Bandcamp, the popular music platform that supports independent artists, has been hit by a wave of layoffs after being acquired by Songtradr, a music licensing company. According to reports, about half of Bandcamp’s staff were let go by the new owner, leaving many fans and musicians worried about the future of the platform.
Bandcamp’s Journey from Epic to Songtradr
Bandcamp was founded in 2008 as a website that allows artists to sell their music directly to fans, without intermediaries or fees. The platform quickly gained popularity among indie musicians and music lovers, who appreciated its artist-friendly features and community spirit. Bandcamp also launched a music publication called Bandcamp Daily, which showcases new and emerging artists from various genres and regions.
In 2022, Bandcamp was acquired by Epic Games, the creator of the blockbuster video game Fortnite. The deal was seen as a strategic move by Epic to diversify its revenue streams and expand its presence in the music industry. Epic promised to keep Bandcamp’s core values and services intact, and even introduced a monthly event called Bandcamp Fridays, where the company waived its revenue share on music sales to support artists during the pandemic.
However, in September 2023, Epic announced its plan to sell Bandcamp to Songtradr, a Santa Monica-based company that specializes in music licensing for films, TV shows, ads, and other media. The decision came amid broader layoffs across Epic, which faced financial troubles after paying $520 million in a settlement with the FTC for violating children’s privacy.
Songtradr’s Vision for Bandcamp
Songtradr completed its acquisition of Bandcamp on October 16, 2023, and revealed its vision for the platform. In a statement, Songtradr said that it would keep the existing Bandcamp services that fans and artists love, including its artist-first revenue share, Bandcamp Fridays, and Bandcamp Daily. The company also said that it would leverage its expertise in music licensing to create new opportunities for Bandcamp artists and labels.
However, Songtradr also admitted that it had to make some adjustments to ensure a sustainable and healthy company that can serve its community of artists and fans. After a comprehensive evaluation of the roles and functions at Bandcamp, Songtradr offered positions to only 50% of Bandcamp employees, while the rest were laid off. The layoffs reportedly impacted both the tech team and members of the editorial team behind Bandcamp Daily.
Bandcamp’s Union Fights for Recognition
Before the layoffs were announced, Bandcamp’s US employees had formed a union called Bandcamp United in March 2023. The union aimed to protect the rights and interests of the workers, as well as to preserve the culture and mission of Bandcamp. The union also sent a list of demands to Songtradr regarding the sale of the company, which included:
- Recognition of the union by Songtradr
- Extension of employment offers to all Bandcamp employees
- Maintenance of current wages and benefits for all employees
- Transparency and communication from Songtradr about its plans for Bandcamp
However, Songtradr did not respond positively to the union’s demands. The company said that it would not offer positions to all Bandcamp employees, and that it would evaluate each role individually. The company also did not acknowledge or address the union’s request for recognition.
The union expressed its disappointment and frustration with Songtradr’s actions, and vowed to continue fighting for its members and for Bandcamp’s values. The union also thanked the fans and artists who supported them during this difficult time.
What’s Next for Bandcamp?
Bandcamp’s future under Songtradr remains uncertain. While some fans and artists are hopeful that the platform will continue to serve as a hub for independent music, others are skeptical about Songtradr’s intentions and motives. Some fear that Songtradr will change or remove some of Bandcamp’s features or policies, or that it will use Bandcamp’s data and content for its own profit.
Bandcamp has been a crucial platform in supporting independent musicians for years, giving them a marketplace to sell their music at a time where their earnings have diminished heavily in the streaming era. Its Bandcamp Fridays promotion has been particularly popular since it launched in 2020, generating over $60 million in revenue for artists so far.
Whether Songtradr will be able to maintain or enhance Bandcamp’s reputation and community remains to be seen. For now, many fans and artists are showing their solidarity with the laid-off workers, and expressing their gratitude for their contributions to Bandcamp.