The relative inconveniences and downsides of the Bandcamp experience

Some recent posts have noted that, despite a decimated catalog and long-lingering doubts about artist compensation, the eMusic site is pretty “slick.”  After I started making more Bandcamp purchases last year, the shortcomings of its site became clearer, and I meant to list them a long time ago.  Better late than never, and while this may better go to their tech support staff I doubt I’d get a response there or that it’d result in any reforms.  So here’s venting, w/ eMu’s functionality often as a counterpoint…

After a purchase, settings default to follow what’s purchased —> unsolicited spam and announcements for every new addition to the catalog.  If you buy a diverse selection and don’t want to receive a ton of email, it takes quite a lot of clicking to unsubscribe.

No advanced search —> artists & labels w/ the same or very similar names get jumbled or missed altogether (hard to tell if one is “the right one” by a particular name).  What’s the point of having a “FAN” page for an artist?  It just gets one’s hopes up that they’ll have something to purchase.  Will a lot of “fans” entice the artist to list their discography?  Doubtful.

Can’t usually tell when something is pre-order only (put release date w/ artist/band name and album title!).  Also have to click to see if something is a single or an LP (EPs, for some reason, are more likely to be labeled in the title).  Even if titles labeled “Single” on eMu are often not just one track, they’re equally likely to be a bargain EP, which is nice.

Artist or Label?  Due to fees for registering as a label, many labels apparently register as artists, and this is confusing.  When registered as an artist, there’s no “compilations, etc.” sorting option.

Sometimes a search for a label will just go straight to a single release page, leading one to believe there’s no page for the label as a whole.  Sometimes one then has to click on Discography to see all the releases, a cumbersome circumnavigation...I'd rather be taken to the catalog with the single release in it.

Pushing ENTER to search for something rather than waiting for search suggestions means one has to return to the homepage to get suggestions in a search again.  Search suggestions are capped at five.  Search results given in # of pages rather than # of results.

The search bar disappears entirely in some self-contained label shops, requiring one to click the back button (or if one’s in deep, to re-enter the Bandcamp home page URL b/c there’s no link to it).

Unlike eMusic, a new tab has to be opened if you want to sample/stream something but surf elsewhere.

Annoyances of Bandcamp browsing from Covid-19 benefit day.   I went through several on the list that said they’d be NYP but turned out not to be.  It’s fine for people who know what they’re looking for, but not so great for exploring new labels.  Some titles are pre-order only, pretty annoying that you can’t filter catalogs only for what’s available now.  I’m not going to pre-order stuff I’ve never heard of.  Sampling whole albums is clearly better to hear the whole thing before taking the plunge on a whole album, but although 30-second samples can give the wrong impression of a track (or especially an album), it does make snap judgments for faster browsing easier (and yes I know I can just cut off listening any time, i.e. at 30 seconds, but every click is more work).  I presume the special promo is making the load time for sampling albums so slow…as a result I only bought stuff I knew I’d like or had heard of before.  Actually trying before I buy will have to wait for a day w/ less traffic when Bandcamp is taking a cut again.  It would be the height of irony if the site went under and had to adjust up its cut and lost labels/artist as a result of everyone stampeding the site on these promo days.

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Comments

  • I like bandcamp a lot, and think its site also has a lot of design strengths that are superior to several iterations of emusic’s site, but these are all fair points. To expand on your first one, I am encountering situations where a person (I am looking at you, Lee Anthony Norris, among others) publishes music under several aliases AND runs multiple labels. I understand from their point of view why they would want to announce a new release to all of their mailing lists, but it results in me currently getting four or five distinct bandcamp emails from them containing the same announcement. There should be a way of aggregating this.
    (Search was always hit or miss at emusic and goes from bad to worse at Amazon).
  • I’d just contact the artist and tell them that non-aggregating is aggravating.
  • Nothing to the point of serious frustration or not wanting to use the site, but there's a fine line between nitpicking and trying to maximize the efficiency of the user interface.  An advanced search option or better linking of related artists (something like what AMG does) would probably solve the aggregation, no?
  • edited January 25
    I would assume that most of the time, the reason you don't see an artist's projects aggregated in one listing is because the artist doesn't want you to see them aggregated as one listing. And the same is true of many, if not most, of the other inconsistencies and inconveniences in the UI — the artists have control over a lot of that stuff and they're going to set each release's page up to benefit themselves as they see fit. Sometimes that results in really awful-looking or unreadable color schemes and what-not, but that's their business model.
    Bandcamp presumably isn't going to invest in features that they know artists won't like and/or want, either. An artist would probably never want someone else's music playing in the same tab that's displaying their discography, for example, so Bandcamp doesn't even bother offering that. And the artists would probably rather have people use tags to look for things rather than text searches, because artists can choose their own tags, but they can't control what users enter into search-page text boxes. That's probably why Bandcamp doesn't invest in a better internal search engine, along with the cost, whatever that might end up being.
    I'm not saying the inconveniences are a good thing; they're not. I'm just saying that from the artists' perspective, most of these are features, not bugs.
  • I like the tag searching and that the tags are not predefined in a small set (so you don’t get the Amazon thing where ambient music is “dance and DJ”) - I think it’s the best way to randomly browse bandcamp. On bandcamp, for example, I can browse all the music tagged as being by bands from my city. I think part of the trick is not carrying emusic search habits over to bandcamp but figuring out how bandcamp is meant to work.
  • I love Bandcamp. It's not perfect, and I have noticed some of the search-related issues noted above, but they do not detract from my enjoyment of the site. And even if it was a logistical nightmare, I would continue to buy there because: (1) most of my purchase price goes to the artist; (2) try before you buy; and (3) no price disparity for lossless files.
  • True, were I not conditioned by eMusic search protocols, I would be unlikely to notice many of the inconveniences.  Interesting point about artists wanting to keep all their listings separate.
  • I'm with @Muggsy , not sure it has ever occurred to me to quibble with the Bandcamp user experience. Head and shoulders above anything else out there...above and beyond the fact that artists/labels actually get paid.
  • Bandcamp is my go to now and unlike other music sources not only do they pay the artists a very good rate but also pay their taxes. I would rather pay with them, not buy as much but feel good about doing it. its great that all purchases also go straight to the app so I can play it on my Sonos without much downloading problems and also that I can have a FLAC download for the same price.
  • edited January 31
    I'll take Bandcamp's search over eMusic's any day. Try this. Search in each for William Parker. In eMusic that is spread over at least 8 different artist names (William Parker, William Parker Quartet, William Parker and Hamid Drake, etc.) with different albums under each name. In Bandcamp searching for William Parker and clicking on his artist name brings up all his entries, whether Quartet, Raining on the Moon, Little Huey, etc. If you didn't know which version of his name eMusic decided to place a particular album you might have to click through several names (and you might not know what album title eMusic decided to use either so searching by album title might be fruitless). In Bandcamp they are all there under one artist name. And please don't "buy" any of Parker's albums at eMusic; he gets no money from that purchase - have respect for artists and buy where they get paid for what they produce.

    I think an important difference is that no one at eMusic actually organizes anything. Everything that is "ingested" just gets thrown into the pile without any further analysis. At Bandcamp, labels and/or artists "curate" what they have. It makes a difference.
  • I can't compare it to eMusic, but I love Bandcamp for just about all of the positive reasons above - and I'm reminded today of how accurately they peg my interests when it comes to new releases - and that's pretty hard for anyone I've ever "known."
  • omnifoo said:

    Some titles are pre-order only, pretty annoying that you can’t filter catalogs only for what’s available now.  I’m not going to pre-order stuff I’ve never heard of.  Sampling whole albums is clearly better to hear the whole thing before taking the plunge on a whole album, but although 30-second samples can give the wrong impression of a track (or especially an album), it does make snap judgments for faster browsing easier (and yes I know I can just cut off listening any time, i.e. at 30 seconds, but every click is more work).  I presume the special promo is making the load time for sampling albums so slow…as a result I only bought stuff I knew I’d like or had heard of before.  Actually trying before I buy will have to wait for a day w/ less traffic when Bandcamp is taking a cut again.  It would be the height of irony if the site went under and had to adjust up its cut and lost labels/artist as a result of everyone stampeding the site on these promo days.

    I think every pre-order that I have encountered at Bandcamp has at least one track to listen to. And unlike at eMusic, "trial" tracks at Bandcamp are complete, not just brief snippets. By the way, pre-order is important for vinyl buyers and those wanting custom cd versions as these often sell-out quickly - neither of these formats available at eMusic, of course. eMusic will go under (has gone under for all practical purposes) long before Bandcamp. I'm not losing sleep worrying about Bandcamp disappearing, but you should worry about your payment to eMusic vanishing in the middle of the night.
  • ...Playing full tracks, and usually full albums! Almost hard to realize that 30-second samples used to be the standard.
    I imagine organizing by label would be of significant value to the labels themselves. When I find something I like, I almost always check out what else is on the label. I've been on Spotify for the last couple months, and being unable to search/view by label is a real deficit. Granted, even among those who consider themselves music fans, many pay no attention to labels
  • edited February 1
    ⇨ Careening off topic, but as to labels on Spotify, users can heroically create label playlists...As witnessed by this majestic 3,300 track, 17-day Hat Hut playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4Zif7zZf9VBaeBPrcystoF?si=P86UrafzS5eTwGQ2pSQxDA

  • Doofy said:
    ...Playing full tracks, and usually full albums! Almost hard to realize that 30-second samples used to be the standard.
    I imagine organizing by label would be of significant value to the labels themselves. When I find something I like, I almost always check out what else is on the label. I've been on Spotify for the last couple months, and being unable to search/view by label is a real deficit. Granted, even among those who consider themselves music fans, many pay no attention to labels
    I agree that the by-label organization is immensely helpful, and I really appreciate the label-based deals as well. No other platform lets me buy the entire discography of a label (or band for that matter) as a hefty discount. I've done it several times now with labels that I particularly appreciate.
  • omnifoo said:
    What’s the point of having a “FAN” page for an artist?  It just gets one’s hopes up that they’ll have something to purchase.  Will a lot of “fans” entice the artist to list their discography?  Doubtful.
    @omnifoo, just remembered this - I think you are misinterpreting the "fan" page. It's not a page to gather fans of the artist, it's a page that shows what music the artist themselves have bought, so you can use them as a taste gateway. I think that's pretty useful, both in terms of it being interesting to see what an artist is listening to and in terms of potential overlap in taste (I am looking right now at the fan page from a favorite ambient artist and we have bought 41 of the same albums. That makes it pretty likely some of the others he bought might appeal to me. This is a much more personal way of following threads than what other platforms have come up with.)
  • My main quarrel is far less with how people explore new music, as long as they do somehow (i.e. on this forum), than w/ the many more who stop after a certain age and then only listen to what they already know/like out of nostalgia, and then only very rarely while complaining that new music isn’t any good or “they don’t make it like they used to.”  That goes for actually new stuff and old stuff we just missed, I think.  

    If anyone needs to come here to be told to listen to Charlie Parker, they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.  

    I concur that exploring by label is uncommon but also my favorite way whether on eMusic, Bandcamp, or in the dollar bin of a good used CD store.  I suspect that I prefer eMusic for this (despite the imposed 30-second sample and decimated catalog) out of habit rather than any superiority of its interface, but so far I always start there and then see if a label I like is more fleshed out on Bandcamp.  

    I suppose I can see a FAN page on Bandcamp as a heuristic device, but I have yet to actually use one.  Otherwise, for Bandcamp, the sheer mass of clicking  (while remembering to leave open a single dedicated tab to sample endlessly) would overwhelm me.  

    If making a further direct comparison between the two sites, both still have plenty that fits my specific interests of being virtually unknown, inexpensive, and enjoyable (both for general listening pleasure and the feeling of discovery), but I’m just not as seasoned in the ways to find music that checks those three boxes on Bandcamp as opposed to meeting just the first two and being deservedly unknown and/or cheap b/c it’s crap or at least uninteresting. 

  • omnifoo said:
    What’s the point of having a “FAN” page for an artist?  It just gets one’s hopes up that they’ll have something to purchase.  Will a lot of “fans” entice the artist to list their discography?  Doubtful.
    @omnifoo, just remembered this - I think you are misinterpreting the "fan" page. It's not a page to gather fans of the artist, it's a page that shows what music the artist themselves have bought, so you can use them as a taste gateway. I think that's pretty useful, both in terms of it being interesting to see what an artist is listening to and in terms of potential overlap in taste (I am looking right now at the fan page from a favorite ambient artist and we have bought 41 of the same albums. That makes it pretty likely some of the others he bought might appeal to me. This is a much more personal way of following threads than what other platforms have come up with.)

    Anyone can have a Fan page.  It's a BC customer resource.  It's where you can redownload purchases, stream music, show off your collection of music, customize the page in a wordpress blog kind of way, and it has a feed that shows what's up with the artists/labels you're following.  Some artists have a fan page because they also purchase music from BC.  For awhile, I was maintaining one by using the Wishlist function to highlight recommended albums to anyone visiting my page, including those albums that I hadn't written about for BC but did write about for BitW... used it as sort of a link between the BitW recs and my BC columns.
    If I had to guess, I would surmise that the Fan page came about organically as BC customers became something of a community of fans of different artists and labels, and maybe this was a way to help them find each other?  I feel like the Fan page thing is a relatively recent development.  I'm almost certain it wasn't a thing when I first began writing for BC.
  • I've never really researched BC's past, but some of this discussion is making me curious to do so, now.  Intuitively, I'm not sure the focus was ever meant to be as one might view a retail store, but, instead, as a resource for artists and labels to make the BC model into their own unique thing, including the assimilation of their specific page into an existing wordpress site or, in some cases, to make their BC page their de facto website.  That kind of goal (if, in fact, that was a goal at the outset or along the way) would come with certain advantages and inherent limitations on certain functions.
    I've always thought of BC different than other online retailers.  Where a site like iTunes or Amazon or eMusic behaves like a self-contained shopping mall consisting of "storefronts" representing different albums, BC, on the other hand, is more like an archipelago of artist/label islands that live under a collective government & set of laws & etiquette, but which are connected not by land (or mall space), but by association.
  • jonahpwll said:

    Anyone can have a Fan page.  It's a BC customer resource.  It's where you can redownload purchases, stream music, show off your collection of music, customize the page in a wordpress blog kind of way, and it has a feed that shows what's up with the artists/labels you're following.  Some artists have a fan page because they also purchase music from BC.  For awhile, I was maintaining one by using the Wishlist function to highlight recommended albums to anyone visiting my page, including those albums that I hadn't written about for BC but did write about for BitW... used it as sort of a link between the BitW recs and my BC columns.
    If I had to guess, I would surmise that the Fan page came about organically as BC customers became something of a community of fans of different artists and labels, and maybe this was a way to help them find each other?  I feel like the Fan page thing is a relatively recent development.  I'm almost certain it wasn't a thing when I first began writing for BC.
    I think the fan pages came up about the same time when some BC users were invited to register as a BC costumer.
    There was an emuser discussion about it, but I couldn't find it.
    There's some indication that it was around 2012:
  • jonahpwll said:

    Anyone can have a Fan page.  It's a BC customer resource.  It's where you can redownload purchases, stream music, show off your collection of music, customize the page in a wordpress blog kind of way, and it has a feed that shows what's up with the artists/labels you're following.  Some artists have a fan page because they also purchase music from BC.  For awhile, I was maintaining one by using the Wishlist function to highlight recommended albums to anyone visiting my page, including those albums that I hadn't written about for BC but did write about for BitW... used it as sort of a link between the BitW recs and my BC columns.
    If I had to guess, I would surmise that the Fan page came about organically as BC customers became something of a community of fans of different artists and labels, and maybe this was a way to help them find each other?  I feel like the Fan page thing is a relatively recent development.  I'm almost certain it wasn't a thing when I first began writing for BC.
    I think the fan pages came up about the same time when some BC users were invited to register as a BC costumer.
    There was an emuser discussion about it, but I couldn't find it.
    There's some indication that it was around 2012:

    But that's different from the fan page, right?  Now I'm so confused.

    2012, that's like twenty years ago.
  • edited February 3
    jonahpwll said:

    But that's different from the fan page, right?  Now I'm so confused.

    2012, that's like twenty years ago.
    No . . . otherwise I am confused
    The link to 2012 is to @Plong42 's post:
    Bandcamp now has a sort of social media side, This is my Bandcamp Page. I showed you mine, feel free to show me yours.
    -  And yes, some artist are also "fans" or Bandcamp customers . . . such as John Hollenbeck:
    - an interesting guy to follow . . .
  • edited February 3
    Some of the "fan page" discussion seems to be confused with the ability Bandcamp offers to follow other users to see what they have purchased. There are several whose specific interests I share so we follow each other; I have purchased a number of albums that I had missed but were found by one of the others (and perhaps I have found some they missed). I vaguely recall something similar at eMusic but have no idea whether it has survived or whether there would any users worth following anymore.
  • edited February 3
    I don’t know what it’s called, but I do like when I get a couple of emails/week
    showing what some of the people I follow have bought for themselves.
    There are so many other things to like as well, but two come to mind:
    the recommendations at the bottom of the album pages and 
    the often excellent, precise short paragraph reviews inside those
    special edition write-ups (the Bandcamp dailies are a huge compendium
    of knowledge that tracks musical trends that could fill a huge book).
  • ^^ Yeah, whatever . . .
    From the examples I used before ^^
  • ^^ Yeah, whatever . . .

    ?

  • > @rostasi said:
    > (Quote)
    > ?
    Whatever it’s called.
  • Every user of Bandcamp gets such a Fan page. If this is what is getting everyone's knickers in a knot, then lessons in how to avoid clicking on things of no interest would seem to be in order. Why this seems to be a problem for people who want to dislike Bandcamp remains a mystery.

  • The link to 2012 is to @Plong42 's post:
    Bandcamp now has a sort of social media side, This is my Bandcamp Page. I showed you mine, feel free to show me yours.

    In this thread, I learned I have a bandcamp page. I guess I knew that was there...
  • Some fans are actually online radio stations or music podcasts, so in addition to the fact that you can "follow" them, when they buy new (or new-ish) stuff to play on their shows, that stuff will appear on their fan pages — which is sometimes helpful because some people who do music shows don't actually tell you what they've just played. Either they expect you to just know, or guess, or go to their Bandcamp fan page. Of course, that only works if they actually do buy those new tracks on Bandcamp, so it's not exactly foolproof.
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