Disintegration: Bandcamp Joins Epic Games

Founded in 2008 in Oakland, Bandcamp has long been the go-to for independent musicians, bands, and small labels to sell directly to their audience as well as those looking for new music. But as many of us found out yesterday morning, Bandcamp has now been sold to Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite and Unreal Engine.

From the Epic Games’ website, “Today, we are thrilled to announce that Bandcamp will become part of Epic Games. Bandcamp is an online music store and community where fans can discover, connect with, and directly support the independent musicians they love.

Fair and open platforms are critical to the future of the creator economy. 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. Bandcamp will play an important role in Epic’s vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more.”

But what else lies in Epic’s vision?

The understandable distrust in giant companies like Epic Games is only part of the outrage and wild speculation in the current discourse surrounding Bandcamp. Surely none of us can be certain of the future to come, but if we examine the attitudes and competing narratives perhaps the bigger issues will make themselves clear.


At the root of much of the backlash to this news is the disenchantment of Bandcamp’s anti-corporate user base. Whether it’s distaste in streaming models, the predatory track records of major labels, or simply the ‘sticking it to the man’ spirit of rock’n’roll, many have lauded Bandcamp’s efforts as an ‘independent’ venture. The company has championed artistic independence, direct payment to artists, and music scene’s sense of community.

But isn’t selling out to a major private entity, especially one backed by a multinational conglomerate, somewhat contradictory?

Distrust: ‘Microtransact Your Nuts Off’

Bandcamp is a low- perhaps the lowest- cost of entry into selling one’s own music. Even the notoriously cheap cassette tape costs about 250 USD for a run of 100 cassettes, and this is just acquiring the product. With Bandcamp, the product is digital. What it costs to produce is the time you the artist put into it, and perhaps 15 minutes to upload and label all your track files (assuming your internet is slow).

But much like your local greasy spoon getting new, yuppier owners, many are starting to worry we’ll see cost of entry inflation from the nickel-and-diming at the heart of the ‘video games as service’ model adopted by Epic Games in the 2012.

Could artists be charged per track upload? Will Bandcamp and third-party revenue shares increase? There’s a thousand and one ways these microtransactions could take place.

Bandcamp Daily, the site’s daily roundup of music from all corners of the site’s marketplace (and currently staffed by some of my favorite music journalists), has proved a semi-lucrative land for any band to make- the closest to ‘front page coverage’ many of us could ever dream of.

But under a microtransactional system BCD could be targeted for payola, given a SubmitHub-esque ‘pay to play’ entry, or even require a paid subscription to read. But all of this is currently wild speculation. None of these things are known.

Regardless, none of the BCD writers or editorial staff deserve the flak and harassment they’ve received since the news first broke. It seems fairly safe to assume that their opinions in the sale of the company, whether for or against, would have had little to no effect on upper management’s decision to pursue selling off the company. And that’s assuming they even knew about it before it happened!

Wild speculation is simply that. We have absolutely no certainty of what the future will hold, but we can look at a Epic’s trajectory…

Disintegration: Bedfellows of A Metaverse

The past few years has shown Epic Games making a series of funding rounds and acquisitions, the latter of which predominantly being video game developers and digital tool makers.

From a post on the Epic Games website, April 13th, 2021, “Today Epic Games announced that it completed a $1 billion round of funding, which will allow the company to support future growth opportunities. Epic’s equity valuation is now $28.7 billion. 

This round includes an additional $200M strategic investment from Sony Group Corporation, which builds on the already close relationship between the two companies and reinforces their shared mission to advance the state of the art in technology, entertainment, and socially-connected online services…”

The article goes on to state founder and CEO Tim Sweeney is still the controlling shareholder of Epic, and includes the following statement from Sweeney himself:

“We are grateful to our new and existing investors who support our vision for Epic and the Metaverse. Their investment will help accelerate our work around building connected social experiences in Fortnite, Rocket League and Fall Guys, while empowering game developers and creators with Unreal Engine, Epic Online Services and the Epic Games Store.”

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games CEO and Founder

It’s hard to see the acquisition of Bandcamp as anything but an extension of Epic’s metaverse aspirations. But how would Bandcamp fit within a privately-owned domain such as a metaverse?

Sony Group Corporation is only one unnerving bedfellow of Epic Games. The Shenzhen, China-based multinational conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd has owned a 40% stake in Epic Games since 2012, and was a guiding force in Epic’s move to a ‘games as service’ business model. Putting some Bandcamp users’ xenophobia aside, in an article written by Tim Ingham for Music Business Worldwide reported that “Tencent now controls 10% of [Universal Music Group], 9% of Spotify… and Nearly 2% of Warner Music Group”.

It’s this selling out, albeit indirectly, to the very behemoths of the music industry which feels like such a betrayal. That these music industry giants are some of the main bread-winners of the currently dominant streaming model, a platform in which the artist disproportionately suffers, only brings that uneasy feeling of a death knell. 

There was a strain of online discourse encouraging Bandcamp to enhance streaming function on its mobile app during the most recent Spotifallout: a debate over better pay and the ethics of streaming drowned out by a Neal Young-leveled ultimatum over vaccine misinformation on the Spotify-backed Joe Rogan podcast. But others have warned over losing focus on Bandcamp’s core-function as a direct B2C (business-to-consumer) e-commerce marketplace.

Would a corporation as big as Epic Games, backed by a multinational conglomerate and having multiple ties to streaming-platform breadwinners, stay true to their claim of “building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money”?

The wool may not be pulled over people’s eyes, that doesn’t mean the rug won’t be pulled out from under them.

Gone Fishin’: Self-Investment for Lifelong Music Fans

15 years into Spotify’s reign of terror the need to take control of one’s own cultural influence has never been greater. There’s never been a better time to invest in yourself, so why not get started on the thing that brought you to this site in the first place: your love of music.

Own, Don’t Owe

To pull a quote from Joe Steinhardt’s 2021 pamphlet Why To Resist Streaming Music & How, “They say streaming is a ‘don’t own anything’ paradigm, but it’s actually a ‘you’re always buying things’ paradigm. Spotify uses the same predatory business model as a store like Rent-A-Center to ensure you are paying to rent something for life that you used to be able to just buy once for a much lower overall cost.”

It wasn’t cheap convincing people to rent for life, but that’s how they’re going to make their money back.

Paid streaming subscriptions for music and movies are a hostage negotiation that only ends when you stop paying. Album taken down for any reason? Too bad. Album get’s altered after its release? Too bad. And let’s not get started on the reinvention of cable TV.

When you buy a record or movie, be it digital or physical, it is yours for life. Play it forwards, backwards, upside down. It’s your copy and it will always be there for you. Spending 10-20 dollars a month on Bandcamp or at a mom-and-pop record shop puts the money in the hands of your community and the artists you patronize, and out of the hands of problematic megastars skimming off pro-rata payment systems used by Spotify and other music streaming distributors.

Step away from endless playlists

I, for one, would argue that a 23+ hour ‘exotica essentials’ playlist has a lot of fat to be trimmed. It makes sense to be hesitant to switch to a so-called ‘limited’ listening model like owning your own music. But what’s more important: access to ‘everything’ or embracing what matters?

You’ll never come to fully embrace good work if you’re slogging through a sea of soundalikes. Sit down with an album, an EP, or a singular song and let it tell you its worth. Step away from the mindless streaming of soundalike tracks and embrace your own curated world tailor-fit for you, by you.

Don’t be afraid of albums

Knowing a little about a lot is a great way to explore culture and tastes, but don’t be afraid to commit to buying albums. In the digital age, every song is now a single. No longer encumbered by needle dropping or blindly winding tape, we have a world of b-sides and gems hidden across massive discographies that are ready to be unearthed. Yet many of us never listen to the full album. 

Maybe the idea of spending 7 to 10 bucks on a singular album is daunting. What if the album isn’t all that worth it? While sites like Youtube are a great way to discover and decide if you like an album before buying it, they’re not an ethical substitute for owning music. Aside from an onslaught of ads interrupting the music, the streaming royalties through Youtube will never reasonably be enough to support the artists whose work you enjoy.

The truth is many releases aren’t worth the money for the full album. That’s why we leave reviews, share with friends, and read blogs. But I say where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If you’re a deep fan of a select few songs on the album, you’re most likely going to enjoy the rest. So instead of checking out another bloated playlist, try revisiting albums which you already enjoy a few songs from.

Really enjoying 3 songs off Kimono My House? Trust me, buy the album. Only heard 2 of 5 songs on the EP but you enjoyed them? Trust me, buy the album. You don’t need to know the artist’s full discography, a good album stands on its own.

Consider an external disc drive

While Steinhardt’s accusation of Apple phasing out disc drives to force people into supporting a streaming model is seemingly unsubstantiated, the likelihood of computer manufacturers bringing them back any time soon is slim.

CDs are incredibly cheap for any artist to produce, and with a massive (and inexpensive) second hand market CDs are financially accessible for many people. Many albums have only ever existed in their initial release, and while the vinyl resurgence is allowing hidden gems to be re-discovered, there’s still many albums only accessible in their original compact-disc release.

Why let ‘the man’ hold you back? Invest in a $20 disc drive and open the door back to an entire world of media. 

Find what you really care about

Finding the music you really care about takes time. In our culture of fast fashion, Instagram posturing and trend following, taking time to cut through to what you truly care about is an important investment in yourself. Learning to be adaptable and open to new things allows us to become our best selves over time, but we need to learn how to do so in spite of fast-fashion trends: be it clothes, music, attitude, or the all encompassing ‘subculture revival’ trends.

Enrich your life by investing time and money in the music that suits you best. What songs do you get the most out of? Feel it through and accept no substitutes. Artists, albums, and songs that resonate with you shouldn’t be sloshed about in a sea of imitations, knock-offs, and general ‘sound-a-likes.’ Reel ‘em into your life, and keep on fishin’.

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