Compiled by Liz Tracy
Andrew Jervis is the chief curator at Bandcamp, the online music community where the public can stream tunes from their favorite artists and musicians can sell their music. He spoke with Tom Tom about his time at the Groove Merchant record store and his role with Ubiquity Records. He explained how he landed such a cool gig, how he scopes out great artists, and even offered tips on how to really get noticed on Bandcamp.
“I oversee label and artist outreach, bringing in new artists and labels and helping them make the most out of the Bandcamp community. I also get to host a 90-minute show, featuring interviews with awesome musicians and their music called the Bandcamp Weekly.
“I grew up in the UK with some very music-loving parents. They sang opera and introduced me to Queen. My gran took me to Woolworths to spend pocket money on 7” singles. I made mixtapes from radio shows I’d recorded and would bring the boombox anywhere I could. In my mid-teens, I’d sneak into clubs, and eventually, I started DJing. When I first moved from the UK to San Francisco in 1992, I walked into a record store and told a slight white lie about just how much DJing I’d done.
“I got a job in the store, the same day, and the store (the Groove Merchant) became more and more well known as a place where collectors of soul and jazz can buy vinyl and producers can pick up things to sample. I sold records to everyone from the Beastie Boys to Pete Rock to Flea and Jamiroquai. The Beastie Boys even wrote a song about us. The store gave birth to a label, Ubiquity Records, which I ended up being vice president at for 14-plus years. While there, I signed artists, researched obscure oldies for reissue, wrote liner notes, and curated 20-plus compilations.
“While we had some great success, it was also the kind of place where we might also pack boxes, run the merch table, help with promotion, etc. I was also a longtime DJ at San Francisco community station KUSF, where I hosted The Friday Night Session radio show for over 17 years. And somewhere in the middle of all that, I was editor of On the One Magazine, DJed around the world, lectured at the Red Bull Music Academy, and attempted be in a couple of bands.
“Bandcamp is a music community where fans can discover and connect with artists and labels while directly compensating them for their work. Our mission is to provide artists and labels with a fair and sustainable way to distribute their music directly to their fans and to give fans easy ways to find and directly support the artists and labels they love.
“I love my job! I get to chat with some amazingly creative people, including some musical heroes, and maverick artists who are just starting out and doing things their own way. When I’m not working on the Weekly, I split time between trying to bring in artists and labels not on the site, helping out those already on the site, and thinking up ways in which we could be even more useful to the creative community.
“I’m obsessed with music: music discovery, new music, old music. I’m intrigued by the process of making music, collecting music, how new styles, sounds, scenes, develop, etc. So, what better place to work!?
“As far as music I’m promoting, I try not to keep count [of male versus female musicians] and to keep the emphasis on just good music, no matter who made it. Features on “women in (insert genre)” always seem to marginalize than highlight, and the music business can definitely be a boring old boys club at times. I think it’s key to be as inclusive as possible and to not get lazy–leave no stones unturned while looking for artists and music to champion. Some of my favorite female artists from the past year include synth wiz Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, ultra dextrous MCs Noname and Little Simz, legendary Brazilian singer Elza Soares, and LA soul singer Jimetta Rose.
“I listen all day long [to music on the web]! I listen to my local college station, new releases, and fellow fan purchases in my Bandcamp music feed. I keep lists. I make time to listen without interruption. I deep dive into genres and scenes that I might be fuzzy on. I read the Bandcamp Daily (I’m not above a plug!) and listen to shows like Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide, or some of the great DJs over at dublab. I just interviewed Sinkane, and he told me about his Sinkane Happy Hour show that he does on a New York station, so now I have to listen to that, too! I’m bombarded with PR pitches, and my social media channels tend to be packed with music-related posts, so I have no excuse to think there’s no new music out there! I’m open to supporting releases from well-known acts, but there’s something special about being able to reveal a new act, a brand new musical gem, something that you feel like you’ve discovered and can’t wait to share.
“It’s cool to be curious, and to be surprised by new music, but I always try to keep it personal, as in “do I like this?” because, while it’s tempting to feature music because it’s popular, or such-and-such DJ played it, etc., being true to your own taste means you’re going to be as enthusiastic and involved as you possibly can be. And that comes across when you’re putting together something like the Weekly.”
Ways for artists to maximize their time on Bandcamp
“A few top tips would include: Make sure your pages look as good as your music sounds. Let fans pay more if they want to. Sell your merch on Bandcamp (T-shirts, LPs, cassettes, tickets). Make sure your family, friends, fans, PR people, etc., know that you are on Bandcamp. Be active on the site. Grab a fan account, and start following other bands and labels that you like, and see how they do it. Use your stats pages to see where your fans are based, and use your mailing list to stay in touch with them all.”
This article first appeared in Tom Tom‘s Digital issue.
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