Why doesn’t Bandcamp have playlists?
I love Bandcamp for many reasons, beginning with the mind-boggling amount and variety of music that it offers. I appreciate how it constantly tries to highlight, surface, and curate new and interesting music (e.g., Bandcamp Daily). And as a music lover who wants musicians to be able to make a living from their art, I like that it cuts out middlemen and allows artists and labels to sell music and merchandise (e.g., shirts, vinyl, even cassettes) directly to fans, and can be more profitable for artists than streaming services like Spotify.
And then there’s the simple fact that they offer actual music downloads, which gives me more ownership and control over the music that I buy. Even if Bandcamp shuts down or an artist deletes their Bandcamp page, I’ll still be able to listen to all of the music that I bought because the files will still be on my computer.
Having said all that, there’s one thing that kind of irks me about Bandcamp, and that’s the lack of a playlist feature (and I’m not the only one who feels that way). As Marc Weidenbaum puts it:
Unlike services from Spotify to SoundCloud, Bandcamp lacks the ability for listeners to serve as collators. You can learn a lot from following and looking into the acquisitions of fellow Bandcamp users, but you can’t do much more than that. You speak through your wallet (and your wishlist) on Bandcamp. If you buy something, it’s associated with your account (mine is at bandcamp.com/disquiet), but you can’t, for example, create an ersatz hits collection for an artist with multiple albums, or, as I was drawn to do with Dual Concentric, whittle 20 tracks down to their background-music essentials.
My desire for playlists is largely due to how I often use Bandcamp, e.g., embedding its players into posts and reviews. If I had to make a guess as to why Bandcamp lacks this feature, it’s probably because they’re focused on selling music, and so they want to drive traffic to individual releases that are available for purchase/download.
But there have been many times when I’m writing a post about several musicians, and I’d much rather embed a single player containing a playlist of their songs rather than a player for each one of them. If nothing else, this would make for a more seamless listening experience for my readers, and it’d probably also decrease the amount of time it takes for the post in question to load. (If a post has multiple embedded players, each player can add a little overhead because it has to load its own resources.)
There is a workaround: you can create a playlist of Bandcamp-hosted songs with Playmoss. However, I’m loathe to use third-party integrations. Perhaps I’m just a bit too paranoid, but integration services like Playmoss feel inherently fragile to me, and represent additional points of failure that could negatively affect my site’s performance. Given the ephemeral nature of the internet, where services come and go, are acquired and then ignored, mishandled, or shut down, or suddenly pivot to some other new market/angle, I simply don’t want something else that I have to manage even as I worry about how long it’ll be around.
I realize some slight hypocrisy here, since embedded players from Bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube, et al. are essentially a kind of integration, and I make frequent use of them. But they feel less fragile than using yet another service as an intermediary between them and my site.
Essentially, I agree with Alan Parish when he writes:
Bandcamp would be wise to go ahead and buy Playmoss, or incorporate the same feature into their own website. Bandcamp has been around long enough that they have the resources to add a playlist function, and in my opinion would lead to even more money for the artists, and for Bandcamp itself.
As for how a Bandcamp playlist feature might work, it could be as “simple” as adding an “Add to Playlist” link on an individual song’s page next to the “Share/Embed” and “Wishlist” links. Clicking on that link would open a modal that lets you select from an existing playlist or a new playlist.
As for managing the playlists themselves, they could all be accessed via a “Playlists” link located next to the “Collection” link in the upper-right corner. (I’m assuming that you must have a Bandcamp account in order to create playlists.) The interface for managing an individual playlist’s details and tracks could be based on the interface that Bandcamp currently has for artists/labels to manage their releases, albeit in a much more simplified and stripped down form.
Finally, each playlist could be embedded in a manner similar to how releases and individual songs are currently embedded, and a link to all of a specific user’s playlists could also be on their public profile page.
Obviously, I have no idea how Bandcamp has been built so it might be a good deal more convoluted than the simplified processes I’ve outlined above, if not outright impossible. But even if adding playlists wouldn’t represent a major technical challenge, it may very well be that Bandcamp considers that sort of functionality as opposed or detrimental to their current business model and goals.
Speaking from the perspective of a longtime fan and frequent consumer, though, I believe Bandcamp’s utility would only be increased by the addition of some sort of playlist feature.