Bandcamp or The Delight of a Great FAQ Page

May 6, 2010

OK I was totally wrong – I can (and have) download “Hey, Paul Krugman” through this fabulous new service I just discovered called Bandcamp.  You can do the same thing here if you so choose.

I just love well designed web services that help people access and share their information smoothly (and classily) with others – especially when they’re free.  Yay Gmail.  Yay WordPress.  and now … Yay Bandcamp.

I came across it through a basic google search for Hey Paul Krugman and Song a Day and when it appeared to be a way for me to pay for and download the audio file I was looking for I jumped right in and was almost to the point of paypalling them my credit card info when I stopped myself.  To whom am I giving this information, I wondered.  So I went back to the main page and poked around a bit till I found the main server’s page here.  Its run by a service called Bandcamp. And as I was looking around trying to figure out if they were for real or not I found their FAQ page. Although I am not a professional musican and have no interest in using their service I spend five or ten minutes reading it right to the bottom because it was so funny.  I’ll copy a few highlights but if you’re looking for a laugh (or just to waste some online time) read the whole thing here.  (Meanwhile here’s the attribution: all of the following is copied from that site.)

But lossless files are freaking huge!
Please phrase that in the form of a question.

But lossless files are freaking huge?
Yeah, they’re bigger than mp3s, but you only have to upload them once, and we think the goodness it buys you is plenty worth it. We’ll also allow batch uploading pretty soon, so you’ll be able to queue up your entire oeuvre for import while you’re off at practice. Until then, you can upload two tracks at a time by just opening up two track edit tabs or windows (two is the limit though — three or more won’t work).

Did I know that Bandcamp automatically adds metadata to all of my downloadable tracks?
No, you did not! And it’s totally bitchin’! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve downloaded music from some band’s site, only to bring it into iTunes and find that it has no cover art, a name like “Master 2 (final).mp3” and no information about who it’s by or what album it’s from. Annoying, but not really surprising when you learn what a pain in the ass it is for a band to add all that information to a track themselves. Well, we’ve got you covered. As you add information to your site, we automatically attach that data to the underlying tracks, so that when your fans download and import them into iTunes or anywhere else, they come with their title, artist, lyrics, album, track number, release date, and artwork intact. Smoove.

What two objects does Sam have in his hands when he emerges from Shelob’s cave?
The Light of Eärendil and Sting, loser.

I love Bandcamp so much that I want to put the logo on my poster, flyer, etc. Hi-res file plz!?
Please note that if “etc” includes anything this stupid, we’ll close your account immediately and have a long chat with your mom or legal guardian. No? OK. Here. You. Go. Go! (That last one smells lemony and reveals an exciting image when held over a lightbulb.)

How do I make the shared player autostart?
Welcome home! We trust your 8 year expedition to the heart of the Amazon was a great success. SO much has happened since you left. The first Delawarean was elected Vice President of the United States, the Chronicles of Riddick defied box office expectations, and tabbed browsers became commonplace. As a result, many web enthusiasts now open tabs as they surf. Autostarting media players don’t play well with this behavior, since they put you in a position of wondering whoah, where is that sound coming from and then force you to play find-the-tab-making-your-eardrums-bleed. AUTOSTART IS EVIL is a fairly common refrain nowadays, and who are we to disagree?

I found a bug! In your face! FAIL! PWN! LOLCANO! Bandcamp suxxors! You suxxors! Tell me old chum, is there perchance anything I could do to assist in the resolution of the issue? Twould be my pleasure.
Smashing old pineapple, that’s ever so kind of you. Please email a description of the problem to us here. Cheers.

Finally here’s the whole Bandcamp story … which is some kind of wonderful.  Yay engineers!

What’s Bandcamp?
Earlier this year, one of my favorite bands left their label, recorded a new album, and released it as a digital download from their own website. The hour it was due out, I headed to their site, and after several minutes of watching the page struggle to load, concluded that they were just slammed and made a note to check back the next day. But when I did, the site was, once again, excruciatingly slow. This time I was a bit more patient, made it to the checkout page, entered my billing info, and…the download didn’t start. I checked my credit card statement, saw that I’d indeed been charged, and emailed the band. A few days later, the lead singer sent me an apology, along with a direct link to the album’s zip file. I did not then forward that link on to my 200 closest friends, but I wondered how many did, and couldn’t decide whether it was a good or bad thing that most fans had probably given up before getting this far.

Well the new record turned out to be even better than I’d hoped, but now, months later, I’m still running into other fans who don’t have it. This just kills me, because here’s a relatively unknown band that deserves all the success in the world, made the admirable decision to do an entirely independent release, yet was tripped up by the sorts of aggravating technical issues familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to build out their own website. What choice did they have though? They could have put their music up on MySpace or any of its dozens of imitators, but all of those services offer bands what is essentially a sharecropping arrangement. They host your tunes, and in exchange it’s their logo, their ads, their URL, their traffic, their identity. What if you want to build out a site that’s very clearly yours? The only choice seems to be to do what the band did: hire a designer and engineer, buy or rent some servers, spend a lot of time and money, and risk ending up with something that either works poorly or not at all. Does it not seem crazy that if you’re a blogger, you can create a rock-solid site that’s your own in a matter of minutes (and for free), but if you happen to create music instead of text, your options just suck?

Seemed nuts to us, so we created Bandcamp, the best home on the web for your music. We’re not yet another site wanting to host your tracks alongside the trailer for High School Musical 4: I’m Pregnant. Instead, we power a site that’s truly yours, and hang out in the background handling all the technical issues you dread (and several you’ve probably never even considered). We keep your music streaming and downloading quickly and reliably, whether it’s 3am on a Sunday, or the hour your new record drops and Pitchfork gives it a scathingly positive review. We make your tracks available in every format under the sun, so the audiophilic nerderati can have their FLAC and eat mp3 v2. We adorn your songs with all the right metadata, so they sail into iTunes with artwork, album, band and track names intact. We mutter the various incantations necessary to keep your site top-ranked in Google, so when your fans search for your hits, they find your music long before they find or iMyFace. We give your fans easy ways to share your music with their friends, and we give you gorgeous tools that reveal exactly how your music is spreading, so you can fan the fire.

So what’s Bandcamp then? We’re a publishing platform for bands, or, anthropomorphically/arthropodically-speaking, your fifth, fully geeked-out Beatle — the one who keeps your very own website humming and lets you get back to making great music and building your fan base. If this all sounds as highly satisfactory to you as we hope, we invite you to check out the screencast, or cut straight to the chase and sign up for a free account. Welcome!


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