The most beloved and artist-friendly service has been sold to the American B2B music platform Songtradr.
Bandcamp has been famous as a rare platform offering unlimited streaming as well as the possibility to promote and sell not just your music but also merchandise. Unlike streaming platforms like Spotify who pay peanuts, Bandcamp provides artists with a fair pay of 82% from the purchase of their music. According to Pitchfork, artists on Bandcamp collectively earned $193 million in the last year alone, while Bandcamp has paid out $1.19 billion since its founding in 2007.
Eight months ago Bandcamp was bought by video game and software developer Epic. Last month, however, the company announced it would dismiss 16 per cent of the staff and sell Bandcamp to licensing giant Songtradr. Shortly after the acquisition, Bandcamp employees found themselves in an uncomfortable position being unable to access the critical systems and operate the platform at full pelt. Last week, half of the Bandcamp employees got sacked. A former software engineer estimated that three support specialists were left to carry on. The editorial team of Bandcamp Daily, an integral online outlet informing about the releases on the platform, was hit even harder than other departments with only three editors and one designer left. Launching the Bandcamp Union didn’t help to protect the staff from harmful decisions on the higher level. Notably, the platform’s former executives haven’t given any statements since 28 September.
Despite the intention to maintain the “artist-friendly” policy, Songtradr shared a statement that potentially implies a major overhaul. “Based on its current financials, Bandcamp requires some adjustments to ensure a sustainable and healthy company that can serve its community of artists and fans long into the future,” said Songtradr chief marketing officer Lindsay Nahmiache.
Amidst such vague announcements and dispiriting news, some users believe that the new management and strategy mark the end of the independent era of the platform. Pitchfork uses the term “enshittification” coined by journalist Cory Doctorow. The term describes how different platforms give up their user-friendliness to the protective profit-making policy, thus “maximising value for their shareholders”. Sadly, this applies to many things. What is known now as X but still called Twitter has become incredibly inconvenient and perplexing. It seems as if the right-wing conservative tendencies gushing out here and there in the world infiltrated the gentle tissues of the grassroots music industry. Still, even in this grim world, one can make a little contribution to maintain it, that is supporting independent producers and platforms. A great example is The Quietus, a British online music publication that was under threat of closure facing the collapse in advertising and eventually receiving support from their readership. So, the only chance to save the independent scene, whether it’s business or arts, is an initiative coming from the users. Go and support your local grassroots venue, beloved independent platform, label or artist before they are swept away by the pragmatic money-making storm.