In a world wide web full of streaming music services, exists Bandcamp—a site that I discovered earlier this year and that has quickly turned into one of my favorite go-to sources for new music.

A 78 RPM Decca vinyl recording (Flickr/Mike Bitzenhofer)

I like Bandcamp—A LOT.

Apsara features tons of artists from this music distribution site, especially in our daily Twitter and Facebook recommendations .

So what’s so great about it?

From a basic listener’s perspective:

  • It offers an attractive landing page with a musician’s complete discography and links to their website, Twitter, and Facebook pages.
  • There are no commercials. You can only listen to one album at a time, but you can enjoy it in peace.
  • After previewing a full-length album, it’s easy to pay for and download it in a variety of digital formats, including MP3 320, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, and several others I’ve never even heard of before. Using Paypal, I’ve downloaded albums in  five minutes flat—which means a lot when I just have to have an album for my train ride home but am running late. (And if time is not a constraint and you prefer your music in CD format, many musicians offer this option too.)

From a blogger’s perspective:

  • Bandcamp’s nifty streaming player embeds easily into Apsara‘s WordPress page, allowing us to share full audio samples of the music we’re excited about.
  • There’s a bewildering array of musical selections—ranging from high school student home basement recording projects to Grammy-winning albums.
  • Labels like Cumbancha and its partner label Putomayo are cropping up more and more on Bandcamp, proving that they recognize that there’s more to digital music than iTunes.

The one double-edged feature to Bandcamp is its tagging structure. Musicians can set their own tags, which leads to a completely different set of results when searching for “folk pop” as opposed to “folkpop.”

On the other hand, it’s also possible to narrow results with an über-specific  tag like “indie folk pop rock alt-country.” If you have the time, it’s fun to search for music by genre variation, as well as by country and even city.

Bandcamp is my online equivalent of the Exclusive Company of Madison, WI, the favored record store of my high school and college days.  Digging through the crazy tag structure reminds me of rummaging through bins of world, jazz, and classical music CDs in the Exclusive Company’s basement—never quite sure what I was going to find.

Unlike the Exclusive Company though, there’s no resident classical music buff hanging out in the basement who’s happy to chat and offer recommendations.

I’ll wager that music stores will be around for a long while yet, but we’ll see next week what you have to say on the subject as we delve into the results of our “Digital Divide” survey.

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