While it’s easy to find place to put written content on the web, audio content is less easy than just using a blogging site like WordPress.
Podcasts have an entire ecosystem of hosting providers, aggregators, etc.
But what about the other stuff like field recordings, ambiances, and other audio? Content that’s not exactly a podcast, not music, maybe serial at times? For those of us wanting to post that kind of content there are two main options I’ve found: Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
Both sites were originated to host indie music, and both cater mainly to that crowd.
But for field recordists the use case is near enough the same that they work that purpose as well. So for field recordings how do they compare?
BandCamp is free, and there doesn’t seem to be any storage limit beyond the 291mb limit on tracks. They offer a Pro version for $10/mo, which includes a variety of features, but they’re aimed at more complete branding & stats.
Soundcloud is free for the first three hours of recordings, but after that you’re going to need to shell out for a pro account at $16/month or $144/year. The Pro account also adds other features, like the ability to modify a track without losing stats history.
The iOS app for Soundcloud does mostly everything, albeit not everything the website does, but you can post files, look at stats, etc. The app for band camp is a listener app, and then there’s another app for artists & labels that lets you see stats, but neither let you post. So BandCamp requires a computer for posting where SC can post on the go.
In Soundcloud tracks are monetized using some method that Soundcloud controls, and there’s no way to price a track specifically.
BandCamp offers far more control over pricing. You can price each track and album, you can let buyers choose their own price, or things can be free. However there is a limit on free downloads of 200/month.
While Soundcloud limits free uploads, Bandcamp limits free downloads.
Both support lossless uploads, Bandcamp actually only accepts lossless formats. Both support downloads, with Soundcloud providing the original file, and Bandcamp offering conversion to 6 formats.
Soundcloud has integration with a few editors – Twisted Wave, Hindenburg, etc. You can schedule posts to release on a date & time, a great feature if you’re doing more serial podcast or podcasty stuff. Soundcloud will also publish from their app.
BandCamp requires a regular browser to publish, and as yet does not have any editor integration.
Field Recordist Presence/Community
Because A Sound Effect requires library contributors to send a link to a SC demo for submitted libraries, a lot of recordists are nudged in that direction and all the major folks (i.e. Watson Wu, Frank Bry, etc.) have a presence there even if the last post might be years ago. More importantly there a lots of more casual folks who post stuff from vacations or recordings they make offhand. This forms a community that I haven’t been able to find on Bandcamp.
Instead, Bandcamp has more folks selling sound effects libraries. This makes sense because the platform is suited to it, but if you’re looking for recordings with a particular mic or recorder to see how things sound you’re less likely to find it on Bandcamp than on Soundcloud.
In Soundcloud each user is both a fan and an artist – you can post, follow, listen all from one account.
In Bandcamp, there are fan accounts that follow bands and buy tracks, and artist accounts that post tracks and albums. Multiple accounts can be linked to a single login, but there’s no way for an artist account to follow another artist. Instead, it’s the artist’s fan account that does the following. This separation of fan and artist is part of what gives Bandcamp a very distinct, capitalist sort of feel. In Soundcloud everyone is the same, not in Bandcamp.
Last but not least, Bandcamp has a more rigid feel than Soundcloud. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but posting non-music stuff there feels wrong, like I’m parking someplace that maybe isn’t a parking place.
What about finding recordings to listen to, or finding recordings made with specific gear? Do a search for ‘MixPre6’ on Soundcloud and you get recordings made with that recorder. This is really useful for researching new mics, or being reminded of how little impact the gear has on the final product.
Do the same search on Bandcamp and you get tracks with ‘Mix’ in the title, or ‘Pre’, or maybe just something close. It doesn’t seem to search the description or the tags.
On Soundcloud the genre can be ‘Other’ with a custom field, so there’s a way to make postings have the genre of ‘field recording’, which you can’t do on Bandcamp, although you can tag it. On Bandcamp we’re stuck with ‘Ambient’ or ‘Experimental’, but I bet the fans of those genres are annoyed by recordings of forests, beaches, etc. turning up in their results.
Bandcamp does have a ‘discover’ feature with a genre filter, but there’s no ability to filter by tag.
Branding & Stats
Bandcamp wins here with quite a lot of control over what landing page fans are directed to, what that page looks like, even what the URL is including custom domains under a Pro account.
Soundcloud allows a custom header image, and not much else.
Both sites offer pretty complete stats on the main dimensions of plays, follows, likes, and downloads. Bandcamp also includes purchases.
BandCamp has several other features that should not be overlooked:
A place to post info to your followers, and there are comments. It includes email distribution to the followers.
Allows you to sell t-shirts or whatever other merchandise you want to.
Not sure what value this has in the context of field recording, but Bandcamp provides a way to live stream content.
If I was promoting my own band or music Bandcamp would be the obvious choice. It has more of the features I’d be looking for and a better back end from a business perspective.
If I was selling sound effect libraries, I’d still probably go with Bandcamp. But I’d also have a demo on Soundcloud because I’d probably end up needing it for one of the library aggregators. I’d love to hear whether the folks who are selling libraries on Bandcamp as well as a personal site see significant revenue from Bandcamp.
For myself and maybe for field recording in general Bandcamp is less of a fit.
I’m not selling libraries (yet?), and it’s unlikely much revenue is going to come from my recordings as they are. So the monetization features are not so important. Nor is merch or live streams.
My goal is to get a few likes, a few follows, and be part of a community as I enjoy this hobby and develop some craft. Right now that community is on Soundcloud more than Bandcamp. I’m also more likely to post more often if posting is easier, which it is via editor integrations.
So, sacrifice community for a free experience, or pay for the community?
If it’s just a hobby that’s not bringing in revenue why use a service I’d have to pay for? While it’s more likely to bring in revenue on the service that has better monetization, if no one can find it, or ever runs across it, the point is moot. My stuff gets heard on Soundcloud, not so much on Bandcamp.
While the fee for Soundcloud is annoying I have to acknowledge folks are paying it, thus there is value there.
[UPDATE] Despite what I wrote above, I decided to let my Soundcloud subscription lapse because I haven’t been posting (or even recording) regularly enough. But that’s a gap on my side, not theirs.
What about Freesound.org, Radio Aporee, etc?
Freesound is really aimed at sound effects, less so at ambiances, and even less so for any kind of serial or album-style presentation.
Radio Aporee is very cool, and I need to do more there. It is a way to put ambiances on a map, and so you can zoom in and hear the sounds of a place. It’s fascinating to listen to, amazing how much and how different places can sound, even at the same time. It is specialized though, and not a fit for serialized works.
Podcast solutions, like iTunes or Spotify, aren’t a good fit for anything that’s not a podcast – serial work, all with a common theme of some kind.