Bandcamp workers won their union – and it could be a sign of things to come

Bandcamp United announced late last week that Bandcamp workers had voted to unionize. In a year that’s bringing deep economic uncertainties and layoffs, there’s one more hopeful narrative for workers: the organizing movement is growing.

It was fitting that this got announced on a Friday, the day the site has dedicated to giving its proceeds to labels and artists – one organizers dubbed “Bandcamp United Friday.” The US-based Bandcamp workers voted 31-7 to join the union. This is the beginning of a process, rather than the end – now the negotiating starts.

Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp’s co-founder, issued a joint statement together with Bandcamp United:

Bandcamp United and Bandcamp management are committed to working together to continue to advance fair economic conditions for our workers and the artists who rely on us. We look forward to negotiating with an open mind and working in good faith to promote the best interests of all of our staff and the artist and label community we serve.

Bandcamp United, who had previously called on artists and labels to support their efforts in the USA, are also asking for support for solidarity with SXSW festival workers and to continue to follow their efforts:

Thank you all for your support for Bandcamp United – our staff union of US-based Bandcamp workers. We are eager to begin negotiating over our working conditions and working with management to reach a legally binding contract.

If you want to come celebrate the power of workers with us in person, join us on May 31st in NYC. We are proud to be supporting a rally for Fair Pay at SXSW. RSVP to let us know if you can join us on May 31st at 12pm and we will send important updates of how you can support artists in securing fair economic conditions.

We will be taking steps forward in the coming weeks to celebrate, rest, and build momentum towards the bargaining table. You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates and more ways to show your support.

Bandcamp is a significant venue, as it’s also been a site on which musicians have pinned a lot of our own hopes for better value and more control over our labor. It comes at a time when workers across tech and creative sectors are organizing. It’s worth re-reading this article from March by Rolling Stone‘s Kim Kelly, who summarized a lot of those ideals:

Bandcamp Workers Form Union: ‘It’s Not Enough to Get Small Wins Alone’ [Rolling Stone]

Jael Goldfine argues in The Nation that the Bandcamp victory could be “the latest sign that a real labor movement is starting to take shape in the music industry.” And while Goldfine concedes that for musicians, “Bandcamp might be a Band-Aid on a gushing flesh wound,” well, Band-Aids are still something.

Workers of the Music World Are Uniting—and Winning [The Nation]

There are some other hopeful notes in that article – including, despite concerns externally about the Epic buyout, that “staff say that Epic introduced superior benefits and a bonus structure.” Goldfine notes connections to unionizing across tech, and organizing on political activism, as well (like Google employees rejecting work on AI for the US military).

I like how she introduces this story, too. (Journalists typically don’t write the headlines but – yeah, here on the other hand, perfect pitch!)

The bottom line: it’s worth being cautiously optimistic about the union effort, and it’s even more important than before to keep an eye on how the Epic – union effort evolves. The deal those workers get has resonance not only for Bandcamp, but tech, music, and journalism, too. Few companies sit quite at that intersection like Bandcamp. We’ll be watching.

I’m in touch with Bandcamp United, so hope to have a conversation with the organizers soon. If you have questions for them, let me know.

Oh, and – if this didn’t give you enough warm and fuzzy feelings already, here are a bunch of cute pet photos from the organizers. (They’re OPEIU, but they missed the obvious – solidarity fur-ever?)

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