How Much Money Do People Donate To A Free Bandcamp Release?

Wouldn't it be interesting to break down how much people pay for a free release on Bandcamp?

Disclaimer: I am grateful for all ears and all donations, 50 cents, 1 dollar, even a download with no donation is great. The below break down is intended to give other creatives one perspective. I am not complaining, I am full of gratitude. If you downloaded, thank you!

It's been 10 days since I released This is a free release I composed over 24 years ago.

Wouldn't it be interesting to break down how much people donate for a free release on Bandcamp?

I share this info in the interest of letting other fellow creatives gain one perspective on how a free release pans out. If this interests you, please read all the way through for the various considerations to bear in mind.

I'll try to keep this short and sweet because my eyes water over when there are too many numbers, unless they're hex codes, and then I get a little excited. But there are no hex codes here.

Disclaimer 2: Free Is Fine Too!

This is a bit of an annoying disclaimer to have to make, but it's the internet, and I am probably going to have nightmares about some guy in his basement rolling up his sleeves ready to tear me apart on a forum.

Obviously, I released this music for free, so I am cool with it being downloaded for free. Downloads are a form of support and I am grateful for everyone who supports me in this way, regardless of whether they do anything else (donate, comment, like, etc).

Please, tell your friends and family to download it for free too. In fact, it's up on my Youtube in its entirety so you don't even have to download it. See, I'm practically falling over myself to give it away for free!?

Listen, have fun, enjoy!

How Many People Donated To My Free Release?

After 10 days, of those who downloaded, 35% made a donation. I call it a donation because it's free, so I technically wouldn't consider it a purchase.

A Chart

The chart below is sorted by total percentage so that you can see what most people donated based on people who donated and also based on people who downloaded (even if they didn't donate).

Please note - I do some rounding, and I failed Calculus 3 times. Salt and all that.

Donation Of donaters Of total
$1 46% 15%
$5 20% 6%
$10 8% 3%
$2 7% 2%
$4 4% 1%
$8 4% 1%
$20 3% <1%
$3 3% <1%
$6 2% <1%
$7 1% <1%
< $1 <1% <1%
$25 <1% <1%

In case it's not totally self-explanatory, the left column represents the amount donated, the middle column shows the total percent based on those who donated something, while the final column is the percentage based on total downloads, including those who donated nothing.

For example, of those who donated, 46% people donated $1. However, when we look solely at the total number of downloads even if no donations were made, that 46% represents 15% of total downloads.

Why Don't I List The Total Sales?

There are a few reasons that I've omitted the total number of sales.

First, I'm a coward; I don't want you all to see how unsuccessful I really am. Or rather, I am cool with you knowing I am unsuccesful, but to see it quantified will no doubt shatter your glowing image of me. Plus, I am terrified to think that I might be asked to do less listicles if some website sees behind the curtain.

Second, I'm not sure that it's pertinent. Or rather, it's all subjective, and relative. Whether there were 50, 500, 5000, or 50k downloads it's really only up to me to determine whether this means it's a success or not.

To complicate it further, success is ever-shifting. In 1998, when I made this music, my definition of succes was whether I could get a cafe owner to let me play for free. Today, it means 'how close am I to being able to afford a new laptop, which I will probably not buy anyway, instead opting to pay rent.'


There are so many factors at play I strongly suggest that you don't make any conclusions. Rather, maybe if enough people share this kind of info we might see a pattern, thereby making it possible to extrapolate something useful.

However, aesthetically speaking, this is a bit of a strange release. Musically, I didn't think it was going to be well received. I was pleased to have been proven wrong, by my own standards.

Regardless, I think you will probably have more success and better numbers with something that's easier to digest. So don't read too much into my numbers.

Why Free?

I explain in some detail why I released this for free - it was for legal reasons and not out of the goodness of my heart. I say this because I generally think that releasing your creative output for free is not a great idea.

I want my fellow creatives to value themselves and their output more, not less. It's my sincere feeling that the world needs more creativity, more music, more art. In this capitalist society, earning money from your work is the main way to feel supported in a way that you feel propelled to keep at it.

Personally, in my particular case with this release, I would've been content with any support; or so I thought. People have been so kind and so generous, it's definitely had a positive impact on my impression, not only of this release, but also my capabilities.

Indeed, in this way, releasing for free can be an interest gauge of how decent the release is and/or supportive people are. Your needs and motivations are your own.

That said, I know that some of you are are politically opposed to Paypal, or maybe you live in an oppresive country and just don't have an account, or maybe you genuinely don't have 50 cents - it, is, fine. We are still pals, it's cool!

And yet, my friend, as a fellow creative, if you are contemplating whether to release for free or not, completely regardless of the findings of this article, I encourage you all to NOT release anything for free. You are worth more!

On that note, here are some links to some of my free releases: