Bandcamp has emerged as the successor to MySpace as a place for musicians to promote and sell their works online. It’s a great service, and I’ve discovered a lot of new music through it, but the Android app (free, Google Play) is disappointingly limited. What I expected from the Bandcamp app was something more akin to Google Play or iTunes: a single, mobile-optimized app to download my purchases and explore the panoply of artists that make Bandcamp a unique and interesting service. Instead, the app only streams and caches albums you’ve already bought—hardly revolutionary.
Startup And Listening
The Bandcamp app keeps things very simple, even from the moment you fire it up for the first time. You’re greeted with two boxes: a link to Bandcamp’s weekly free-form music show and a prompt to login at the top.
Once you login to your Bandcamp account, which unfortunately requires opening a Web browser, the top box fills with the music you’ve purchased on Bandcamp. You can jump directly to the most recent purchase by tapping an album cover, or explore every purchase on a separate screen. New users can quickly create an account through the mobile site where you’re prompted to login.
Tap an album cover and the first track will start playing automatically. During playback, Bandcamp makes good use of the app’s minimalist aesthetic with large controls and tap-able tracks. The view is dominated by a gigantic rendering of the album’s cover art for whatever song is playing, which I quite like. Scroll all the way down to see lyrics or more information about the artists, if they have included any. There are also controls for you Bandcamp fanpage, which shows off all your purchases, and sharing buttons. Player controls appear at the bottom of the app, but if you exit the app or lock your phone you’ll have to jump back into Bandcamp to pause or skip tracks.
On my Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active , tracks started playing within a second or two of tapping on album. The app appears to download entire albums rather than going track-by-track, and recently played tracks will remain available even offline. Unfortunately the only control you have over what is available offline is the order in which you listen to albums, and how much space you allocate in Bandcamp’s settings for audio caching.
This is a completely different approach from other music apps. Spotify lets you listen to individual tracks and albums are free but offline listening will cost you. Slacker and Pandora are focused more on music discovery and streaming. Songkick doesn’t do any of those things, but I mention it because it scans your phone’s music and tracks concerts by those performers and I think that’s cool.
On one hand, Bandcamp’s app is a deft solution to the cumbersome process of purchasing a song from Bandcamp and downloading it to your Android. After all, the Bandcamp app makes tracks instantly available. But on the other hand, the lack of options for managing which tracks are available offline is pretty annoying. I much preferred Google’s Play Music app, which lets you select specific songs and albums for local storage, and streams the rest.
Audiophiles who take advantage of Bandcamp’s support for exotic lossless files like OGG or FLAC will probably balk at this app’s approach. For them, I recommend using DeaDBeeF Player, which supports numerous file types and includes a 10-band equalizer.
Half An App
The Bandcamp app accomplishes exactly what it set out to do: it makes the tracks you buy from the service instantly available, all while keeping a small footprint on your Android. But that comes at the price of user control for audio quality and availability. It’s also a missed opportunity for Bandcamp to increase its user base and to implement music-discovery tools. That said, I’ve found myself using the app quite often, just for convenience’s sake.
What I’m hoping is that this is the first step for Bandcamp. Now that they’ve got attractive, well-designed apps on both iOS and Android, they can add more features and flesh out what feels like half an app.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc