We interrupt our previously envisioned blog post (yes, there really was one, and it’s still coming…) to make sure everyone knows about the remarkable campaign that has been going on for just over 14 hours, and will continue for nearly 10 more, on Bandcamp. I’ll wager that most Log readers are familiar with this web-retailing platform, which allows artists and labels to sell their music directly to consumers in a variety of digital formats, and in physical formats as well.
Bandcamp, which launched in 2008 and has grown steadily since, has flourished for a number of reasons: chiefly, a responsible and ethical business model more equitable to artists than any other retailer of comparable size, but also a savvy grasp of social media’s power of peer-to-peer persuasion, implemented through public-facing “collections” meant to function as virtual record shelves to be pored over and emulated. (Yes, of courseI’ve got one.)
The “Holy Grail of Online Record Stores,” the headline ran over a contemplative essay by Ben Ratliff in The New York Times almost a year ago. Then a few months later, come Election Day, the world changed. And in February of this year, Bandcamp took a new kind of ethical stand, responding to the Trump administration’s “immigrant ban” by pledging all of its profits (roughly 12 percent of each sale) to the ACLU. The response was overwhelming, with record-breaking sales and countless artists and labels donating their own profits, as well.
Today, August 4, Bandcamp has repeated that gesture, this time responding to the Trump administration’s tweeted declaration of discrimination against transgender troops serving in the military. Spearheaded by Jes Skolnik — a musician and journalist, and the managing editor of Bandcamp’s lively, informative journalistic arm — the company pledged all profits raised on August 4 (midnight to midnight, Pacific Standard Time) to the Transgender Law Center, which according to its mission statement “changes law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.”
Once again, the response has been gratifying to witness. Numerous labels (including prominent indies like Sub Pop, Merge, and Mexican Summer) promised to donate their proceeds in kind, as did scores of individual artists and groups. Fans took to Twitter to share their new acquisitions. Extreme-music journalist Kim Kelly (@GrimKim) unleashed a tweetstorm recommending LGBTQ+ metal acts. Another writer, Sammy Maine, assembled a compelling list, “Essential Albums by Transgender Artists.”
What has made this event even more gratifying is seeing the artists who queued up to rush-release exclusive new titles just for the occasion. And among the first out of the gate was the venerable New York City new-music institution the S.E.M. Ensemble, represented with a historic live recording of Joy Boy, a brief, bewitching composition by Julius Eastman — a composer whose groundbreaking works have been the subject of welcome rediscovery over the last few years. (Frozen Reeds, the label that posted Joy Boy, was responsible for last year’s ear-opening Eastman release, Femenine.)
The next essential release to cross my transom was Knees, a gorgeous, sonorous meditation for ringing metal by percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies.
Plenty more would follow. Jason Lescalleet, the Maine-based composer and improviser who runs the Glistening Examples label, produced a two-track EP, August 4th, that will be available only for the duration of the Bandcamp sale.
Another compelling improviser, Mike Shiflet, managed to prepare two new tracks he recorded just yesterday in time to sell them today.
The list of timely new releases goes on and on… two solo albums by bassist-composer Devin Hoff, a lovely track from sound artist and LINE label founder Richard Chartier (under his alternate banner, pinkcourtesyphone), a digital advance release of the next tape from ambient-music artist Gareth Hardwick, and plenty more. And some labels that didn’t have any new releases in the queue announced that they’d donate their profits anyway… a great incentive to pick up that 1972 live recording by German electronic-music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler on the Further label, at last.
As for myself, I picked up all of those titles and more than a few more: older items I’d stashed in my wishlist for a special occasion (including Shame Parade, a 2015 LP by Jes Skolnik’s band Split Feet), as well as a handful of genuinely new discoveries that popped up while I was impulse browsing. Nothing I purchased cost much individually, but I appreciated knowing that every little bit added up to something more.
As I finish typing this, it’s currently 5:30pm on the East Coast… and that means you’ve still got nearly 10 hours to buy some music, and help to make a difference in the world.