BoingBoing have a thing for ukulele music at the moment, and because of this I learned about BandCamp, which is a WordPress-like web tool that allows you – the artist – to create and manage your own web site, with downloadable tracks, album artwork, and so on.
It looks cleaner and less cluttered than MySpace, and they promise you won’t end up with dodgy ads on your page (which sometimes happens over at SlideShare, you’ll notice). One of the key features is that it encourages you to upload a full-resolution 16-bit file, which they then process to make lower-resolution versions (including Apple Lossless, which not many people use) available for download.
Beyond this, if you have a PayPal account (it has to be a Pro Merchant account), you can have paid downloads, with prices fixed by you or a version of the “honesty box” system that Radiohead used.
I was struck immediately by how classy the site looks. As well as album artwork, a custom header (and background, if you want) and colour scheme, the site has a visualiser like the one in iTunes. If you’ve used blogging software, it’s easy to set up. You end up with a domain like this: http://yourbandname.bandcamp.com, though the site (like WordPress) also supports custom domains.
I’ve set up a site for my own stuff (if you remember the name of my old band you’ll be able to find it – no spaces), not because I expect to make money from it, but because I thought it looked nice and I wanted to try it. I’m currently struggling to select a collection of 10-15 out of the 100 or so songs I’ve recorded over the years.
I think this is the best example yet of how new media allows artists to take control of their own careers, by-pass the record labels, and do things for themselves. If only I was twenty years younger and twenty times more talented…