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What does the future hold for Bandcamp, and its union, after Songtradr acquisition?

Today, October 6, is another Bandcamp Friday. There are two more scheduled for this year, November 3 and December 1. 

This is a powerful and well-enjoyed tradition that started in the dark days of the pandemic, a way for the music distribution and hosting platform to help artists keep a little money in their pockets when they couldn’t tour or play shows anywhere other than their couches. Bandcamp Friday has been a tremendous act of generosity: The platform does not take its normal cut of sales on this first Friday of the month, instead putting those dollars and cents into the artists’ bank accounts. 

Even without this promotion, each sale through Bandcamp results in 82% of every sale going to the artist or their label within 24-48 hours. The remaining 18% of the transaction covers Bandcamp’s revenue share and processing fees. And that’s part of why artists and labels of all stripes and sizes love the platform. 

Fans do too: We’ve spent $193 million on Bandcamp purchases in the past year. That represents 14.1 million digital albums, 9.8 million individual songs, 1.8 physical vinyl albums, 800,000 CDs (yes, CDs!), 350,000 cassettes (good grief, people, let this go) and more than 100,000 shirts.

But there’s a cloud on the horizon. How many more Bandcamp Fridays will we have? 

In March 2022, Bandcamp was purchased by Epic Games; last week, Epic sold the platform to Songtradr while announcing staffing cuts and layoffs at the gaming company. 

Songtradr describes itself as a music licensing platform and marketplace that works with artists, labels and publishers and pledges to “continue to operate Bandcamp as a marketplace and music community with an artist-first revenue share. 

“This acquisition will help Bandcamp continue to grow within a music-first company and enable Songtradr to expand its capabilities to support the artist community,” the company continues. “Songtradr will also offer Bandcamp artists the ability and choice to have their music licensed to all forms of media including content creators, game and app developers and brands. This will enable artists to own and control their music rights, and increase their earning capacity from Songtradr’s global licensing network.”

No comment was provided to Pitchfork last week about whether other features associated with Bandcamp, including the Bandcamp Daily editorial platform, revenue shares and user experience would be changed at all based on the sale. 

There’s other reason for at least some mild concern. 

When the sale was announced, Epic Games said some Bandcamp employees would receive offers to stay on with the company; others would not. But Bandcamp’s staff union, Bandcamp United, was in contract negotiations with Epic Games at the time of the sale. Now the union is trying to secure employment for all Bandcamp employees at the time of the sale, with voluntary severance offers for those who cannot stay, in addition to union recognition and renewed efforts to recognize and continue negotiations. 

“Bandcamp has always stood strong in its beliefs and its place in the community that it has helped foster. As algorithms gradually wrest control of the music industry, Bandcamp has preserved the artist-first, defiantly human attitude,” the union says. “Maintaining the value that Bandcamp places on music is critical for artists everywhere, and it starts with valuing the workers who have built Bandcamp into the beloved platform it is today.”

On Thursday, Oct. 5, Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire released a statement saying the company has received the letter and is in the process of reviewing it. “Supporting the Bandcamp community will be our number one priority once the purchase is completed. Songtradr does not own or control Bandcamp yet.” 

The company reiterated it is committed to honoring the remaining promised Bandcamp Fridays. “We will work towards a fair and equitable outcome for the global members of the Bandcamp team,” the company says. “Songtradr is planning to keep all the existing Bandcamp services that fans and artists love including Bandcamp Fridays, Bandcamp Daily and its artist-first revenue share.” 

But if the sale doesn’t go through, or if conditions change, what’s to keep anything that makes Bandcamp so great in place? We’ve seen the power of unions this summer with the writer’s strike in Hollywood making great strides to get writers of film and TV what they deserve; automakers are facing tremendous pressure from the United Auto Workers (despite some localized layoffs announced Thursday evening affecting more than a thousand workers in the United States). 

Be sure to make some purchases today. It’s been a rough few weeks for musicians, including that weird not-quite-as-generous-as-it-seemed LiveNation announcement last week.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 518 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

One thought on “What does the future hold for Bandcamp, and its union, after Songtradr acquisition?

  • In case the facts & figures in this article aren’t enough to convince true music lovers to buy from Bandcamp, Grant Gordy commented (as reported by Daniel Patrick on his “Mandolins and Beer” podcast), buying an album on Bandcamp Friday generates more revenue for the artist that streaming that same album on repeat for more than three years

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