Something wonderful, and a little surprising, has been happening on Bandcamp lately. Indie game soundtracks have not only proliferated on the site, they’ve also been selling. A lot. The music for games like Super Meat Boy, Plants vs. Zombies and Shatter is often right up there on the top sales chart next to albums from artists like Sufjan Stevens and Amanda Palmer. This wasn’t something we expected to see on Bandcamp, and at first mull it seemed a bit odd. If you’ve played through any of these games, you’ve already listened to the music for dozens — or in some cases hundreds — of hours (damn you P vs. Z!). Furthermore, gamers tend to be dismissed as the sort of punks who would just utilize their 1337 skillz to get all their music for free. So what’s going on here?
We suspect the answer is pretty simple. Gamers, like any artist’s fanbase, are a passionate community, and when given the opportunity to support the creators of the music they love (and when the relationship is clearly a direct one with the artist), they jump at the chance.* Many people are undoubtedly buying the music to get the music, but a large portion are likely buying it to tell composers like Danny B, Laura Shigihara and Jeramiah Ross, “Hey, we love what you’re doing and we want you to keep doing it.”
And this phenomenon isn’t restricted to the gaming community. Right next to the sorts of great and strong-selling artists that we always hoped/expected to see (like Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Dub FX) are big sales from niche communities we never anticipated: dance music for furries, a webcomic soundtrack, and a student-produced college musical regularly top the sales chart. Their sales might not put them in #Bieber territory, but it’s so exciting to see these tight-knit communities defying the abysmally low expectations heaped upon this generation of music consumers and instead supporting the creators they love. These artists are already an important part of Bandcamp’s business, and we think this bodes well for the record business as a whole.
*How passionate? We recently got this email: “The game Curse of the Crescent Isle just dropped on XBL, which we did the soundtrack for and I was crushed to see that we weren’t able to upload the .nsf files as bonus material! These are .midi like files that you could get onto your modded Super Nintendo to hear the tracks played on the actual chip, instead of software modified. Nerds and audiophiles around the world would be grateful if you could help us out with this!” Happy ending: we whitelisted .nsf immediately. Disaster averted.