How an independent band promoted their music on Bandcamp

How an independent band promoted their music on Bandcamp Case Study

It was late December, and yet another lo-fi folk album made its debut on Bandcamp.

The collection of 8 songs had only been purchased by two people in the first few weeks and was on the verge of being lost forever in the vast world of Bandcamp. With not much of a current fanbase and no record label to help promote, the chance for this independent artist of reaching fans was bleak.

On average, artists release 1,600 albums a week on Bandcamp (according to the Nerdist). That means when you upload your album you are competing with all of those albums. Unfortunately, there is only so much music that can be consumed by people and a process of selection must take place. Popularity is required to justify who's album stands out.

If you have a current fanbase, you can promote your Bandcamp album directly to them. But what if you are trying to find new fans? How do you stand out amongst 1,600 albums released that week? And the next week 1,600 more will be following along. The competition just doesn't stop.

Well, we wanted to find a way to promote a music album on Bandcamp.

What better way than to start with a relatively unknown folk artist. Being that we were strategists by trade, we knew there must be a way to leverage Bandcamp in an artist's favor. We started by breaking down the algorithm that Bandcamp uses to determine a best-selling album.

Once we understood the parameters that Bandcamp uses to identify a best-selling album, we began to identify a pathway for maximizing album sales. Why would we want to be a best-selling album on Bandcamp? Currently, Bandcamp has a music Discovery platform that showcases best-selling albums broken down by genres and sub-genres. 

It seemed obvious that being featured amongst the best-selling albums, would not only help new fans discover the music, but music blogs would have an opportunity to hear the album. Through research, we found that most music publications either report on mainstream artists backed by labels, or they seek out independent music that has a buzz. Being a best-selling album on Bandcamp is DEFINITELY buzz-worthy.

Using advanced marketing techniques to promote music on Bandcamp, brings results.

The first step to becoming a best-selling album on Bandcamp was to tag the album properly. If you haven't already, read our article The first steps to promoting your music on Bandcamp

To qualify for Bandcamp's sub-genre best selling lists we needed to use very specific keywords. These keywords determine what albums will show up in the best-selling sub-genre lists. If the right keyword is missing, then you won't show up on the list no matter how many albums you sell.

Another thing we determined was that the music needed to fit well within the sub-genre categories of Bandcamp. Even if we tagged the album so it would qualify for a sub-genre list, it was necessary for the record to mirror the desires of the person browsing that sub-genre category, or it would fail. To understand the buyer persona of each Bandcamp sub-genre list we began breaking down the Bandcamp community. 

The keyword selection process became less about what genre the album sounds like and more focused on researching and defining the Bandcamp community. It took hours and hours of time, and then some more time to finally understand who the buyer persona's of each sub-genre were. Only after we comprehended the entirety of the Bandcamp community could we choose our keywords to match.

Music genres and even more so sub-genres are often very objective and leave room for interpretation. Oddly enough the Bandcamp community and their purchasing determine what the genre means. Doing well on Bandcamp's sub-genre lists means leaving preconceived notions on music sub-genres. It's all about using the Bandcamp sub-genres that your buyer personas are browsing. 

With our album, we started off thinking we fit in the primary genre of Acoustic because the record is a very acoustic guitar-based album. We were totally off base, after breaking down the buyer personas of Bandcamp we found that our targeted demographic was in the main category of Folk. We then went on to discover the sub-genres that our buyer personas were browsing and tagged the album accordingly. Without doing all the work of understanding the Bandcamp community we would have never achieved all the results that we did.

Within just two weeks we had taken an album that was invisible and had it charting as the #2 selling Indie Folk album for the city of Seattle on Bandcamp. By the time we were done using our strategy, we had accomplished a list of accolades. 

To think we accomplished all the results below, for an unknown, lo-fi bedroom recording artist. There is so much great music out there, and in the end it's all about using a strategy that can bring it to light!

  • #3 Indie Folk Album via Bandcamp highest charted position
  • #1 Folk Album in Seattle via Bandcamp 12 weeks straight 
  • #6 Singer-Songwriter Album via Bandcamp highest charted position
  • #1 Experimental Folk Album via Bandcamp highest charted position
  • Selected by Bandcamp Hunter as a 'best music' on Bandcamp 
  • Chosen by AudioYouth as a featured artist for a new music platform
  • New live performance opportunities
  • Coverage from music blogs and podcasts
  • Song placed on compilation CD for charity MyMusicRx helping kids with cancer.
  • Over 100,000 plays on Spotify for the month of June 2016
  • #4 song on Spotify's acclaimed playlist Infinite Indie Folk

You can find the artist and album promoted on Bandcamp HERE

All of the success came by concentrating on tagging the album so that it could connect to the buyer personas most likely to engage with our record.

Every opportunity listed above came to us directly through the Bandcamp sub-genre. We did not promote the music outside of Bandcamp at all. 

Unfortunately, the artist's on Bandcamp usually tag their albums with words that don't qualify for a sub-genre and this means they are missing out on tons of opportunities. And even when the band's use qualifying keywords they often fail to use the ones that their buyer personas are browsing.

Since we spent so much time learning and understanding the sub-genre buyer personas of Bandcamp, we can now offer to help bands with our knowledge. We can analyze your album and determine what sub-genres you album would sell best. We also implement all target keywords directly into your Bandcamp account for you; guaranteeing that your record qualifies. 

We also use our database to recommend the song to use as your Bandcamp single. It's important to pick a single for your album because listeners browsing music on Bandcamp can only hear one of your songs, so picking the best song is vital for attracting new fans. The song we choose is determined again by the Bandcamp buyer persona database your music matches up with, not necessarily your favorite song.


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