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PaganiusI
Zee Bombelecher

Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:49 pm
Posts: 1070
Location: Germany
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2019 2:16 pm 
 

With Bandcamp growing more and more popular within the last decade, it soon became one of the (if not the) main source for a vast majority of band submissions on Metal-Archives. Since it's easy to use and offers a lot of options for selling music (both downloads and physical media) as well as merchandise, most new bands got an account there. But with those options they offer came the headache for both users and moderators on this site. I heard questions like "Is it out yet?", "Are all songs included in the download?" and "Those image look like they are photoshopped. Is this fake?" numerous times, so I sat down, created an artist account, read their manuals and even contacted the Bandcamp support in order to flesh out some rules and guidelines for Bandcamp releases.

General

In general Bandcamp releases have to meet the same criteria as every other release when it comes to validity, publicity and being a finished release.
Therefore you have to verify that

1. It's not a private release that was only made available to reviewers, zines or close friends, but not the general public
2. The release has a proper tracklist, artwork, etc
3. All songs are actually available in the download at the time you submit/add the release.

The last one is sometimes the most difficult one, but I'll get to that later on.

For further info on valid releases, read our rules.


Pre-orders

Bandcamp has quite a few options for setting up pre-orders like having teaser tracks you receive when pre-ordering the album and allowing people to download those tracks individually, either with a separate buying option or for free.

Image

Whenever you see this on an album page, it often indicates that an album isn't released yet. Sadly there are exceptions. Pre-order or not, as long as all songs are included in the download and it has the finished artwork, it is released by our standards and the band can be submitted.
It's also worth noting that pre-orders don't change their status automatically once the release date is reached. The band has to manually change that and if they forget that, it would still show up as a pre-order.
Keep in mind that it is allowed to add releases that haven't been released yet to an existing band as long as artwork, track list and full release date are available. These additions obviously don't require all songs to be available.
Sadly release dates on Bandcamp can be quite messy, especially since the artist can pick whatever they want it to be, leading to releases with a release date from the 80s/90s or something. There's other issues with release dates which I'll cover later on.


Private releases

As the name already tells you, these releases are not valid by our standards. Private releases on Bandcamp can act in the same way as promo copies or EPKs, but they could also be previously released albums that the artist later set to private for whatever reason. Therefore whenever you encounter a private album, either because the band sent you a download code or you find a release in your Bandcamp collection that is marked with "PRIVATE", don't add them since the artist doesn't want this to be known/visible to the general public. BUT as I already pointed out, the artist might've released it properly at some point and witched it to private later, so this isn't an invite to go around and delete everything that's no longer publicly visible on the band's Bandcamp page.

Just for reference, this is how they'll look in your collection. They are listed after your regular collection, but before the albums you're hiding from the eyes of the public.

Image


Release dates

The release date for digital releases can often be quite messy, inconsistent or complete nonsense. Sometimes this happens by accident, sometimes bands choose the date when a release was originally released and sometimes bands use the release date of the upcoming CD. Thankfully the source code of Bandcamp enables you to track down some key dates for each release.

In order to benefit from those features you go to the album page you want to investigate and open the source code of the site. The commands for that are specific to your browser, a guide on how to do that can be found >here<.

The crucial data you want to look for are as followed:
• "publish_date" - the exact date the site was made public
• "mod_date" - the last time the release has been updated
• "release_date" - the release date as set by the band

We can for example take a look at Blackshore's The Music of the Flies
The release date shown states "June 20, 2015" and looking at the source code we see this:
• "publish_date":"18 May 2015 21:49:25 GMT"
• "mod_date":"15 Jun 2015 12:35:12 GMT"
• "release_date":"20 Jun 2015 00:00:00 GMT"

Now what does this tell us?
Firstly you'll notice that the publish date and the release date don't match. Therefore either the release date is wrong or the release was a pre-order. In this specific case I know that the digital version was available since May 18th, because I bought it as soon as they announced it.
Secondly, the mod date does match neither of the other dates and in fact predates the release date, indicating that it hasn't been a proper pre-order. I'd be very wary with this, because I came across albums where the mod date didn't register a change from pre-order to released which is what the Bandcamp support told me aswell. It might act as an indicator though.

How to add release dates to Bandcamp releases then?
For releases on Bandcamp the release date listed on MA should ideally be the date the release was made available to the public with all songs included. While it's usually fine to list the release date shown, it's not always correct and you should always double-check with the source code and official band pages like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
When encountering albums with obviously wrong release dates like anything that predates Bandcamp (early 2008 and earlier) or screwed up pre-orders (as described above), the "publish_date" should be used as the release date unless there is information on the band's official pages that invalidate this date.
If you're in doubt, there's no harm in omitting the exact day or even month, but try to elaborate this in the additional notes. Try to be as complete as possible, BUT an incomplete date is always better than a guessed one.


Tracklist

Finally we arrived at the most controversial and heavily discussed part of this whole issue, the part that leaves many people (including mods) uncertain: The tracklist and whether or not a song is included in a download.
While most albums on Bandcamp feature the correct tracklist with all songs being streamable and downloadable, this isn't always the case and hard to see for people that didn't investigate further into the subject.

Firstly it's important to know that not all songs that are listed in the tracklist are automatically included in the download. Bandcamp has the option to add dummy tracks with no audio to an album's tracklist. This would make the release not valid by our standards, because missing tracks violate the "finished release" criteria. Therefore it's crucial to know when songs are included in the download and when they are only mockups to complete the tracklist of a work-in-progress or similar stuff.
I've heard a few times that one indicator of that can be the "streamability". The idea behind that is that if you can stream a song it's also in the download. That's completely correct, BUT not being able to stream a song doesn't mean it isn't included in the download either. That's due to the fact that Bandcamp offers some special features with their Pro upgrade. One of these features is the ability to disable streaming for individual tracks. Another indicator that might lead to false assumptions is the blue "buy track" that often appears when hovering over songs. Again, this doesn't prove that a song that doesn't feature this isn't included in the download, because the band can allow or prohibit individual downloading and buying of songs.

A way more consistent method is to check whether the song length is listed or not. The song length is always included for songs that actually include audio which are therefore included in the download. This also doesn't get affected by the ability to stream the songs.

To demonstrate how this might look on an actual album page I modified the example from earlier to reflect the possible differences between songs.

Image

As you can see, track one is the default as seen on millions of albums while the others lack different aspects. Each of those cases I've seen in the past and from my experience the only song missing in this specific download would be track 2. It has nothing to do with streaming or being able to buy the track separately, but rather with the fact that Bandcamp can't show the length of a song that is just a mockup. As obvious as this may seem, many don't know this and it can lead to frustration when buying an 10-song album and receiving a .zip file with only 2 songs in it.
But not only that, it's also important to know this when adding albums and or bands to Metal-Archives, because the example above is incomplete, therefore not a valid release by our standards.

Sadly this is not the only aspect that might make things complicated. Bandcamp also allows bands to add bonus songs to a release without showing them in the tracklist. That's pretty much the same thing as bands adding hidden tracks on their CDs and I haven't encountered many Bandcamp releases that feature that, but it's worth keeping in mind. Having in mind that many bands apparently don't know how to set up a pre-order or have other issues with Bandcamp, there's the possibility they didn't find out how to replace a mockup track with a real one and attach it as a bonus song, which I guess would be a valid release after all. The troublesome part about that is the proof for it, because you'd have to acquire the release in order to check for that (unless it's stated in the notes or elsewhere).

Sometimes tracks on an album don't link to their individual track page (the song title acting as the hyperlink), but this seems to be related to the individual downloading since mockups get their own pages as well, again not proving anything.

Lastly, since we're talking about streaming anyways, there are also stream-only albums on Bandcamp, believe it or not. While this feature was removed around 2013, accounts that were created before that year still have the ability to add releases that can be streamed but not downloaded. I guess it was removed to save server space, because all songs uploaded have to be in lossless format and they don't want to pay for server space that won't gain them money (through downloads/payments). However, stream-only releases aren't valid releases under our current rule set, even those on Bandcamp.


Images of physical media

Many bands sell their CDs, Cassettes and other physical media on their Bandcamp page alongside a download. Some even sell them without a download. In those cases it's important to know that not all images of physical media presented on the Bandcamp page are actual pictures of the release in question. Obvious exceptions are bands that only include the artwork or a promo flyer alongside their release while other cases are less obvious. It's worth knowing that Bandcamp forces users to add at least one picture to every physical merch you add to your page, hence some bands fake pictures of their physical media. There are various reasons for that. Some do it because the CDs haven't arrived yet, but they want the potential buyer to get a good idea of what they'll receive. Others simply don't have the possibility to take pictures of their releases and others do it to actively fake the existence of a physical release to get an entry in the Metal-Archives. Most of those cases are easy to spot, others aren't. In the case of Bandcamp, they offer bands and labels a bunch of templates that they can use to create a mockup image for physical releases.
For a list of those templates and examples, check their help section >here<.
Those mockups are easy to spot looking at the presentation of the jewelcase, the cassette shell or the CD, Vinyl et cetera that can be seen on the templates.

Be cautious when seeing those templates or other images that look fake to you and try to find some actual images of the release to confirm its existence, or at least some official announcements regarding them (like pressing plant delays that could explain the lack of a proper image, etc).


Bonus items

Last but not least, Bandcamp features the ability to add bonus stuff to your download. As I already pointed out, you have the ability to add bonus tracks that don't show up on the tracklist, but there's more.
The bonus stuff isn't that much related to the validity of an album, but it doesn't hurt to add it to the guide. The main reason for that is that Bandcamp doesn't allow most music files (like mp3, flac, etc) to be included as a bonus item, because those should be included as bonus tracks. But there might be digital booklets, flyers, artworks, novels or other stuff to accompany the release. Those can be added to the additional notes of a release.


That's it for now, guys. In case of further questions or missing infos, don't hesitate to comment in this thread and I'll see what I can do for you.
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