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How do you organise your calendar? The twelve subdivisions of the globally recognised Gregorian Calendar do the job for most of us. Pay-checks, rent outgoings and student finance keep us locked into a sense of regularity. But COVID-19 had other plans. Being forced to abandon, now seemingly irresistible library spaces, our favourite eateries and entertainment venues, the days blur into an endless stream of nothingness for many.
And then along came Bandcamp.
In support of the producers, designers, organisers and many others who have had their financial stability and inspiration torn apart by the pandemic, Bandcamp decided to waive their revenue share from purchases on the first Friday of every month since March 2020. Overshadowed for so long by the automated and algorithmic excellence of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, this humble platform has finally achieved stardom within the electronic music community. Not only has Bandcamp Friday provided emerging labels, such as my own, structure and confidence in these trying times, but this gift has simultaneously fostered the growth of musical communities and the connection between creative projects and charitable causes relating to racial and gender equality as well as international emergencies.
Six months ago, my close friend Louis Tooth and I founded Gimme A Break Records. After working the Hyde Park house party DJ circuit, we were stunned by the talent of Leeds-based producers and selectors alike. Through GAB, we hoped to create an unpretentious yet structurally competent label to support these talented individuals, riding on the current revival in UK Garage and Breakbeat.
Following a burgeoning mix series and free download feature, ‘The Edit Room’, we chose to make our first venture onto Bandcamp in November 2020. Our ‘We Are Viable’ compilation brought together producers from across the UK to remix a popular song with all profits in turn feeding back into Leeds’ own musical ecosystem through the indescribably admirable MAP Charity.
Bandcamp has revived the compilation with a new purpose: to connect producers, labels and their audiences with humanitarian crises and socio-economic issues
Bandcamp has revived the compilation with a new purpose: to connect producers, labels and their audiences with humanitarian crises and socio-economic issues varying from the personal and local to the national and global. Praiseworthy projects include but are not limited to: 199’s ‘IN ARMS’ compilation raising money for Tom’s Fight; ‘Grief Into Rage’ donating proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross and the Beirut Musicians’ Fund; and Yung Singh’s two ‘Punjabi Garage Bundles for Charity’, offering support to Khalsa Aid as well as spotlighting the often overlooked Punjabi garage scene thriving from the late ‘90s to today. More recently, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Radiant Love curated a stunning compilation, donating all proceeds to charities working with queer people of colour, refugees and trans sex workers in Berlin. It becomes clear that Bandcamp Fridays has facilitated a confidence amongst music buyers that their money will directly benefit a variety of important causes and support suffering marginalised communities across the globe.
Whilst there is no doubt that Bandcamp Fridays have become internationally renowned, for Gimme A Break, the resultant formation of powerfully supportive musical networks within the UK has been noticeable. For instance, collectives at the forefront of Northern dance music developments including Babystep Magazine, Stretchy Dance Supply and Late Night Shopper have used Bandcamp Fridays as an opportunity to extend a helping hand to start-ups like GAB. ‘Top picks’ in this monthly celebration serve to bolster the confidence of creatives in a time when new tracks cannot be appraised in the club environment.
In this temporary ecosystem the regional disparities in cultural infrastructure, whether this be physical media or tangible spaces like clubs and bars no longer serve to elevate the prestige of musical produce coming out of the capital
However, arguably more significantly, I believe that the animation of dialogue between different musical actors has begun to erode the disconnection between the North and the South. I might argue, perhaps controversially, that in this temporary ecosystem the regional disparities in cultural infrastructure, whether this be physical media or tangible spaces like clubs and bars no longer serve to elevate the prestige of musical produce coming out of the capital. Therefore, Bandcamp’s digital network has potentially levelled the playing field. DJs now look across the country, and beyond its borders, on the first Friday of each month to find the perfect tunes for their next radio mix.
The widespread support ‘We Are Viable’ received from the UK’s electronic scene emboldened Gimme A Break to begin releasing original EPs in 2021. Unsurprisingly, Bandcamp Fridays continue to guide us. The platform’s monthly waiver has structured our releases. Furthermore, receiving the majority of our monthly income on the first Friday of each month has guided our future plans. This may seem trivial but for a recently launched label Bandcamp Fridays has offered a clear schedule, allowing myself and Louis to manage our other commitments alongside the GAB grind.
GAB has kept me going through lockdown but there’s no chance that our label would have grown at this rate without Bandcamp Fridays. Looking beyond our label, I believe that the revived connection between musical compilations and charitable causes has produced a more caring electronic music scene which now looks inwards to its newfound peers and friends in times of trouble. I look forward to seeing how these attitudes transpire in the club and hope that, as explored profoundly by Mixtress on IWD, fair representation of marginalised creatives becomes a priority for booking artists, labels and DJs alike.
You can pick up the WE ARE VIABLE compilation on bandcamp now
Listen back to the Gimme A Break guest mix on our Threads Radio show back in August 2020