Earlier this year, as the pandemic strangled the live events economy, the artist-oriented platform Bandcamp decided to waive its own cut on sales of music and merch on Friday, March 20th. The one-off sale was such a success that the website soon extended it to the first Friday of every month in 2020. With the year almost over, the results are in: artists earned more than $40 million on Bandcamp Fridays in 2020. And since the vaccine isn’t widely available yet, and live music unlikely to return for several months, the platform has announced four more Bandcamp Fridays extending into 2021.
While competitors like YouTube and Spotify have long been criticized for their miniscule streaming payout rates, Bandcamp has helped normalize consumers paying for music again. On those special Fridays, the site claims that “93% of your money reaches the artist/label (after payment processor fees).” Some 800,000 fans took advantage of that to help support musicians, which is how the program put $40 million into the pockets of artists and labels.
The promotion will be picking up again in 2021, at least to start. The first Friday in January is New Year’s Day, so Bandcamp Fridays will be taking that month off. But it resumes on February 5th, and will continue on March 5th, April 2nd, and May 7th.
Apart from first Fridays, Bandcamp treats musicians fairly on every other day that ends in ‘Y’. For non-promotional purchases, “an average of 82% reaches the artist/label.” That’s one of the reasons Bandcamp has continued to grow in popularity. According to the Los Angeles Times, monthly sales up are up 122% year-over-year. What do you know? It pays to be kind.
As for its competitors, Spotify’s CEO recently put the blame on artists, saying, “you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.” The Musician Workers Union thinks the problem has to do with Spotify doling out somewhere in the realm of $0.00348 per stream, and has launched the “Justice at Spotify” campaign demanding a full cent. The big green circle has so far declined, but they did make the questionable offer to boost artists’ algorithm placement in exchange for reduced royalties.
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