A tale of two (Music) websites and why using Bandcamp wins

I started writing this on Facebook while waiting for the servers to reboot/verify (overnight power outage) and then thought I would pop it here instead.

Let’s start with some background (get comfy this is a bumpy ride)


Every month FolkCast, put out a podcast that arrives in my MP3 player and provides 1 hour and 18 minutes of interesting folk music, some old stuff and some new. Folkcast is run by Phil Widdows (that’s him on the right) and Ken Nicol (who’s website exhibits some of the very issues we will be covering later).

This is mainly about the new stuff and one #hit and one #fail.

Let’s start with the hit. The theme for the show was “Spring Into May: A Seasonal Special Music and poetry for the Spring to early Summer, from Easter to the Merry Merry Month of May.” I would suggest that you click on the link and you can have the show playing in the background – who knows what you will find.


NC_beachAbout 5 tracks into the show was “The Hit” was Neil Cousin and his song “Oh For The Spring” (that’s it below)

I followed the link on the Folkcast website and found myself at Neil’s Bandcamp site. A quick sampling (or 2 or 3 or lots) and it was a no-brainer to slip him the 5 quid and get the album (as FLAC – insert audio snobbery here).

So, 2 days to check it out, a painless fiver via Paypal and a 15-minute download. Deal is done. (My PC automatically uploaded it to my phone and tablet so it’s there for me to check out on the tram to work in the morning)

And as added bonus, Neil had already responded to the tweets I left and he seems to be a really nice dude. (I love Twitter)

This is how music works for me in the 21st century. Podcasts replace radio’s curation function (except for 3RRR and that is a whole other story) and they do it better, friends recommend stuff via Twitter (follow @dubber or @solobasssteve. It’s rare for a day to go by and them not to mention something new) and then there is the joy of seeing who else a performer is listening to and following up their lists.


What about the miss I hear you ask, well a dozen or so tracks later (Folkcast is a 2-hour show remember) was a track by a band called Magicfolk.

Same deal – tasty guitar, I follow their link and end up at their website.

I spot “listen” in the side menu and was taken to a page that had a good selection of material, including the song I was looking for (Green Man for those of you playing along at home).

And here is where the wheels all fall off.

ALL the tracks listed on the page are 30-second samples. Yep, and to add insult to injury – it wasn’t even the 30 secs with the guitar bit that caught my attention. #megafail.

I rummage around and sadly this is as good as it gets, I head to Twitter (of course I do) and here I run into the next problem.

Their twitter and Facebook links are only on the contact page on their entire website (oops just spotted another brace of links at the bottom of the News page). So I send off a tweet and suddenly realise that they haven’t actually used it since Feb. Somehow I don’t see me getting a tweet back any time soon.

I could go to their Facebook page (which I subsequently did) and it hadn’t been touched for ages either, but wait it has a “Listen” button on it. BUT that takes you to “the new MySpace” and the same 30 sec samples, except none of the new stuff is there.

By now I have lost interest, the Folkcast podcast has over 20 tracks and there is some other great stuff to be followed up. There is a killer Steeleye track that I had never heard, and in a later tweet Phil told me that it was from a Live 2009 album Steeleye did, and yes it too has tasty guitar… but you already had guessed that 🙂

The End

Let me start with I am not “picking on” Magicfolk, they are just the latest in a long line of performers who go out of their way to make it near impossible for me to hear their music. Ken Nicol’s website has the same problem. I can’t hear the tracks before I whack down the money. On the plus side, there are some great YouTube videos.

Over half the acts that I follow up in the UK folk scene have exactly the same website issues. You can’t hear the music – go figure. You are in the business of selling music. But you don’t want anyone to hear it – the bad guys might steal it. The punters might get something for nothing. And so on. I have heard this argument time and time again.

Let’s look at an alternative, Steve Lawson plays solo bass (and if you thought English folk was obscure – Steve wins hands down in the esoteric stakes).

Let’s have a listen to him here This is his album Grace and Gratitude.


Now Steve lets you hear and share all his music. You never have to give him a cent. But people do (I am one of them – hint buy the “everything” USB stick). I have chatted with Steve on twitter, he is a generous and inspiring soul. Through Steve, I have found Emily Baker, Lobelia, Mike Outram, Neil Alexander, Daniel Berkman and a cast of hundreds.

Do I like everything he suggests? Hell no. BUT do I give everything he points out a listen? You betcha.

Is he successful? Go onto Twitter/his website and ask him. I think he is.

What I heard on the podcast was interesting enough to make me jump through the Magicfolk hoops. BUT the experience (i.e. no music) has left the fiver firmly in my Paypal wallet, unlike Neil who has something better than the fiver.

He scored a fan



Categorized as Music


  1. Hi Thatch,
    First of all, thanks for the plug and I’m delighted you listen to FolkCast, enjoy it and find it useful. It takes a lot of time to put together so it’s always good to get feedback.

    On the wider issue, you’ve made some very good points here. Some musicians haven’t got to grips with social media, or making it easy for people to hear and buy their music. Some are better than others. I guess it’s also a time consuming thing that some people do naturally while others have to be continually prodded into doing it because they are busy doing other, more creative things. Let this be a lesson to them – let people hear your music, and keep your Twitter and Facebook etc up to date.

    In Ken Nicol’s case, you can hear some of his latest music on Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/folkcast) but that’s on our page, not Ken’s – and Ken hasn’t linked to it. They are linked to from his Facebook page – http://ow.ly/jCCA8 – but why should people have to jump through hoops or turn detective to find them? Good point.

    Finally, FolkCast isn’t a two hour show (well, not often) – it’s usually 1hr18min, which is the max length for burning to CD-R, a format a surprising number of our listeners use.

    Cheers, Phil

  2. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the comment. I will change the time in the text – it takes me 2 hours because I am looking people up and dropping links to be pursued into my todo list.
    I had found Ken’s soundcloud tracks and linked to A Woman’s Work (Demo) which is a ripper track. But it took a fair few minutes to find. He should put the track he uses for the regular show onto Bandcamp – I for one would buy it in a flash.

    By the way I will be ordering a copy of the Steeleye album tomorrow from my favourite shop ( Visit Basement Records is in the todo list), thanks for playing it on the show and especially thanks for the show.


  3. I am in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed. I am at a complete and total loss when I find musicians not using bandcamp. The same musicians who probably whine and complain, no one has heard of them, no one books them, no one downloads or buys their music.

    Last summer I was at Staycation, a wonderful free music by the side of the River Wey in Godalming. I talked to most of the people who played. Very few had even heard of bandcamp, let alone had music there. Most were interested and a keen to follow through, but a few told me of how many sites they were on, and thus it was not for them. Those who had lots of sites my reaction was so what, and when I checked them out, nothing was up to date.

    And why is anyone still using MySpace?

    Recently I met Richard Smerin sat outside a bar in Puerto de la Cruz. He was just amusing himself, playing a guitar. We got chatting and I bought a couple of his CDs. I told him he must be on bandcamp, he half listened, but was not really interested, was already on dozens of sites, and if anyone wished to listen to his music, go to his site.

    I did, and as I expected, the media player was awful, one of the worst I have seen. Why bother, why reinvent an inferior wheel? If on bandcamp, can embed on ones own website.

    Maybe a little unfair on Richard Smerin, as I have picked him out, but sadly he is not atypical.

    When are people going to learn, a few seconds of lofi mp3 is not doing yourself or your music any favours?

    If people like your music, write about it, share with others, they are doing you a great big favour.

    The West End Centre recently had retweet this gig and you get put in a draw for a free CD. This is a win-win for everyone. The venue gets publicity, the artists gets publicity, a few people get a free CD to tell their mates about.

    I had never heard of Duke Special before. Although I have yet to listen Oh Pioneer, I have listened to his music, passed to others, said worth listening to. All because of one tweet by West End Centre and a free CD I was invited to collect.

    Tonight they have Chris Wood, first night of a UK tour. They have tweeted his album on bandcamp, take a listen, if you like, are you not more likely to go along, maybe send to your mates invite them along too?

    And I completely agree on Steve Lawson. Great music, knows how to use social media, and his blog is a must read. As is his book Rock and Roll is Dead.

    Same goes for Andrew Dubber and if you have not read The 360 Deal, then please do, as it is a must read.

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