Bandcamp Bets Other People Will Build Its Apps

(Note: This article was written by‘s Chase Hoffberger and edited by Eliot Van Buskirk.)

For all that Bandcamp offers to music fans for finding new artists — and for artists to sell things to those fans — the music discovery service has yet to develop a native app, and it may not have to.

The company has taken the Tom Sawyer-style approach of releasing an API (application programming interface) to developers, and letting them have at it.

“We have plans to make a native app, yes,” programmer Joe Holt told “Whether it’s a complement to the Bandcamp page where you’re just looking at what you see on now but optimised for mobile, or it’s something else; we don’t know yet. But the absence of a mobile app just means that we haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

He’s in no rush. The architect behind Adobe Systems’ APIs for Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, Holt helped build a rock-solid Bandcamp API that with which third-party developers can create even more unique methods of music discovery — the foundation of Bandcamp’s existence.

Such creativity is evident in the third-party iPhone app Randcamp, a $1 offering from Harry Lundström that randomizes and streams Bandcamp’s extensive library of music. Getting started is easy (music starts playing as soon as you open the app), and if you like what you’re hearing, you can click through for more information on the artist, including the band’s Bandcamp URL. If you don’t like it, no sweat — press Next, and another song queues up in the player.

Some may view Randcamp’s limited options as a drawback, but not Holt. He contests that Lundström converted lemons to lemonade, building an app off the Bandcamp API that at the time did not allow for specific-artist search.

The other third-party iPhone app for the service, so far, is Kumbaya, designed by Cirrostratus to mimic the most basic component of Bandcamp the website: the ability to listen to a full album. Users of Kumbaya can access any album by entering a Bandcamp subdomain into the search bar. If you want to listen to Nive Nielsen’s excellent nive sings!, enter “nivenielsen” into Kumbaya and you’re good to go.

That app works great if you know what you want to listen to, but Holt hopes the next generation of third-party apps will explore the capabilities of music discovery on Bandcamp a bit more. To do so, he’s making tweaks to an API, rather than offering direction to an app developer, or creating an app that does that himself.

“That’s a direction I want to take the API in a lot more,” he says. “The next chance I have to work on it is just supporting discovery — browsing by genre or location. We really just want to help artists get heard, and discovery is a huge component of that.”

Also on Holt’s wish list: using the API to create band-centric apps. Like Ninja Tune’s label-centric app, Holt envisions artists creating apps that they can use to help promote their own product, whether it be by advertising tour dates, giving away music, or setting up centralized hubs for tweets and Facebook posts about the band.

“Say you’re a fan of some band. You go to their website and find an app you can install on your phone. It’s all branded about the band; not about Bandcamp, and it’s not about discovering all the artists in the same genre. It’s for Band X. They might be pulling in their show dates from another database, or having exclusives on the app… It’s really wide open what a band camp do with their app, and the Bandcamp API can be central to that, giving bands a way to show their discographies and music… I think that would be cool.

“Someone should do that!”

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