Bandcamp unveils interactive Listening Parties

Listening Parties are a new feature on Bandcamp that does what it sounds like it does. Play your release, talk to fans, and let folks buy the album.

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It also marks the first big product release of this era. We haven’t seen a whole lot in the way of new functionality since the Epic acquisition of Bandcamp – or anything to make a splash since Bandcamp Fridays, which feel a little like they’re losing steam since their peak in the pandemic.

This one is a no-brainer. Play the album (or EP, or whatever) for fans, and they can react and chat. The usual Bandcamp notifications kick in for followers, and tracks, artwork, and any merch get featured. Fans can both wishlist and buy the album – nice that the wishlist part works in case they’re not just ready to buy.

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Maybe what’s important about this isn’t just the feature itself, but that it seems to have Bandcamp’s trademark simplicity. This sort of idea isn’t new, but part of what artists want is for that implementation to focus on what they actually need – and not to have an overcomplicated, hard-to-grok interface.

This one works like the “add album” feature does. You go to an artist or label account, click Add, choose to associate with a label or artist (see screenshot).

And then you get a form that is the very essence of simplicity – but that also doesn’t leave anything important out. You’ll choose:

listening party
  • Event title
  • Date and time (with time zone)
  • Short description (< 5000 characters)
  • Enable/disable chat
  • Add up to five moderators (by email)

Thank you for adding moderators. One of the reason you often don’t see interactive features is moderation issues. (Aka … people are often really mean. Female or queer or minority or marginalized artists, factor that up an order of magnitude.)

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Also, SoundCloud … I was going to say what’s wrong with how SoundCloud is doing this, but the short version is “mostly everything,” from not understanding moderation to overcomplicating features to prioritizing streaming in front of download purchases to pushing industry-backed artists. That’s worth saying not because I particularly want to dump on my Berlin neighbors down the street, but because a lot of the functionality here easily replaces the way a lot of folks now use SoundCloud to “premiere” albums – with fairly ineffective results. And that’s to say nothing of the streaming giants, who are so impersonal and independent artist-hostile at this point to barely even merit mentioning them by name.

This also feels like something that makes loads of sense on Bandcamp in a way their Bandcamp Live feature didn’t – at least not for smaller artists. To be fair, the feature will be integrated with Live and its calendar, and that might even increase the popularity of live streams on the service as a result. But I think it’s a different animal because it focuses on Bandcamp’s main reason to exist. It’s buying albums, stupid. You finished a musical object as that is an important snapshot of you and any collaborators at a particular time. You want to sell that object as a persistent thing. The truth is that a whole host of competing solutions – very much including Web3 and NFTs – did not solve that problem as well as Bandcamp. End of story. You get a payment method, you buy something, you add it to a collection, you download an audio format you’ve seen. It’s easy enough for everyone’s parents and family to use it. Rant concludes.

This is great. Even if just one person joins, it might be well worth it. I’ll be curious to hear how you all use it – and I’ll join invites when I can. (One friend used it prerelease, and that was already fun.)

Introducing Listening Parties on Bandcamp [Bandcamp blog]

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