Bandcamp, founded in 2007, has a remarkable history as an online music distribution platform. Over the years, Bandcamp has been a champion for independent artists, allowing them to share and sell their music directly to fans. It gained popularity for offering fair revenue-sharing models, which set it apart from traditional music streaming platforms. However, a series of ownership changes has left many wondering about the platform’s future and its impact on the industry.
The Ownership Shuffle
In a whirlwind turn of events, Bandcamp went from being an independently run platform to being acquired by Epic Games in 2022. At the time of the acquisition, Epic Games pledged to support artists and enhance the platform’s technological capabilities. However, this period of ownership was short-lived, as Bandcamp found itself changing hands again in September 2023, this time being sold to Songtradr . These rapid transitions left both artists and users wondering about the platform’s stability and direction.
Article Source: djmag.com.
Profit Over Workers’ Rights
Despite Bandcamp’s significant success, with over 2 million vinyl records sold in 2020 and substantial digital music sales, a stark reality emerged when Epic Games announced layoffs affecting approximately 16% of its workforce, including Bandcamp employees. On September 28, 2023, the news broke that 870 people would lose their jobs. This raised questions about the prioritization of profits over the welfare of workers. As the ownership changed hands, Bandcamp staff faced uncertainties and challenges in their professional lives.
The Formation of Bandcamp United
Amidst these challenges, there was a glimmer of hope. Bandcamp employees, including designers, journalists, support staff, and engineers, united to form Bandcamp United. The union, consisting of US-based workers across all Bandcamp departments, sought to provide a collective voice for employees and to advocate for their rights. Affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 1010, Bandcamp United aimed to protect the interests of those who contributed to the platform’s success.
Visit bandcampunited.org for more info.
The Pitfalls of Proprietary Platforms
The situation at Bandcamp shed light on the broader issue of proprietary platforms. Corporations that prioritize profits over their workforce often signal their tendency to prioritize their bottom line over ethical data management. Many artists and creators rely on platforms like Bandcamp to host their creative work. However, the convenience of proprietary platforms can sometimes come at a cost, limiting users’ control over their own content.
Amid concerns about data control and platform ethics, a promising alternative has emerged some time ago in the form of Funkwhale, a similar platform to Bandcamp. Funkwhale is an open-source platform designed to provide users with control over their audio content, music, and podcasts. With Funkwhale, users can access their personal music collections from anywhere, share their content, and build communities around their work. Importantly, Funkwhale operates independently of corporations and entities, ensuring users’ autonomy and privacy. This free open source software, developed by a community of enthusiasts, adheres to standard protocols and open-source principles, ensuring no third-party analytics, tracking, or ads intrude on users’ experiences. Bonus: It is Decentralized & Federated. This means that your content can be shared across instances, or moderated to restrict bad actors. The network is not tied to any corporation or entity, so you have total independence as a musician, podcaster or music lover.
Visit the official website funkwhale.audio to learn more about the project.
What Lies Ahead
Supporting workers’ rights in big tech corporations remains a pressing concern. The Bandcamp United team continues to fight for fair treatment and working conditions. Staying informed about their efforts and showing support through platforms like Mastodon is one way to contribute to the cause. Already, there are more than 10,000 signatures demanding that Songtradr recognizes Bandcamp United, and simply adding your signature to the thousands supporting this cause helps tech workers in their fight for greater rights. The Bandcamp situation is a stark reminder of the need to reconsider the concentration of power in large corporations and the potential for workers’ rights abuses. For a brighter future, many envision a landscape where small teams and collectives of workers create and support free open-source software. These small teams offer services around this software (example: we offer managed hosting services for open source platforms), ensuring a sustainable cycle of support and development for further improvement of the software. By empowering tech workers and fostering an ecosystem of ethical and open-source software, we can work toward a future where workers’ rights are respected, creativity thrives, and the pitfalls of profit-driven tech corporate ownership are avoided. Let’s make sure to support the workers and these big tech corporations but at the same time let’s disconnect from the tech establishment that cares only about their deep pockets. We got this 💪!