Bandcamp limiting number of free downloads available

Bandcamp is now limiting the number of free downloads available:

Starting today, new accounts come with 200 free downloads, and all existing accounts are granted 500. (You can of course still stream and sell an unlimited amount of music using Bandcamp.) Each time a fan downloads a track or album for free, it counts as 1 against your balance (an album, regardless of how many tracks it contains, still only counts as 1 download). You can buy more downloads for a small fee from your Tools page. The pricing is the same as for download codes:

300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)

200 free downloads is probably plenty for most very small bands. But it can run out quickly.

I think this is a service worth paying for. Bandcamp requires visitors to enter an email address in order to receive a download link. This is very useful for building up a large email list which can in turn be used to promote other releases in the future. Free music acts as promotion to gain more fans, and having email addresses is the retention of those fans.

That being said, I don't get why they went with a prepaid credit system. It seems like it'd make more sense to hook up a Bandcamp account to a credit card, and then just charge per download and bill monthly. You could set daily and monthly spending limits. And then you could provide all sorts of great charts and statistics to show usage and cost over time and how it correlates to buzz and sales and all that. I am pretty sure people would err on setting their limits too high at first. Buying a prepaid bundle of credits seems clunky in this day and age.

Streaming is still free.

If this development bothers you, you can use bandcamp to stream, use for downloads, and paypal to sell merch. The crucial missing link is of course, grabbing those email addresses on every free download.

drew (not verified) says:


getting less stoked on Bandcamp by the day. I wonder how much I would have to pay someone to build me a download/charge website backend.

zirafa says:

Why are you less stoked on it? Wouldn't both cost you money in the end?

zirafa says:

Just had a thought - the credit system could create a fund-raising opportunity for a band. i.e. let's say a band is popular but runs out of free downloads. People might be upset but if they put a little donation box they could raise money to buy another large block of free downloads for everyone, with the donors automatically getting a free copy. Like a mini-kickstarter.

zirafa says:

Yet another afterthought:

They could have an option for unlimited free downloads, with the following caveats:

a) there would be no email address required to download
b) the downloads would be slower and take less priority on the server
c) free download would be restricted to 320 Kbps MP3 or less

This would probably cover most people who are looking to just host their music on bandcamp but don't really care about the bonus features or speed of delivery.

Unfortunately, without ads, there is no other way Bandcamp can stay in business. File hosting and transcoding on the server costs money to do right - to maintain speed of transfer and properly scale when there are lots of simultaneous users downloading files at once.

That being said, it would be very easy to code a clever gatekeeper program that would require an email address before sending a user on their way towards a free file. The source of the file could be obfuscated to hide direct linking. You could host files anywhere and use this program to grab email addresses in exchange for the link to download. Simple but effective.

drew (not verified) says:

one is paying for a subscription service
the other is paying for a product that you use.

i would much rather pay one time for something than basically rent something monthly.

but bandcamp was really smart to offer the service for free to begin with and get the word out

zirafa says:

Hmm, good point, but the product would depend on monthly hosting for file storage and bandwidth, too. So you'd pay once for the code, but in both cases you pay a subscription for bandwidth and file storage. I'd be interested to see a 5 year cost comparison between the two, with all costs factored in.

If you can offload the storage to some awesome / free file hosting company then definitely it'd be a better deal.

Do you think you'd feel differently if you didn't already have a website + online storage?

alex (not verified) says:

i definitely agree that prepaying seems "clunky." this is the reason that i don't want to commit to an emusic membership; there's a monthly fee and a limit on the number downloads that the fee covers. can't i just pay for the albums or mp3s that i want to buy?

Myke Mazzei (not verified) says:

Every month, it gets bumped up to 200 free downloads again. And, "for every $500 USD you have in sales, [they’ll] give you another 1,000 free downloads."
If I were *giving away more than 2400 downloads a year*, and not selling any, on purpose-- I may think of another model than Bandcamp, such as a regular file-hosting service with a link, or just e-mailing the fans the track. But I'd bet some fans would buy some of those 2400 downloads... an observance!

P.S. from the same BC blog entry:
"The idea is that if you’re selling through Bandcamp, you’ll probably never run out of free promo downloads, and if you’re using the site to distribute your music for free, there’s still a cheap and easy way to keep doing that. (Actually, the cheapest way would be to head over to ZRapidShare, but if you’re reading this, you probably care about your fans too much for that.)"
P.P.S. Don't know if anything I'm writing is useful/news to anyone here... but hey!

zirafa says:

Hey Myke,

Don't know if you noticed that this post is 3 years old :) but thanks for your comment - I think I'd have to agree with you that Bandcamp is probably best suited to those that want to directly sell digital downloads. For just giving away songs, there are some other models that might work better. I know many DJs rely on file locker type sites to distribute stuff, although the reasoning there is probably also to circumvent RIAA take down notices too.