Are you a Rapper? Get on Bandcamp.

No, really. But let me explain myself first:

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time. I held off partially because I didn’t want to come off as being some jaded, negative, know-it-all music blogger, because I am not – but also because I don’t like whining about problems without presenting a solution – and at the time, I didn’t have a good one. I do now. This post is aimed at all artists, managers, or labels – from basement operations on up – and is a result of spending the better part of six years screwing around with rappidy raps. What I say here is not a surefire way to get radio/podcast airtime, nor is it a guarantee of any other sort, but I think it’s safe to say that some of the things I will mention here, if you pay attention, will actually help you get your music out there in the digital world.

So, let’s get into it:

As I’ve mentioned before, I get a lot of music-related email. Some of it from majors, some from indies, some from solo artists just starting out, but all with a basic common goal – to get me to listen to their music and put it on the show. When I started out, it was fun – an email from Warner here, two days later an email from some dudes in Chicago, then a week later someone from LA wanting to get my opinion on her beats…fast forward a few months, and we’re talking dozens and dozens of mp3s per day.

And I want to give everything a fair shake (particularly the independent artists), so like a year ago I made a sort of rule to submitting material – 2-3 mp3s, attached to the email. No onesheets, no bios, etc. If I like it, I get back to you. If not, no.

Often, however, I’ll get emails that make the following mistakes. For those of you artists following along at home, see if you can figure out why each of the below are not good promo looks:

What Not To Do

Q1. “Hey yo fam check my myspace – (link to myspace.com/whatever). Check out songs 2 and 4″
Q2. “Here is a link to my latest mixtape that you can download (link to a zipped file on Rapidshare)”
Q3. An email that actually does have the mp3, but when I open it up, it’s called STOOEY_FINAL.mp3, and it’s not tagged properly with artist info or anything.

Okay, put away your pencils and papers and close your test booklets – answer time.

And Why Not

A1: Myspace, 7 times out of 10, does not work. In the time I was waiting for Tom’s creation to open up and your song to load, I coulda made a sandwich. And then, if I liked it, I can’t download it to use on my mixtape/podcast/pass on to my billionaire CEO friend from middle school looking for a fresh new face to represent his soda company. For me, myspace links never get opened.

A2: Similar to the above – you’re assuming that a) I want to download your 72MB file, b) I have the time to waste unzipping and loading your tunes, and then searching for a song I like, and secret bonus c) Rapidshare/Sharespace/ZipMania is not screwed up today (this happens more often than you think). I mean, come on. You want me to wait 70 seconds to start downloading? Not a good look. Send me a couple mp3s, and include the link as an extra option – not as the only way to listen to your work.

A3. This should be obvious, but apparently it escapes a good 70% of the people that send me mp3s (including those from professional college radio promotion companies). If you’re going to send someone a file that is going to eventually be separated from the original email, you’d better make sure that it’s marked properly. This is as easy as opening up iTunes or any other program and writing your artist name, track name, album/EP name, and perhaps your email/site in the comments – and that’s it. But now, when I listen to STOOEY_FINAL.mp3 three months from now and decide that it’s brilliant, how am I supposed to remember who gave it to me? Or, if I pass it on to another DJ who decides they love it, how is he/she supposed to get at you to do some promo work? This is like passing out business cards without putting your name on the front.

And seriously – you would be surprised at how many people actually make their living at promoting (not making, promoting) music and fail the above steps. I’m not saying that failing to follow some obscure, unwritten code will result in your failure in the music industry – just that, and this is important – you don’t want to create any unnecessary barriers to your success. Why would you want to make it a challenge for someone who has devoted two or three minute of their time to listening to your music to actually listen to your music? Five minutes spent considering the time of your audience can really pay off, seriously.

And I say this because I’m nice. Seriously. Making music is hard enough without having to read promoters/bloggers/record label people’s minds.

So, the solution I promised: Bandcamp.

The other day, I got an email from a band that provided a quick, curse-word-laden, two-line introduction, and a link to their site on Bandcamp. Not knowing what it was, I clicked on the link. Within a matter of seconds, I was on their site – complete with a custom header, graphics, and their latest single playing in a flash player. The track itself was terrible, but I was interested in the main site, so I checked it out.

It turns out that Bandcamp is a new (like a month old?), but they’re doing pretty much everything right already.
You can watch the video below if you like:

Bandcamp Screencast from Ethan Diamond on Vimeo.

or just read on.

Here’s the basic rundown:
1. You can create a free profile for your band. This includes album artwork, lyrics, descriptions of your album/individual tracks, and so on.
2. You upload a single, lossless file (e.g. WAV or AIFF format) and they create .mp3, .ogg, .flac, and pretty much every format for every player, automatically (and tag them). There is a rabid minority of DJs and listeners that will be very, very happy about this.
3. You can let people stream as many songs as you want, you can let them download them for free, or set a price, or let your visitors name their price (ala Radiohead).
4. You can let visitors embed your tracks on their myspace/blog/whatever.

But instead of me trying to write about it, let’s see a good example of Bandcamp put into good use – check out Killer Mike’s Bandcamp site. Go ahead, flip through it, and keep in mind that this probably took someone a good hour (minus uploading time) to put together – hell, Mike may have done it himself. Also note that, as of now, you can download the whole record, or name your own price for it. This makes me, the listener, like Killer Mike a lot more right now. Are you getting the picture here?

Before I say the next thing, let me say this. This is a new service, and is free. As such, it deserves a bit of caution as far as expecations go, but still – it’s impressive. That said…

I do not endorse things easily, and you couldn’t even pay me to give a site/service this sort of recommendation, but here it is: as of right now, Bandcamp is officially the business. No competition, not even close. If you are a rapper, if you are in a group, if you a producer, if you are managing one of the three, then do yourself a favor, take ten minutes, and set yourself up on Bandcamp.

23 thoughts on “Are you a Rapper? Get on Bandcamp.

  1. Pingback: Feelin the Luv « Bandcamp Blog

  2. I would tell everyone to set up a site for themselves. By relying on ANY outside company MySpace, Bandcamp, Facebook, etc you are betting your business on the fact that these companies are going to always be around. I try to keep my destiny in my own hand as much as possible. If the company that’s hosting my site goes down, I can simply move to another host.

    These people depending solely on Myspace.. what will they do if Myspace dies…?

  3. Jimmy – feel free to keep them coming – none of em has caught my ear yet, that’s all. seriously though, keep it up.

    Universal – haven’t heard much from you all in a minute! Switched up the label name?

    To the point though, in principle, I agree. That’s why I broke off of a very easy and probably lucrative (especially given how early I got into it) podcast deal to run my own site. I don’t like anyone else telling me how to run things.

    To clarify, though, I didn’t mean to throw out any site you already have. It’s just that the vast majority of groups/artists are musical artists – not designers or programmers – and even if they are, I’d much rather them spend time making quality music than making a pretty website.

    It’s not really about relying soley on one outside entity (though even if you have a host, you are still relying on someone to not screw up your files – always backup!), but about using tools available to you. Right now, if I was managing or in a group, I would easily use Bandcamp to promote my music (sending links to radio stations/bloggers/etc).

    I’ll use your site as an example – it’s dope that you all have a blog/site, but as a new listener or radio programmer, it’s not optimal. After opening your site, it took me around 30-45 seconds to figure out where I could possibly listen to some sample music, and then after I figured out that I could only get a 75mb zipfile, I got bored and closed the window (see Q2 in the main post). It takes too long to get to what people want – which is the music. Once you’ve got them hooked, then they’ll read your blog and maybe spend some money.

    The young generation has no patience, and you gotta take that into consideration. In your case, I would recommend that you keep the site, but throw some music up on Bandcamp – it can’t hurt anything.

    I should hit these dudes up for some money, this is starting to sound like an ad…

  4. Dex,
    Yea I switched the name up… I got more people to open up my press releases and/or listen to the music because they think that I’m part of “Universal Records” as opposed to the problems I was having with Hoodgrown.

    “I could possibly listen to some sample music, and then after I figured out that I could only get a 75mb zipfile,”

    Actually, there is a player all the way at the bottom in each page for releases. In hindsight… I guess I’m going to move that up to the top…

    stop by in a few because i wanna get another joint on your mixshow… it did wonders for me.

  5. ” It’s just that the vast majority of groups/artists are musical artists – not designers or programmers – and even if they are, I’d much rather them spend time making quality music than making a pretty website.”

    Point taken!

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  7. It’s messed up when you get 1000 songs and only 2 are worth listening too.Mp3 files are one thing , but whole cd’s??? forget about it, I could tell you stories…

  8. brer – you’re telling me. i’ve thrown CDs out the window before.

    Universal – oddly enough, there are some people out there that are both musically and technically inclined – I think I read somewhere that Jay Electronica is pretty decent with Photoshop (I, on the other hand, can’t even draw a straight line in that program – no exaggeration. Fireworks all the way) – but I guess if you’re gonna be a photographer in the 08 you kinda have to be. There’s a pretty respected rapper out here in Japan named Zeebra who apparently learned Applescript well enough to tweak iTunes to his will inside of a few months or so.

    And even for me – there are times when I realize that while I could spend time programming something out, it’s best to not reinvent that wheel and spend my time on something more important.

  9. My day job is a graphic/web designer so I kinda take that for granted. But I’m you’ve heard that imeem is in trouble now. Looks like they’re trying to be sold.. who knows how this is going to effect the people (supposedly 30 million) who are registered with them. This is the kind of thing that scares me. These web 2.0 companies don’t seem stable enough.

  10. Pingback: how to promote yourself as an artist 101 » Ouxu

  11. Corey – long time, fam! And yeah, I’m sure at this point you know exactly what I’m talking about…

    Sara – pants in the on position! I know, it’s been forever, my bad…

    Univ – it’s not a dead horse until this sort of thing is common sense!

    hm, though. Nothing terribly original about the article. One of those “list” cookiecutter jawns. For those who don’t feel like clicking the link, I’ll paraphrase. He lists 5 “don’t”s. I’ve put my thoughts on those “don’t”s below:

    1. Don’t use myspace as your sole website.
    2. Don’t use myspace as your email.
    3. Don’t have a background image.
    4. Don’t embed lots of media.
    5. Don’t write lots of text.

    My thoughts:
    1. If you can help it, that’s a given. If you for some reason can’t make another site, make sure that your contact info (this includes phone number of the member of your group that is least likely to be stoned out of his/her mind when someone calls trying to book you).

    2. This is a given. If you are using anything other than gmail, you are making a mistake – if for no reason other than the fact that you can track conversations across months (or years). See Ep 65 – The Blueprint episode for a mention on this.

    3. If you can do it without it
    a) taking a huge load time
    b) getting in the way of reading your text, then
    go ahead.

    4. As they say on those fill-in-the-bubble joints, strongly disagree. If I go to somebody’s myspace page, it’s not because I want to read comments left by groupies or random self promoters, it’s because I want to hear/see the artist. Put your best (read: just a couple) youtube/vimeo/whatever videos up, sure. As long as you can keep things clean, no issue.

    5. This is a fine line. If you have interesting things to say, go for it. If it’s a lame one-sheet/press thing, no. Actually, putting those things up can actually achieve the opposite of the desired effect.

    My thoughts, anyway.

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