7 Bandcamp Beat Tapes for $5 or Less

A quick look at some essential instrumental albums that won't break your bank account.

Welcome to Micro-Chop, a newsletter dissecting beatmaking, DJing, music production, rapping, and sampling — written by me, Gino Sorcinelli.

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7 Bandcamp Beat Tapes for $5 or Less

As we head towards the final months of 2019, I often find myself struggling with the same question: What models of distribution are the most beneficial and equitable for the artists/producers I write about?

It’s a complicated question with no one size fits all answer. Every producer has unique and varying views on the existing tools for releasing and monetizing music while growing a fan base.

But the more I talk to artists, the more I notice a growing dissatisfaction with streaming services like Spotify. I myself have felt a great deal of frustration after watching some of the most talented producers I’m aware of gain little to no traction on Spotify in the three-plus years since I first started Micro-Chop. I got so fed up recently that I switched the Micro-Chop Daily X playlist from Spotify to SoundCloud.

Thankfully, not all of the available options for sharing music are a cause for angst. At the other side of the spectrum lies Bandcamp, a platform that seems to generate feelings of (mostly) good will among beat makers. One of the most artist-friendly digital platforms in existence, musicians keep an impressive 85% of revenue from digital sales and 90% for merchandise according to the Bandcamp website.

These percentages favor the artist even more once they break a certain threshold of success. As the Bandcamp website notes: “The revenue share on digital drops from 15% to 10% as soon as you reach $5,000 USD in sales (and stays there, provided you’ve made at least $5,000 in the past 12 months.)”

Bandcamp’s musician-centric approach seems to be paying off. According to the their landing page, fans have paid $414 million for music on the site—including an impressive $7.7 million in the last 30 days.

They also do a really nice job of integrating the ability to sell physical albums and merchandise with digital downloads—a feature other platforms have struggled with. They’ve streamlined the purchasing process and made their site a one stop shop for listeners who want to give as much money as possible to their favorite artist.

With all of these net positives in mind, I highlighted some great Bandcamp beat tapes/instrumental albums that are easy on the wallet. I hope this will entice a few more people to give the platform a try.

If you’re passionate about discovering new music and exploring new genres, I highly recommend supporting one of the projects listed below and checking out Bandcamp if you haven’t already.

1) Rites of Passage EP by Raj Mahal- When Micro-Chop favorite Illingsworth writes that Raj Mahal “might be my favorite producer,” that’s reason enough to stop and take notice of this Chicago beatmaker. On this pithy yet powerful four-track release, we see Raj flex a broad range of sounds with irresistible head-nodder “STEEL JUNK” and the perfectly off-kilter “THESE THREE WORDS.” Described by Raj as “a short EP about struggles of the heart,” Rites of Passage is the perfect introduction to his catalog.

2) Vault Series #4: MixVape Mixtape by DJ Harrison- DJ Harrison’s Vault Series gives listeners a look at his extensive back catalog of unreleased material while showcasing his incredibly diverse sounds and styles. Entry #4 provides access to a series of songs Harrison recorded at his mom’s house a decade ago in 2009. Memorable moments are in a abundance, but the mellow soul of “Got Me Crazy” and the undeniable beauty of “Harrowgate Road” make this a must-own for any beat tape fanatic.

3) Adobe Dillastrator: CS1 by Nameless- Flint, Michigan native Nameless earned his fair share of respect by flipping insane sample sources with the greatest of ease on tracks like “Rainbow Read.” With Adobe Dillastrator: CS1, he takes samples popularized by the late/great J Dilla and puts his own unique spin on them. “CLAIR[ance] = 788” uses the vocal hit from Slum Village’s “Players” and turns the Dilla classic into something inspiring and new. “Donut In The Sky” closes out the album with a perfect re-imagining of The Shining track “Baby.”

4) I Know God And He Chops Like This by Jett I Masstyr- I’ve been a fan of by Jett I Masstyr for a minute and had an opportunity to conduct a Micro-Chop interview with him in late 2017. On this unique two-sided digital single, the b-side “Chops Drop” is definitely the standout moment and perhaps one of my favorite beats from 2019. With an undeniable intensity and swagger, the song may very well be the finest production of Jett’s career.

5) Instrumentals One by Deacon The Villain- Many people don’t realize that CunninLynguists member Deacon The Villain is a gifted producer as well as a skilled MC. On Instrumentals One, listeners have an opportunity to fully appreciate Deacon’s considerable skills behind the boards. With featured beats ranging from guest productions for other artists to personal side projects and never heard before instrumentals, moments like the organ and guitar-infused “Satellites” will instantly captivate any listener.

6) WeedMoney by PoptartPete- For some reason I’m often drawn to somewhat random collections of beats that producers put out. According to PoptartPete, this is one such release. “These are some of the beats I've made over the past month or 2,” he wrote in the liner notes. “I never thought I’d actually put one of these out.”

WeedMoney starts off with a bang via the vocal sample chops on the brief but powerful “Cuando.” As the album progresses, highlight-reel moments like the trance-inducing filters on “Ithaca” and the evocative “TROOPS” make WeedMoney an absurd steal for just $1.

7) Stro's Old Beat Farm by Stro Elliot- If you’ve seen Roots member Stro Elliot’s live sets before, you know he brings a high level of skill and creativity to his production. The songs on Stro's Old Beat Farm do a good job showcasing his musical mastery. Stro demonstrates perfectly placed drum hits, basslines, and bell samples at the beginning of the album with the track “Cook Me.” Then he takes the project in a more somber and reflective direction on “This Town.” The record comes to a powerful conclusion with his classic “Soul II Stro” beat and excellent “Dilla Tribute,” which finds Stro finessing several classic J Dilla samples into an impressive nod to the Detroit legend.

Thanks for reading, see you on Monday!