Bandcamp’s New Facebook Page Tab App Lacks Features but Makes Selling Music Cheap and Easy

Musician profile website and publishing platform Bandcamp this week released a tab application that lets artists present their Bandcamp presence on their Facebook Page. While competing services like RootMusic built Page tab apps that now host hundreds of thousands of musicians, Bandcamp has focused on letting music be streamed or purchased from the news feed. Its new app makes it easier and cheaper for musicians to sell music than other popular Facebook apps.

Bandcamp criticizes the social network as a place for musicians, calling it “just another part of a good overall distribution strategy” in the launch materials for its app and saying Facebook Pages are cluttered with distracting content and ads. By waiting this long to build a Page tab app for Facebook, though, Bandcamp has given its competitors a big head start in terms of functionality and user base. It will need to close these gaps to remain attractive to artists who have much to gain from Facebook’s massive audience, and to increase its own revenues.

Bandcamp was founded in 2008, a few months after ReverbNation’s Facebook app launched and long before RootMusic’s growth took off. The service lets musicians create a homepage from which visitors can stream their music, view their upcoming tour dates, join their mailing list, download tracks, and buy their albums. The site acts as a publishing platform, as artists don’t necessarily need a record label if they can distribute their music for profit through Bandcamp.

At launch, the site’s simple design and reliability made it a refreshing alternative to Myspace. In the early days of music Page tab apps on Facebook, it offered arguably stronger, cheaper branding and distribution services than RootMusic’s BandPage and ReverbNation’s BandProfile. It also offered a wide range of sharing capabilities including powerful Facebook news feed sharing option that allowed users to stream music in-line from te feed or begin a purchase flow with a single click.

As Pages receive half as many impressions as their news feed posts, focusing on the feed rather than Pages seemed like a wise move. In the instructions for installing its new Page tab app, Bandcamp slams Facebook’s Pages product, which compete with its own core product, writing “The average Facebook page has between 50 and 60 things for your fans to click on other than your music. Why let an ad for Bonobos pants vie for your fans’ attention?”

With time, though, Bandcamp’s competitors replicated its rich news feed stories, branding, and distribution, and staying out of Facebook app development began looking like a misstep. Now, traffic measurement service Compete shows Bandcamp having roughly 800,000 monthly unique visitors and its new Page tab app has 90,000 monthly active users, while RootMusic’s BandPage hosts 300,000 artists, and has 1.3 million daily active users and 28 million MAU according to AppData.

Bandcamp users can visit the Facebook app or follow a prompt on their Bandcamp profile to access instructions for adding the Page tab app to their Facebook Page. Once installed, the app shows the same streaming, download, purchase, and sharing options as on artist’s Bandcamp page. If visitors go to download a track, they’re directed back to a Bandcamp download page. If they go to make a purchase, a payment flow is initially shown in-line before sending users to PayPal to complete the transaction.

The list of features missing from the app is long. To start with, there’s no way to automatically send updates when content is added, nor customize the app’s chrome, take in mailing list signups, display videos or photos, or require users to Like the Page, send a tweet, or sign up for email updates in order to access the app or specific content.

The one thing Bandcamp’s app handles very well is selling music. Musicians can easily upload music to Bandcamp and immediately begin selling it. Bandcamp takes a just 10% cut of sales with no upfront costs, and artist can require downloaders to join their mailing list. This beats RootMusic’s options of free downloads through Soundcloud or links to other music stores such as iTunes and Topspin. It’s also much cheaper than ReverbNation’s mp3 store which takes a large $3 cut per album. Bandcamp also lets artists cheaply give music away, as they can pay Bandcamp 2 cents a song to let fans download music for free.

Bandcamp’s Page tab app works well for artists that want to sell their music directly through Facebook. For smaller artists trying to scrape by, that might be the most important thing. However, its weak customization and lack of fan-gating options means that for now, artists thinking about the long-term, who are signed with labels, or that sell their music through iTunes and Amazon, may be better served by a more full-featured Facebook apps.