After plans for another “D4th” Fourth of July blowout party were scrapped last month, Twin Cities punk hounds Dillinger Four wound up celebrating Bandcamp Friday instead on July 3.
“The timing lined up so well,” guitarist Erik Funk said. “It seemed like a really obvious chance to offer something as a consolation.”
Fans certainly prized the backup offering: a live recording from the final night of Minneapolis’ Triple Rock Social Club, which the band posted for one day only — the day that many indie music fans worldwide now know as Bandcamp Friday.
Each first Friday of the month, the Oakland, Calif.-based online music retailer waives its in-house fees on albums and other products it sells for shipping or download, so more money goes directly to the artists. It’s a tradition that started in March, right after the coronavirus quarantine brought the music industry to an abrupt halt.
On tap again Friday, Bandcamp’s monthly sale has become an event of sorts for musicians and music fans alike — a rare bright spot as the pandemic continues to keep most music venues dark.
The monthly offerings have proved so popular that the company announced last week it has waived more than $20 million over the first four Bandcamp Fridays, and that it plans to keep them going at least through the end of the year.
That’s good news for superfans such as St. Paul’s Will Crain, who said he has racked up Bandcamp charges every month during the pandemic.
“The lack of live concerts has freed up my music budget, and the artists and independent labels can use the support,” he said.
In the Twin Cities, where the George Floyd tragedy and a rash of music-related MeToo stories have added to the drama of recent months, Bandcamp Fridays have also been used as a fun way to raise some serious money for social causes.
Jazz trio Happy Apple issued its first album in 13 years — cheekily titled “New York CD” — as an exclusive “pre-release” download via Bandcamp over the past month to raise money for north Minneapolis food nonprofit Appetite for Change.
“It seemed now would be the perfect time to try [Bandcamp] out for Happy Apple,” bassist Erik Fratzke said, recounting how the band scrapped more conventional release plans during the pandemic.
“It was freeing to be able to quickly put an album up for download without all of the usual holdups and delays.”
Veteran rapper Longshot (aka Chad Heslup) donated all the Bandcamp money from his reactionary EP “I’m Sayin’ ” to racial justice charities — about $3,500 on June 4 alone, he noted. He’s now using this week’s Bandcamp Friday to release his new full-length album, “Champion.”
“Not being able to perform, [Bandcamp] has helped,” the prolific rapper said. “I make a lot of music, so now is really a crucial time for me to figure out how to effectively release things.”
It’s hard to keep track of all the causes that howling local rocker Laura Larson and her bands have supported over the past two months via Bandcamp.
Her new pop-punky power trio Scrunchies has a new split single and print poster with Cincinnati band Strobobean up for sale Friday to raise money for the Loveland Foundation, which offers therapy to Black women and girls. The members’ other bands Kitten Forever and Bruise Violet have also sold Bandcamp items as fundraisers for Reclaim the Block and other Twin Cities charities.
“This is not new to us,” Larson said. “Kitten Forever and Bruise Violet have for a long time been active in working toward racial justice and gender equity through show and merch donations.”
What is new is the more immediate and direct payments Bandcamp offers to independent music makers and their various causes.
Patrick Davis, guitarist in the Bad Man, helped put together an all-star compilation album in April to benefit local food shelves, titled “Bands for Cans: Minnesota Musicians Against Hunger.” It was sold as a Bandcamp digital album, and the spike each first Friday helped the cause.
“That money turns into food for people in need,” Davis said.
Longtime DIY instrumental collagist Dosh (aka Martin Dosh) said he’s been posting special releases to Bandcamp in recent months — including an excellent “Cesario Archives” live set from 2008 — mainly for the ease of using the site and its promotional tools. Those include an e-mail sent to prior buyers of his wares anytime he posts something new.
“It’s like zero overhead,” Dosh said, “so as long as you can put in the work of making the art and getting the audio sorted, it’s kind of free money.”
Most musicians see Bandcamp as a better alternative to Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming sites, which pay a fraction of a penny for each song stream. Bandcamp offers limited streaming for free but focuses more on download and physical album purchases, from which it takes 10 to 15% of each sale (on the other days of the month).
Many of the country’s biggest indie-rock labels have also cozied up to Bandcamp and its Friday, including Sub Pop, Epitaph, Jagjaguwar and Merge.
Mac McCaughan, founder of Merge Records and singer in Superchunk, recently said of Bandcamp in online magazine Pitchfork: “When someone recommends something I’ve never heard of before, that’s often the first place I’ll go.”
However, Minneapolis guitar wiz Mike Michel still thinks Bandcamp’s fees are too high, calling it another music-tech company with “retired or failed musicians ripping off other musicians.”
“I’m following my rapper buddies who are way more industrious,” Michel said, suggesting artists sell their goods themselves through Venmo or PayPal payments.
As for Dillinger Four, the music-biz-eschewing punk quartet doesn’t plan to release its Triple Rock farewell recording anywhere else anytime soon, or any other Bandcamp-only limited releases. But D4’s guitarist still saluted the company and its fun Friday bonanza.
“Bandcamp’s fees really aren’t much,” Funk said, “and the momentum they’ve built through doing the consistent Friday thing is awesome.”
Some local Bandcamp Friday loot to look for this week:
Longshot: “Champion” (new album)
Scrunchies: “Boo/Sway” (split single and print)
The Prizefighters: “Firewalk” (colored vinyl)
Felt: “Name in Ya Mouth” (single from Slug and Murs)
King Pari: “Sunshine” (7-inch)
Munson-Hicks Party Supplies: Self-titled album (John Munson sings, Dylan Hicks writes)
Dope Walker: “Save Save” (vinyl album by ex-Plastic Constellations leaders)
Various: “Quarantine Dream: A Benefit for Jessa Roquet” (digital benefit album)