Bandcamp for Authors

Welcome to the second instalment of Killing Darlings. The name, well, that should be abundantly clear. It’s from the quote misattributed to the indefatigable Mark Twain who was alleged to have said that writers need to, “Kill their darlings,” that is, their favourite characters in their stories, so that their stories can live.

The same thing goes with a designer’s mind I think. They need to empty it of all the ideas drowning their brains. Kill them wholesale when possible, exterminate the niggly bits of design ideas floating around there in their heads and dragging their lives down.

This is the second 1 instalment of the slaughter to ensue.

Someone should have reminded me the music industry is also completely screwed and maybe not a great place to start

I like to consider myself a writer (of sorts). I write, if that means anything. I wrote this, the thing you’re currently reading which no doubt is infecting your mind in all sorts of dubious ways with flights of fancy and doom. I write amateur fiction, blogs, and mainly I write into my computer into files that stay there for a long time never to see the light of day. Once I come up with a name for this, you’ll hear about it on TechCrunch when I close my Series B funding on this mysterious thing, whatever it will be called, which will no doubt lead to it being an invaluable thing that nobody, including yourself, dear reader, will be able to live without. I also wondered, as a designer, my mind alight with rampant ideas and delusions, “Who am I interested in helping?” That’s easy: people who write, such as myself I fancied, authors otherwise.

So a name. That’s where to start, right? There is something about a name and the images of wonder it creates in the mind. The good ones are metaphors. They lead right to understanding what the thing is. My favourite example is “Jaws in Space”. According to film lore, this is how the film “Aliens” was pitched. It was Jaws in Space basically. It’s really the perfect three word formula to describe the film. This idea of starting with a kernel description and then designing out, always guided by that gut-punching simple “aha” moment set of three to four words, was how products and services should probably be designed I began to think.

Jaws in Space
Jaws in Space

What is the thing out there that people already know that helps artists make money and remain relevant and independent and is generally awesome? Oh, that’s easy, Bandcamp.

  • It makes you listen to an album. You can listen to it for free a bunch of times, the whole album and then at some point you have to make the call, buy it or not.
  • You buy actual stuff from actual musicians
  • There is heaps of extremely obscure stuff
  • It’s so unreadable I love it. 12 pt type! When was the last time you saw that?
  • Owning music. Imagine that. Its not locked somewhere, you can have it there on your drive, sitting physically somewhere near you. Just like the good old days.
  • A loose yet helpful tag structure (I’m looking at you “cleveland” and “power-violence”)

The name is everything. Maybe.

Bandcamp was clearly The Way Forward, both in terms of a metaphor and somehow consequently as a structural model. So Bandcamp for Authors began to fester deep in what is left of this ripe, old, art school flunkie mind. The idea was broadly about supporting indie authors. It was something about giving people who seem to want to back authors a place to do that and said authors a place sell their wares and maintain a presence. Simple I thought.

  • Story samples or even whole books for people to read
  • Author, not book focused
  • Goodreads is fine and Amazon is just a fact everyone has to deal with. This could use Amazon with affiliates linking and whatnot but also give the author a place to have other sorts of articles and other types of writing just like bands selling individual tracks, complete albums or maybe most importantly merch

I started asking myself a lot of questions. After all, what is the point of it? It should be able to answer a number of things. How did Bandcamp get started? How does it make money? How does it start with me and maybe five other people? In other words, exploring the idea of creating a thing because this is what you’re supposed to do I guess. But the name. Bandcamp is such a seriously good name that has everything in it. It references humour and says sort of what it actually does on the tin, which gathers bands and gives them somewhere to be altogether in ultimate power. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. But it needs a snazzy name, that’s for sure. Why? Because the Valley. Here is some of what I sadly came up with:

  • The Writers Retreat? This one is of course the easiest to pull out of my ass, and of course just as valid. Bad. Bad. Bad. But a start.
  • StoryStack? Now there’s one. Stack means tech. Story is well, you know, what it is. Everyone wins. Of course this name was taken by about a million other things, the best of which is easily figures from the bible that are in the form of cups you can stack. This is probably a better startup idea anyhow.
  • Gathering Dust? I love the idea. Taking the piss about books in general and about literature. There is the harkening to the physical, calling to mind the dust and must of stacks and stack of books you could bury yourself in. Of course nobody does this anymore. Also there is the bit where this implies that anything associated with Gathering Dust is something that nobody reads. Nope.
  • The Ringer? Not so much. Where did this even come from? Isn’t it already a famous website or something? Yes, it is.

How it could work sort of

The point is there would need to be a name, and that would miraculously pull it altogether and then I remembered something. I don’t really have the time or the will at the moment to be an entrepreneur and drive myself and my family into poverty. Maybe in a couple of years the kids will be up for it. I mean, there hasn’t been nearly enough stress, frustration and the like lately. So I could never decide on one and for all the above mentioned reasons, never went through with anything anyhow.

But I still imagined and plotted and emailed and messaged people throughout the world to find out. I imagined how the research would be the best part. After all, it would entail me talking to authors I love about what they’re good at and how to make it work for them. If there is anything more laudable than that, let me know. I could meet and chat with Junot Diaz, Sam McPheeters, hell, even Jonathan Franzen if I stalked him hard enough. All of them would give amazing feedback, would make further intros and then start pestering to see my writing. Again, everyone wins.

I started then thinking about the real bits, the flows, the in’s and the out’s. All of it. Oh wait, I nearly forgot. Blockchain. The only way to do it. Hear me out. You tokenise the authors obviously. Or, wait, you give them a way to actually publish as well? Remember those things they used to have way back when? What were they called? Blogs or something? There is a business hiding in there somewhere, which is laying in Bandcamp and how we think about bands and music in general. The music industry was probably the first traditional industry to be eviscerated by the Internet. The issue is thinking about emphasising the people making the art that needs to make money. GoodReads focuses on reviews, not on selling, despite being owned by Amazon. It focuses on the book, not the person writing it. How can you sell t-shirts that way? You can’t. The thing should be about selling t-shirts, because these and things like it are the only way for the author to make any actual money. And on and on and on.

  • Each author would have their own page. The books would then have their pages below that. That simple.
  • Bandcamp is an artist, not unit focused marketplace. This is would be Author Focused Marketplace
  • Not selling books, selling the author, and thus everything they do
  • Mobilising other things through association, leading to articles they write, and putting it all in one place
  • The differentiation is focusing on the the means of production and making that make more and better things, not on the output as it were

And there it goes off the cliff into the great beyond of design ideas

I didn’t get very far, that’s because it’s been sitting here in the deadpool of being in drafts for about a year or five, while I occasionally asked questions and researched. It lay there fallow until the point where I begrudgingly admitted that this was yet another good way to lose tons of time and money screaming into the wind while simultaneously bashing my head into a wall for five years. But that’s fine, there’s an idea ready to die. So there you are, another darling dead, left half-baked and malformed on the hillside to be taken by the elements.

Killing Darlings
Killing Darlings

  1. This was supposed to be the first but this isn’t a professional run type thing is it? ↩︎