In the “that didn’t last long” files: Epic Games is divesting itself of Bandcamp after barely a year and a half. The music platform will be acquired by Songtradr, a “music licensing platform and marketplace company supporting artists, labels, and publishers.”
With 5 million artists and labels, Bandcamp remains a major force. But it never did seem a fit for Epic Games – and apparently Epic Games leadership agrees, dumping Bandcamp in the midst of significant companywide layoffs. (Epic is also unloading marketing company SuperAwesome.)
Here’s the statement from Songtradr on the acquisition:
“Epic and Bandcamp share a mission of building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money.”
Wait, sorry, that’s March 2022 and the Epic acquisition. Here’s the statement from Songtradr:
“Songtradr shares Epic and Bandcamp’s values around ensuring artists are fairly compensated for their work.”
Sorry, that’s Epic’s Steve Allison in the Songtradr press release. Honestly, does it particularly matter what corporate boilerplate we’re getting this year? Okay, here is the Songtradr leadership:
“The acquisition of Bandcamp will help Songtradr continue to grow its suite of services for artists. I’m a passionate musician myself, and artistry and creativity have always been at the heart of Songtradr. Bandcamp will join a team of music industry veterans and artists who have deep expertise in music licensing, composition, rights management, and distribution,” said Paul Wiltshire, CEO of Songtradr.“
It’ll be really ironic if the integration between Epic and Forntnite with Bandcamp comes after the divestiture, which literally is what’s promised in the Songtradr announcement. Epic in 2022 said the Bandcamp acquisition would help them “build out a creator marketplace ecosystem,” which seemed to translate into “run Bandcamp almost exactly the same way.” There were some minor feature improvements – Bandcamp communications chided me for not pointing them out when I mentioned Listening Parties, so here they are:
But what is new here in the 2023 acquisition? (Epic is so last season.) Well, we have some promises from Songtradr saying this will somehow be part of their ecosystem – with a slightly pointed comment in their press release about this being a “music-first company,” rather than a Fortnite-first company, I suppose.
What is potentially interesting is, for artists and labels focused mainly on Bandcamp, you can now add some licensing features. As direct Bandcamp sales can be soft, especially in digital-only releases, that could maybe work for someone – though you previously had options for doing this before, and I’m not sure it has anything to do with the Bandcamp marketplace itself. As Songtradr puts it:
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 continue to own and control their music rights, and increase their earning capacity from Songtradr’s global licensing network.
We’ve heard those kinds of promises before, from the likes of SoundCloud. I expect for most artists and labels, the hope will simply be that this latest benefactor … just keeps running Bandcamp as Bandcamp. And if you believe the corporate boilerplate, “Songtradr will continue to operate Bandcamp as a marketplace and music community with an artist-first revenue share.”
So, are you ready for the bad news? Artists pay a subscription fee to have their music licensed. Yeah, great. Like some other subscription services, the upside is a 100% share in distribution royalties – but that’s only distribution. For other licensing, it’s 80% or 60%, depending on which subscription you have. Songtradr effectively double-dips, charging both artists and their clients for the service. I need to look into all of this further, though, as all these services start to run together.
Honestly, the real problem is, given the nature of platform capitalism and the governance of private corporations being for investor benefit, ultimately all these tools are doomed. It’s not really fair to say these services are artist-first, because artists ultimately have limited say over them. That’s not to say we shouldn’t use these services, but the dependency on them – and the extent to which we’re serving someone else’s needs – should absolutely be a worry.
And yes, the time to talk about independent and open tools is now – it was a lot sooner, but there’s no time like the present.
For a really bleak take of this, here’s 5magazine:
Epic’s primary interest in the company seemed to be using Bandcamp in their lawsuits against Apple and Google parent company Alphabet over their app stores. Bandcamp immediately became immeshed in the litigation over app store fees, threatening to pass on additional fees to customer or cease mobile sales altogether.
Yeah, that seems to explain it, huh? And that’s unfortunate on many, many levels, as reigning in app stores is something a lot of us would otherwise like to see.
Bandcamp Joining Epic Games to Support Fair, Open Platforms for Artists and Fans [Epic, in the heady days of… 2022]
Songtradr acquires Bandcamp [Songtradr]
Bandcamp Got Sold Again [Vulture]
About Epic, Unreal Engine, and other tools
Since we also cover Epic products here on CDM, it’s also worth trying to follow what’s happening with creative and developer tools. There’s some confusing double-speak here:
We’re cutting costs without breaking development or our core lines of businesses so we can continue to focus on our ambitious plans. About two-thirds of the layoffs were in teams outside of core development.
So… one third of the layoff is inside core development?
Unreal Engine is still a priority, says Epic:
We’ve built the best engine in the world, and will be hosting Unreal Fest next week to bring the community together and spotlight the things they are building with Unreal Engine and UEFN. Creators are making a living building for the Fortnite ecosystem, with time in third-party games now exceeding first-party.
And they do at least refer to services for developers like Unreal Engine, ArtStation, Fab, and MetaHuman, though it’s unclear how much cuts reached here:
We aren’t cutting any core businesses, and are continuing to invest in games with Fortnite first-party development, the Fortnite creator ecosystem and economy, Rocket League and Fall Guys; and services for developers including Unreal Engine for games and enterprise, Epic Games Store, Epic Games Publishing, Epic Online Services, Kids Web Services, MetaHuman, Twin Motion, Quixel Mega Scans, Capturing Reality, ArtStation, Sketchfab and Fab.
Layoffs at Epic [Epic]
Here’s some audio-specific news:
At least it’s encouraging that folks get severance and health care for six months – as I wrote in the Moog story today, anyone working freelance in this economy can get rapidly dropped off a cliff.
So here’s your CDM affirmation: your work is valuable. We’re all in this together. In tough times, I hope creative people support one another.