New Owner Eliminates Half Of Bandcamp’s Employees

Half the staff at Bandcamp, the online music platform known for championing independent artists and labels, have been laid off following the recent purchase of the company by music licensing startup Songtradr.

Songtradr confirmed the purchase from Epic Games last month, writing in a statement: “This acquisition will help Bandcamp continue to grow within a music-first company and enable Songtradr to expand its capabilities to support the artist community.” Financial terms were not disclosed.

Announcing the layoffs, Songtradr outlined that it had completed its acquisition of Bandcamp and explained: “Over the past few years the operating costs of Bandcamp have significantly increased … After a comprehensive evaluation, including the importance of roles for smooth business operations and pre-existing functions at Songtradr, 50% of Bandcamp employees have accepted offers to join Songtradr.”

This means the remaining 50% will not have their contracts renewed. The Guardian has contacted Songtradr’s press representatives for further comment.

Bandcamp, an online music store and community with more than five million artists and labels was founded in 2007 and acquired by Fortnite developer Epic Games in March last year. It is renowned for supporting underground music by letting fans buy downloads and physical media direct from artists and labels, with Bandcamp taking a small fee.

Celebrated initiatives include in-house editorial platform Bandcamp Daily, which promotes music from outside the mainstream, and Bandcamp Fridays, a promotion started during the Covid-19 pandemic where the company’s fees are waived on certain Fridays to maximise returns for artists and labels. The company says that its customers have spent $1.2bn during the lifetime of the company, with an average of 82% of revenue going to the artist or label.

A statement shared on social media by the workers’ union, Bandcamp United, described the news of layoffs as “heartbreaking”.

It said: “We love our jobs, the platform we’ve built, and the Bandcamp community. We’re glad we have our union – co-workers who have each other’s backs. We’ll be moving together to decide what our next steps are. On Wednesday we return to the bargaining table with Epic Games, and we’ll keep you updated.”

The union had been fighting for recognition from Songtradr, and on 12 October it posted online urging people to sign a petition so they could begin negotiations with the new buyers to offer jobs to all existing staff members.

Two weeks earlier, Songtradr had told the union that it would not extend job offers to all of Bandcamp’s staff.

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Songtradr, founded in 2014 with a successful first funding round in 2018, allows musicians and publishers to upload music which can then be licensed by commercial entities such as brands and content creators. It is valued at over $300m, and in March this year acquired a British competitor, 7digital, for $23.4m.

On the same day that Songtradr bought Bandcamp, Epic Games announced they were laying off 16% of global staff, numbering 830. CEO Tim Sweeney said that the gaming company had been “spending way more than [it] earns, investing in the next evolution of Epic and growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators”.

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