22 Dec 2016 / Laura Kebby
What’s It Like Trying To Curate The Whole Of Bandcamp?
Bandcamp, a name now so synonymous with music lovers across the globe. As both a company and an entity, Bandcamp has placed the power of commercialism within the music industry back into the hands of the artists and independent labels, delivering incredible music straight to your ears and doorsteps.
But where did it all begin? During the recent Face The Music conference in Melbourne, we had the opportunity to chat with chief curator Andrew Jervis, to find out about where Bandcamp began, where it’s headed, and why passion and music really do go hand in hand.
Andrew has been involved with Bandcamp for going on close to four years now, sifting through the endless stream of uploads from across the world, snatching up the best bits, and he tells us they’re a plenty. It’s hard to believe, but Bandcamp was not the brainchild of a large corporation or company.
“It was just four guys sitting in the local library using the free wifi, that’s how Bandcamp started”. An organisation which has now rapidly expanded and Andrew proudly explains he was the 13th edition to the company.
Andrew is obviously a very passionate music fan, but where did this passion and drive stem from? “Honestly, I’ve always been that slightly annoying, slightly bossy person who always wanted to control what music was playing at any given time.
“I grew up with very musical parents, my parents were both opera singers, they had a little opera company that they ran, and my brother and I would be driven around in the back of the car on family trips and we were given the choice. We could listen to opera or we could listen to Queen’s greatest hits… It was always Queen’s greatest hits”.
But what of making that step from where all of us have sat at one point or another, glued to our phones or computers, with hands wrapped around our headphones, discovering and hunting down new music. This transition, as Andrew explains, seemed to happen to him, rather than a consciously mapped out or projected journey towards a dream job.
“I’m one of those people who just kind of ended up being in the right place at the right time and also, just happened to be genuinely interested in music. That was always the thing that I wanted to do”.
“In school I did a bunch of internships,” he adds. “I’d already decided I didn’t like TV, journalism didn’t really ended up surfacing as somewhere I wanted to go to… I was running a radio show, and working in a record store, which turned into editing a music magazine. None of these things were conscious choices, they just kind of all started to happen to me and around me”.
Bandcamp is so far removed from being a stationary idea or company and the raw idea and organisation are constantly changing to fit an incredibly dynamic music industry. Andrew was initially tasked with attracting artist and labels to Bandcamp, as well as bringing editorial to the home page and running a weekly radio show. Understandably, as Bandcamp grew from a small startup to the household name we know today, Andrew’s role began to change and expand.
There are now over 2900 labels on Bandcamp, utilising the website as a platform to sell and promote the music of both established and up and coming artists. This of course can only mean one thing: more music for us to discover, purchase and share with like-minded individuals – and it’s still growing. Quizzing Andrew on his latest discoveries and new favourites was like entering a maze of wonder and excitement.
Discussions lead to so many left of field genres, being influenced by this particular artist, who collaborated with this band, who flew to this tiny country in Africa to learn their craft rather than sample the work, and bring it back to the place they call home to finally… upload it on Bandcamp for our listening pleasure.
Thinking about how easy it must be to accumulate a backlog of a ‘yet to be played’ playlist, Andrew spoke about breaking down the daunting task of what must be an endless listening queue. “I’ve been away for just under two weeks and I have over 400 songs filed away in my inbox that I know I have to listen to and that sucks. I like to do it at least a couple of times a week otherwise you miss something.
“But I mean, you can never know everything and I try to view that as a good thing, trying to shift that thought pattern to thinking about how great it is to never run out of music. There’s always going to be someone who turns you onto something, a band, a label, a genre or a scene that you just didn’t know about, and that’s the best thing about it”.
During Andrew’s interview and his keynote speech, his passion for music and working with artists was infectious. Bandcamp not only presents music lovers with an alternative way to both purchase and listen to music, but has also gone a long way to cultivate a sense of community and belonging by connecting artists, fans and labels from all across the world strictly through a mutual love of the music we listen to – and that’s what’s really great about being a passionate music fan.