Local music’s (near) future is digital

Ian Bone of Sacramento band Grave Lake credits Bandcamp and other streaming services with raising awareness of the band. (Photo courtesy of Grave Lake)

If you want to support Sac bands during stay at home order, you can go to Bandcamp, an online music platform waiving its fees today

For years, it’s pained me to stream music, or to buy music digitally. If you can’t hold it in your hands, you don’t truly own an album.

Digital files can be corrupted in seconds, they sacrifice audio quality and, depending on where you purchase the audio, it can be subject to Digital Rights Management, meaning you don’t own your music—you’re leasing it. But today’s the day I give up on my Digital Cassandra routine.

Until midnight, Bandcamp, the fairest to musicians of the online music platforms, is offering free digital streaming, plus the ability to purchase and download high-quality files. Bandcamp normally takes a cut of those sales, but is waiving that fee.

Since we’re in the midst of a statewide stay at home order, Sacramento’s live music scene is on pause, whether in small clubs or big arenas. Without shows where fans can support Sacramento bands, it’s time to go digital, and today is the day to do it. Sacramento has no shortage of Bandcamp presence. Its tagging feature allows search by city; bandcamp.com/tag/sacramento will give you plenty of listening options, and if you like what you hear, buy it.

For some Sacramento bands, sites such as Bandcamp or Spotify (which can pay as little as 0.004 cents per stream—hardly lucrative when compared to Bandcamp) are crucial to introducing themselves to new audiences.

“I’ve found it easier for people,” says Ian Bone of Grave Lake. “You already have [the apps] on your phone…I can post a show a hundred times [on Facebook] and people are like, ‘Yeah, I get it, I knew I wasn’t going to go the first time.”

“Most people in general don’t know how bad the financial structure of streaming is for the musicians,” says Jed Brewer, owner of Lather Records and member of Swimming in Bengal. “Buying something from [a band] on Bandcamp, even if it’s a download, the band is still getting most of the money.”

Jed Brewer of Lather Records and Swimming in Bengal advocates for Bandcamp as the most artist-friendly digital music platform. (Photo courtesy of Jed Brewer)

If you can’t bear the thought of giving up vinyl, Bandcamp has the option of buying physical merch too—usually small-run vinyl that’s unlikely to be re-pressed, including those put out by Sacramento label mt.st.mtn.

“If you’re pressing small-run vinyl records, you’re in with some sort of crew, and that’s a crew that buys and trades vinyl,” said Mark Kaiser, the label’s co-founder and past member of Mayyors and Male Gaze. Still, he says, “digital, if anything, has opened doors.”

Buying something on Bandcamp today won’t generate a retirement fund, but as we’re searching for ways to support the arts during this pandemic, this is a doable, immediate and mutually beneficial way to support Sacramento’s music scene.

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