It’s not always easy to promote and market your music for maximum exposure on platforms like Bandcamp, Facebook, SoundCloud and YouTube. All of them have their own particular success strategies, and it’s rarely the logical one. Such is definitely the case with Bandcamp, a platform where you really need to think about tags and other things that you can set in your artist profile settings. A few mistakes on Bandcamp can have a big effect on the results of the often grueling work that is recording and promoting music. These are my tips and learnings, I’d love to get some comments if you have something to add. Feel free to share this with fellow struggling musicians as well!
Bandcamp and the hierachy of music platforms
Since Bandcamp is a digital platform with a strong focus of selling music, it’s a much more important tool than SoundCloud. Bandcamp is a central platform for exposure, but its impact on the money you make from your digital music cannot be exaggerated. I have no intention of making a living from my music, but Bandcamp is certainly the only way to get my invested money back, if I don’t run into a great record deal. Bandcamp’s weakness is probably the social aspect; it’s not set up for congregating with your fans in the way that you can do it on Facebook or YouTube.
Many artists fail to get their music optimally listed in Bandcamp Discover (I know I did for a long time). Bandcamp Discover is where best-selling, new and recommended music shows up. For your releases to show up in Bandcamp discover, you need to tag your music correctly and strategically.
Tags are extremely important on Bandcamp as well
Just as when you’re promoting your music on SoundCloud, the importance of using relevant tags cannot be overstated. Picking the right genre and connected sub-genres determine where your music shows up in Discover. As I will explain further, the composition of main genre and sub-genre settings are vital to your success in Discover.
Main music genre and sub-genres
Bandcamp lets you pick one main genre, for instance metal. You can always change your genre in your artist profile settings. For maximum exposure, your sub-genres need to be part of the main music genre in the Discover tree as shown in the image above. Use Discover to make research about the genres that would fit your music’s tags.
Why are genre tags so important?
Bandcamp Discover does not allow you to get listed in different main categories. If you choose sub-genres that don’t belong to your main genres Discover “tree”, you will not show up in top lists for them. In the worst case scenario, this mistake will mean that you only show up on top lists for your main genre choice. This will highly limit your Bandcamp exposure since you’re missing out on tags, and competiting for what’s likely your music’s most highly populated tag. In my experience, being a sub-genre high seller is the easiest way to success on Bandcamp, so this could be an expensive mistake.
Bandcamp location settings and Discover
Your artists location is also a safe bet for getting some traffic, if you do it right. Discover allows you to find music from some locations, for instance metal music from Stockholm in my screenshot. I’m not lucky enough to have my band Soliloquium show up there at this point, but I’m working on it. The important part is picking a location that exists in Discover, or you’re giving up a chance for some free Bandcamp exposure. Even if you’re from a suburb or a few hours away, use Stockholm or Gothenburg instead of a more local tag. Artist location is easy to change in your profile settings, just like your genre.
Offer professional music and artwork
Getting listed in Bandcamp Discover is one important step, but offering music and artwork that draw people in is the final one. The Discover listings are filled with compelling artwork, so you really need to have something that stands out to bring in fans looking for new music. If you don’t follow through and offer professionally produced music, chances are you’ll lose your potential fans in the last possible step. Don’t forget to have optimized pictures on Bandcamp, so your artwork and band pictures look good on mobiles and tablets as well. Also, the best looking version of the artwork is not always the one that’s attention-grabbing and sells the best on a competitive online platform. Classic mistake on Desolator’s page below, the image wasn’t 100 % square.
Recommendations from other Bandcamp artists
If you have friends that are playing similar music, make sure that you’re doing the win-win that is recommending eachother’s music. I’ve gotten fair amounts of profile visitors this way, and the best part is that it costs nothing. Make a habit of asking for recommendations in this situation, and offer your recommendation back.
Drive traffic to your Bandcamp
If selling digital music is your goal, don’t forget to use every chance you’ve got to drive traffic to your Bandcamp. Link it in the most visible way possible on Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube and other band platforms like your homepage. Personal profiles on sites like Last.fm and Rateyourmusic can be a good place to get Bandcamp visitors as well. If you post on forums, don’t forget about having a link in your signatures!
Post a review or quote for extra conversions
Aside from being a decorative element and a way to provide some extra information, a quote and a link to a review is a way to entice your visitors to download or stream your releases. It’s a genuine way to describe the positive sides of your music, and the reviewer often appreciates getting the content promotion as well.
Bandcamp free download credits
You can only offer a certain number of free downloads from your Bandcamp account. Bandcamp’s system for free download credits is not the smoothest system, and if you have release up for free it can suddenly cost 10 $ without you knowing about it, due to the lack of feedback. I try to keep up with buying download credits, but it’s not easy to always have them ready.
Don’t forget to build an e-mail list
No matter if you have the intention of having a newsletter or not, Bandcamp offers the possibility to collect e-mail addresses from the people who download your music. This list is an invaluable asset a year later, when you’re sitting there ready to promote your next album; just push “send” and you will have informed the fans of the previous release about its successor.
An interesting case study in Bandcamp music promotion
RavenGuide’s blog offers an interesting case study in Bandcamp music promotion with many practical learnings. It was interesting read for me, both affirming my previous strategies, and bringing some new promotional ideas to the table.