I created the image above early in 2022. It was done in jest, showing the DJ comforting/protecting the fan as the Bandcamp Friday onslaught came ashore. DJ’s scour through all the new releases and play the ones they think their fans should hear. There is no denying that it’s subjective (and a bit of gatekeeping), but it’s a screening process that reduces the load the fans get (and kind of the point of DJs).
Bandcamp Friday started as a way to increase revenue to bands during COVID. Bandcamp kept it going, and that’s awesome. The first Friday of each month, bands get 100% of sales from the site: a site that already pays more than most sites do on any regular day. It may seem like a small token, but it’s a great benefit to the bands and the fans. However…
If you’ve seen the movie that image is from, both of them die. It doesn’t matter how much the DJ comforts or protects the fan, the tsunami kills them both. Bandcamp Friday was already an onslaught back in early 2022 and now has gotten to the point that it’s untenable for DJs and fans alike.
This last Bandcamp Friday (March 3rd) I had 79 new releases I had to promote and process. That’s only in the synth-heavy genres like Synthpop, Futurepop, EBM, Industrial, Dark Electro, etc. Seventy-nine after I screened all new releases to remove remix albums, instrumentals, etc. I can’t even imagine what DJs who play rock or pop go through on Bandcamp Friday!
It took me over four hours to do all the promos and initial processing. That processing narrows it down for me, but it still left me with over 60 songs to put on my show. It took me over five hours to put together, upload, process, and then promote Tuesday’s show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about promoting new music (it’s what I love) or even the time, per se (I’m lucky enough to have the time). What I am complaining about is that it’s all at once now and it’s way too much for anyone.
I believe Bandcamp Friday has lost its secondary point of promoting music (primary point is still about bands making 100% of sales) to the fans because it’s too much to go through for them. They’re getting inundated with emails from Bandcamp, bands, labels, promoters, and social media promos from the bands and labels. It’s very common for me to get an email from the band, label, paid promoter, and Bandcamp all announcing the exact same new album or single. I’ve heard quite a few people say Bandcamp Friday is now spam. I’m not willing to say it’s spam, as it’s not unsolicited, but I get their point.
The primary reason Bandcamp Friday may not be worth it anymore for bands? Your new release is likely getting lost in the tsunami. While I DJ a bit different and do a show dedicated to new releases regardless of how many or how few there are, and include all of them that fit the rules I have in place for the show, that’s not how most DJs operate, and generally speaking, it’s not how fans find out about new music.
I’ve come to the conclusion that bands are better off releasing their new music outside of Bandcamp Friday so that it’s more likely to be seen and heard. Then on Bandcamp Friday, instead of promoting a new release, promote your entire Bandcamp page or setup a deal to get 30% off if they purchase your entire discography or 10% off any individual album/EP/single purchase with promo codes (this won’t address the tons of email issue, but it will address new music getting lost in the onslaught).
I honestly hope Bandcamp Friday sticks around for a long time, but given the nature of the beast, I think bands need to rethink how they use Bandcamp Friday and seriously consider it as a sales day and not a release day. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that no one release music on Bandcamp Friday. We don’t want it to be a dead release day, either. What I am saying is that if you have a new single and you’re holding onto it just for Bandcamp Friday, consider releasing it beforehand and then promoting your discography on Bandcamp Friday. But if you’re just releasing stuff on Fridays and it happens to be a Bandcamp Friday, then so be it. In other words: balance.
Balance. Balance. Balance. Let’s give the fans and DJ’s a chance at surviving that Bandcamp Friday tsunami.
Keep the awesome coming! Keep supporting the bands, the music, and the various scenes related to them!