elzhi, Duck Down Records, Oddisee, and Blueprint have used it, and they are the very artists I had in mind when discussing how artists are taking control of their careers in new ways. Read the post below and let me know any thoughts you have.
Being a big music fan, I spend a lot of time on different websites and blogs that discuss music and post new songs by artists that I like (or that I've never heard of - a lot of times this is how I, and others, get turned on to new music). These are not sites that pirate music and offer for free what artists hope that you, as fans, will pay for.
In fact, these websites tend to function more as a "street team" for promotion, only for the Internet. They get the word out on new artists, post links to new songs that were sent to them by the artists themselves, and allow people to discuss what they've heard in the comment sections. Many sites even have a link next to the free download for a song that allows a viewer to buy the song or album on iTunes or Amazon. As many of you are aware, having this convenient link right there for the reader makes it much more likely that they will choose to support the music by purchasing it.
Lately, I've noticed that more and more artists are taking this promotional concept a step further for themselves and becoming smarter at marketing their own product. These entrepreneur-minded musicians are using a free offering as a means to gather email lists of those interested in their music and market to them directly in the future. They are identifying their target market that will help them drive sales of their songs and concert tickets with very little expenditure.
Let me explain what I mean with an example. Instead of just posting a song or two here and there on their website and on the music sites I mentioned above, a few artists I like are now offering what have been dubbed 'FreEps' - or, a free EP, a shorter collection of songs usually meant to drum up interest for the forthcoming full-length album, or LP. They send this link out to music websites in their genre to post for their readers. Only instead of being taken to a random third party file-sharing site to get the file without giving any information, the fan is taken to a website set up by the artist, such as Bandcamp, when they click on the download link.
Once on the site, a pop-up appears asking the visitor to enter their email address and zip code. The link to the music is then emailed to the visitor. And, just like that the music fan gets some free music, and the musician has an email address (and region via zip code) which they can message with any updates they have to give or offers to make in the future. Now how easy and beneficial is that?
If a person ends up not liking the music they heard, it is very easy to unsubscribe from the mailing list. After all, why would the artist want to keep someone on their list who doesn't like the product anyway? But, those that do like it are now in place to receive offers which they may not have received otherwise, and be more inclined to engage with the artist in the future. For example, in addition to more free downloads, I have received invitations to album release parties and concerts through email. Because I offered up my zip code as well, I can be notified if there is an event in my area - direct marketing without the expense of advertisements or snail mail.
These are classic marketing concepts updated for an Internet age. This example of how an artist may use Bandcamp is just what was apparent to me after a few brief experiences. The site actually offers a lot more than what I wrote about here. Much of it works like a stat counter for a blog, so artists can keep better track of their audience. But, the site also allows an artist to charge for some songs and not others, give away a lower-quality version of a song while charging for the higher-quality, allow the fan to specify what they would like to pay, post lyrics and cover art, and much more.
If you are interested, you can visit their site at the link below and watch their video.